Saturday, October 27, 2007

Industrial Engineer - Joe Forehand - CEO and Chairman - Accenture

It is interesting to know that Joe Forehand with BS in Industrial and Systems Engineering and MS in Industrial Administration joined Anderson in 1972 and became its CEO and Chairman of Board of Directors. He retired from the board in 2006.

It is fitting that he mentioned about human performance improvement as well as satisfaction of associates in his various interviews, the twin focus areas of an industrial engineer.

Some excerpts about his work

Forehand has focused on getting all 75,000 of his employees to center their jobs around three imperatives: bold growth, creation of a great place to work, and operating efficiency.

Bold growth, he said, means not just following the rules of the industry - it means writing them. Forehand wanted to get employees thinking about ways to move beyond consulting through its growing network of businesses - a network that enhances Accenture's consulting and outsourcing expertise through alliances, affiliated companies, and other capabilities. Today, the company is focused on delivering innovation.

To improve the work environment, Forehand established a new dialogue with his employees to provide compelling initiatives and rewards, allow for flexibility, and ensure a diverse workforce. Forehand's reputation for approachability encouraged his employees to express their feelings candidly without fear. "Part of being a leader is to be approachable and inclusive," he explained. "You need to be someone the people can trust and connect with."

And finally, to improve operating efficiency, the company measures its success carefully. "You get what you measure," he says. For instance, he explained, retention is not a satisfactory measurement of whether a company is capturing and maintaining the best and brightest people. It merely measures whether the company is keeping the people it has. Truly measuring satisfaction, aptitude, and performance takes an investment in time and effort, but it pays off. If a company has the best and the brightest and keeps them happy, they will perform well, and the company will perform well.

For additional reading

A sketch of Joe Forehand

Interview with forehand 2002

Interview with Forehand 2001

Monday, October 15, 2007

Talk on Future of Industrial Engineering

Designing "Network-centric" Manufacturing Systems

Designing "Network-centric" Manufacturing Systems – New Challenge to Industrial Engineers

Manufacturing is undergoing a major transformation. Companies are migrating away from the traditional manufacturing environment to one in which they act as designers and systems integrators, with the actual manufacturing being done by smaller companies. This creates a distributed, network-oriented virtual corporation of sorts.
This scenario is already common in the defense industry, where much of the production is done by smaller firms in the supply chain. A prime contractor such as Boeing may farm out to small companies more than 80 percent of the work on some systems. This dramatic change in the way companies are approaching design and manufacturing has given way to collaborative design and contract manufacturing processes known collectively as network-centric manufacturing.

The new paradigm

"Network-centric" provides useful shorthand for describing a broad class of approaches that arise from the networking of the entities that constitute a modern manufacturing supply chain. Network-centric operations give companies access to a previously unreachable region of the information domain, which provides a new type of competitive advantage.

Demands on IEs

Evolution represents both opportunity and challenge. As developments in information technology change the way we design and manufacture products, most other dimensions of manufacturing--products, markets, and processes--are becoming more complex, diverse, and international. The products manufactured by even the smallest firms have become more sophisticated, and demands on quality have increased due to the acceptance of philosophies such as Six Sigma and total quality management. Using these quality systems allows companies to achieve goals widely regarded as critical to the future of manufacturing. However, new capabilities do not come without a price. They have placed new demands on industrial engineers and system designers who must work in much more sophisticated manufacturing environments. Relationships among members of the supply chain have also become more complex.
A key issue for industrial engineers has emerged from the research by TIDE (Technology Insertion Demonstration and Evaluation program): For many manufacturers, particularly small firms, business processes are a function of the software they use. Consequently, the processes of most manufacturers are a function of commercial, off-the-shelf software. For example, design processes are largely determined by the computer-aided design and product data management system employed by a company. Similarly, much of how a firm manages its production resources is shaped by its enterprise resource planning, manufacturing execution system, and scheduling software.

New, more effective methods for designing, and installing complex manufacturing alliances are now mandatory skills for industrial engineers and managing them for business managers. Furthermore, in many cases a small manufacturing entity may be the producer of a mission-critical component. The supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

The research identified the need for process engineering tools and related personal skills. Chief among these is the need to model and simulate the manufacturing environments of even the smallest firms in a supply chain. The risks of implementing new technologies and processes, while high for large manufacturers, are devastating and often fatal for smaller firms. The ability to determine the consequences of proposed changes is a must in this new network-centric environment.
Fortunately, there are many powerful and reasonably easy-to-use general purpose modeling and simulation packages suitable for smaller manufacturers.

TIDE found smaller suppliers tend to lack the capabilities needed to respond to their customers' (larger companies) demands for affordability, quality improvements, or speed of response. A lack of capital, a lack of technical resources, or both may be the root of that problem. The issue has become problematic in recent years because most weapons and munitions system manufacturing is done by suppliers.
Recently, the Air Force Research Laboratory and Boeing Corp. successfully implemented a program to improve the capabilities of the suppliers of an important product and coordinate their activities. Most components are manufactured by a group of small (less than 200-employee) manufacturing enterprises. The components are then shipped to Boeing's facility in Missouri, where final assembly is accomplished. The program has produced dramatic results for the six small manufacturing enterprises involved: The average productivity increase was 25 percent, and cycle times decreased by 60 percent. The cost per unit, quality, and on-time delivery levels remained stable as production volume doubled.

The manufacturing technologies implemented as part of this program are representative of the network-centric manufacturing paradigm that transforms small companies in the supply chain and synchronizes them to the virtual corporation to ensure manufacturing goals are met.

Barriers to success

There are a number of barriers facing small and medium-sized enterprises in their efforts to achieve the capability required to participate in sophisticated, fully collaborative supply chains. Three of those barriers are particularly problematic:
* What's good for the supply chain may not be good for the individual firm. Each company in the network-centric manufacturing environment provides a technology or process capability not available as efficiently from any of the other companies. The system designer's emphasis shifts from optimization of the individual company to the network.

Without careful coordination, individual companies can lose control of their in-house processes, leading to a variety of problems such as schedule delays, too much inventory, and material shortages. Operating practices in individual companies may not generalize well to the supply chain, making it difficult for a company to operate effectively in the virtual enterprise. Many times this makes owners and managers of individual firms reluctant to commit fully to the needs of the larger enterprise.

* Systems cannot interoperate. Because each member company in a network-centric manufacturing environment has its own set of software tools and IT practices, there is a good chance that these companies use different hardware and software platforms. It is likely that data produced by the application systems of one company cannot easily be read by the application systems of another. Efficient, error-free exchange of data is a must if the network is to operate effectively.

* Unfamiliar technologies and application systems. The companies in a network-centric manufacturing environment must cooperate and share technologies and application systems. These technologies and application systems are often complex and require extensive training to be used correctly. Many smaller firms do not have the necessary industrial engineering, information technology skills, or human assets. Developing this expertise can be a time-consuming and expensive undertaking and may be out of the reach of a small firm.


Combining manufacturing philosophies such as Six Sigma and lean with powerful software packages opens the door for significant improvements in manufacturing and allows a fully collaborative supply chain. The question is no longer if network-centric manufacturing makes sense, but how best to achieve it.
To accelerate progress toward a network-centric capability requires that we move beyond the limited nature and scope of the applications explored to date.
Network-centric manufacturing is based on:

* Collaboration among firms that make up the virtual enterprise that is the supply chain, including a vision of the capabilities required in the future state.
* Establishing appropriate metrics and measures.
* Developing assessment tools to evaluate the readiness of individual firms as well as the information network used to link them.
* Simulation of an actual supply chain and demonstration of key network-centric performance attributes.
Introduction of new software tools and the rapid expansion of high-performance computer networks such as the Internet enable manufacturers to come together electronically to exploit new opportunities, dramatically improve their processes, and produce innovative products. These new capabilities would not be economically or technically feasible for the companies to achieve individually. But the electronic sharing of production and design knowledge--true supply chain collaboration between the companies--can overcome single-firm limitations and result in a virtual corporation that is greater than the sum of its parts.
The challenge for industrial engineers is to develop the tools and methodologies required in this network-centric manufacturing environment. TIDE and other development efforts are creating the tools and techniques needed. Industrial engineers and manufacturing systems designers now have the opportunity and the challenge to embrace these new tools.

