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The Engineer Personality

Engineers systematically  harness their extraordinary intelligence and adaptive/creative/interpretive skills in the use of complex mathematical and scientific laws to produce everything we use today for any purpose. Nothing we touch has not been produced commercially without the input of engineers. They are one of America’s greatest sources of GDP growth.

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Their entire ‘raison d’etre’ is to use their extraordinary skill in math and science for the social well being of our society.

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They are a key source of CEO leadership in our largest and most sophisticated technical and non technical U.S. corporations.

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Finally, President Obama hired 23 engineers to win his 2nd term

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Dan Zwicker

Toronto

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The Engineer Personality

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By Dr. Charles E. Goshen

. Dr Goshen took his MD, in 1942 from Columbia University’s

College of Physicians and Surgeons

From: The Bent of Tau Beta Pi – December 1954

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DISCLAIMER

By Dan Zwicker

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Dr. Goshen’s use of the term ‘Engineer Personality’ in 1954 is used today as an early introduction to this subject by those who are engaged in this area.

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Dr. Goshen’s view  then  (1954) was sadly lacking

Dr. Goshen got it wrong in his critical libelous obsession with engineers

His description reads like an amateur thesis

based on his own obsessive views

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I disagree with his understanding of this subject.

To appreciate a relevant view (2017) scroll down on this blog to:

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EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW AND WERE AFRAID TO ASK NOW (2017)

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Dr. Charles E. Goshen’s (1954) views follow:

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Traditionally, People have tended to attach certain personality characteristics to the members of various professions. For example, the artist is alleged to be a dreamy, impractical, unaggressive sort of person. The banker is commonly pictured as being primarily a conservative type of person. The lawyer is known as an argumentative character. The truck drivers, stevedores and steel workers are seen as rough-and-ready. The plumber is supposed to be forgetful and the house painters are described as heavy drinkers. These commonly held opinions about the relationship between occupation and character traits have considerable validity, with, of course the exceptions found in any generalizations. The Strong Vocational Interest Test is a statistically bit of evidence to support this assertion. By the same methods of sampling,  it can also be demonstrated that some occupations do not show any consistent trend as far as personality traits are concerned. An example of this is the business man, who does not typically fall into any particular personality category.

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The engineering profession is one area of human endeavor wherein there is a very high consistency insofar as the character traits which its members have in common are concerned.  In other words, there exists an ‘engineer’ personality’. As with all the other typical personalities in various occupations, it must be kept in mind that it is not the occupation itself which determines the personality, but rather it is the type of personality which chooses the occupation in question. In other words, the engineer already had his particular set of personality traits before he became an engineer. For those who have personnel problems in dealing with engineers, it may be of help to become informed of the knowledge which a practicing psychiatrist has obtained about the engineer. The description which follows will be of a ‘typical’ engineer which can be used as a yardstick in sizing up an individual engineer.

 

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Dr. Goshen would be shocked to find his perception of professional engineers is now 63 years out of date.

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Scroll to the bottom of the blog to continue with Dr. Goshen’s views………

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EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW AND WERE AFRAID TO ASK

Now (2017)

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INTP* Engineers are easygoing yet private. They are logical and enjoy analyzing complex problems. They thrive on the theoretical and like to figure out how things work. They do not like rigid rules and often do not abide by them. They are independent intellectuals.

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INTP* Personality Type The Engineer

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The INTP* personality type is of the NT Intellectual temperament.

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INTP* Preferences

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Preferences: Introversion (I), Intuition (N), Thinking (T), Perceiving (P) .

INTPs direct their energy inward. They are energized by spending time alone. They are private and typically not socially inclined. INTPs are Intuitive. They are focused on the future and see endless possibilities. They are inventive, imaginative and complex. Their thought process is theoretical and abstract. INTPs are Thinkers that make decisions with their head. They are impersonal, objective and logical. INTPs are carefree and spontaneous. They dislike routine and rules. INTPs like to keep their options open. Their style is relaxed and flexible.

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The Engineer Personality

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Sufficient engineers have substantially the same traits that a stereotype personality has evolved depicting them – they are thought of as intelligent, logical, introverted but with poor communication skills and dress sense.

Is that characterisation justified? Well er, yes – pretty well, since it’s not hard to find examples of the ‘nerdy’ engineer. Naturally there are exceptions, the boundary between different personality types is fluid, but a good engineer is likely to have certain basic traits.

  • Engineers are curious and enjoy discovering how things work and solving problems.

  • Engineers use logic to examine ideas and develop theories and explanations.
  • Engineers like science.
  • Engineers are able to concentrate intently on a subject.
  • Engineers are perfectionists who are always looking for better ways of doing things.
  • Engineers want order and structure at work and in their personal life.
  • Engineers enjoy discussion, debate (and arguing), about their topic.
  • Engineers appreciate and respect intelligence in others.
  • They often have a good sense of humour.
  • Engineers commonly want to help solve the world’s problems.

 

But along with these laudable engineer qualities, comes an assortment of characteristics which are less easy to like.

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  • Engineers can be dogmatic.

