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An Engineer’s Guide To Ideation

team brainstorming ideas

As engineers, our job is to solve problems and help people! People come to us with their projects and usually, their goal is to solve a problem. Now it can be easy to just let your brain run wild with ideas on how to solve the problem at hand, but that isn’t always the best way to do it. Often it’s best to work in a problem-solving process that starts with understanding the problem to the best of your ability.

Understanding The Problem

Now, when you’re an engineer people usually bring the problems that need solving right to you. They have already decided the problem is worth solving. However, you need to understand the problem so that you can put yourself in the mindset of the end-user of the solution. You need to be able to understand their pain points for thinking that the problem was worth solving.

Once you can think like the person experiencing the problem, you will really understand their pain and desire to solve the problem. You’ll also understand their needs at a deeper level.

If you’re struggling with getting into the mindset of the end-user, try talking to them! They will love to tell you about their issue and will be grateful that you’re trying to solve their pain points.

Choosing The Most Important Requirements For The Solution

Once you are able to understand how the end-user thinks about the problem, you’ll be able to also understand their needs when it comes to a solid solution. You should then list what their requirements are.

Here is a small list of some factors to consider when thinking about a requirements list:

  • When will a person use the solution?
  • How often will they use the solution?
  • Where will they use the solution?
  • What will they use with your solution?
  • What are they doing before and after the solution is used?
  • If the solution will be a physical solution, what are the weight and size requirements?

There are lots of things to consider as a requirement for the solution but talking with the end-user will help you understand which requirements are really important.

Brainstorm MANY Solutions

Next is the fun part of the engineering ideation process! You get to brainstorm about how to solve the problem! During this step, come up with as many ideas as possible. Keep writing ideas down until you finally can’t think of any more. Don’t have any judgment based on the requirements yet because judgment will restrict your ability to come up with as many possible solutions as possible.

Nothing is too wacky or crazy yet, any idea is a good idea!

Now that you have a long list of ideas, apply your requirements to these possible solutions to refine the list down to a couple of reasonable ideas that are feasible. This list should now be where you can start to improve design ideas to truly solve the problem!

If you are stuck because none of your ideas fit all the requirements, start with the solutions that solve most of the requirements or solve the most difficult requirements and then keep thinking about how you can iterate to improve that design. One of your initial ideas is rarely the perfect solution. You can iterate continuously throughout the rest of the engineering process until you are satisfied with the performance of your solution.

Tresca is experienced with this kind of ideation. We are always engaged in finding simple solutions to complex problems. Working with a company like Tresca will aid you in the entire process from start to finish. Your success is our success, from problem to solution.

Want to see how we can help you with ideation? Contact us today to find your next engineering solution. 

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