There are several critical roles for modeling and simulation in a network-centric atmosphere. Since the basic premise of network-centric manufacturing assumes combinations of autonomous or semi-autonomous entities, simulation of the virtual enterprise's performance is a key element of risk mitigation. It is imperative that simulation standards for models and data can accelerate the modeling process and reduce modeling costs, making it something that smaller firms participating in key Department of Defense supply chains can accomplish.
A prerequisite for performing a thorough examination of the operations of a manufacturing environment is developing a model of the shop. The model is a description of the manufacturing-related entities and activities in the shop. The model should allow the user to specify characteristics of the manufacturing entities, relationships between the entities, and the production activities that manipulate the entities. It should support descriptions of the shop from different viewpoints to ensure there is a place to specify information important to the shop floor manager, the machine operator, and the maintenance engineer. And it should be possible to specify different parts of the model at different levels of rigor and to increase the thoroughness of model parts as new insights into the shop's operations are gained.
The TIDE team created a fairly comprehensive shop data model and exchange file format for data-driven simulation. It separates simulation functionality into modules in a new way. The shop data model encompasses a significant portion of the data required to run a real machine shop, not just simulate its operation, Links are provided in the data format to reference data maintained in files that use other standards. This approach, based on a unified data format, ensures data consistency between the real shop and the simulated shop--removing the need to abstract or simplify real shop data to create a simulation--resulting in the elimination of a major step that is usually required in the simulation modeling process.
Charles H. Buhman Jr. is the director of the Technology Insertion Demonstration and Evaluation program. He is a member of the Advanced Manufacturing Enterprise sub-panel of the Joint Defense Manufacturing Technology Panel.

About TIDE
TIDE was created with a grant obtained by Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania. Originally based at Carnegie Mellon University, the program is now conducted by the Doyle Center for Manufacturing Technologies. Although its specific focus is helping small manufacturers that supply goods and services to the national defense, the program's work can be applied to all small businesses.

For more information about TIDE, visit

The article is a summary of

"Oncoming wave of collaboration: the TIDE program is showing small firms how to jump into manufacturing networks."
By Buhman, Charles H., Jr.
Publication: Industrial Engineer
Date: Friday, August 1 2003

Charles H. Buhman Jr. is the director of the Technology Insertion Demonstration and Evaluation program. He is a member of the Advanced Manufacturing Enterprise sub-panel of the Joint Defense Manufacturing Technology Panel.

An Exposition on Creativity - IEs need it

What is Creativity?

Creativity is not easily defined, because of its unseen character. According to Boden (1994), inventors often do not know the source of their insight. Still, it is possible to discern the creative from the ordinary. According to Bailin (1994), the shared beliefs about its nature are as follows (a) that creativity is connected with originality—with a break from the usual (b) that the value of creative products cannot be objectively ascertained, since there are no standards by which new creations can be assessed (c) that beyond products, creativity can be manifested in new and novel ways of thinking that break with previously established norms (d) that existing conceptual frameworks and knowledge schema impose restraints on creative insight, and (e) that creativity is a transcendent, irreducible quality.
An enduring definition provided by Bruner (1962), is that creativity is an act that produces “effective surprise”. Bruner explained that the surprise associated with creative accomplishment often has the quality of obviousness after the fact. The creative product or process makes perfect sense—once it is revealed. For the creative person, surprise, according to Bruner, “is the privilege only of prepared minds—minds with structured expectancies and interests”. Bruner identified three kinds of surprise, predictive (such as in theory formulation or re-formulation), formal (as in a musical composition where there is an elegant reordering of elements), and metaphorical (as in the idea of “systems”), where the creativity comes from recognizing commonality across disparate elements.
Tardif and Sternberg (1988) suggested that it could be fruitful to dissect creativity into processes, persons, and products, and indeed, much of the research on creativity is framed along these lines. Creative processes take time, and include search through a problem space. They may involve transformations of the external word, internal representations through analogies and metaphors, constant definition and re-definition of problems, applying recurring themes, and recognizing patterns. Creative people are governed by internal factors, especially personality. They invariably are creative within particular domains, such as art, music, or electronics. But across domains creative people share common cognitive characteristics such as the ability to think metaphorically and flexibly, the ability to recognize good problems in their fields, and the willingness to take intellectual risks.
Composite Nature of Creativity
A view of creativity around which there has been a growing consensus that it is a composite concept, the product not just of individual traits, but also of societal and environmental factors. Csikszentmihalyi (1988) offered such a view, having proposed that creativity is never accomplished by an individual alone, but rather is the product of the interaction of a stable cultural domain that will ensure perpetuation of the idea, a supporting institutional framework (a field) comprised of the stakeholders and gatekeepers who affect the structure of the domain, and an embedded social system. By this way of thinking, attributions of what is creative are relative, and grounded in social agreement. Lubart (1995) wrote that to be creative is to produce work that is both novel and socially useful.
Creativity and Intelligence
Whether creativity correlates with or is completely explained by theories of intelligence has been a point of issue. The consensus appears to be that creative behavior has to be explained outside of the framework of intelligence. And indeed, Gardner (1999) has proposed that intelligence resides in a multiplicity of human attributes. In a seminal piece, Guilford (1950) suggested that to fathom creativity one had to look beyond the normal boundaries of IQ. He contended that creativity was not confined to geniuses, but rather, on the principle of continuity, it was present albeit in varying degrees, in all humans.
Feldhusen (1993) wrote that creativity has readying and predisposing conditions, one being intelligence, but that while intelligence is an asset, it is not a sufficient condition for creative behavior. Sternberg (1985; 1988) has contended that creativity overlaps with intelligence, cognitive style, and personality/motivation, and that it has socio-cultural as well as experiential correlates. While the intellectual dimension of creativity deals with problem finding, problem definition and redefinition, and knowledge acquisition, personality aspects govern traits such as tolerance for ambiguity and willingness to surmount obstacles.
Theories of Creativity
Several strands of theory support inquiry into creativity. Busse and Mansfield (1980) suggested seven lines, namely, psychoanalytic, Gestalt, associationism, perceptual, humanistic, cognitive developmental, and composite theories (such as Koestler’s (1969) bisociation). Houtz (1994) condensed these lines into four approaches, namely (a) associationism/behaviorism—connection among disparate ideas, and between stimulus and response (especially Mednick, 1962), (b) psychodynamic, focused on conscious and unconscious thought (thus inclusive of the psychoanalytic), (c) humanism, focused on intra-individual life forces and motivations, and (d) cognitivism, focused on thinking processes and skills. These two categorizations clearly intersect. They provide frameworks for inquiry into creativity, and a backdrop for understanding creative processes.
Creative Cognitive Processes
What are the cognitive processes that yield creative ends? One approach to resolution here is to examine the logic of exceptionally creative people. In one such study, Cross (2002) used phenomenological methods to explore the creative cognitive processes of three exceptional designers from different domains of design, and found some commonality in their approaches including (1) they relied on first principles both in origination and development of concepts (such as adherence to fundamental physical principles or design basics), (2) they explored the problem space in a way that pre-structures or foreshadows the emergence of design (for example, they may give precedence to providing joy to the user), and (3) creative design comes about when there is tension to be resolved between problem goals and solution criteria. Using these areas of commonality, Cross fashioned a model suggesting that exceptional designers take a broad systems approach to design, but they also frame problems in distinctive personal ways that seem to issue from their particular personalities.
Also examining the approach of exceptionally creative people, Csikszentmihalyi (1996) arrived at his conception of flow, the optimal state of experience that yields novelty and discovery. From his observation he too arrived at a systems explanation, surmising that creative flow involves feedback that produces enjoyment when novelty occurs. When things are going well in the act of creating, subjects report their behavior to be almost automatic and unconscious. This state of flow seems to be preconditioned by a set of enablers including having clear goals, balancing between challenges and skill, merging action and awareness, and not fearing failure.
While much could be learned about creative processes through examination of the logic of people who are exceptionally creative, it needs to be remembered that creative behavior is not monopolized by the gifted (Guilford, 1950). For example, Chomsky (1957) called attention to the routine, flexible use of language among humans. Ward, Smith and Finke, (1999) contended that human ability to construct an array of concepts from otherwise discrete experiences is evidence of our “generative ability.” Generative ability includes cognitive acts such as retrieval of existing structures from memory, forming simple associations, transforming existing structures into new ones, analogical transfer, and metaphorical thinking. Such abilities, along with conceptual combination, divergent thinking, and productive thinking, are processes that must become better understood in the technology education community as modes of reasoning associated with creative production. Next, these cognitive processes identified here are briefly examined

