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Applied Minds

How Engineers Think

Guru Madhavan (Author)

Overview | Formats

A journey inside the minds that build our world.

Dubai's Burj Khalifa—the world’s tallest building—looks nothing like Microsoft’s Office Suite, and digital surround sound doesn’t work like a citywide telecommunication grid. Yet these engineering feats have much in common.

Applied Minds explores the unique visions and mental tools of engineers to reveal the enormous—and often understated—influence they wield in transforming problems into opportunities. The resulting account pairs the innovators of modern history—Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers, Steve Jobs—with everything from ATMs and the ZIP code system to the disposable diaper.

An engineer himself, Guru Madhavan introduces a flexible intellectual tool kit called modular systems thinking as he explains the discipline's penchant for seeing structure where there is none. The creations that result from this process express the engineer's answers to the fundamental questions of design: usefulness, functionality, reliability, and user friendliness.

Through narratives and case studies spanning the brilliant history of engineering, Madhavan shows how the concepts of prototyping, efficiency, reliability, standards, optimization, and feedback are put to use in fields as diverse as transportation, retail, health care, and entertainment.

Equal parts personal, practical, and profound, Applied Minds charts a path to a future where we apply strategies borrowed from engineering to create useful and inspired solutions to our most pressing challenges.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • August 2015
  • ISBN 978-0-393-23987-4
  • 5.9 × 8.6 in / 288 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, Singapore and Malaysia, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverApplied Minds: How Engineers Think


Endorsements & Reviews

“Anyone trying to interest America’s young people in technical careers should read Applied Minds…. Writing with a liveliness that reflects the energized, creative, problem-solving people he talks about, Madhavan, a biomedical engineer, presents a completely engaging survey of what engineers do—and why you wish you could do it, too.” — Nancy Szokan, Washington Post

“Engineers are titans of real-world problem-solving, yet are strangely invisible, notes biomedical engineer Guru Madhavan. In this riveting study of how they think, he puts behind-the-scenes geniuses such as Margaret Hutchinson, who designed the first penicillin-production plant, centre stage.” — Nature

“Engaging…[and] insightful.” — Sybil Derrible, Science

“The heroes of Guru Madhavan’s compact book about the logical habits of engineers are not the usual suspects of the iPhone era. With barely a mention of Wozniak or Jobs, the author takes us back to an earlier time so that we can witness the solving of problems that have long since gone away.” — Jon Gertner, Wall Street Journal

“A real pleasure to read, and lots to learn.” — Tim Harford, The Financial Times's Undercover Economist and presenter of BBC Radio 4's More or Less

“This thoroughly engaging book demonstrates that engineering thinking is truly multidisciplinary, multinational, and multicultural. Through its diverse cast of engineers and wide-ranging examples of their achievements, Applied Minds leaves little doubt that our world is a better place because of the engineers who inhabit it.” — Henry Petroski, author of To Engineer Is Human and The Essential Engineer

“An unabashed celebration of engineers and their ‘plug and play’ thinking tool kit…. Applied Minds is worth sharing with young engineering students.” — Robin Tatu, Prism Magazine, American Society of Engineering Education

“In this smart, insightful, and fascinating book, Madhavan shows how engineers turn problems into opportunities. The engineering mind-set is something we should all study and embrace. It applies to every aspect of life.” — Walter Isaacson, author of The Innovators and Steve Jobs