Professional Contemporizing to Overcome Obsolescence or Parkinson's Law Reversed
- R.D. Grimm (Northern Natural Gas Co.) | Marshall Van Ostrom (U. Of Kansas) | F.W. Preston (U. Of Kansas)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- December 1963
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 1,271 - 1,276
- 1963. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 4.6 Natural Gas, 3.1.7 Progressing Cavity Pumps
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The business approach to solving the problem of engineering obsolescence requires a solution that is creative, attainable and economically justifiable. The Engineering Educational Program designed to combat technical obsolescence has given heartening results after 18 months of operation. The program is outlined, results are given and the future course of action is discussed.
Early retirement was invented in the early 1950's to overcome the problem of management obsolescence. This, of course, is also a possible solution to the problem of technical obsolescence among engineers a very real problem, due primarily to the "knowledge explosion". The knowledge explosion is not something that has happened, it is something that is happening. The really incomprehensible thing about this explosion is that it is mushrooming at an ever-increasing rate. As we entered the decade labeled the "soaring sixties", we were told that nine-tenths of our knowledge of the physical sciences had been acquired since the year 1940. Now, "It is estimated that the entire storehouse of scientific knowledge will double between 1960 and 1967". Undoubtedly this is one of the prime considerations that led Dr. Thomas Stelson, head of the Dept. of Civil Engineering at Carnegie Institute of Technology, to conclude back in April of 1961 that: "Unless a graduate of 10 years ago has systematically spent about 10 per cent of his time extending his knowledge beyond the level of development achieved in his college training, he will not have value in excess of that of a new graduate. This assumes, too, that he retains all of his previous training, which is probably far from realistic. If decay from neglect or disuse is also 10 per cent per year, an engineer is then faced with the task of growing in new knowledge at the rate of about 20 per cent per year to remain of equal value to his employer and society. To increase in value at a significant rate, he should probably devote about one-third of his productive hours to self-education and improvement. Such growth is a prodigious task. Its magnitude is seldom realized and all too infrequently attained.
"Nothing is clearer to an engineering educator than that his students who will still be practicing 45 years hence will be working on devices and with ideas about which he has no knowledge. Thus, above everything else. it is important to educate engineers so that they may, continue to grow, throughout their professional life. The engineers of the twenty-first century have already enrolled in school." As we have said, one possible solution to the problem of technical obsolescence is early retirement. But in view of the current shortage of engineers, that one is not too appealing. A more appealing approach is to adopt the conventional bureaucratic solution (more people, more money, more space). However, the bureaucratic solution has never, and can never, be compatible with the economic realities of business survival. The business approach requires (1) that a problem be recognized, analyzed and defined, and (2) that the solution be creative, attainable and economically justifiable. Stetson's remarks, made back in 1961 concerning the problem of the growing technological gap and the need for continuing education for engineers, struck a responsive chord at Northern Natural Gas Co. But an economic, yet meaningful solution as how best to contemporize these people was not easy to come by. Somehow we needed a solution that would, in effect. reverse Parkinson's Law. This law, you may recall, was formulated by C. Northcote Parkinson while vacationing on the shores of the China Sea in the remote Malay State of Trengganu.
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