Metaphorical Thinking.
Metaphors are powerful creative tools that allow comparison and categorization of materially unlike entities. They involve mapping across conceptual domains, from a source domain to a target domain (Glucksberg, Manfredi & McGlone, 1997; Lakoff, 1993). An example of metaphorical thinking would be the characterization of the Internet as an “information highway.” By facilitating description of new situations through reference to familiar ones, metaphors allow conceptual leaps (e.g., Glucksberg & Keysar, 1990). Metaphors bring into play the right side of the brain, which, different from the logically oriented left side, is holistically oriented, supportive more of the strategic than the tactical, and can facilitate dealing with ambiguity. They function at the executive level, subsuming analogies, and relying on the principle of association to facilitate connections among unlike entities (e.g., Genter & Jeziorski, 1993; Sanders & Sanders, 1984).
Metaphorical thinking exercises can be employed as auxiliary activities supportive of design teaching and learning in technology education. Teachers can provide students with prototypic examples of metaphors, then require them to conceive of as many as they can.
Analogical Thinking
An analogy is a special type of metaphor, its signature being a structural match between two domains (Gentner, Brem, Ferguson, Wolff, Markman, & Forbus, 1997). Analogical thinking involves mapping of knowledge from a base domain to target domain to facilitate one-to-one correspondence. An example would be the connection that Rutherford made between the solar system and the hydrogen atom (Gentner & Jeziorski, 1993), or the parallelism that can be drawn between electric current flow and fluid flow. Analogies are tactical; they make possible the solution of a given problem by superimposing upon it the solution to a problem in a different domain (e.g., Gick & Holyoak, 1980). Thus, airplane flight is analogous to the flight of birds. The spider-web has been the basis of design of architectural structure.
Analogical thinking can conceivably aid design reasoning in technology education classrooms, if teachers are able to draw upon particular technological examples where the inspiration for the design came from nature. Students can readily see the similarity between airplanes and birds. They can learn about the stability of structures by studying the foundation of trees. If they are encouraged to conceive of many more such analogical examples, students will thereby be engaging in the kind of thinking that is required for solving design puzzles.
Combinatorial Creation
Combinatorial creation is a design process in which two or more concepts or entities are combined to yield an entirely new product (Wisniewski, 1997). It is a creative approach explainable by association or composite theories. In nature the combination of hydrogen and oxygen yields water, a unique product with properties different from the component gases (Ward, Smith, & Vaid, 1997). In the commercial world, the combination of two dissimilar products can yield a composite novel result. For example, metals are made more resilient by alloying. A kite combined with water skis provide a novel recreational vehicle. Seeing the novel combinatorial possibilities inherent in two dissimilar objects requires creative insight, and uncovering how people reason about combinations can be a way to gain understanding of the nature of creativity.
In the technology education classroom, combinatorial activities could become part of the repertoire of the teacher. Students could be asked to arrive at designs that are the product of two existing objects or products. They can be given thought exercises, the aim of which could be to imagine new products that can materialize from combinations of existing ones.
Divergent Thinking
Divergent thinking was included by Guilford (1959) as a facet of his structure of intellect. In this work, Guilford proposed that intellect was composed of thought processes or operations, contents that are the raw material of operations, and products that are outcomes of operations. Divergent thinking and convergent thinking were included among operations. Convergent thinking yields fully determined conclusions drawn from given information. It is associated with general intelligence. Divergent thinking yields a variety of solutions to a given problem. Guilford (1967) found divergent thinking to be composed of four factors, fluency, ability to produce many ideas; flexibility, producing a wide variety of ideas; originality, producing novel ideas; and elaboration, adding value to existing ideas. Divergent thinking is believed to be a characteristic of creative minds (e.g., Baer, 1993; Wakefield, 1992). In technology education it squares with approaches to the teaching of design that require students to brainstorm and to generate multiple solutions to problems.
Productive Thinking
Productive thinking is creative behavior as characterized by Gestalt theorists. Wertheimer (1968) applied it to problem solving, suggesting that structural features of the problem set up stresses in the solver, and that as these stresses are followed up they cause the solver to change his/her perception of the problem. The problem is restructured, peripheral features are separated from core features, and solutions emerge. Duncker (1945) suggested that the act of problem solving involves reformulating the problem more productively. The problem solver must invent a new way to solve the problem by redefining the goals and approaching the final solution incrementally via a succession of insights. He found that insight occurs in problem solving only when the solver is able to overcome a mental block, especially that induced by prior knowledge. If the solver thinks of using an object only in the habitual way, where a novel approach is required, creativity will be blocked. He referred to this experienceinduced impediment to creativity as “functional fixedness.” If one is accustomed to seeing a box used as a container, one may have difficulty seeing the same box as a platform (see Mayer, 1995).
Productive thinking in the technology education classroom would require students to restate or restructure problems in ways that make it easier for them to begin to see solution prospects. As students deconstruct problems, discarding aspects that are not germane to the solution, they are drawn closer to solutions. Students could be provided “thinking outside the box” exercises that require them to consider multiple uses to which everyday objects or devices can be put.