  • Engineers may be unimaginative outside their own field, (so-called tunnel-vision).
  • Engineers are uncomfortable with vagueness and ambiguity.
  • Engineers dislike change.
  • The engineer’s attachment to structure may lead to an authoritarian approach. 
  • Engineers may focus on theories and be reluctant to consider conflicting data.
  • Engineers can be impersonal and reserved and may take little interest in other people.
  • Engineers may have poor social skills and be insensitive to the feelings of others. Diplomacy does not come to them naturally.
  • Engineers may have little commercial awareness and dislike making decisions in business.

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Before it’s too late, I will say that through the 17 years that I have been running Selling for Engineers seminars, I have met around 6,000 engineers and liked nearly all of them, (though there was once a guy I had to eject from an event near Hull :-). Part of the reason that I enjoyed meeting them is that under the surface I’m an engineer myself.

In the seminar I show a simplified psychometric personality assessment. It becomes a group exercise to identify the characteristics of three strongly differing types. One is the CEO, boss type, another the lab tech type and the third the friendly-but-dim, salt-of-the-earth-type.

What emerges after a lot of humorous banter is that all types have ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characteristics, yet each of the ‘bad’ characteristics can be seen as a positive in certain, necessary situations. For example, most people if asked out of context whether being ‘dogmatic’ is good, will say that it isn’t. Yet if you ask them whether being ‘focused and determined’ is good, they will say that these qualities are. Seen with this perspective, ‘dogmatism’ = ‘determined and focused’.

From this you can infer that according to the circumstance, any personality trait can be either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and that problems occur when the ‘bad’ characteristic is inappropriate for the context. The trick for good ‘job-fit’ is matching the person to the niche where their characteristics are valuable.

All of which is to say that the list of less attractive engineer qualities half a screen above is what you get when you want someone who can invent solutions to big problems and make things that work and are safe.

A perennial difficulty in the science and technology sectors is that ‘engineer types’ are generally not commercially minded. This doesn’t matter too much if there’s someone else to deal with the business of finding work and selling your services. But in a small company and sometimes even in larger ones, it’s an ‘engineer type’ who has that role. One for which his or her personality is not very appropriate.

Of course there are some exceptions, but if you look at a psychometric evaluation of the traits that make a good engineer and those of successful entrepreneurs the differences are significant. Consequent on the personality gap, their life experiences are dissimilar. Entrepreneurs want success and accept that risk is involved in achieving it. You can’t say that about the average engineer, who prefers to play it safe, which of course is a good thing for the rest of us who use their products.

From presenting business skills courses to engineers I have seen that only about 3 people from groups of 12 show natural business aptitude, and of them only half have ever had any formal business education.

The remainder don’t know that they don’t know. I’ve talked to universities about including sales / marketing topics in engineering courses, but this has never gone beyond an initial show of interest.

I think that’s a problem because, ultimately, lack of commercial awareness translates into wasted opportunity, effort invested in projects which don’t reach a viable market.

UPDATE June 2015

– things are finally beginning to change and several universities have engaged me to run introductory courses, but this is still a drop in the ocean. If you are a student or a member of staff at a technical university or institute contact me if you are interested in attending or presenting a ‘Sales Skills Workshop’ which I offer worldwide either without charge or at a reduced fee, depending on location.

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Robert Saviour


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INTP – The “Engineer”

DEFINITIONS

“INTPs are relatively easy-going and amenable to most anything until their principles are violated, about which they may become outspoken and inflexible. They prefer to return, however, to a reserved albeit benign ambiance, not wishing to make spectacles of themselves.”

INTP Profile (TypeLogic)

“The INTP is above all a thinker and his inner (private) world is a place governed by a strong sense of logical structure. Every experience is to be rigorously analysed, the task of the INTP’s mind is to fit each encountered idea or experience into a larger structure defined by logic.”

An INTP Profile (intp.org)

“INTPs live in the world of theoretical possibilities. They see everything in terms of how it could be improved, or what it could be turned into. They live primarily inside their own minds, having the ability to analyze difficult problems, identify patterns, and come up with logical explanations. They seek clarity in everything, and are therefore driven to build knowledge. They are the “absent-minded professors”, who highly value intelligence and the ability to apply logic to theories to find solutions.”

 

“The Architects’ distant goal is always to rearrange the environment somehow, to shape, to construct, to devise, whether it be buildings, institutions, enterprises, or theories. They look upon the world — natural and civil — as little more than raw material to be reshaped according to their design…”

The Portrait of the Architect Rational (iNTp) (Keirsey)

“INTPs contribute a logical, system-building approach to their work. They like being the architect of a plan, because of the scheming and thinking involved, far more than being the implementer of that plan. Implementation tends to be drudgery. They are content to sit back and think about what might work, given their view of the situation. INTPs may ignore standard operating procedures. The hours that they spend are not what is important to them, but rather the completion of their thought process”

INTP – The Wizard (Lifexplore)

“likes solitude, not revealing, unemotional, rule breaker, avoidant, familiar with the darkside, skeptical, acts without consulting others”

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What Personality Qualities Do Engineers Have?

by Auston Matta

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The products you use in everyday life are all designed. The development and construction of these products have a specific plan, and engineers are responsible their creation. Even the seemingly simple packages of food you purchase at the grocery store often require a packaging engineer to ensure freshness and safety. Mechanical engineering has been around for quite some time, but dramatic improvements in technology since the 20th century have given rise to new fields like biomedical and computer engineering. Even with all the differing disciplines of engineering, commonality exists between the personalities of those who work in the field.

