The diverse personas of engineering innovators

Daniel M. Ferguson, Kathryn W. Jablokow, Matthew W. Ohland, Sóenay Purzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Over the past four years, fifty-three peer-nominated engineering innovators were interviewed about the process of creating innovations and the personal characteristics of engineers who do so successfully. These interviewees were drawn from across all engineering disciplines and all types and sizes of organizations where they were employed. Our main objective was to better understand the behavioral characteristics that lead engineers to discover, develop, and implement innovations in products, processes, or concepts. We call this behavior engineering innovativeness. This paper describes our rigorous process for discovering the essence of engineering innovativeness and its characteristics. As portraits of engineering innovativeness, we present 10 unique personas of engineering innovators gathered from our interviews. Identifying the behavioral characteristics of innovative engineers and their personas is important to both the education of student engineers and the professional development of practicing engineers. If engineers are expected to behave in an innovative manner in their academic and professional endeavors, then understanding the behavioral characteristics and personas of 'expert' or 'master' innovative engineers is an essential first step in learning to behave in an innovative manner or to become more innovative as an engineer. We discovered that there is not one type of engineering innovator or a single group of characteristics that define engineering innovativeness; rather, there are many different types of engineering innovators, as evidenced by the unique groupings of engineering innovativeness characteristics identified by our experts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-29
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Engineering


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