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General Card #670
CREATING VALUE: What do we mean?
Updated: 3/12/2024 12:11 PM by Doug Melton
Reviewed: 10/14/2022 3:08 PM by Michael Johnson
Understanding CREATING VALUE within the context of an entrepreneurial mindset.
What if every engineering graduate approached their work by focusing first on CREATING VALUE? Engineering solutions would inherently become more impactful to the beneficiaries, presumably collections of individuals, customers, citizens, and society as a whole. What if CREATING VALUE became a graduate's mental habit, part of their perceived locus of control, and an instinctual driver? Indeed, that's the aspirational goal of partner institutions in KEEN.

This card is about understanding CREATING VALUE in depth and within the context of an entrepreneurial mindset. The KEEN Framework provides a starting point for two student outcomes related to creating value. Students should:

  1. Identify unexpected opportunities to create extraordinary value,

  2. Persist through and learn from failure.

Alternately, the CREATING VALUE outcomes might be phrased as questions. Students achieving these outcomes will ask:

  • "Do my solutions merely solve an apparent problem, missing an opportunity?"

  • "What solutions would be most valuable? In other words, how is 'value' contextualized? To whom, and does my solution satisfy a long-term need?"

  • "What can I learn from my setbacks and mistakes? What should I have done differently? What will I do differently next time?"

Because the term "creating value" has such broad meaning, this list is not intended to provide a complete definition. Rather, within KEEN, the following forms a "starter set" for creating-value-related outcomes.

To reach these outcomes, design exercises so that students:

  • Become observers of unmet needs, empathetic ethnographers

  • Habitually reframe problems as opportunities

  • Ask questions that reveal authentic demand

  • Develop archetype users of engineering solutions

  • Offer solutions to problems, testing novel ideas with others to obtain formative feedback

  • Create value from underutilized resources

  • Extend existing solutions to new situations

If habitually creating value is going to become part of a mindset, part of a disposition, then the goal of educational interventions is to create mental habits, akin to mental muscle-memory, that has an inclination to identify the value proposition of proposed work.

To dive deeper, here's a sampling of directions that you might take CREATING VALUE:

For Your Toolbox: A Process That Helps Establish a Mindset to First Focus on Creating Value
The practice of specific skills can help establish a mindset, and a mindsets shapes the potential application of those skills. As heard recently "We don’t think ourselves into a new way of acting, we act ourselves into a new way of thinking." In the card titled Creating Value Means Going Beyond Problem Solving, author Bill Kline offers a tool that gets students thinking about features of a product or system, and about stakeholders, even unexpected ones. The process leads to a comparison of the features in terms of value, i.e. preferred by stakeholders. The process start focuses students on the essential ideas and conversations. With practice, the ideas are likely to become integral to the way engineers think about their role as an engineer, part of a mindset.

Action Required: Creating and Delivering Value
When interviewed about her writing, the late, wise-cracking American detective author, Sue Grafton, offered a truism that equally applies to entrepreneurial thinking. She said, "Ideas are easy. It's the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats." In other words, actual value creation implies complete follow through, including execution of a process to deliver value. You might want to explore this idea in through a chapter of The Coming Jobs War by the CEO of Gallup organization, Jim Clifton. The author's opinions on the topic of delivering value are captured in the chapter controversially titled "Why Entrepreneurs Matter More Than Innovators."

An Interesting Classroom Conversation: The Meaning of "Value"
You can't talk very long or very deeply about "creating value," without addressing what "value" means. One definition is the ratio of benefits to sacrifice (in dollar, time, effort, etc.) But who determines benefits? Embracing the discussion leads to a rich discussion of perspectives, some conflicting or in tension. If you decide to lead a discussion about value, try highlighting at least two perspectives an let students explore that tension. Here are a few suggested questions to kick off the conversation with students:

Extrinsic Value: A Market-based Determination

  • Q: How do you determine what is valuable to others? Is value based upon what someone is willing to pay?

  • Q: More specifically, how could we determine the value of things that are less utilitarian, say art and culture? Is the value of a work of art only based upon what the market will bear?

  • Q: More pointedly, is the determination of value solely the purview of the customer (stakeholder, market)?

  • Q: What are the benefits and drawback of a market-based view of value?

Intrinsic Value: From The Heart of Ethics and Philosophy

    Your students might enjoy a discussion that has caused debate among philosophers for millennia. What has intrinsic value? It's an important question for engineers, especially as they emphasize creating value, were the determination of value involves judgment about what is good. Student discussions are likely most valuable when they afford the opportunity to introduce philosophy, ethics and research data.

  • Q: As professionals, we are constantly making decisions about our engineering solutions. How do we decide what is good for an individual? Good for society?

  • Q: Since antiquity, people have offered the ingredients for human flourishing and well-being. Recent examples include the Subjective Well Being indicator, the Gallup organization's measurement of five elements of well-being, and the area of research dubbed "Happiness Economics." Let's try to assess the impact on well-being to our particular topic in engineering. When thinking about the value of our work on [e.g. wireless communications] , would you discuss how it is connected to human flourishing and well-being?

Perception is Quirky: Value in Behavioral Economics
Behavioral economics differs from traditional economic theory by introducing the human element of economic decision making. Economic decisions are not entirely based upon a traditional utilitarian value, but rather, are influenced by identifiable psychological behaviors, often associated with a contextualized relative perception of value. Behavioral economists suggest that people employ a mental-computational engine that's constantly performing a rough estimate of the return-on-investment for a large majority of daily decisions for routine and non-routine situations. The results are routinely skewed based on context and biases. It's quirky and whether illogical or not, influences value (of the extrinsic type described above).

See the folders below for the following:
(more coming soon)

  • An expanded description of the creating-value-related outcomes

  • Research references and perspectives on creating value

  • One short example of "creating value" in curriculum

  • A collection of websites and other cards that you can use to promote "creating value" within your educational goals

Creating Value
  • Identify unexpected opportunities to create extraordinary value
  • Persist through and learn from failure
Categories & Tags
  • Classroom & Courses
  • Engineering Unleashed Resources
  • Comprehensive
Follow the link below to find a Creating Value book list.
Title Type Ext Date Size Downloads
Creating Value Book List Other 7/16/2018 -  
Follow the links below to find cards that showcase the application of Creating Value in curriculum.
Title Type Ext Date Size Downloads
CreatingValue Means Going Beyond Problem Other 7/16/2018 -  
Feel free to use the icon below in presentations, print-outs, etc.
Title Type Ext Date Size Download All Downloads
CreatingValue_icon.png Other .png 7/23/2018 12.3 KB 694