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Ready, Set, Go!
A common problem that we all seem to face is coming up with new ideas. Whether you are the director of engineering, the president of a company, the person responsible for marketing or the design engineer at your desk, we have all been faced with the need for something new, something exciting and drawn a blank. Many years ago, at a job interview, I was asked what I do when I need help, when I am asked to do something that I don’t know how to do. In short what do I do when I don’t have any ideas. My answer was that I start close and move out. I ask people around me for ideas. I go to the places I know and have found help before. Then I expand and look for new sources.
Today the simple answer seems to be Google, but I don’t find it that easy. The internet is so big that just surfing can often lead you nowhere and waste a great deal of your time. The problem isn’t that there are not good ideas to be had there, but that they are disorganized. I think of having ideas like preparing for surgery. If you wait until you need something to get it prepared, the blood, the clamps, the needle and thread, the patient is probably going to die. You have to have all that stuff sterile, organized and ready so that it is where you need it when you need it.
Preparation, Planning and Prioritizing
Gathering needed information is like casting a net. You have to be in the right waters to capture the ideas that will be useful to you. And you can’t capture new ideas if you live in a vacuum. One source of ideas are podcasts. I have a half-dozen podcasts that I like to listen to that bring me new ideas. When they discuss something that is particularly useful to me, I track down additional information about that subject. I have purchased new equipment and made new products based on ideas originally conceived while listening to a podcast.
What you do at work will largely dictate which podcast, news feeds, blogs and books you should be viewing. We only have so much time in a day, so prioritizing what we receive is of great importance. If a particular steam is not helping us get new ideas, it is time to replace it with something new.
As an engineer, it is very useful to know what others are doing and how they are doing it. When I was five I was given a clock radio, a screw driver, a hammer and a pair of pliers. I spent the next hour taking apart that radio. We need to be doing that kind of analysis routinely in our adult lives as well. Sometimes we need to take apart a piece of equipment, sometimes it is a conversation or maybe a competitors marketing plan needs to be carefully dissected.
Are you going to #CES?
It’s that time of year. People are making plans for the yearly trek to Las Vegas. This will be my first time at the Consumer Electronics Show. I have six customers who will be presenting there. I am excited to see them show off products that we have been working on together all year. I am also excited to see the creative ideas and products that others have been working on.
The first Consumer Electronics Show was held on June 24th, 1967 in New York City. I was not in attendance, but was only a few miles away. Between ’78 and ’94 there were two shows a year. January was the WinterCES held in Las Vegas and June was the SummerCES held in Chicago. Since 1998 it has been held once a year in Las Vegas.
This is the place where everyone from the heads of industry to the lonely entrepreneurs will announce to the world their latest greatest toys. It is a location filled with new ideas. I am very excited to see, feel and be a part of this tidal wave of Innovation. If you have one of my business cards you will know my mantra is “Innovate – Design – Create.” I don’t know of too many other places that embody that mantra. The CES show is where ideas meet reality.
A steady diet
While CES is like a Thanksgiving Feast, it will not sustain you for new ideas. You need to have a steady diet of new and creative ideas. Having a notebook, or a list of new ideas and possibilities that you constantly add to is a great way to catalogue what you are thinking about. Being part of local discussion groups, professional organizations or online forums will help feed your creative juices that will enervate you and make you more productive. Remember to feed your mind as well as your body.
Final thoughts
This newsletter is sponsored by Celtic Engineering Solutions LLC, a design engineering firm based out of West Jordan, Utah, which can be found on the web at: You can find the newsletter on the company blog, LinkedIn or in your inbox by subscribing. Send your emails to The Celtic Engineer at:, with the subject line SUBSCRIBE.