A new way of looking at what engineers do: “The Landscape of Practice”

This term came out of a struggle to write a paper on the theoretical foundations of engineering practice.

Please don’t laugh! For me as an academic, though I am also practicing as an engineer, it’s my job to write papers that discuss philosophical and theoretical foundations of engineering ideas. Theories can be really helpful in understanding what engineers do, just as they are helpful in understanding our physical world.

I like to explain it this way.

As engineers, most of us are comfortable with the idea of multidimensional spaces.

So, think about a multidimensional space that embraces all the possible solutions for an engineering challenge.

Now think about yet another dimension, that of engineering difficulty. In this dimension, the hills represent regions where the solution is difficult and the valleys where it is easy. Of course, for any one challenge, there will be lots of hills and valleys because engineering challenges have an infinity of different solutions. The landscape of engineering practice is complex and always changing. Continue reading