Then, I ask the students to use the two sheets of paper tobuild a structure which will support the dictionaries for atleast 30 seconds. The goal is to raise them as high aspossible. At first, the students just stare down at the paper.None of them will make eye contact. Some ask aboutglue, tape, string, rubber bands. The answer is, two sheetsof paper only. Finally someone asks about folding orcrumpling the paper. The answer, of course, is try it. Oncesomeone tries something, a sort of race is on. Theyquickly build and test structures. Many of the structurescrumple. But failed structures offer lessons. Progress isswift, averaging about 3 1/2 inches every ten minutes, untilall three dictionaries are resting 11 inches above the desksupported by nothing more than two sheets of paper.The students accomplish this rather remarkable feat usingtwo tools that they have learned years before but may nothave labeled: the ability to work in teams and a rationaldesign process. Their process, our process, the designprocess, is at heart trial and error. By describing the pro-cess as trial and error, I mean to emphasize its experimentalnature. While it is a trial-and-error process, it is by nomeans random. If we reverse the order placing error beforetrial, we can make a case that the error-trial model is verysimilar to a second model, the analysis-synthesis model.As a general rule the process proceeds from analysis tosynthesis. However, this progression is not a two-stepsequence. It is not one; two; done. Instead, it's more likeone, two, one, two, one, twoa continuing oscillation�between two states, an oscillation between analysis andsynthesis. An oscillation from error to trial to error to trialto error to trial.
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It might also be seen as a loop, where analysis leads tosynthesis, which leads back to analysis. This model mightbe refined into a spiral leading ever closer to a target. Thespiral and target suggest that each cycle moves the projectcloser to a goal.In their book, The Universal Traveler, Koberg and Bagnallexpand the two-step analysis-synthesis model by adding atransforming middle step which they call definition. Para-phrasing the authors, In this step you size up thesituation and develop �intentions orguidelines,I would add that you define�what needs doing: You define theproblem. This is key. It is a pivotal point.You might easily substitute converge,transform and diverge.The computer business, like most manu-facturing businesses, uses an analogousthree-step model. The process begins with research,moves into development or engineering, and ends withproduction or manufacturingThis model works well for engineering managers. Each stepmay require substantially different skills and thus differentproject teams. Each step may also represent a separateoutlay of capital. Thus the steps can serve as major mile-stones in contracts. Because each step requires differentresources, the project should receive management approvalbefore moving from one step to the next.
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