Essay: Innovative Processes

Pages: 12 (3194 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 11  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Engineering  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] A primer for Metaplanning espoused, "the Metaplan technique is a tool to make group discussions more effective" (Metaplan, 2001, p. 3). The Metaplan technique provides a construct that allows participants to be fully engaged in the designing and innovation process who are "more deeply involved in the group process, in considering all opinions, and in working towards jointly supported results" (Metaplan, p. 4).

The Germans use metaplanning quite often and with a great deal of success through group discussions and scenarios. Another study determined that "proper solutions need communication a cooperation among different disciplines: ecology, economy, rural development, techniques, sociology, law, and so on" (Ortmann-Ajkai, 2009, p. 383) which closely coincides with the metaplanning used by the Germans. What the literature does not provide is a rate of success for metaplanning vs. other approaches to innovation(s). However, the Germans are not the only ones who use Metaplanning, it is used around the world with varying degrees of success.

Another methodology used was developed in America by Fiatech. In 2004, a North Aemrican industry organization developed a Capital Projects Technology Roadmap (CPTR) that has as its goal to position "emerging technologies into an overall vision for the construction industry" (Froese, 2009, p. 481). According to Froese the CPTR is organized with an integrated structure composed of nine critical elements that represent a virtual enterprise for the future. Those nine elements include; 1) scenario-based project planning, 2) automated design, 3) integrated, documented procurement and supply network, 4) intelligent and automated construction job site, 5) intelligent self-maintaining and repairing operational facility, 6) real-time project and facility management, coordination and control, 7) new materials, methods, products and equipment, 8) technology and knowledge-enabled workforce, and 9) life-cycle data management and information integration (Froese, p. 482).

Other countries have followed the Americans lead with roadmaps of their own, including Canada who (according to Froese) with the data gathered through studying other roadmaps "was used to develop a series of roadmaps of the current research and development activity" (p. 483).

It seems that roadmaps (at least in America and some other countries) are all the rage currently in civil engineering. Roadmaps provide a basis for growth innovation and a standard for many areas of civil engineering, but as for providing innovative ideas, innovations and inventions, roadmaps may not be everything they are cracked up to be. However, they do provide for some components of innovation that should at least be considered when approaching projects that will affect society. As one recent study found; "in the future, scenario planning should incorporate the best current knowledge about how global economic and environmental trends will affect regions" (Bartholomew, Ewing, 2009, p. 14).

Scenario planning, of course, is the first component of the Fiatech CPTR and is one way that the engineering industry has addressed the methodology needed to be creative within certain guidelines. Innovation has often come about due to man's intuition and inventiveness. Scenario planning, or release planning, takes into consideration the necessary components needed to achieve the end result, while at the same time leaving enough room for additional components or ideas to be integrated. One recent study described planning in this manner "with the increasing size and complexity of software products, as well as with the growing demands for transparency and objectivity of decision-making, intuition alone is no longer sufficient" (Elroy, Ruhe, 2010, p. 338).

The key question in current literature seems to be how to address innovation while still meeting the demands of the day. Programs such as TRIZ and ARCH address the issue by breaking down the problem in categorized sections for easier manipulation. As discussed earlier, TRIZ is based on the fact that there is a relative scarcity to new ideas; they can really be best described as new lines of thinking based on old lines of thought. Souchkov states that Modern Systematic Innovation "is a large body of knowledge, it includes techniques for situation analysis and idea generation" (p. 4). Modern Systematic Innovation is such a large body of knowledge only because it has to be that way in order to address the multitude of ways in which it can be used. For example; geological engineering will often analyze seismic wave propagation in geological structures. To ensure the correct analysis a number of possible numerical approaches can be used; "the finite difference method, the spectral element method, the boundary element method, the finite element method, the finite volume method, etc." (Semblat, 2011, p. 440). This is just one example of the various approaches for a single aspect in a single category of civil engineering, that one can only imagine the different methodologies used for all the other categories.

Current literature attempts to provide the civil engineer with a plenteous amount of information and data to benefit the engineer concerned about innovation. Some of current studies take standard approaches and combine them, using the new combination as a way of verifying the old, or improving upon previous results. For example, the standard Gaussian approach has been combined with both a linear and non-linear approach, providing a new way of seeing problems, and a new way of providing solutions.

There is also the Switching Gaussian (SWIG) approach which is a "discretization scheme that overcomes several longstanding problems" (Lange, Herbert, 2010). The unique aspect to a literature review on innovation in civil engineering is that much of the data currently evolving is doing so because of innovation to existing programs and methodologies. It is ironic that the industry is addressing innovation with a high degree of innovation.

For instance, Function Analysis has been around for decades and Root Function Analysis is an offshoot of the Function Analysis. Neither the Function Analysis nor the Root Function Analysis are recent additions to the civil engineer's arsenal, yet the manner in which the analysis now takes place is much quicker and easier than in years gone by. Digital technology has allowed for innovation to thrive while still maintaining the core responsibilities of the civil engineer (in whatever field he/she finds steps into). If one knows the principles of innovation, then one can easily implement the technology necessary to innovate. As one convert to TRIZ states "since 98% of all new problems can be solved by previous experience, the huge effort that goes into 'trial and error' innovation is needless" (Dwyer, 2005, p. 10). Dwyer further explains that "if you learn the rules you can hasten a product or system further along the evolutionary path its destiny has already mapped out for it" (p. 10).

Is that all it takes then to address innovation…is to know the rules? According to TRIZ that's all it takes. However, companies in the UK have not adopted the TRIZ methodology the way other countries have and this could be entirely due to the UK culture. South Korea, China and Japan have all adopted TRIZ with a great deal of success, yet the UK (for the most part) has not done so.

This could be due to the fact that the UK is lacking in an innovative mentality (as a society) and therefore declines to innovate, or it could be that there comes a certain arrogance that stymies innovation to the detriment of those who only see things one way. Dwyer notes that TRIZ is now available through software programs that can be used by people who don't even understand the principles behind the software, but "the biggest benefits…accrue to those who know TRIZ and then use the software" (p.13). What is truly ironic is that in a paper discussing how TRIZ can be effectively used to innovate and invent, the distrust level concerning TRIZ stymies the very innovation being sought.

Other experts have argued that TRIZ "enables you to focus your attention on finding genuine, potential solutions in contrast to searching for ideas that may work through a happenstance way" (Kutz, Stefan, 2007, p. 6). TRIZ accomplishes this focus through 40 inventive principles (developed by Altshuller) that include segmenting the problem, extracting the disturbing part or property from an object and consolidating the properties. Of course there are a lot more than just three principles that need to be followed in order to achieve innovation, but Altshuller spells out all 40 steps. According to Kutz and Stefan; Altshuller's 40 principles "provides a road map toward the solution of difficult problems and speeds the development of innovations and inventions" (p. 13). Following a road map to innovation may seem rather ludicrous at first glance, but if it is true that innovation follows a procedure just like other methodologies, then it might be useful to employ TRIZ, at least according to current literature.

References

AI EDAM, 2008, 'Human competitive machine invention by means of genetic programming, AI EDAM, Vol. 22, Issue 3, pp. 185-193

Badran, I. 2007, 'Enhancing creativity and innovation in engineering education', European Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 32, Issue 5, pp. 573 --… [END OF PREVIEW]

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