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Mechanical Engineering

Developing an introvert’s superpower

September 15, 2014

Do you know someone who can absorb a vast amount of complex information about a problem and combine it into a cohesive, elegant solution?

An introvert is uniquely suited to develop this superpower; solving problems with multiple interrelated constraints.

Why is an introvert’s brain wired to solve these problems? An infographic by Kyle Rohane excellently describes how an introverts’ brain behaves differently than an extroverts’ brain: “The anterior thalamus acts as a relay station, sending signals to the anterior cingulated gyrus and frontal lobe, which help introverts recall events or imagine new possibilities. With a little time, introverts can come up with creative solutions to problems through imaginative trial and error.”

The word “introvert” has a negative connotation in today’s society, but this notion is being turned on its head by recent research and books like “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain.

In the arena of product design, there is typically a point early in the project where multiple solutions to each individual problem must be brainstormed and combined into a cohesive whole. Each solution needs to be matched up in a way that works together. In the field of mechanical engineering product design, this is typically called a configuration concept. It’s depicted by a holistic sketch or cross section of the product where the part breakup, moldability, assembly, component layout, airflow, wire routing, etc., have been solved. This also applies to any task that involves multiple interrelated problems that must be solved simultaneously (for example, experience maps, process flows, or electrical schematics).

Introverts’ brain pathways favor the thinking mode where several solutions to individual problems are played out in their mind simultaneously. Any compromises or interactions between those ideas are evaluated, resulting in a configuration concept where all the pieces of the puzzle work together.

​Introverts’ brain pathways favor the thinking mode where several solutions to individual problems are played out in their minds simultaneously.

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