Boost your energy level every day by never eating these 3 foods

Critical Thinking

Engineers are problem solvers. They are the people who figure out how to make your smartphone smaller, laptop faster and car more fuel-efficient. For example, in order for a smartphone to become thinner, an electrical engineer must determine how to redesign existing electrical components. Once the concept is developed, a manufacturing engineer must determine how to mass produce the new components for the consumer market. These new iterations of products and processes require engineers to solve problems and think critically about possible solutions.

Resourceful

Engineers must be resourceful. They must rely upon the concepts they learned in school or other training programs. They must reference textbooks or engineering guides to better understand the concepts related to the problem they are solving. For example, when facing a thermal design issue, a mechanical engineer may not necessarily know the unit conversion from British thermal unit — or Btu — to watts, but he must know where to look for the information. The field of engineering is not about memorization or completing repetitive tasks but knowing where to find the information required in order to solve the problem at hand.

Inquisitive

Most engineers you encounter are highly inquisitive. Engineers are often fascinated by how things work and the science behind the operation. As children, many engineers dismantle their toys just to figure out how to put them back together. This inquisitive nature becomes very handy in the field of engineering, because engineers must understand how the current product or process works prior to making an improvement or fixing an issue.

Cooperative

An engineer needs to be effective at working together with his colleagues. Teamwork among engineers is almost always required to complete a job. Teamwork is especially important in engineering because most jobs require several engineers to complete. A simple package of coffee beans, for example, may require five engineers to design the package, test the performance and manufacture the final product. A complex product like a laptop computer could require hundreds or thousands of engineers to support the development. Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, for example, has specifically designed an entry level-course named Design Thinking and Communication, which requires engineering students to work in groups throughout the six-month course.

Auston Matta

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The Character Traits of a good engineer

Business Articles | November 7, 2011

Engineering is a very specialist career, years of training is required to become a professional engineer. It’s a known fact that certain personality and character traits can determine a person’s suitability for a variety of professions. This article discusses several character traits that are useful for people thinking about a career in Engineering.

 There are certain personality traits which are key to a successful engineer. If applying for mechanical engineer jobs, then possessing most or all of these traits will put you ahead of other applicants applying for mechanical engineer vacancies. It will also put you on the best track for a long and accomplished career in engineering. This may be in any industry sector such as the aerospace industry, manufacturing industry, automobile industry or other.Some key traits include: 1. Being logical. All engineers have logical thinking skills. This allows them to look at any problem and break it down into smaller problems. This logical approach allows the engineer or engineering team to find the best, most appropriate solution. 2. Being a bit of a perfectionist. Engineers will always strive for perfection and better ways of doing things. This might be in the presentation of their work or the solution itself. Striving for excellence is a key engineering trait. 3. Engineers should be organised. An organised engineer is often a sign of someone who likes order and structure. This is important as it allows the engineer to get work completed more efficiently. You never find a messy engineer! 4. Liking science. Engineers should enjoy elements of science, because this allows them to find out how things work which is something an engineer loves to discover. A love for science is usually a sign of a potential engineer. 5. Love to talk. Engineers love to talk about their topic, whatever field of engineering they are a part of is also a part of their life. They therefore love debating issues within the field and embracing their topic with open arms. If there is a conflict, they love to talk about it until it is solved and will not rest until some conclusion has been made. This shows the passion of an engineer. 6. Concentration. Engineers are able to concentrate on something intently for a long amount of time, whether this is an electronics engineer concentrating on working on a cable to an automobile engineer focussing on analysing a component of the car’s engine. This level of concentration allows them to fully comprehend the project and come up with solutions. 7. Creativity. Creativity is important for an engineer as they often have to think outside of the box in order to solve problems which may be somewhat baffling to overcome.

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Henry Powers

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Henry Powers is an experienced recruiter and marketing professional who has worked in HR positions for some of the United Kingdoms most loved and well respected brands. He currently is working for a large engineering firm helping them fill mechanical engineering jobs around England. Given the immense depth of Henrys experience within engineering he has many contacts amongst mechanical engineer professionals, giving him the upper hand when recruiting for mechanical engineer vacancies.

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I MARRIED AN ENGINEER

Is there an “engineering personality”?

Most engineer’s wives think so.

by Beverly Bush Smith, 1973

 

Take him shopping for furniture, and he’ll turn it upside down or crawl underneath it, the better to examine its’ construction. Ask him to hang a picture, and he’ll bring out his level and plumb line, as well as his tape and hammer.

Start house-hunting, and he’ll look at dozens before putting all the facts and figures, pluses and minuses together to make his recommendation.

Watch him at a party, and he’s not comfortable making “chit-chat”, but when the conversation turns to a “solid subject”, and he speaks and people listen.

