Cultivating Creative Engineering Solutions
Engineers are creative people in a different sense. Engineers require problems and outputs. From those two things, the creativity flows. In telecom two trends seem to continue in limiting this creativity. The first being that exposure to the real “problems” in a network are often covered up, masked, or not addresses completely. Without having a focus on problems, it makes it difficult to come up with proper solutions (outputs). Ways in which the problems in a network are missed may include: limiting access to complete information, closed loop systems, masked issues through process or software implementations, and not acquiring the proper tools to investigate issues. Essentially, engineering organizations need to get out of their own way and let people explore different and unconventional paths.
Even with the correct problem statement, the limited access to information has made problem investigation a tool of the few. In years past most engineers at all levels had relative easy access to detailed counters, user trace data (non user specific), configuration settings, reference material, access to new tools, and most importantly front line support from vendors. In the need to improve the lucrative profits of wireless networks, many of these items have been cutoff. The second greatest factor is the presence of large IT organizations. IT organizations find it much easier to maintain systems if nobody can touch them. Unfortunately, if nobody is touching them, much of it is just limiting the use of investments.
In order to cultivate creative engineering solutions, organizations need to determine a balance of access and costs, with tools, knowledge sharing, and idea growth throughout an organization and not just in small specialized narrow focused teams. It is only with the sharing and cultivating of ideas across an entire engineering organization that ideas can thrive. Very few great ideas in wireless operators started at the top and came down. Most start at the bottom with an individual and get shared up. National and Regional organizational structures need to remember this when planning what to roll down in the terms of tools, products, processes, and most importantly “problems”. Everyone in your organization needs to be allowed a little curiosity and understand there is going to be a little failure on the way to continued success.
The concept of what got you here, may not be what gets you there probably applies.