Schooling and Creativity
Schooling is an important aspect of the development of creativity in children. Support for such development can begin with a curriculum that takes student interest and individual differences, including thinking styles, (Sternberg, 1990) into account. Especially, the curriculum must account for the multiple intelligences among students (Gardner, 1999). We can gain insight into what creativity enhancement through the school curriculum might entail by setting forth the six resources identified by Lubart and Sternberg (1995) as being critical to creative performance as a framework. These “resources” are (1) problem definition or redefinition, (2) knowledge, (3) intellectual styles, (4) creative personality, (5) motivation to use intellectual processes, and (6) environmental context. How can these resources be engaged in classrooms?
While students with exceptional creative talent would benefit from curricula that deliberately include a creativity-oriented component, all children stand to benefit when such an approach is taken. Cropley (1997) contended that the inculcation of creativity should be a normal goal of schooling, with the aim being to help all students attain their creative potential. Children should be helped to achieve effective surprise in their work. He outlines a framework of ideas around which a creativity-focused curriculum can revolve—one that overlaps with Lubart and Sternberg’s resources approach. It includes provision of content knowledge, encouraging risk taking, building intrinsic motivation, stimulating interest, building confidence, and stimulating curiosity (Cropley, p. 93). As can be seen here, creativity enhancement must address factors that are internal to the student, such as personality and intellectual disposition, as well as factors that are external, such as curricular, social, and environmental.
Domain knowledge features are a key prerequisite of creative productivity in the schemas offered by both Lubart and Sternberg (1995) and Cropley (1997) . There is strong evidence in the research literature indicating that a fund of domain knowledge is imperative for creative accomplishment (e.g., Simonton, 1988; Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). Cropley (1997) contended that providing such knowledge is one important way in which schools can foster the development of creativity. Lubart and Sternberg (1995) write that knowledge of the state of knowledge in a domain prevents attempts to reinvent the wheel. Nickerson (1999) offered the view that the importance of domain-specific knowledge in the forging of creativity is underestimated. He argued that across a wide front of domains, including the arts, mathematics, and science, acquisition of a solid knowledge base is a precursor of exemplary creativity. He wrote:
One cannot expect to make an impact in science as a consequence of new insights unless one has a thorough understanding of what is already known, or believed to be true, in a given field. The great innovators of science have invariably been thoroughly familiar with the science of their day. Serendipity is widely acknowledged to have played a significant role in many scientific discoveries; but it is also acknowledged that good fortune will be useful only to one who knows to recognize it for what it is. (p.409)
It is necessary to offer a caveat with respect to the importance of domain knowledge and it is the contention that prior knowledge could sometimes impede creative behavior. As Lubart and Sternberg (1995) pointed out, high levels of knowledge can actually stymie creativity. Dunker (1945) referred to this possibility of the problem of “functional fixedness” where one is unable to break away from normative usage of an item. Weisberg (1999) spoke of the tension between knowledge and creativity, suggesting a U-relationship between the two that acknowledges both positive and negative transfer of knowledge. Still, the fact that prior experience or knowledge could conceivably depress creativity is more a caution than an argument against domain-knowledge acquisition as a basis of expertise and creativity. Schools must provide children with the foundational knowledge supportive of creative insight.
Beyond provision of domain knowledge, schools can enhance the creativity of children if classroom environments support and facilitate risk taking, problem posing, individual learning and thinking styles, and intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (Jones, 1993; Jay & Perkins, 1997; Lubart & Sternberg, 1995; and Cropley, 1997). Some school contexts are more supportive of creative behavior than others, and the factors that can militate against creative behavior may be both internal and external in character (Jones, 1993). For example, low selfesteem could inhibit creative effort (e.g., Hennessey & Amabile, 1988). The external environment can dampen creativity if it does not reward creative behavior, or if it deliberately suppresses it.
Creativity can be enhanced in the curriculum by providing students more opportunity for problem finding, as a precursor to problem solving (e.g., Moore, 1993). Problem finding has not been given as much prominence in technology education as problem solving (see Lewis, Petrina, & Hill, 1998). France & Davies (2001) show how questions can be a part of a collaborative process in community-based problem solving. Wertheimer (1968) drew attention to the importance of problem-finding as a marker of creativity, contending that “Often in great discoveries the most important thing is that a question is found. Envisaging, putting the productive question is often more important, often a greater achievement than solution of a set question…” p.141. Problem finding refers to the way that a problem is conceived and posed, and includes the formulating of the problem statement, periodic assessment of the quality of the problem formulation and solution options, and periodic reformulation of the problem (e.g., Getzels & Csikszenthmihalyi, 1976; Jay & Perkins, 1997). Mumford, Reiter-Palmon and Redmond (1994) wrote that problem construction contributes to creative problem solving, and that it is a predictor of real world creativity. Runco and Chand (1994) examined how individuals decide whether problems are worth pursuing, finding that metacognitive evaluation is a key to their method.
Creativity and Technology Education
Technology education is a special place in the school curriculum where creativity can be fostered uniquely. Indeed, the subject is premised upon human creativity—on the ingenious ways in which from the time they stood upright, human beings have devised ways and means to deal with problems that beset them in daily existence to assure their very survival, and ultimately to improve the quality of their lives. In the long march across time from river crossings in canoes, to space crossings on rocket-powered ships, human beings have along the way systematically relied upon their creativity to overcome existential obstacles, and with each advance have yielded and stored technological knowledge upon which even further advance could be made.
Early forms of the subject tended to focus upon rehearsing basic overt technological processes, such as tool use, and the making of artifacts. As the subject has progressed, there has been a retreat from this essentially instrumental focus toward one where children are taken behind the scenes of human advancement and presented with hurdles that can be overcome only through their creative design. This shift of the subject to an earlier place in the stage of the process of technological creation, where things are unsettled and there is no single right answer, has made the subject almost ideally suited to uncovering dimensions of the creative potential of children that would remain hidden in much of the rest of the curriculum. While the American content standards in science now include technological design as an area of study (see National Research Council, 1996), the long tradition of technology education gives the latter subject a much greater claim to this content.
The strong design focus of the American Standards for Technological Literacy offers opportunities for teaching to enhance creativity. What makes design so specially suited to the inculcation of creativity in children is its openendedness. There is more than one right answer, and more than one right method of arriving at the solution. The ill-structured character of design requires that students resort to divergent thought processes and away from the formulaic. As they do so, their creative abilities are enhanced. But despite the potential here, there are indications in the literature that we still have some way to go before creativity becomes a more central feature of the teaching of design in the United States and elsewhere. For example, McCormick and Davidson (1996) cautioned that in teaching design, British teachers were giving precedence to products over process. Others observe that technology teachers in Britain were pursuing a formulaic line when teaching design, comprised of stages that were often contrary to the natural design tendencies of children (e.g., Chidgey, 1994; Johnsey, 1995).
This tendency toward teaching design as a process that proceeds through definable stages is evident in the United States as well, noticeable in the Standards for Technological Literacy (International Technology Education Association, 2000), which states that:
The modern engineering profession has a number of well developed methods for discovering such solutions, all of which share common traits. First, the designers set out to meet certain design criteria, in essence, what the design is supposed to do. Second, the designers must work under certain constraints, such as time, money, and resources. Finally the procedures or steps of the design process are iterative and can be performed in different sequences, depending upon the details of the design problem. (p. 90)
Reeder (2001) set forth a set of comparable steps in his description of how industrial design is taught at his university, but included is a conceptual development stage that involves open-ended, divergent thinking.
The problem for the field of technology education in the United States and elsewhere is that the overt description of the stages of the design process, observable when engineers do their work, has become the normative design pedagogy. This stage approach runs the risk of overly simplifying what underneath is a complex process. Teaching design as a linear stage process is akin to arriving at a pedagogy of art by mere narration of the observable routines of the artist. It simply misses the point that design, like art, proceeds from deep recesses of the human mind. To arrive at a pedagogy of design, there is need to get beneath the externals of the process. The key is to recognize design as a creative rather than a rationalistic enterprise.
Roger Bybee, a strong advocate of the new standards for technological literacy, wrote that “Technological design…involves cognitive abilities such as creativity (emphasis added), critical thinking, and the synthesis of different ideas from a variety of sources” (Bybee, 2003, p.26). This creative element requires an approach to teaching that gets deeper below the surface.
We are beginning to see interesting deviations from the normative approach to the teaching of design (e.g., Hill & Anning, 2001; Flowers, 2001; McRobbie, Stein & Ginns, 2001; Mawson, 2003; and Warner, 2003. One concept being explored is “designerly thinking” where a constructivist approach to student design approach is taken in an effort to unearth just how students solve problems. Flowers suggested that humor in the design and problem solving classroom can promote divergent thinking. Arthur Koestler (1969) gave credence to humor as an important marker of creativity in his landmark contribution, The Act of Creation. Humor in the creativity-oriented classroom is consistent with the view, embedded in leading theories and research, that creativity has an affective dimension—that it thrives in environments in which intrinsic motivation flourishes. Such environments encourage non-conformist thinking and personality types that thrive better in less structured settings (e.g., Eysenck, 1997).
Warner (2003) joins Flowers in pointing out that the tone of classrooms can make a difference in the quality of the creations of children. He argued that to support creativity in technology education classrooms, teachers must be more tolerant of failure. Flowers wrote that “Teachers of design must maintain a classroom culture that promotes successes but embraces the learning opportunities that failure presents” (p. 10). He drew on research suggesting that some kinds of classroom climates, such as those where competition is encouraged or where rewards are offered for performance, actually dampen creativity (e.g., Hennessey & Amabile, 1988).