He’s an engineer. And it can be exasperating and funny, as well as reassuring and satisfying, to be married to one.

Is there an “engineering personality”? Most engineers’ wives think so.

In fact, a favorite indoor sport of them is exchanging tales of common and predictable behavior. (How “George brings out every tool in his workshop to mount a soap dish, and then swears if it’s a sixteenth of an inch off center”, or how “Harry looked at the gallon of milk I’d just dropped and said, ‘Well, it’s nothing permanent’ – and went back to reading his newspaper.”)

Most psychologists, personnel administrations, and marriage counselors – engineers themselves – agree that there is an “engineering type”. What are his characteristics?

“Most obvious”, says Dr. Charles E. Goshen in an article titled “The Engineering Personality” in Professional Development Magazine, “is his precision, meticulousness, attention to detail or accuracy, or his perfectionism.” He is also, says Dr. Goshen, intelligent, but “he knows a lot about mechanical principles but little about human principles”. The engineer has, according to Dr. Goshen, an enormous need to “be right”, and he is sensitive to criticism.

Kurt F. Kircher, the editor-in-chief of Design Views, describes the design engineer as “by nature conservative and orderly, confident, and decisive”. He can and does, says Kircher, make up his own mind. “In attention to detail”, Kircher adds, the engineer is “frequently a perfectionist and a tireless seeker of truth”.

Management consultant, Joe Fowler of Burbank, California, agrees that the engineer has “great pride in performance”, adding that his is also analytical, practical, not socially orientated, and not ostentatious. (He wants a car that works well, rather than a showpiece, and he is a “lousy dresser” …more concerned with the state of the art than with his necktie.)

Fowler, who works with three hundred engineers each year as president of J. E. Fowler Associates, says most engineers are introverted and nonverbal, but that the “new crop seems to be coming out of it’s shell” and is more outgoing. He believes that this is because management people are now coming from engineering, rather than other departments of manufacturing companies., and that engineering is attracting a “new type”. But Fowler believes it will be ten more years before engineers as a group “come out of their own little worlds of hinges and engines”.

Most, he feels, are still very private people; they do not go through sensitivity training well because they “build a wall, and when they’re exposed, it’s too much for them.

Nor, it seems, are they anxious to change. Dr. Goshen notes: “If there is any single group of people who are most likely to present a solid front against making a change in themselves, it is the engineers.” They fear admitting a fault, he thinks, is the obstacle.

Marriage counselor, Dean Smith, characterizes the engineer as “highly subjective. He takes facts and figures and mulls them over to make decision.” Smith, director of the Orange County (California) branch of the American Institute of Family Relations, says the engineer is well-read, calm, cool, and that he is verbal on certain subjects but not in the emotional areas. He tends, Smith feels, to be a “refined, cultured type”, as opposed to the coarse rough-language types at the other end of the spectrum.

One wife believes there are two kinds of engineers: those who “could almost have chosen any other means of livelihood” and “the true engineer”. The true engineer, she says, is “a logical, rational being, who can usually evaluate a problem, situation, or person precisely. He deals in truths, in facts, and sets high standards of performance for himself and everyone or everything connected with him. He has great integrity in his personal relationships, thinks for himself in politics, current affairs. He would appear stiff and old-fashioned on initial meeting, because he usually does not make small talk. But upon closer acquaintance, he can be found to be a well-informed, interesting person.”

Another wife describes the engineer as a “quiet perfectionist, terribly practical and economical, very level-headed.”

Still another agrees: “Very quiet. At times, hard to converse with. Well-read, and when he wants to talk, he can talk on almost any subject.”

The wife of an aerospace engineer says the engineer “uses step-by-step logical, rather than impulsive, reasoning. Expresses himself extremely well, but with great forethought and deliberation. Conceals deep emotions.”

Some other wife’s descriptions: “Introverted, stubborn, strong opinions, great personal integrity; concerned more with things and scientific problems than people,”

“A perfectionist.”

At home, the engineer reads a lot (mostly trade journals or publications related to his hobby); likes to have a study or den of his own or a basement or garage workroom where he can be alone. He is interested in how things around the house work, but he may not express himself unless asked for an opinion. (“Yes, I knew it wouldn’t work but you didn’t ask me.”)

Kurt Kircher says that the engineer is a “pretty good do-it-yourselfer”, but that before starting a home project, he will probably “research it to death”.

Engineers are indeed handy fellows at home, for both improvement projects and repairs. Moreover, their analytical minds will not only find solutions for existing problems but also sort out precisely what the problem is. For instance, one wife was struggling to cut a piece of carpeting into a runner to cover the children’s traffic pattern into the kitchen. The engineer in the family quickly saw that he problem was not how to cut the carpeting but how to change the traffic pattern. And he found a simple way to do it.

Are engineers, then, “good husbands”? When Dean Smith says that thirty percent of his male clients in marriage counseling are engineers, one wonders. But his office cautions about inferences from this fact by pointing out that Orange County is full of manufacturing facilities – and hence – of engineers.

