I would not call it OCD, but justified paranoia. If you are an engineer and you do things correctly for years you might get an atta-boy (but no raises) and maybe a certificate in a plastic frame saying atta-boy in a fancy ink jet font. Do one thing wrong and getting fired is the first offense. I believe most OCD in engineers is really covert obsessive risk aversion and it is proportional to the OCD of the man-agers and culture an engineer has to work under. As for Asperger’s syndrome in engineers, that might be a cover for “ass-bigger” syndrome that is suffered by many 2+2=5 non-engineers (i.e. kick down, suck-up sycophants found mainly in sales and other “people persons” whom we all cherish at work) who can afford to be impolite and label engineers who dare say 2+2=4 or “it depends” as “weird”, “strange”, “nerd”, or some other degrading open ended fuzzy words. Most normal engineers who are under constraints will ship products that are “close enough” (i.e. much documentation) to avoid getting fired and if allowed will improve a product till it is “perfect”. Under these circumstances there might be an unusual engineer who gets stuck in a “halting problem” and as the compsci joke goes, how does one solve a halting problem in a computer? (A: shotgun). Alas, engineers are the default trained professionals society depends on to see the esoteric unexpected consequences so most ordinary people can safely and unthinkingly use technology and we get ridiculed as our reward.
OCDs are probably good at getting loose ends tied up and making sure code is well tested etc, but they tend to lack the creativity required to generate new stuff.
Creativity is inherently messy. Sometimes you need to just cut without even measuring once, let alone twice.
Different personality attributes have different pros and cons. It is important to bring together the correct sets of attributes to build effective teams.
I see more Asberger's folks than OCD folks in the engineering profession. One of my degrees is in psychology, even though I've been paid as an engineer for 30 years. When I eat M&M's at the table, I don't line them up according to color the way my wife does.
I do think i's obvious how dishes should be loaded in the dishwasher, but a good engineer, and especially a good manager, can tolerate others doing a functional though less than perfect job, or else he has to do everything himself.
I'm an engineer who is now currently in my fourth year of medical school. OCD is not really the correct term to use in this situation. One of the important aspects of the disorder is that it is ego-dystonic. This means that the disorder bothers the person. The person wishes he/she doesn't have it. Also, another important aspect is that it causes problems in the person's life. People with these disorders cannot mentally stop themselves from obsessing about certain things. The only way to counteract the obsessions is this compulsive behavior, such as turning on and off a light 7 times or tapping on the table 8 times. These people will have severely increased anxiety if the light was switched on and off only 6 times, or if the table was not tapped an even number of time. These obsessions and compulsions affects the person's life in a way where they may not be able to keep a job because they are always late to work due to the light switching. They often have problems in their family and social life because they will be afraid to leave the house because of their obsessions-compulsions. What I believe most engineers have is something called obsessive compulsive personality disorder. This is a personality disorder that is actually ego-syntonic, meaning the person doesn't really see it as being a problem. It does not cause any problems with work, family, or social like. These are people who seem very thorough, hyperfocused, and are perfectionists. These are the people who will see a painting on the wall that is slightly tilted and want to make it level. I would also say, these are the people who will spend a lot of time making sure that the components and wires on their solderless breadboard are always at 90 degree angles. Of course, all of this is based on my memory of the diseases, but if you want to see the full definition of both disorders, you can find it in ther DSM-IV, which is basically the Bible of Psychiatry.
Forget engineers, virtually every MANAGER I've met has shown obvious symptoms of OCD - by which I mean they've all been obsessive about making absolutely certain no engineer has the ability to spend any money or make any use of corporate resources (computer time or software tools) or get access to anyone else who DOES have any authority to actually make a decision or to authorize any of the above items. Then they tie everyone up in meetings six hours a day, all for the purpose of trying to discover why nobody ever makes any progress on their work objectives.
Forgive me if someone thinks I'm making a joke here, I've spent most of my career working on contract for some of the most prosperous aerospace and commercial outfits out there, and eight times out of ten my description is perfectly accurate! Whether engineers "have issues" or not seems irrelevant by comparison!
I literally laughed out loud at Phred and Calvinator's dishwasher packing comments! The efficient loading of the dishwasher is one of my pet peeves with the wife and kids. How hard is it to look at the racks, look at the pile of dirty dishes, and figure out how to fit as many of them in there as possible?
Apparently it's more difficult than I thought. After all these years, they still don't do it right -- to the point where it's sort of a running joke at my house.
The need for shooting the engineers to ship the product usually results from unclear requirements and/or unrealistic schedules.
Since by definition, the urgency to ship only arises at the end of the development cycle, the area that gets short-changed is verification, not design.
There's another saying: The things that we didn't verify are the things that aren't going to work.
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