Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Obstacle Course

Today we were having a discussion about engineering goals and platforms as we navigate through the prototyping process through to production. During the discussion I began to think of the previous night when I was in the gym and on the TV was one of these game shows involving a tricky obstacle course, almost all of which inevitably have a portion where the contestant must cross a body of water by jumping from podium to podium, some of which aren't solidly mounted.

The people that keep only the end goal in mind and rush through the course mostly seem to lose balance and fall into the water.

The people that dwell on the short term (making it to that first podium or two) and freeze up take too long to get to the end, or step a bit too long on that podium that isn't solid and fall into the water.

And then there are those that find the right balance between the two and even when they step on the fake podium, they can quickly jump to the next to make it across.

Sometimes as engineers, we tend to focus on the other side of the water and lose sight of the small steps necessary to get there or the other ancillary paths that may help us reach the end sooner, or without having to swim across. Other times, we become fixated on the task at hand and forget that we have a destination and a certain time to do it in. When we're most successful, it is because of a hybrid state of mind.

This "obstacle course" approach is what we will have to take when it comes to both our engine platform and the overall goal of building our prototype in order for us to be successful. The main thing that allows us to stay out of the water and to cross in a timely fashion is that we're doing this as a team. A team that can look at the course and see the other paths when one of us is focused on only one. A team that can alert us of the false steps or how to jump to the next when we do (and we will at times) choose the wrong step.

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