“By and large”, Smith declares, “the engineer is so involved in the intellectual sphere, he does not tend to become dissatisfied emotionally about his marriage. It is his wife who feels and expresses the dissatisfaction, not the engineer.

He adds that the engineer “finds it hard to say ‘I love you.’ As for ‘How did the kids do today?’ he simply does not ask.

If wives have any specific complaints, they seem to center about the engineer’s tendency to be anti-social, to “seek the solitary life” – his “inwardness” and the nonverbal tendencies which sometimes make communication absolutely nil” Some mentioned his “autocratic approach to family life”. As one wife, referring to her husband’s perfectionist bent, complained, “It takes too long to get everything done.”

Joe Fowler cautions that the “average girl can’t cut it with an engineer.” She must be flexible, because her husband may be called away from a dinner party to set a sick valve or de-bug an actuator. Moreover, he says, “Ninety-nine percent of the engineers I’ve seen are definitely not Don Juans. They’re not good at flattery, not suave, not debonair. In fact, they’re terrible courters, and, once married, will seldom notice a wife’s new hat or dress or compliment her on her new hairdo.

However, Fowler adds that since engineers ar not “swingers” or “playboys”, they are generally pretty faithful to their wives.

What sort of woman do the engineers tend to marry? Usually she is outgoing, gregarious, active, intelligent, people-oriented. One marriage counselor noted that most marriages are between opposites and that this is particularly true of the engineer, who tends to select a counterbalance – a girl who is more verbal than he, and also more emotional.

Most wives seem to agree that the engineer seeks a wife who is more extroverted than he, with higher than average intelligence or more outgoing, gregarious, people-oriented, and, sometimes, more aesthetic.

An Ohio wife says the engineer’s wife usually has been successful in her own career and is a self-assured person. She has interests in common with him, as well as interests of her own. While she may defer to his better judgement in subjects she knows he understands more fully, she can express her opinion nevertheless.

How about the engineer as a father? Joe Fowler believes that since the engineer tries to be a perfectionist, he may expect a lot of his children. However, he is “steady” and gives his children a sense of security. Marriage counselor Dean Smith says engineers are cool, calm, and provide stability. But they usually “can’t give the child an example of relating emotionally”.

Some wives think their engineer husbands are terrible fathers: “firm but compassionate regarding discipline”; “taking time to personally deal with child-related problems; enjoying outings planned with and for the children”.

And one wife wrote: “He takes time in carrying out what he believes; he is a great source of strength and security to them.” However, some wives complained that their husbands did not spend as much time with the children as they wished: “He’s not home enough. Needs to participate more in the discipline and affection.”

Or, “He’d never volunteer to go to a Cub Scout meeting or a recital. I have to ask him or urge him.”

And, said one wife ruefully, “The only time I ever heard him tell the children he loved them was when he’d had too much to drink!” But she hastened to add: “Still, I wouldn’t trade him for anything. The example he sets for patience, thoroughness, honesty, and integrity.”

Recently an employment agency director asked an engineer’s wife: “How can you stand being married to an engineering drab? Everything’s black or white to him. You’re warm and outgoing, and concerned with all the shades and colorings of the rainbow.”

And Joe Fowler, who in his management consultant work has met literally thousands of engineers, when asked if he’d want his daughter to marry an engineer, hedged: “A lawyer would be nice.”

Why?

“They communicate better.”

But several wives answered the “How can you stand it?” very neatly:

“I love his ‘Rock of Gibraltar’ emotional stability, his loyalty, his high morals, his honesty, his meaningful realistic goals in life.”

He has a strong affection for home and family, personal loyalty to his wife; strong personal integrity.”

“He’s stable – and he can fix appliances!”

“He keeps me from falling off the deep end in every respect – socially, economically, practicality, mentally.”

“His directness, He does not play games. You can take what he says literally, without second-guessing, because he his totally honest. Sometimes brutally honest, but it really is better than innuendoes and hinting.”

“I love and admire and am grateful for the feeling of responsibility he has for the people he loves and respects, and for his work. His steadfastness.”

Marriage Magazine

The Magazine for Husband and Wife

March 1973

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ORGANIZATIONAL ENGINEERING

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Evidence-based research into human behavior in group contexts

Evidence-based research into human behavior in group contexts

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

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The Engineering Personality

By: Gary J. Salton, Ph.D.

Chief: Research and Development Professional Communications, Inc.

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INTRODUCTION

“Personality” describes behavioral traits that set expectations. These expectations can affect decisions. These decisions can in turn affect performance as well as personal well-being. Personality is a matter of substance that merits some attention.  A 1954 article in The Bent of Tau Beta Pi, a publication of the engineering honor society, declared “there exists an engineer personality” (see footnote #1 for link). In the years that followed thousands of publications describing one or another “qualities” characteristic of engineers have appeared (see footnote #2 for search results). The common thread running through these declarations is their narrative character. “I Opt” technology offers an alternative. It has a quantifiable foundation that uses information processing rather than psychology as a lens (the name is an acronym for Input Output Processing Technology). Its categories express unique information processing conditions (see footnote #3 for detail on the technology).

