Creating Value Means Going Beyond Problem Solving
Value is a relative concept and is illustrated through selection or choice.
The increasing complexity of the challenges facing our society and world suggests that engineering graduates must be outstanding problem solvers, designers, and value creators in a variety of settings. The solutions, designs, and systems created must solve technical problems and provide benefit to a variety of stakeholders who may have broad interests in financial, social, and environmental outcomes.
Engineering education often focuses on the quantitative skills of problem solving yet solutions to many of the most challenging problems require higher level design, entrepreneurial mindset, and value creation skills. The opportunity to create value, or to fail to, occurs in many settings with engineers commonly called upon to create value in design settings. While being a good designer is a hallmark trait of an engineer, current approaches to teaching design need improvement because a high percentage of products and services introduced to the marketplace fail to find success. An engineering education with emphasis on employing an entrepreneurial mindset would improve the odds of success.
Applying methods from systems engineering, this work extends the idea of developing a product to developing a successful solution within a system. That system includes stakeholders, features, and a series of views representing the designed system or product. It is shown that these results are highly complementary to existing conceptions of ‘creating value’ as part of the 3 C’s. Tools and views are presented for classroom use to support the 'creating value' objective through case studies of successful and unsuccessful products. Results from a first run of a class exploring these new approaches are provided in a 2018 ASEE paper.
The elements of a ‘value creation’ mindset in an engineering education entrepreneurial context includes:
1. Value is a relative concept and is illustrated through selection or choice.
2. Creating and capturing value at the enterprise or organizational level can be illustrated in the completeness and alignment of product, business, and execution models. (customer desirability, technically feasible, business viability, organizationally implementable)
3. The value of a product or offering can be studied by a. identifying important stakeholders and features and b. developing a product or offering to perform and exhibit the important features identified.
4. Products and systems are successful when they provide capabilities and characteristics that a significant number of stakeholders find attractive and choose over competing options.
A brief list of learning objectives for the course developed are listed below.
1. Describe various aspects of value provided by engineered systems.
2. Describe the importance of stakeholders and features in defining value in design.
3. Describe fundamental concepts and steps in product design and realization.
4. Describe key items of information needed to describe behavior, structure, design, and value in a system.
5. Develop three models or canvases that impact the achievement of a successful product or system.
6. Develop basic systems views, explore multiple candidate solutions, and select a recommended solution that provides value to stakeholders.
7. Apply views to develop design proposals for new products and to diagnose case studies.
The concept of 'creating value' (products or solutions that find success with stakeholders) - or failing to - can be illustrated through case examples. Why have Keurig coffee machines been successful while the Keurig Kold, which was very similar in concept, was not?
Several case examples of successful and unsuccessful products and systems are provided. A table summary of the cases is provided below. Please provide feedback on your experiences with using these concepts and materials.