Earlier in this article, generative cognitive processes such as analogical and metaphorical thinking, conceptual combination, productive thinking and divergent thinking were identified as means by which creative people have arrived at novel products. Such processes should be included in the pedagogic repertoire of technology teachers. They should be taught to students in design classes in technology education, as devices that can be employed in solving design challenges. We see an excellent example of the how metaphorical and analogical thinking can be infused into the teaching of design in the contribution by Reed (2004) on biomimicry; that is, design that imitates nature. Reed showed that many scientists and engineers continue to look to nature as they contemplate designs and that many industrial products (e.g., Velcro) are inspired by nature.
Design pedagogy can benefit from ideas such as biomimicry, as prompts for helping students as they engage in creative search. This pedagogy must also be informed by findings emerging from the creativity research literature, especially from studies in which expert designers articulate the logics that underpin decisions they make and actions they take in the act of designing (e.g., Cross, 2002).
Beyond cognitive strategies that are known to yield novel products are the concomitant factors that support creativity, notably the importance of domain knowledge, problem posing, and problem restructuring. We have learned from the literature that domain knowledge is fundamental to creative functioning (e.g., Cropley, 1997). And yet, this is an area of the design discourse in technology education that receives almost no attention. Creativity cannot proceed in a knowledge vacuum. While there is a place for the teaching of domain-independent design, where the context is everyday functional knowledge, it is necessary that children be challenged with design problems that reside in particular content domains, such as electronics, manufacturing, or transportation. Children are more likely to arrive at creative solutions when they puzzle over such problems if they are first taught the supporting content knowledge.
Though problem posing ability is an acknowledged marker of highly creative behavior (notably Getzels & Csikszenthmihalyi, 1976; and Wertheimer, 1968), it remains an almost neglected aspect of the technology education discourse—a discourse steeped in treatment of problem solving. And yet, as Lewis, Petrina & Hill (1998) argued, using principles of constructivist learning in support, that we should be as interested in the ability of children to find good problems as in their ability to solve problems. There are implications here for how we arrive at design problems in our classrooms. Are those problems teacher-imposed, or do they originate from the observations of our students? Akin (1994) called attention to the creative potential of problem restructuring for increasing the creative potential of design. Drawing from experiences in architecture he distinguishes between anonymous and signature design, and between routine and ill-defined problems. Ill-defined problems are not bounded by available design standards. They require “the additional functionality of problem restructuring as they cannot be resolved without a framework within which problem solving can operate” (p.18). According to Akin, within problem restructuring resides great creative potential, capable of yielding signature work. This view that problem restructuring engenders creativity is consistent with the concept of productive thinking (Duncker, 1945; Wertheimer, 1968).
There clearly is a need in technology education for a more textured discourse on the teaching of design than currently exists. Problem posing, problem restructuring, analogical and metaphorical thinking, and the use of humor are pedagogical devices that belong in an expanded view of how the creative aspect of design can be realized.
Implications for Technology Education
The subject in the curriculum from which technology education increasingly takes its cue is science, with its exactness; but it may be that we can benefit from alliances with other subjects, such as art or music, that have ill-structured aspects, and where students are encouraged to use knowledge not for its own sake, but in support of thought leading to creative expression.
Five kinds of implications for technology education are suggested by the discussion on creativity that has ensued here, namely (a) implications for design/problem solving pedagogy (b) implications for assessment (c) implications for professional development, (d) implications for curriculum theorizing, and (e) implications for research. Each is reflected upon briefly here as the article concludes.
Design/Problem Solving Pedagogy
Despite the centrality of design/problem solving activities to technology education, the field has not made strides in finding proven ways in which these activities can be taught. One explanation for lack of movement here is that insufficient attention has been paid to the role that creativity plays in design/problem-solving. A creativity focus allows for inclusion of a wider array of auxiliary activities into the pedagogic approach—activities in realms of divergent thinking, productive thinking, metaphorical thinking, analogical thinking, and combinatorial creations. Much more needs to be done in technology education to find approaches that are precursors of successful design experiences for children.
As with pedagogy, assessment of design and problem-solving activities in technology education is still a fledgling area. A reason is that the field has not worked out measures for helping teachers determine the degree of creativity inherent in students’ design-related work. When is the design routine, when middling, and when exemplary? This is an area of need. Technology education teachers have to be able to distinguish between gradations of creativity and to communicate their assessments to students in much the same way that teachers of art and music are able to do in their classrooms. There is a clear need here for an expanded discourse on assessment in the field that includes the challenges inherent in providing feedback to students when the intent is to help them improve their designs.
Professional Development
Pre-service teacher education programs in technology education ordinarily do not include coursework on creativity. Thus, most teachers do not have preparation that is sufficient enough to allow them to inject creativity into their teaching. Teachers may introduce design/problem solving activities into their teaching, but the competence they bring to the classroom is more in the realm of the technical than the aesthetic. There is a clear need here for professional development activities aimed at helping teachers see possibilities for introducing creative elements into the curriculum, and into instruction.
In the rich literature on technology education curriculum, creativity is often implicitly included, especially where the focus is on design and problem solving. But there is an absence of explicit treatment of the topic. This clearly is a shortcoming, made more telling by the new focus in the standards, on design. Creativity in all of its facets, and as it relates to technology education teaching and learning, needs to be a more deliberate focus of the technology education curriculum literature.
Creativity has strong claims toward being a foundational area of research in technology education. Such research can address a host of pressing needs, including methods of assessing creative performance, auxiliary instructional activities that are good precursors of student creative performance, professional development activities that improve teacher competence in teaching design/problem solving, and strategies employed by students as they complete creative tasks.

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Slightly modified version of

"Creativity—A Framework for the Design/Problem
Solving Discourse in Technology Education"

Theodore Lewis

Journal of Technology Education, Fall 2005, Volume 17, Number 1

Monday, October 1, 2007

Ergonomic Guidelines - Computer Workstation - 10 steps for users

Ergonomic Guidelines for arranging a Computer Workstation - 10 steps for users

Creating a good ergonomic working arrangement is important to protecting your health. The following 10 steps are a brief summary of those things that most Ergonomists agree are important. If you follow the 10 steps they should help you to improve your working arrangement. You can also use the Computer Workstation Checklist to help to pinpoint any areas of concern and take a look at the 'Computer Workstation summary' diagram' for specific tips. However, every situation is different, and if you can't seem to get your arrangement to feel right or you are confused about some of the following recommendations you should seek professional advice.

10 steps for a good ergonomic workstation arrangement

Work through the following 10 steps to help you decide on what will be a good ergonomic design for your situation:

How will the computer be used?
who will be using the computer? - If the computer will only be used by one person then the arrangement can be optimized for that person's size and shape, and features such as an adjustable height chair may be unnecessary. If it's going to be used by several people, you will need to create an arrangement that most closely satisfies the needs of the extremes, that is the smallest and tallest, thinnest and broadest persons, as well as those in between these extremes.
how long will people be using the computer? If it's a few minutes a day then ergonomic issues may not be a high priority. If it's more than 1 hour per day it is advisable that you create an ergonomic arrangement. If it's more than 4 hours then you should immediately implement an ergonomic arrangement.

What kind of computer will be used?
Desktops - most ergonomic guidelines for computer workstation arrangements assume that you will be using a desktop system where the computer screen is separate from the keyboard.
Laptop computers are growing in popularity and are great for short periods of computer work. Guidelines for laptop use are more difficult because laptop design inherently is problematic - when the screen is at a comfortable height and distance the keyboard isn't and vice versa. For sustained use you should consider purchasing either:
an external monitor
an external keyboard, preferably with a negative-tilt keyboard tray
both, and
a docking station
and then arranging your workspace to create a good workstation layout. See "5 tips for using a Laptop Computer".