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A companion video leverages the ability of animation and visual descriptors to greatly expand the explanations and analysis offered here. You can access this YouTube video from our website at www.iopt.com or by clicking the icon on the right to go directly to the YouTube video. THE ENGINEERING PROFESSION  Graphic 1 shows the “I Opt” style strengths of 2,385 professional, non-supervisory engineers. It compares their “I Opt” style strengths to eight other professional staffs (n=8,011) commonly found in organizations (see footnote #4 for a description sample used). The colloquial annotations under each category are only intended to facilitate understanding. They are not definitions of the categories.

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Graphic 1   INFORMATION PROCESSING PROFILES

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The scale used in Graphic 1 measures styles as a percent of a maximum possible commitment. Thus 17% RS means that the strategy of spontaneous action is used about 17% of the time. The sum of the four styles total 100%. This creates an information processing profile along the dimensions measured.

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The blue dotted line in Graphic 1 is the engineering profile. Two qualities stand out. The strength of the thought-oriented analytical HA style (see “A” on Graphic 1) is the highest of all of the professions measured. And the strength of spontaneous, instant-action RS style is the lowest (see “B” on Graphic 1). This condition is enough to identify engineering as unique. But there is more. Only Finance/Accounting and Logistics exceed the engineer’s disciplined action LP style (see “C” on Graphic 1). And only they are lower in the spontaneous idea generating RI style (see “D” on Graphic 1). Even in its secondary tendencies engineering stands out.   It is the pronounced nature of engineering’s commitment to particular information processing styles—both high and low—that gives rise to the Engineer Personality. No one talks about an “Accounting Personality” or an “HR Personality.” The “Engineer Personality” exists because engineers stand apart. And this difference is not confined to external comparisons.

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Graphic 2  DISTRIBUTION OF STRENGTH FOR THE HYPOTHETICAL ANALYZER (HA) STRATEGIC STYLE

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Graphic 2 shows the strength distribution of the engineer’s dominant Hypothetical Analyzer (HA) style is skewed (see footnote #5 for detail).  A total of 50.1% of engineers register higher than the medium level of HA strength.  Engineering is attracting people highly committed to full understanding using logical analytical methods.

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Graphic 3  DISTRIBUTION OF STRENGTH FOR THE

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graphic-3

LOGICAL PROCESSOR (LP) STRATEGIC STYLE

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Graphic 3 shows that the engineer’s secondary Logical Processor (LP) style also displays a skew—but less pronounced. This amplifies the unique nature of engineering. Not only is engineering unusual when compare to other professions but it is also internally unusual. Skewed distributions within a profession are rare.

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The importance of the foregoing is that there is a solid foundation for Goshem’s declaration that “there exists a engineer personality.” It is born not only in the nature of the job but also in the kinds of people that are attracted to it. The “unusual” gets attention and engineering has a lot of “unusual.”

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ENGINEERING PERSONALITY CONTENT

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The strength of the average commitment to particular styles explains the existence of the engineer personality. It does not explain the content of that personality. To discover that we need to examine how the basic Input-Process-Output model is applied in the real world

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“I Opt” technology’s predictive ability rests on a simple observation. Behaviors are not independent events. They occur in sequence. Preceding behaviors can facilitate or frustrate subsequent behavioral options. For example, you cannot react to what you do not notice. A focus on general aspects of a situation automatically precludes detail. Without detail precision is impossible. Similarly a spontaneous, opportunistic approach focusing on direct action purchases speed at the cost of thought. There is not much use to “thinking” about something that has already been done. Various combinations of the “I Opt” styles are thus able to produce predictable behaviors. They also are the source of the specific qualities attributed to engineers. The “I Opt” Behavioral Cascade is the key tool used in the quest to identify behaviorally based personality qualities. Graphic 4 shows a simplified version of the cascade for someone using the engineer’s favored Hypothetical Analyzer (HA) style.  The left hand side of Graphic 4 describes the information processing choice sequence likely to be used.  The right hand side describes the probable attributions that a naive observer is likely to make as they view that behavior.

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Graphic 4  BEHAVIORAL CASCADE FOR THE HYPOTHETICAL ANALYZER (HA) STRATEGIC STYLE

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The sequence of information processing elections on the left side of Graphic 4 automatically produces logically related behaviors. These create themes that lend itself to generalization. The right hand side of Graphic 4 shows the internal processes likely to be “inferred” by a naive server. For example, the careful selection of an approach is likely suggest that the subject has a built-in “thoughtful introspective” mind. They do not “see” that the behavior is born of the mental work required by the task being undertaken. Qualitative attributions like “perfectionism” and an”intellectual” orientation are similarly discerned and declared (see footnote #6 for more detailed information on the cascade).  Each of the four basic “I Opt” styles produces a unique cascade. People alternate between the styles according to their degree of commitment and the subject being addressed. A naive observer witnessing a sequence of different cascades (e.g., the engineer’s 17% RS) would likely attempt to generalize. Generalization is based on commonality. In the engineer’s case that commonality is likely to be found in the use of structured methods (i.e., some type of predefined pattern is being followed) common to both of the engineer’s dominant styles (HA and LP). Structure lends a degree of rigidity to behavior. For the HA it is in the realm of thought. For the LP it falls in the realm of action. Upon seeing this stringency the likely inference for our naive observer is that the person is a certain “obstinate” quality. At this point an exposure becomes visible. Attempting to change the “qualities” of a personality will have consequence. For example, attempt to relax the engineer’s measured work pace in favor of a “sense of urgency” is likely to compromise the quality of the work being done. “One size fits all” management training imported from other professional areas run the risk of converting these exposures into threats—for both the individual and organization.

