Friday, July 08, 2005

What would happen if...

This is a great little article if you are looking for someplace to start if your child is interested in electronics.
There are a whole bunch of free or cheap kits you can get to start exploring.

I think engineering is a great field, it works on hard problems and makes them manageable for ordinary people.

The education system that we have now is very big on problem solving. That is good as far as it goes but there is something missing from that: how to spot opportunities.

A story that has stuck with me for a long time was told to me by a teacher. An engineer walks into a room with a table full of money and thinks, "That's not secure, someone can easily steal that money." A businessman walks into the same room and thinks, "What is the worst thing that would happening if the money was stolen?"

It took me the longest time to figure out that the businessman was not thinking about stealing the money, but something quite different: consequences, as in consequences to the business if the money was stolen.

It is a very different mindset from problem solving, It is not that problem solving is a bad way of thinking but that there are other ways too and they need to be part of your and your children's toolbox.

It asks the question, "what would happen if...?" rather then the engineering rallying cry, "There has got to be a better way."

I remember reading Millionaire Next Door and he has a story of how a lady made quite a profit from noticing that the Forest Service was trying to get rid of pine needles, because they were a fire hazard, she also noticed some land that wasn't doing anything and some tricks that were driving back home empty. She setup a little business that took the pine needles, put them on the land to compost and used the empty trucks to haul it to town.

For the longest time I had a hard time figuring out how she did that. l am not sure I have figured it out but part of it is keeping an eye out for people who want something. Something that makes their lives easier or faster or cheaper or whatever they call better. In this case she found people who wanted pine needle mulch, then she found a cheap source of pine needles, the forest service giving them away and a cheap way to transport them, the deadheading trucks, and the land to let it compost a bit. It is finding a hungry crowd and finding a way to feed them.


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