What furniture will you use? Make sure that the computer (monitor, CPU system unit, keyboard, mouse) are placed on a stable working surface (nothing that wobbles) with adequate room for proper arrangement. If this work surface is going to be used for writing on paper as well as computer use a flat surface that is between 28"-30" above the floor (suitable for most adults). You should consider attaching a keyboard/mouse tray system to your work surface. Choose a system that is height adjustable, that allows you to tilt the keyboard down away from you slightly for better wrist posture (negative tilt), and that allows you to use the mouse with your upper arms relaxed and as close to the body as possible and with your wrist in a comfortable and neutral position.

Thinking about a sit-stand workstation, see below.
Thinking about a height-adjustable split workstation, see below.

What chair will be used? Choose a comfortable chair for the user to sit in. If only one person is using this the chair can even be at a fixed height providing that it is comfortable to sit on and has a good backrest that provides lumbar support. If more than one person will be using the computer, consider buying and a chair with several ergonomic features. Studies show that the best seated posture is a reclined posture of 100-110 degrees NOT the upright 90 degree posture that is often portrayed. In the recommended posture the chair starts to work for the body and there are significant decreases in postural muscle activity and in intervertebral disc pressure in the lumbar spine. Erect sitting is NOT relaxed, sustainable sitting, reclined sitting is.

Chair armrests - Having armrests on a chair can be helpful to aid getting into and getting out of the chair. Also, the armrests can be useful for the occasional resting of the arms (e.g. when on the phone, sitting back relaxing). However, it is not a good idea to permanently wrest the forearms on armrests while you are typing or mousing because this can compress the flexor muscles and some armrest can also compress the ulnar never at the elbow. Ideally, it should be easy to get the armrests out of the way when you need to have free access to the keyboard and mouse. These days most office chairs have armrests and many of them have adjustable height armrests, so look for a chair that is a comfortable fit to you and that has broader, flatter, padded armrests that you can easily move out of the way if needed is the best approach. If you are able to occasionally rest your hands on the keyboard on a palm rest and if you have a comfortable chair that does not have any armrests then this is also quite acceptable.

What kind of work will the computer be used for? Try to anticipate what type of software will be used most often.
Word processing - arranging the best keyboard/mouse position is high priority.
Surfing the net, graphic design - arranging the best mouse position is high priority.
Data entry- arranging the best numeric keypad/keyboard is a high priority.
Games - arranging the best keyboard/mouse/game pad is a high priority.

What can you see? Make sure that any paper documents that you are reading are placed as close to the computer monitor as possible and that these are at a similar angle - use a document holder where possible.
The computer monitor should be placed:
directly in front of you and facing you, not angled to the left or right. This helps to eliminate too much neck twisting. Also, whatever the user is working with, encourage him/her to use the screen scroll bars to ensure that what is being viewed most is in the center of the monitor rather than at the top or bottom of the screen.
center the monitor on the user so that the body and/or neck isn't twisted when looking at the screen. However, if you are working with a large monitor and spend most of your time working with software like MSWord, which defaults to creating left aligned new pages, and you don't want to have to drag these to more central locations, try aligning yourself to a point about 1/3rd of the distance across the monitor from the left side.
put the monitor at a comfortable height that doesn't make the user tilt their head up to see it or bend their neck down to see it. When you are seated comfortably, a user's eyes should be in line with a point on the screen about 2-3" below the top of the monitor casing (not the screen). Sit back in your chair at an angle of around 100-110 degrees (i.e. slight recline) and hold your right arm out horizontally, your middle finger should almost touch the center of the screen. From that starting position you can then make minor changes to screen height and angle to suit. Research shows the center of the monitor should be about 17-18 degrees below horizontal for optimal viewing, and this is where it will be if you follow the simple arm extension/finger pointing tip. You actually see more visual field below the horizon than above this (look down a corridor and you'll see more of the floor than the ceiling), so at this position the user should comfortably be able to see more of the screen. If the monitor is too low, you will crane their neck forwards, if it's too high you'll tilt their head backwards and end up with neck/shoulder pain.
bifocals and progressive lens - even if you wear bifocals or progressive lens, if you sit back in your chair in a reclined posture (with you back at around 110 degrees) that is recommended for good low back health, rather than sitting erect at 90 degrees, and if you slightly tilt the monitor backwards and place this at a comfortable height you should be able to see the screen without tilting your head back or craning your neck forwards. Postural problems with bifocals can occur if you sits erect or even hunched forwards. The problem with low monitors is that they cause neck flexion and suffer more from glare. Recent studies have shown that the best position for a computer monitor is for the center of the screen to be at around 17.5 degrees below eye level. Try to align your eyes with the top of the viewing area of the screen, and this should put the center about right geometrically.
viewing distance - the monitor should be at a comfortable horizontal distance for viewing, which usually is around an arms length (sit back in your chair and raise your arm and your fingers should touch the screen). At this distance you should be able to see the viewing area of the monitor without making head movements. If text looks too small then either use a larger font or magnify the screen image in the software rather than sitting closer to the monitor.
screen quality - use a good quality computer screen. Make sure that the text characters on your screen look sharp, and that they are a comfortable size (you can change the screen resolution to find a comfortable and clear character size). If you can see the screen flickering out of the corner of your eye you should try increasing the refresh rate of your monitor (with a PC you can change monitor resolution and refresh rates using the Monitor control panel in your Settings folder, with a Mac you can use the Monitor control panel). You can also consider using a good quality glass anti-glare filter or an LCD display (like a laptop screen).
eye checkup - there are natural changes in vision that occur in most people during their early 40's. It's a good idea to periodically have your eyes checked by a qualified professional.
If any screen adjustments feel uncomfortable then change them until the arrangement feels more comfortable or seek further professional help.
Use a document holder that can be comfortably seen:
use an in-line document holder that sits between the keyboard/keyboard tray and screen and is aligned with your body midline so that all you have to do is look down to see the documents and raise your eyes to see the screen.
use a screen-mounted document holder and position this to the side of your screen that is your dominant eye
use a freestanding document holder and position this next to the side of the screen and slightly angle it so that it follows a curve from the side of the screen.

Posture, posture posture! Good posture is the basis of good workstation ergonomics. Good posture is the best way to avoid a computer-related injury. To ensure good user posture:
Watch the user's posture!
Make sure that the user can reach the keyboard keys with their wrists as flat as possible (not bent up or down) and straight (not bent left or right).
Make sure that the user's elbow angle (the angle between the inner surface of the upper arm and the forearm) is at or greater than 90 degrees to avoid nerve compression at the elbow.
Make sure that the upper arm and elbow are as close to the body and as relaxed as possible for mouse use - avoid overreaching. Also make sure that the wrist is as straight as possible when the mouse is being used.
Make sure the user sits back in the chair and has good back support. Also check that the feet can be placed flat on the floor or on a footrest.
Make sure the head and neck are as straight as possible .
Make sure the posture feels relaxed for the user.

Keep it close!
Make sure that those things the user uses most frequently are placed closest to the user so that they can be conveniently and comfortably reached.
Make sure that the user is centered on the alphanumeric keyboard. Most modern keyboards are asymmetrical in design (the alphanumeric keyboard is to the left and a numeric keypad to the right). If the outer edges of the keyboard are used as landmarks for centering the keyboard and monitor, the users hands will be deviated because the alphanumeric keys will be to the left of the user's midline. Move the keyboard so that the center of the alphanumeric keys (the B key, is centered on the mid-line of the user).
make sure that the phone is also close to you if you frequently use it.