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ENGINEERING PERSONALITY ASSESSMENT  A line chart is useful when comparing categories in different populations. However, the internal interrelationships of the categories are obscured. Personality judgments will typically consider all of the “I Opt” information processing styles simultaneously. “I Opt” technology captures these interrelationships by using its ratio measurement capabilities to create an “I Opt” profile.

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An “I Opt” profile is a radar chart. The four axes represent the basic styles. The surface area of the right triangles connecting the axes measure “I Opt” patterns. Patterns are the information processing dimensions common between adjoining styles. In the engineer’s case, one common element is the use of structure as input screening criteria. Since everyone is measured on the same ratio scale, individual profiles can be consolidated to get representations of groups as well as individuals. Graphic 5 shows examples of both individual and group based profiles.

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Graphic 5  ILLUSTRATION OF “I OPT” PROFILES

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The profile alone is enough to provide a great deal of information on the probable behavioral characteristics of an individual or group. For example, the surface area in the lower right quadrant of Graphic 5A immediately tells the viewer that this person favors structured methods as their principal strategy. The distance between any two centroids (i.e., single point representations of entire profile) in Graphic 5C defines the likely difference in the “personalities” of the individuals in a group. The difference in the areas of consensus (white) and majority (grey) areas in Graphic 5B provides an indication of the cost (i.e., time, effort, emotional energy, etc.) of obtaining complete agreement through consensus. The “I Opt” human information processing model is a constant. But the subject to which it is being applied can call forth different psychological qualities. For example, if the interest is in corporate culture the psychological qualities of concern might be things like loyalty, profit orientation or vision—things not mentioned in Goshen’s 1954 article. But these qualities can be important if considering a merger of organizations. Differences in corporate psychology and/or culture can doom or smooth organizational integration.  A practical tool for considering personality effect in different areas is to create an “I Opt” Snowflake (named because if it’s geometric resemblance). This is a radar chart with descriptions attached to the styles (vertical axes) and patterns (diagonal areas).  Graphic 6 is an example of the use of the snowflake applied to an individual.  It assesses the likely emotions that the average engineer is likely to elicit in other people.

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Graphic 6

graphic-6

EMOTIONAL IMPACT SNOWFLAKES

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Graphic 6 is constructed by superimposing the profile of an average engineer on the emotional impact snowflakes. The more the profile extends on a particular axis, the more visible will be the attributes cited on that axis. The greater the surface area in a particular quadrant, the more the attributes cited on the associated diagonal will be considered representative. Graphic 6 highlights an important aspect of any qualitative “personality” assessment. It depends heavily on the person doing the assessment. If the person doing the evaluating is positively disposed toward the subject they are likely to judge our engineer as calm, astute, patient and attentive. If they are negatively disposed exactly the same behavior is likely to be seen as slow, timid, trifling and tortuous. Qualitative personality assessments (versus those based on exact measurement) offer an opportunity for an image management. Different words can be used to define a particular condition (e.g., patient vs slow). For example, superfluous reassessments can be redefined as quality assurance. This is something to keep in mind if confronting a hostile evaluation based on subjective judgments. Snowflakes can be constructed for any area affected by information processing. The subject area determines the psychological attributes of interest. The “I Opt” profile determines the likely direction and magnitude that the attribute will assume. The behavioral cascade translates the information processing choices into the descriptive characterizations of psychology (see footnote #7 for links to additional snowflakes).

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ENGINEERING SPECIALTIES

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Goshem was right. There is an engineer personality. However it is not as solid as he infers. The information processing elections that create the engineering personality are pronounced but not universal. The different approaches to information processing are perhaps best seen by looking at the dominant “I Opt” styles of some of the engineering specialties. Table 1 collapses the 89 engineering specialties cited by respondents into 25 groups. The percentages represent the proportion of the sample that subscribes to each of the strategic styles as their “default” or dominant approach. The dominant style is the strongest (the highest percentage in each row) in the engineer’s repertoire.

