By Brittany Chapman, P.E., and Stacey Nall
Curiosity: The Spark of Innovation
Definition: Curiosity is the eager and inquisitive interest in learning and exploring new ideas, concepts, and technologies.
In the engineering world, curiosity fuels innovation. Engineers who exhibit curiosity are more likely to seek out new solutions, embrace emerging technologies, and constantly push boundaries. By asking questions and seeking to understand the "why" behind processes, a curious engineer gains a deeper understanding of their field. Engineers who are successful in this industry all have this trait in common. They are uniquely driven to find solutions due to their curiosity, which propels them forward.
As referenced in the Harvard Business Review Article How to Strengthen Your Curiosity Muscle, Chamorro-Prezumic states, “Curiosity is frequently listed as one of the most critical and sought-after dimensions of talent, no matter what job, industry, and seniority level. For example, at ManpowerGroup, our recruiters and talent agents often hire on curiosity, which our clients appreciate. The reason is clear: While we may not know what tomorrow’s jobs will be, employees’ motivation and ability to upskill and reskill for those jobs will significantly increase if they are curious.”
How can I apply this in the workplace? Regularly attend seminars, workshops, and conferences to expose yourself to new ideas. Engage with colleagues and mentors to understand their perspectives. Embrace cross-disciplinary learning to broaden your knowledge base.
Humility: Embracing Continuous Learning
Definition: Humility is the recognition that there is always more to learn and that no one person has all the answers.
In engineering, humility is essential for growth. It encourages professionals to acknowledge their limitations, seek help when needed, and be open to feedback. A humble professional is not afraid to make mistakes, and they view these mistakes as opportunities to learn and improve. No one is perfect – we all make mistakes, and no one knows everything. Humility in the workplace is the right mindset to continue learning, and we find it contributes to the success of our most technical subject matter experts and leaders.
According to the article, Embracing the Dunning-Kruger Effect: The Path to Humility and Continuous Learning, “In the journey of acquiring knowledge, it is essential to recognize the influence of the Dunning-Kruger effect, a cognitive bias that affects how we perceive our competence in a subject. This phenomenon leads some individuals to overestimate their understanding, while others tend to underestimate their knowledge. Interestingly, this effect can serve as a powerful tool for personal growth and development, enabling us to embrace humility and fuel our pursuit of wisdom.”
How can I apply this in the workplace? Actively seek out feedback from peers, mentors, and leaders. Be open to constructive criticism and view it as a chance to grow. Cultivate a mindset of continuous learning by actively seeking out opportunities for growth and development.
Confidence: Empowering Problem Solvers
Definition: Confidence is the belief in one's abilities and judgment, even in the face of uncertainty and challenges.
Confidence is the driving force behind effective decision-making and problem-solving. A confident engineer approaches challenges with a clear mind and the belief that they have the skills and knowledge to overcome any obstacle. This attribute empowers engineers to take calculated risks and lead with conviction. Oftentimes, we see engineers enter the field too afraid to ask questions and dive into learning. This lack of confidence in themselves to ask the right questions and do their research inhibits growth. Be confident in your abilities to do the research, ask the right questions, and be supported by your peers.
How can I apply this in the workplace? Trust in your education and experience. Take on projects that stretch your abilities and challenge you. Be willing to do your research, share your ideas and solutions with your team, and be willing to take the lead when necessary.
Now more than ever, engineers must make good, evidence-based decisions. But what do you do when a colleague won’t budge on their position despite the data? We must determine potential causes of inflexible behaviors and find strategies to influence them, which starts with the confidence to ask questions and challenge assumptions.
Open-mindedness: Embracing Diverse Perspectives
Definition: Open-mindedness is the willingness to consider and respect different viewpoints, even when they differ from your own.
In engineering, open-mindedness is a catalyst for creativity and collaboration. Engineers who are open to diverse perspectives are more likely to arrive at innovative solutions by valuing input from team members with varying backgrounds and experiences. Solutions can come from surprising places as long as time and care are taken to solicit opinions, and there is openness to the feedback provided. This can be a frustrating experience at times, but taking a step back evaluating the whole picture, and keeping an open mind proves invaluable.
Gartner, a technological research and consulting firm, states, “When people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives come together, their unique thoughts pave a path for innovation, which drives business differentiation, talent engagement, and retention.”
How can I apply this in the workplace? Actively seek out feedback and input from colleagues with different expertise. Engage in brainstorming sessions and encourage everyone to contribute. Attend diversity and inclusion workshops to enhance your awareness of different perspectives.
By integrating curiosity, humbleness, confidence, and open-mindedness into your professional toolkit, you can significantly enhance your engineering technical competency. These qualities not only enhance your performance and capacity for growth but also influence others to follow your lead.
Remember, it's not just about what you know, but how you approach challenges and work with others that sets you apart as a standout engineer. Embrace these qualities and watch your engineering career soar to new heights.
- Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas. (2023, November 3). How to Strengthen Your Curiosity Muscle. HBR.
- Mardesic, Pjero. (2023, June 22). Embracing the Dunning-Kruger Effect: The Path to Humility and Continuous Learning. LinkedIn.
Thumbnail credit: Photo by Jeremy Lapak on Unsplash