Knowledge: the Engineer’s Edge

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Engineer with computer

Some engineers are team members, some are managers, and some are top executives, but all have a great deal of influence in bringing ideas to successful completion and projects to a successful conclusion. Engineering is not only a profession, but also a culture with its own expectations, knowledge, and resources that can improve outcomes.

Like a chef’s knife, an engineer’s knowledge is a prized and expensive tool that holds an edge despite, and perhaps even because, of daily use. But even the best knife needs to applied to the task at hand in the most effective way and to be sharpened regularly. So it is with an engineer’s knowledge.

What’s Important in Engineering? Applying Knowledge Effectively

In addition to knowledge and experience—which is applied knowledge, and therefore highly valuable—engineers bring many other abilities to their efforts. Engineers have a tendency to prioritize certain concepts or values, giving teams the chance to encapsulate these in their work as they apply their knowledge. Some of these are as follows:


It’s been argued that engineers’ focus on innovation is one of the driving forces behind today’s vibrant startup culture. Engineers recognize that no matter how effective or elegant a single solution may be, it represents just one iterative step. There will always be new opportunities to do things even better — based on new tools, techniques, or insights.

High Standards

For engineering products to be effective, work standards must be uniformly high. In this, traditional areas of engineering like architecture where mistakes can be very costly have positively influenced software engineering and other newer disciplines. Engineers consistently seek to create the processes necessary for repeatable, reliable results.

Lifelong Learning

Engineers of all kinds need to be alert to new ideas and trends. Incorporating new techniques can be integral to success, even if the project is already halfway complete. Engineers who take on new challenges and refine their craft are valued in any organization. Plus, they can help those who come after them attain higher levels of achievement more quickly.

The Open Source

Thanks to software engineering and information technology, the open-source concept has made a big difference in how engineers think. Open source provides platforms and opportunities for engineering professionals from around the world to collaborate. This results in innovative, robust solutions that aren’t attainable with a single organization’s resources.

Speed and Efficiency

Integral to engineering is the idea of the labor-saving device. The most fundamental simple machines were all intended to spare human labor. Today’s engineers have remarkable new ways to accelerate and simplify daily tasks. This lays the foundation for a safer and more fulfilling world for everyone by giving end-users the opportunity to focus on high-level tasks.

Knowledge: A Key Resource for All Engineers

Knowledge resources may be the most crucial to any engineering organization. When knowledge is crystallized in the form of documentation, articles, or other assets, it helps everyone on the team. Duplicated work is eliminated and old mistakes are avoided.

Certain types of knowledge resources have grown more important in engineering over time. For example, end-user documentation is becoming simpler in many ways — but at the same time, many enterprises are emphasizing the construction of internal “lessons learned” databases.

Along with other forces, the Internet has led to a mass democratization of knowledge. Even highly technical data is now accessible to virtually anyone with an Internet connection. This has had a positive effect on the engineering profession since insights are disseminated faster.

As a result, engineers can quickly review the latest literature for relevant information at any stage of a project. This, in turn, can become part of the overall knowledge collection of the enterprise.

Some outstanding knowledge resources for engineers include:

Maintaining Knowledge to Increase Impact

Knowledge assets provide a chance for peers to review, refine, and challenge new information. Just as in biological sciences, offering a particular resource to the larger community means sparking a larger conversation. From this discourse, entirely new discoveries are possible.

This process drives change and progress in engineering as a whole. Of course, individual teams and engineers who push themselves to develop such resources can benefit as well. As teams develop best practices for specific project situations, they have the opportunity to make long-lasting contributions that transcend industries and borders.

Engineers shouldn’t shy away from opportunities to participate in the wider conversation within their discipline. Today’s technologies make it easier than ever to not only learn one’s own craft well but also integrate great new ideas from allied fields. Maintaining one’s technical edge requires regular sharpening, and the resulting knowledge and skill can benefit everyone.

Learn More

An advanced degree program for engineers who want to become leaders without losing their foundation in engineering, the online Master of Engineering Management from Ohio University focuses on leadership and management skills and their direct relationship to engineering process improvement, project management, effective communication, and innovative solutions.

Recommended Readings

Ohio University Blog, “Engineering Leadership: More Than Management”
Ohio University Blog, “Engineering Management in Humanitarian Logistics”
Ohio University Blog, “Women in Engineering Leadership”

Sources, “The influence of engineering culture on the startup economy”
The Royal Academy of Engineering, “Engineering Values in IT”, “4 reasons companies say yes to open source”