A good workstation ergonomic arrangement will allow any computer user to work in a neutral, relaxed, ideal typing posture that will minimize the risk of developing any injury. An ideal keyboard arrangement is to place this on a height adjustable negative-tilt tray. An ideal mouse arrangement is for this to be on a flat surface that's 1-2" above the keyboard and moveable over the numeric keypad. If you want a surface at the level of the keyboard base then make sure that this can also be angled downwards slightly to help to keep your hands in wrist neutral while you are mousing, and keep your elbow is as close to the body as possible while you work. Check out the 10 tips for using a computer mouse.

Where will the computer be used? Think about the following environmental conditions where the computer will be used:
Lighting - make sure that the lighting isn't too bright. You shouldn't see any bright light glare on the computer screen. If you do, move the screen, lower the light level, use a good quality, glass anti-glare screen. Also make sure that the computer monitor screen isn't backed to a bright window or facing a bright window so that there's the screen looks washed out (use a shade or drapes to control window brightness).
Ventilation - make sure that you use your computer somewhere that has adequate fresh-air ventilation and that has adequate heating or cooling so that you feel comfortable when you're working.
Noise - noise can cause stress and that tenses your muscles which can increase injury risks. Try to choose a quiet place for your workstation, and use low volume music, preferably light classical, to mask the hum of any fans or other sound sources.

Take a break! All Ergonomists agree that it's a good idea to take frequent, brief rest breaks: Practice the following:
Eye breaks - looking at a computer screen for a while causes some changes in how the eyes work, causes you to blink less often, and exposes more of the eye surface to the air. Every 15 minutes you should briefly look away from the screen for a minute or two to a more distant scene, preferably something more that 20 feet away. This lets the muscles inside the eye relax. Also, blink your eyes rapidly for a few seconds. This refreshes the tear film and clears dust from the eye surface.
Micro-breaks - most typing is done in bursts rather than continuously. Between these bursts of activity you should rest your hands in a relaxed, flat, straight posture. During a micro-break (< 2minutes) you can briefly stretch, stand up, move around, or do a different work task e.g. make a phone call). A micro-break isn't necessarily a break from work, but it's a break from the use of a particular set of muscles that's doing most of the work (e.g. the finger flexors if you're doing a lot of typing).
Rest breaks - every 30 to 60 minutes you should take a brief rest break. During this break stand up, move around and do something else. Go and get a drink of water, soda, tea, coffee or whatever. This allows you to rest and exercise different muscles and you'll feel less tired.
Exercise breaks - there are many stretching and gentle exercises that you can do to help relieve muscle fatigue. You should do these every 1-2 hours.
Ergonomic software - working at a computer can be hypnotic, and often you don't realize how long you've been working and how much you've been typing and mousing. You can get excellent ergonomic software that you can install on your computer (free download available at The best software will run in the background and it will monitor how much you've been using the computer. It will prompt you to take a rest break at appropriate intervals, and it will suggest simple exercises.

What about ergonomic gizmos? These days just about everything is labeled as being "ergonomically designed" and much of the time this isn't true and these so-called ergonomic products can make things worse. If you're thinking about buying an "ergonomic product" as yourself the following 4 questions:
Does the product design and the manufacturer's claims make sense?
What research evidence can the manufacturer provide to support their claims? Be suspicious of products that haven't been studied by researchers.
Does it feel comfortable to use the product for a long period? Some ergonomic products may feel strange or slightly uncomfortable at first because they often produce a change in your posture that's beneficial in the long-term. Think of some products as being like new shoes that initially may feel strange but then feel comfortable after being used for a while. If a product continues to feel uncomfortable after a reasonable trail period (say at least a week) time then stop using it.
What do ergonomics experts say about the product? If they don't recommend it don't use it.

There are many computer-related "ergonomic" products, the most common ones being:
"ergonomic" keyboards - most of these are keyboards where the alphanumeric keys are split at an angle. For a non-touch typist this design can be a disaster! The split design only addresses issues of hand ulnar deviation, and research studies show that vertical hand posture (wrist extension) is more important. There is no consistent research evidence that most of the split-keyboard designs currently available really produce any substantial postural benefits. For most people a regular keyboard design works just fine if it's put in the proper neutral position.
"ergonomic" mice - many of these mouse designs or alternative input device designs can work well to improve your hand/wrist posture. However, it's important to check that you can use these with your upper arm relaxed and as close to your body as possible. Overreaching to an "ergonomic mouse" defeats any benefits of this design. Check out the 10 tips for using a computer mouse.
Wrist rests - these were very popular a few years ago, but research studies haven't demonstrated any substantial benefits for wrist rests. In fact, a wrist rest can actually increase pressure inside the carpal tunnel by compressing the undersurface of the wrist (take a look at your wrist and you'll probably see blood vessels that shouldn't be compressed!). Studies by Dr. David Rempel at the University of Berkeley, California, show that pressure applied to the underside of the carpal tunnel is transferred into the tunnel itself via the transverse carpal ligament and that intracarpal pressure doubles with a wrist rest compared with floating the hands over a keyboard. If you choose to use a wrist rest, using one with a broad, flat, firm surface design works best, and rest the heel of your palm on this NOT your wrist. Try not to rest while you're actually typing, but rest in between bursts of typing movements. Avoid soft and squishy wrist rests because these will contour to your wrist, restrict the freedom of movement of your hands, and encourage more lateral deviation during typing. Look at the surface of a typical wrist rest that's been used and you'll see that it gets eroded away, which means that the user has been sliding their wrists over the surface which also compresses the blood vessels often visible at the wrist. Remember, your hands should be able to glide above the surface of a wrist rest during typing, don't lock them in place on the rest while you type.
Support braces/gloves - There is no consistent research evidence that wearing wrist supports during computer use actually helps reduce the risk of injury. If you do like wearing a wrist support make sure that it keeps your hand flat and straight, not bent upwards. There is some evidence that wearing wrist supports at night in bed can help relieve symptoms for those with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Forearm supports/resting forearms on chair arms - Generally it's not necessary, nor a good idea, to rest the forearms on any support while typing because of the potential for restriction of circulation to the finger flexor muscles in the forearm and compression of the ulnar nerve at the elbow. If the keyboard/mouse are appropriately arranged they should be accessible with the user's arms in a neutral position (close by the body and with the upper arm hanging in a relaxed way) which does not pose any significant neck or shoulder load. If forearm supports are required it is usually a sign of a poor ergonomic arrangement.
Sit-stand Workstations - the use of a height adjustable worksurface for sitting and standing work is becoming fashionable. However, there is scant evidence that sit-stand furniture has cost effective benefits. The evidence suggests that there may be a reduction in back discomfort, but the research for this has not used adequate comparison groups (e.g. testing people who stand for the same time at the same frequency without doing keyboard/mouse work). There is no evidence that sit-stand improves wrist posture when keying or mousing. Logically, the real benefit of sit-stand is just that, changing between sitting and standing. But standing in a static posture is even more tiring than sitting in a static posture, so movement is important. We recommend that the most cost effective way to obtain the benefits from sitting and standing is for people to sit in a neutral work posture and then intermittently to stand and move around doing other things, like filing papers, making phone calls, getting coffee, making photocopies etc.) rather than trying to keyboard or use a mouse while standing.
Recent research suggests that electronic sit-stand workstations, that can be quickly adjusted, allow each worker to modify the height of their worksurface throughout the day, and this may reduce musculoskeletal discomfort and improve work performance.
Height adjustable, split worksurfaces - with respect to wrist posture, the issues are the same for height adjustable, split worksurfaces and sit-stand worksurfaces:
If the surface is too low the hand will be in greater extension
If the surface is too high the elbow will be in sustained flexion
If it's a flat surface then it's just the same argument as is used above for a negative-slope keyboard tray arrangement.
You can't set a flat worksurface at an appropriate height for the 5 main tasks of office work - keyboarding, mousing, writing, viewing documents and viewing the screen- these all require different heights for an optimal arrangement. A negative-slope keyboard tray system serves as the height and angle adjustment mechanism for the keyboard, and the mouse platform serves as the height and angle adjustment for the mouse when attached to a worksurface that is set for writing height. Monitor height is best adjusted by a separate monitor pedestal rather than trying to move a whole worksurface. There are a number of new split worksurface designs that may work quite well to achieve optimal monitor positioning.

