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Thinking styles of technical knowledge workers in the systems of innovation

Thinking styles of technical knowledge workers in the systems of innovation

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03/18/2014

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Thinking styles of technical knowledge workers in the
systems of innovation paradigm
J.E. Amadi-Echendu
Department of Engineering and Technology Management, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa
Received 23 March 2006; received in revised form 6 September 2006; accepted 7 September 2006
Abstract

The management of technology embodies human choice and freedom, and as such, it may not detach from philosophy and psychology, particularly in theinnovation,knowledge andlearning paradigm. This paradigmheralds knowledge workers insystems of innovation with renewed emphasis on information and intellectual capital as the primaryassets for production. The thinking styles and cognitive preferences for technical knowledge workers are pertinent for sustaining the interrelationships between economic and environmental, social and political, science and technology agents, institutions and organisations. Based on a 2005 survey and descriptive statistics of primary data obtained from 330 respondents, this paper provides a review of cognitive mechanisms while discussing the ranking of preferred thinking styles for engineering and technology management in the new paradigm. Logical, problem solving, conceptualising, analysing and interpersonal thinking styles were ranked in the top five bya judgemental sample comprising engineering, science and technology oriented professionals in supervisory, middle to senior management positions.

\u00a9 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords:Thinking styles; Behavioural preferences; Technology management
1. Introduction

It is widely acknowledged that the context of systems of innovation implies increased exploitation of information, knowledge and technology. This context is also used to describe the modern era for cultural, economic, environmental, and socio-political development. Extrapolating from an OECD definition[1], innovation includes the application, creation, diffusion, transformation and use of new {ideas, forms of organisations, methods, practices, processes, products, services, systems andtechnology}, to foster economic development and growth, to generate wealth and prosperity, and to uplift cultural and social well-being.

Technological Forecasting & Social Change xx (2006) xxx\u2013 xxx
MODEL 2
TFS-16899; No of Pages 11
Tel.: +27 12 420 5793; fax: +27 12 362 5307.
E-mail address:joe.amadi-echendu@up.ac.za.
0040-1625/$ - see front matter \u00a9 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.techfore.2006.09.002
ARTICLE IN PRESS
Please cite this article as: J.E. Amadi-Echendu, Thinking styles of technical knowledge workers in the systems of innovation paradigm,
Technological Forecasting & Social Change (2006), doi:10.1016/j.techfore.2006.09.002

With globalisation and the ongoing transition to the systems of innovation paradigm, information and intellectual capital have become the primary means for production, as well as the key differentiators in economic, environmental, social and political development. Information and intellectual capital assets are fundamentally embedded in cognitive human beings, andconsideringthe portability of information and readily mobile nature of intellectual capital, this makes knowledge workers the crucial resource for competitive advantage[2]. By force of circumstances, the systems of innovation paradigm and the challenges of globalisation provide impetus for the command-and-control management doctrines (cf.[3]) of the preceding industrialisation andmass production era to be reconnectedto the fundamental disciplines of psychology[4] and philosophy. While psychology relates to the study of mental characteristics and human behaviour, philosophy encourages critical thinking and debate on issues relatedto human choice, freedom and value. Thus, the thinking styles and behavioural preferences of technology managers, their motivation[5], roles[6] and responsibilities are significant issues for the information, innovation, globalisation, knowledge and learning generation. In his view of engineering as ethics, Sjursen in[7] argues that the responsibility of engineering and technology disciplines in the globalised economy\u2018goes well beyondtechnical and empirical\u2019 but, must equally embrace the interrelationshipbetween technological expertise andhuman values, with renewed regardto aesthethic, cultural, educational, environmental, economic, health, religious, resource allocation, safety, and sentimental issues.

The global dimension for systems of innovation also means that knowledge workers operate as highly mobile specialists or generalists with outreach far beyond geo-political boundaries. With so much of the knowhow that underpinned the preceding era of industrial production in explicit form, the challenges for managing highly mobile knowledge workers in the innovation era require better understanding of human mental processing modes. In the new systems of innovation dispensation, the cognitive preferences of knowledge workers of every persuasion take on a new significance, and this is also true for practitioners in Engineering and Technology Management occupations and professions.

Considering that engineering and technology managers may be viewed as a special subgroup of knowledge workers, if so, what cognitive preferences should theyadapt to and adopt, and inparticular, what attitudes shouldthey exhibit as pertinent agents of the innovation generation? The rest of the paper includes a brief introduction to the concept of systems of innovation, knowledge and learning interaction in Section 2, and occupational cognitive preferences in Section 3. The ranking of thinking styles is presented in Section 4 with a discussion on the ramifications for cognitive preferences in engineering and technology management summarised in Section 5. The descriptive statistics of primary data presented in Section 4 arises from a 2005 judgemental surveyand feedback obtained from330 respondents. The respondents were supervisory, middle to senior level managers and generally had engineering, science and technology orientation.

2. Innovation, knowledge and learning
2.1. Systems of innovation

Using the abstract form illustrated inFig. 1, the concept of systems of innovation may be concisely described in terms of a knowledge value-chain comprising three broad recursive subsystems and associated linking processes that include:

a) discovery and invention of ideas;
b) development, diffusion and proving of ideas, and conversion into new forms of knowhow and
knowledge; and
2
J.E. Amadi-Echendu / Technological Forecasting & Social Change xx (2006) xxx\u2013xxx
ARTICLE IN PRESS
Please cite this article as: J.E. Amadi-Echendu, Thinking styles of technical knowledge workers in the systems of innovation paradigm,
Technological Forecasting & Social Change (2006), doi:10.1016/j.techfore.2006.09.002
c) transformation of ideas, information, knowhow and knowledge into acceptable commercial, economic,
environmental, and socially valuable outcomes.

The outputs from knowledge-based systems of innovation range from information, knowhow and knowledge to valuable products and services. In order to generate these outputs, systems of innovation must be energised, linked and sustained by behavioural forms[8] which are generally delineated into public and private agencies, institutions, and organisations of various business persuasions.

Fundamentally, it is the knowledge workers within these behavioural organisations that energise the linkages and sustain the innovation value-chain from discovery, through development, to acceptable valuable outcomes. As primary assets for the systems of innovation paradigm of economic development, knowledge workers define, govern and structure the interrelationships between the various organisational forms. They do this via networking activities, whilst concurrently deploying their competencies, enthu- siasm, experiences, and skills to produce the desired outcomes.

Networking induces learning interaction among knowledge workers across discipline, vocational and sectoral boundaries in systems of innovation. In turn, learning interaction between the networks facilitates knowledge articulation, absorption, creation, diffusion, transfer and transformation between economic, engineering, environmental, socio-political, science and technologyagents, institutions and organisations.

Fig. 1. A conceptual view ofsystems of innovation.
3
J.E. Amadi-Echendu / Technological Forecasting & Social Change xx (2006) xxx\u2013xxx
ARTICLE IN PRESS
Please cite this article as: J.E. Amadi-Echendu, Thinking styles of technical knowledge workers in the systems of innovation paradigm,
Technological Forecasting & Social Change (2006), doi:10.1016/j.techfore.2006.09.002

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