The Mindset of T-Shaped Systems Thinkers That Amplifies Their Skillset

From Matt Bilsky

This talk was delivered to the graduate students and faculty of the Lehigh Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics department on 11/3/2017


The 21st century economy is vastly different than ever before. Since 2015, approximately 1/3 of the United States’ workforce has been millennials who have ushered in the gig economy. How has this impacted both traditional research in academia and the labor market as a whole? What does a 21st century T-Shaped engineer look like? To compete in this everchanging landscape one must be a systems thinker requiring both a mindset and skillset. Traditional graduate programs excel at developing highly specialized skillsets in their students that can be thought of as a column (the base of a T). The engineering grand challenges being addressed in research and industry require more than a narrow field of expertise. A broader, systems-level understanding of a problem and its greater context are required to succeed. This is called the entrepreneurial mindset that sits horizontally atop of the skillset base forming the T. Combining mindset with an engineering skillset makes one a T-Shaped individual who is prepared for success. The entrepreneurial mindset has nothing to do with entrepreneurship and starting a company; but it has everything to do with entrepreneurship. It consists of the 3 C’s: Curiosity, Connections, and Creating value. During the seminar, this seemingly contradictory definition will be explored along with the notion of an intrapreneur who builds extreme value for their company, research group, or themselves. Examples of how industry, academia, and economic development can work together on research will be presented through a novel PhD program called an Entrepreneurial Minded Dissertation (EMD). Attendees will be encouraged to applying the principles of T-Shaped Systems Thinking to their own work and develop a mindset to complement their skillsets.

Recorded Talk