The above 10 steps give a brief summary of good ergonomic design practice for computer workstations, but there's lots more to consider. You can read about ergonomics in many books, you can browse other materials on this CUErgo web site, you can get information from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. You can use the Computer Workstation Checklist to help to identify problems, and you can ask expert Ergonomists for help and advice.

Also, see the 'Computer Workstation summary' diagram created by the DEA651 class of 2000.

If you have any questions or comments about the information on this page or this web site you can send these to Professor Alan Hedge at Cornell University.

For more detailed information and exercises you can also check out the free '' web site.

Happy computing!

Note that all materials on this page and web site are copyright and may only be copied or distributed for nonprofit educational purposes without permission.
© Alan Hedge, page content last revised on March 16, 2007



Ergonomics is a scientific discipline, which is concerned with improving the productivity, health, safety and comfort of people, as well as promoting effective interaction between people, technology they are using and the environment in which both must operate.


Departments are encouraged to purchase adjustable equipment for the reasonable accommodation of users. Some users may have special needs, such as left-handedness, color blindness, vision impairment, etc. The goal should be flexibility to accommodate the user population so that personnel may interface effectively with equipment. Equipment should be sized to fit the individual user.

Ergonomic evaluations will be conducted by the Environmental Health and Safety Center. Additional information may be obtained by calling 515-4190 or emailing


Ergonomic furniture should be designed to facilitate task performance, minimize fatigue and injury by fitting equipment to the body size, strength and range of motion of the user.

Office furnishings, which are generally available, have adjustable components that enable the user to modify the workstation to accommodate different physical dimensions and the requirements of the job. Ergonomically designed furniture can reduce pain and injury, increase productivity, improve morale, and decrease complaints.

The purchase of equipment should be task specific to eliminate:

(a) static or awkward posture,
(b) repetitive motion,
(c) poor access or inadequate clearance and excessive reach,
(d) display that are difficult to read and understand, and
(e) controls that are confusing to operate or require too much force. Therefore, furniture that is selected should be suitable for the types of tasks performed and be adaptable to multi-purpose use. Office workstations must be designed carefully to meet the need of the staff and to accomplish the goals of the facility.

Design objectives should support humans to achieve the operational objectives for which they are responsible. There are three goals to consider in human-centered design.

Enhance human abilities
Overcome human limitations
Foster user acceptance
To achieve these objectives, there are several key elements of ergonomics in the office to consider.

Equipment - video display terminals
Software design - system design and screen design for greater usability
Workstation design - chairs, work surfaces and accessories
Environment - space planning, use of colors, lighting, acoustics, air quality and thermal factors
Training - preparing workers to deal with technology


To give departments guidance in selecting office furniture and setting up workstations, the following guidelines are from the American National Standards Institute and the Environmental Health and Safety Center. Included are diagrams and a checklist to guide you through the process.



Seat Height: Seat height should be pneumatically adjusted while seated. A range of 16 - 20.5 inches off the floor should accommodate most users. Thighs should be horizontal, lower legs vertical, feet flat on the floor or on a footrest. Seat height should also allow a 90 degree angle at the elbows for typing.
Seat Width
and Depth: A seat width of 17-20 inches suffices for most people and should be deep enough to permit the back to contact the lumbar backrest without cutting into the backs of knees. The front edge should be rounded and padded. The seat slant should be adjustable (0 to 10 degrees). Avoid bucket-type seats. The seat should swivel easily.
Backrest: The backrest should offer firm support, especially in the lumbar (lower back) region, should be 12-19 inches wide, and should be easily adjustable both in angle and height, while sitting. The optimum angle between seat and back should permit a working posture of at least 90 degrees between the spine and thighs. Seat pan angle and backrest height and angle should be coordinated to allow for the most comfortable weight load on the spinal column.
Seat Material: A chair seat and back should be padded enough to allow comfortable circulation. If a seat is too soft, the muscles must always adjust to maintain a steady posture, causing strain and fatigue. The seat fabric should "breathe" to allow air circulation through clothes to the skin.
Armrests: Armrests are optional, depending on user preference and task performed. They should not restrict movement or impede the worker's ability to get close enough to the work surface. The worker should not rest his or her forearms while keying.
Workstation Design

Correct work station height depends upon the user of a work station and upon the chair and other factors that interact with the user and table. The ideal is for the user to be able to sit at the work station with the keyboard in place and be able to easily maintain a 90-100 degree elbow angle and straight wrists while keying. The height of an adjustable keyboard support should adjust between 23" and 28" to accommodate most-but not all-users. 26" is a recommended compromise position while leg clearance must still be considered.

Leg room: Knee spaces should allow a worker to feel uncrowded and to allow some changes of position even with the keyboard support lowered to the correct level for use. The knee space should be at least 30" wide by 19"deep by 27" high to comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. For those using a footrest, clearance must be calculated with the legs in place on the footrest. Likewise, depth of the "clearance envelope" for both legs and toes should be evaluated while the workstation user is in a normal working position at the work station (determined by the design of the seating system and the way the user sits). Drawers and support legs (for furniture) should not go where human legs need to fit.

The work station top should be big enough to allow space not only for all computer-related necessary equipment, but also for paperwork, books, and other materials needed while working at the computer. Working with materials on chairs and at odd angles has the potential for neck and other body strain. Frequently used items should be kept close to avoid long reaches. A general recommendation is that the work area top should be at least as big as the standard office desk - 30 inches by 60 inches. A depth of at least 30 inches allows flexibility in use/reuse of the work area. Usable space may be maximized by good wire/cable management.

Thickness of work surface: one inch

Footrest: Situations will arise in which a user is perfectly adjusted for keyboard use and with the monitor at a correct angle, but his/her feet do not rest flat on the floor. A footrest may be used to correct this problem.
Document Holder: Use a document holder instead of resting copy on the table top. This helps to eliminate strain and discomfort by keeping the copy close to the monitor and at the same height and distance from the users face as the screen.
Wrist Rests: Wrists should only be used to support the wrist in pauses between typing if this is comfortable for the individual. Placing the wrists on a wrist rest while typing can create a bend in the wrists and pressure on the carpal tunnel. Wrist rests should have rounded, not sharp, edges and should provide a firm but soft cushion.

Keyboard Tray Adjustment Proceedure


1. Chair has wheels or castors suitable for the floor surface Yes No
2. Chair swivels Yes No
3. Backrest is adjustable for both height and angle Yes No
4. Backrest supports the inward curve of the lower back Yes No
5. Chair height is appropriate for the individual and the work surface height Yes No
6. Chair is adjusted so there is no pressure on the backs of the legs, and feet are flat on the floor or on a foot rest Yes No
7. Chair is adjustable from the sitting position Yes No
8. Chair upholstery is a breathable fabric Yes No
9. Footrests are used if feet do not rest flat on the floor Yes No


1. Top surface of the keyboard space bar is no higher than 2.5 inches about the work surface Yes No
2. During keyboard use, the forearm and upper arm form an angle of 90-100 with the upper arm almost vertical, the wrist is relaxed and not bent, wrist rests are available Yes No
3. If used primarily for text entry, keyboard is directly in front of the operator Yes No
4. If used primarily for data entry, keyboard is directly in front of the keying hand Yes No
5. Top of screen is at eye level or slightly lower Yes No
6. Viewing distance is 18-24 inches Yes No
7. Screen is free of glare or shadows Yes No
8. Images on the screen are sharp, easy to read and do not flicker Yes No