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Table 1  DOMINANT STRATEGIC STYLE OF ENGINEERS BY AREA OF SPECIALIZATION

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The first thing that might be noticed is that the dominant information processing approach in all areas of engineering is the analytical HA strategic style. This consistency is the basic source of the engineer personality. The next thing to notice is that engineers who do not subscribe to the most popular Hypothetical Analyzer (HA) approach are most likely to instead favor the disciplined action LP strategy. This happens in 20 of the 25 grouped categories. But there are five areas where this secondary strategy favors the speculative idea-generating RI style (these are boxed on the table). In three of these five cases this makes intuitive sense. These three areas are all involved with the more creative engineering specialties (R+D #16, Design #6 and Development #7). Explanations for the two remaining areas (Software #29 and Reservoir #18) are not transparent to the author. A final note is the fact that each of the four styles is dominant in some proportion of the sampled population. These are all working, professional engineers. This fact suggests that there is a niche in every area of engineering for people using different strategies. This is the source of the exceptions that prove the rule. This mini-analysis demonstrates that engineering is a “Big Tent.” It is able to use people favoring all strategies. It just may take some people a little longer to find a “seat” than others. A final pedagogical observation is worth noting. The skewed distribution of both dominant styles (HA and LP) has teaching implications. Engineering demands discipline and instruction and must rely on rigorous curricula. However, a skewed distribution will shift the mean of a curve. Professors grading on the curve may be setting an artificially high standard that favors logical “in the box” thinking. Students favoring the more adventurous styles will be disadvantaged. This is something worth thinking about.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY/FOOTNOTES

(1)  The Engineer Personality, Charles E. Goshen, The Bent of Tau Beta Pi, December, 1954, pp 15-16.

http://www.ctgclean.com/tech-blog/wp-content/uploads/Engineer-Personality001.pdf

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(2)  A Google search term “engineering personality traits” produced 1,740,000 results. Confining the search to educational institutions (i.e., edu) reduced the results to a still substantial 76,500. Google search was conducted on March 7, 2014.

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(3)  The necessary brevity of this research blog precludes full elaboration of the theory underlying “I OPT” technology. A general orientation to the dynamics associated with information processing theory can be found in the first 5 minutes of the YouTube video Team Tension—Causes and Management (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQ_5b4BUUB0&feature=youtu.be). The YouTube video I Opt” Strategic Styles and Patterns provides a more detailed operational specification of the basic process (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVOyznCCWB8). A complete operational understanding of the theory, methods and mechanisms requires taking an “I Opt” certification course. Information on this option can be obtained by emailing Shannon Nelson at shannon@iopt.com.

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(4)  Sampled population included 2,385 professional engineers drawn from 178 unique organizations (subsidiaries were consolidated into parent and not counted as separate entities). A majority of the sampled engineers were located in the United States but included significant representation from 30 other countries including:

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The titles used by engineers included in the sample indicate that they are working in 89 unique engineering specialties including:

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(5)  An analysis 108,198 people from all professions confirm that the distributions of the strength categories roughly correspond to a normal curve. The skew in the engineering data thus reflects a real difference between engineering and other professions.

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(6)  The necessary brevity of this research blog precludes a detailed specification of the Behavioral Cascade. A more detailed example of how the Behavioral Cascade works is available on the companion video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jM1yf_7RIfY&feature=youtu.be beginning approximately 4 minutes into the video.

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(7)  A battery of I Opt “snowflakes” that are predictive of observable qualities and which cover subjects like general behavior, learning, communication, emotional impact, corporate culture and general culture are available free of charge at http://www.iopt.com/support-materials.html.

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 countries-represented-in-the-sample

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The Engineer Personality

Then  (1954)

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………continued from the top of the blog

By Dr. Charles E. Goshen

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Once we get to know an engineer better we appreciate that his intelligence tends to be used in a very specialized way.

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There is a very obvious lack of broadness in point-of-view, so that the superior intelligence he has is restricted to a narrow field, with the result that he is likely to know a great deal about a little bit, but knows only a little bit about the world at large.

Then  (1954)

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Specifically, we find that what he knows a lot about is mechanical principles and what he knows a little about is human principles. His success in mastering mechanics tends to lead him father away from achieving competence in dealing with people.

Then  (1954)

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Characteristically, for example, he builds an airplane which is too complicated for a human being to fly. Because of his confidence in dealing with mechanical principles, he tends to apply them to people, with inevitable failure in achieving a successful relationship with people. His understanding of physical laws, with their predictability leads him  expect the same kind of predictability in people.

Then  (1954)

He seems to  exhibit an enormous need to “be right.” Actually, when we get to know him we find he is primarily interested inin trying to avoid being criticized for being wrong. As a result, he demonstrates an outstanding sensitivity to criticism. He is perpetually looking for and finding criticism, much of which is his own invention, in as much as he tends to interpret as criticism what others would interpret in some other

way.

Then  (1954)

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His pride, his self-esteem hinges on his success os failure in avaoiding criticism. This leads to his going away from people more. It also leads to his not taking credit for his success, for he is not really interested achieving success, but is actually primarily concerned with trying to avoid blame for failure.

Then  (1954)

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As a device to forestall criticism or control from other people, he tries to “jump the gun” by criticising or controlling others before they do it to him. In other words, he assumes that in his relationships with others someone must necessarily be the boss, and rather be the victim of someone else’s control, he tries to control others. As a result he becomes the dominating husband and father, and the critical supervisor…….

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…………………………..>>>>>>AD NAUSEUM

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HIS VIEWS CONTINUE TO TWICE THE CURRENT AMOUNT OF TEXT AND ADDS NOTHING TO THE SUBJECT

 

 

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