Tag Archives: innovation

Episode 76 — Creative Diversity

creativediversityWhat is your creative style, and when might it be most effective? We talk about creative diversity with electrical engineer Kathryn Jablokow in this episode of The Engineering Commons podcast.

  • Brian finds it best to have multiple solutions ready for every engineering problem he encounters, because potential solutions have a nasty habit of failing to be fully effective.
  • Carmen jokes that his preferred problem-solving style would be to pull a “Castanza” and sleep under his desk.
  • Our guest is Kathryn Jablokow, an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Design at Penn State University. Her teaching and research interests include problem solving, invention, and creativity in science and engineering, as well as robotics and computational dynamics.
  • Despite an initial interest in physics, Kathryn transferred her major to electrical engineering so that she could “build things” and programmatically control them.
  • As part of her graduate work, our guest help build a giant walking machine, officially known as an “Adaptive Suspension Vehicle.” Do any of our listeners know to which corner of the earth this vehicle has disappeared?
  • We decide against describing the mathematical details of three-dimensional rigid body dynamics in a audio podcast; our listeners breathe a sigh of relief!
  • Kathryn authored an article titled “Engineering Styles” for the ASME website in March 2011.
  • Creative diversity can be described by four key variables: creative level, creative style, motive, and opportunity.
  • Creative level describes the potential capacity that one brings to the creative process; this includes raw talent, experiences, education, and practiced skills.
  • Creative style describes one’s cognitive preference for either adapting existing structures and methods to new uses, or innovating completely new structures and methods.
  • Knowing someone’s creative level tells us nothing about their creative style.
  • A well-known model of cognitive style is Kirton’s Adaption-Innovation theory. A normal distribution exists across this continuum, both for the general public and for engineering professionals.
  • Our cognitive style remains fairly fixed over time, although we are capable of engaging in creative activities that are either more adaptive or more creative than we like, hence making us “uncomfortable.”
  • Neither adaptive creativity or innovative creativity is better than the other; each can be beneficial depending on the problem and situation at hand.
  • We perceive those with a differing cognitive style to have a lower cognitive level.
  • Motive describes our willingness to stick with a problem until it is solved, and each of us is motivated by a different set of intrinsic and extrinsic factors.
  • Opportunity describes whether or not we perceive the conditions around us as being amenable to creative solutions.
  • Technical managers may have to overcome both “person-person” and “person-problem” gaps.
  • We debate whether companies and managers really want “creative thinkers.”
  • Inventive problem-solving techniques such as TRIZ and SIT can lead to new solutions, regardless of one’s creative style.
  • Kathryn recently helped teach a massively open online course (MOOC) titled “Creativity, Innovation, and Change.”
  • Our guest co-authored an academic paper( pdf) that examined concept maps drawn by engineering students with creative styles ranging across the Adaption-Innovation scale.
  • Kathryn can be found on LinkedIn. She can also be reached via email: kwl3 -=+ at +=- psu.edu.

Thanks to JohnathanMcCabe for use of the image titled “20141129_i.” Podcast theme music by Paul Stevenson.