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Applied Minds: How Engineers Think

Applied Minds: How Engineers Think

Applied Minds: How Engineers Think
By Guruprasad Madhavan

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Book Description

A journey inside the minds that build our world.

Dubai's Burj Khalifa―the world’s tallest building―looks nothing like Microsoft’s Office Suite, and digital surround sound doesn’t work like a citywide telecommunication grid. Yet these engineering feats have much in common.

Applied Minds explores the unique visions and mental tools of engineers to reveal the enormous―and often understated―influence they wield in transforming problems into opportunities. The resulting account pairs the innovators of modern history―Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers, Steve Jobs―with everything from ATMs and the ZIP code system to the disposable diaper.

An engineer himself, Guru Madhavan introduces a flexible intellectual tool kit called modular systems thinking as he explains the discipline's penchant for seeing structure where there is none. The creations that result from this process express the engineer's answers to the fundamental questions of design: usefulness, functionality, reliability, and user friendliness.

Through narratives and case studies spanning the brilliant history of engineering, Madhavan shows how the concepts of prototyping, efficiency, reliability, standards, optimization, and feedback are put to use in fields as diverse as transportation, retail, health care, and entertainment.

Equal parts personal, practical, and profound, Applied Minds charts a path to a future where we apply strategies borrowed from engineering to create useful and inspired solutions to our most pressing challenges.

Book Details

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #435956 in Books
  • Published on: 2015-08-03
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: 8.60" h x 1.00" w x 5.90" l, .0 pounds
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • 288 pages

Editorial Reviews

"Applied Minds will enlighten you about the minds that transform our lives. It beautifully conveys the true vision of engineering and its impact on nearly every aspect of life and global progress. This book is refreshing, most approachable, and highly recommended for anyone interested in understanding engineering."--C. D. MOTE, Jr., President, National Academy of Engineering

"The engineering mindset is a transformational mindset. In deftly revealing some of its organizing principles, this book reminds us that behind today's global challenges are solutions and opportunities waiting to be realized."-KLAUS SCHWAB,Founder and Executive Chairman,World Economic Forum

"Guru Madhavan offers a compelling explanation of the engineering perspective. With potent stories that are heartwarming and at times heartrending, Applied Minds is an enjoyable and instructive read."--VINTON CERF,Chief Internet Evangelist,Google;Presidential Medal of Freedom laureate

"This is a delightfully interesting book and an essential treatise about ingenuity and systems thinking. Be it a mundane problem or a grand social challenge, the engineering frame of mind offers vital insights and inspiration toward better solutions."--RITA COLWELL, U.S. Science Envoy; Former Director of the National Science Foundation; National Medal of Science laureate

"As a scientist, I have come to recognize the unique value that "thinking like an engineer" brings to almost any important endeavor. In Applied Minds, Guru Madhavan skillfully uses stories to illustrate how engineers think, while also explaining how engineering has profoundly improved our lives. Hopefully his new book will help many talented young readers become excited about engineering as a career."--BRUCE ALBERTS, U.S. Science Envoy; President Emeritus, National Academy of Sciences and Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, Science; National Medal of Science laureate

"Applied Minds is captivating, entertaining, and hugely informative. Want to better understand how and why the engineering mindset is supremely important for everything from technology to human progress? Read this excellent book."--GORDON ENGLAND, Former U.S. Secretary of the Navy and Deputy Secretary of Defense

“Anyone trying to interest America’s young people in technical careers should read Applied Minds…. Writing with a liveliness that reflects the energized, creative, problem-solving people he talks about, Madhavan, a biomedical engineer, presents a completely engaging survey of what engineers do―and why you wish you could do it, too.” (Nancy Szokan - Washington Post)

“Engineers are titans of real-world problem-solving, yet are strangely invisible, notes biomedical engineer Guru Madhavan. In this riveting study of how they think, he puts behind-the-scenes geniuses such as Margaret Hutchinson, who designed the first penicillin-production plant, centre stage.” (Nature)

“Engaging…[and] insightful.” (Sybil Derrible - Science)

“The heroes of Guru Madhavan’s compact book about the logical habits of engineers are not the usual suspects of the iPhone era. With barely a mention of Wozniak or Jobs, the author takes us back to an earlier time so that we can witness the solving of problems that have long since gone away.” (Jon Gertner - Wall Street Journal)

“A real pleasure to read, and lots to learn.” (Tim Harford, The Financial Times's Undercover Economist and presenter of BBC Radio 4's More or Less)

“This thoroughly engaging book demonstrates that engineering thinking is truly multidisciplinary, multinational, and multicultural. Through its diverse cast of engineers and wide-ranging examples of their achievements, Applied Minds leaves little doubt that our world is a better place because of the engineers who inhabit it.” (Henry Petroski, author of To Engineer Is Human and The Essential Engineer)

