In The Trenches
“nearly impossible.” The specifications requested may have been
obtained before, but only under special conditions.
So, incorporating them in a
mass-produced product will take
significant effort. But it’s probably
Suppose he answers with
“Obtaining a proper frequency
response is difficult.” This means
that “I don’t know how to do that and
I don’t know anyone who has. But,
like flying a man to Mars, it should
be theoretically possible.” Solving
such a problem will take considerable research and development, as
well as time and money. And
even then, the results may not be
As you can see, engineers have a
hard time saying something can’t be
done. So, when they actually say so,
believe them. There is the old engineering saying that stands the test of
time: “You can have it fast, cheap, or
good. Pick any two.”
But they provide valuable new
information about new products and
Additionally, they help the engineer network with other engineers.
This cross-pollination is useful in
generating new ideas and solving
Some managers fear this.
They’re afraid that if their engineers
see what other people are doing,
they won’t be satisfied with their
current job and leave. This is a silly
attitude to take. Restricting the engineers’ learning is very short-sighted.
You are hobbling your engineer.
Keeping them ignorant may make
you feel powerful, but it makes
your department less effective. The
investment in learning is always
It’s generally considered that
the half-life of any engineering specialty is about five years. This
means that about half of the information in that specialty is obsolete
in five years. This is by far the
fastest changing profession that
This means that a five-year old
textbook contains only 50% useful
information. A 10 year old textbook
has only 25%.
So, in order for an engineer
to stay on top of his profession,
he has to constantly learn new
things. Good engineers understand
this and strive to maintain their level
of expertise. It’s also important for
you to recognize and foster their
It doesn’t really take too much
time or money to facilitate engineers’
learning. Encourage them to go to
manufacturer’s seminars. These
aren’t very expensive — usually under
$100.00 — and take about a day.
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