I had great expectations of this book, some of which were met and many of which were not. On reflection, I think Madhavan’s book could have been more accurately titled ‘How Engineers Think’. On this it delivered. The book is full of entertaining and enlightening stories that get into the minds of engineers across historical, geographical and specialist boundaries. However, it disappointed me because it didn’t help me as a reader to see how I could apply the models and perspectives in my own work. I was prepared to meet the author half way on the book jacket claim that ‘Think Like an Engineer … can help you solve problems, make better decisions and innovate in a complex world”. Having an index helps, and there is a good section on ‘Sources and Resources’ for follow up but a few ‘boxes’ summarising the models and thinking tools and maybe providing some hints on how others outside the field of engineering have used them would have been very helpful. Modular systems thinking (p21); Heilmeier’s checklist for innovation (p24); Ohno’s ‘5-Whys’ technique (p72); and, particularly, the ‘structure, constraints, trade-offs’ model that runs through the book would all have been candidates for ‘boxed summaries’ focusing on practical applications outside the realm of engineering.
Having read Madhavan’s book I have a better understanding of the nature of engineering and a new-found respect for engineers. I just wish I felt better equipped to think like one!