“An unabashed celebration of engineers and their ‘plug and play’ thinking tool kit…. Applied Minds is worth sharing with young engineering students.” (Robin Tatu, Prism Magazine, American Society of Engineering Education)

“In this smart, insightful, and fascinating book, Madhavan shows how engineers turn problems into opportunities. The engineering mind-set is something we should all study and embrace. It applies to every aspect of life.” (Walter Isaacson, author of The Innovators and Steve Jobs)

About the Author
Guru Madhavan is a biomedical engineer and senior policy adviser. He conducts research at the National Academy of Sciences and has been named a distinguished young scientist by the World Economic Forum. He lives in Washington, DC.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful.
4Written in a very conversational style with lots of interesting historical anecdotes
By Kent Price
There is lots of good material organized in chapters: (Prologue) Invisible bridges; (1) Mixing and matching; (2) Optimizing; (3) Enhancing efficiency and reliability; (4) Standardizing with flexibility; (5) Solutions under constraints; (6) Crossing over and adapting; (7) Prototyping; (8) Learning from others; (Fadeout) A mindset for the multitudes. At the end there is a long section "Sources and resources", "Acknowledgments", and a comprehensive "Index".

The book is written in a very conversational style with lots of interesting anecdotes from history such as the Rosie Ruiz fake marathoner story (she took public transportation) that led to the need to track each individual runner. But sometimes the story is overly long or convoluted and reader may lose track of the point the author is making. The chapters could have used editing to restore focus.

All in all, I enjoyed the book but wished for more focus by the author.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful.
5How almost anyone can develop an engineer's mind-set, one that could create a significant competitive advantage
By Robert Morris
Few people complete a formal education in engineering (B.S. degree through a Ph.D. degree) but Guru Madhavan is convinced – as am I – that almost anyone can develop an engineer's mind-set, one that could create a significant competitive advantage for them. "Engineers help create [begin italics] solution spaces [end italics] -- suites of possibilities that offer new choices, conveniences, and comforts -- that redefine our standard of living." They have developed a mind-set that guides and informs those efforts.

Howard Gardner has much of value to say about multiple intelligences that have almost unlimited applications in what are often viewed as separate and [begin italics] unrelated [end italics] arts and sciences. Mudhavan agrees with Gardner: “The engineering mind-set can be applied successfully in every walk of life because its core elements (structure, constraints, trade-offs) and its basic concepts (including recombination, optimization, efficiency, and prototyping, are equally effective in finding solutions to nonengineering challenges. We can see all these aspects converging clearly in the work of one of the most famous film directors of all time, who studied and had a ‘thorough grounding’ in engineering. His early technical training had an important influence on his creations.”

Madhavan points out that, for Alfred Hitchcock, everything he presented on screen “was rooted in technical logic, even creating a suspenseful cinematic moment – the immediacy and very essence of the experience that would be thrilling and ‘chilling movie audiences long before air conditioning.’” Such effects are the result of both art and science.

The Birds offers an excellent case in point. The technical issues with the movie were “prodigious,” Hitchcock said. “I mean films like Ben Hur and Cleopatra are child’s play compared to this.” Madhavan notes that live birds had to be trained for every shot and the aeorodynamic principles of gliders were applied “to simulate fake bird movements. Special wire works, miniatures, and gears were used to arrive at authentic-looking shorts of the feathered actors – a Hollywood version of robotics before computers.”

Obviously, the engineer’s mind-set can help to create “suites of possibilities that offer new choices, conveniences, and comforts -- that redefine our standard of living." It can guide and inform those efforts. But there is a higher purpose to which Madhavan refers when suggesting that everyone is an engineer “at some point in the way we design our destinies. That’s why it’s the responsibility of not only engineers, but just about everyone to share the future course of engineering, which is entering an era of new eclecticism. With a shared vision we can create better solution spaces, convert random motions into progress, and improve societal muscle strength to address the complexities of today and tomorrow.”

Guru Madhavan provides an abundance of information, insights, and counsel in this volume from a scope and depth of sources and resources that require 39 pages to be cited. Also of great value are the lessons he has learned from this material as well as his determination to prepare those who read his book to create their own ““suites of possibilities that offer new choices, conveniences, and comforts” and help others to do so. With all due respect to the importance of a higher standard of living, we need even more a higher quality of life. We don’t need a world filled with engineers but we could certainly benefit from a world in which everyone can think like one whenever necessary.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
5Awesome Book
By Cordero Orona
I really like this book, especially while going through engineering in college and seeing how engineers figure out ways to make their ideas a reality. It gave me a sense of how to think as a growing engineer and what to look forward to.

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