+ Reply to Thread
Page 2 of 2 FirstFirst 1 2
Results 11 to 18 of 18

Thread: Psychology for Engineers - understanding your people

  1. #11
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Melbourne Australia
    Posts
    760
    Thanks gents. Z, I knew your reserve thus far was more about having too many words to say than not enough. I look forward to your input!

    Cheers all

    Geoff
    Geoff Pearson

    RMIT FSAE 02-04
    Monash FSAE 05
    RMIT FSAE 06-07

    Design it. Build it. Break it.

  2. #12
    We're a team in the process of designing our 6th car, and the 2015 car will be my 3rd. Because of this I don't have a lot to offer in the way of wisdom, and I'll have to go based on the oral history I've gathered along my way, but here we go.

    The first few years of our team were very disjointed. Lots of big ideas by a small group of people. The team had a high turnover rate year to year, and poor knowledge transfer meant that we jumped between blindly rebuilding a part of the previous year's car verbatim and redesigning systems from scratch. We had the mindset the system X didn't work so obviously it's a poor design that we need to the scrap, and system Y worked fine so it is perfect and don't dare change it. It was extremely difficult for anyone to understand why a system failed like it did, because the designer was often long gone and left no clues as to what their process was. If you're new, taking the time to breakdown and understand an entire system is an extremely daunting task, whereas reducing it to bite-sized portions we can digest as we design it ourselves over the year is much more palatable.

    I am in no way trying to defend this process, because it is obviously flawed. What I'm trying to do is understand it so that we can be better managers as the team matures. I like to think of creativity, critique and analysis as the three axes on a sort of vector diagram. Each situation will require different amounts of each skill, and it is all going to vary throughout the life of the project. (Then again maybe the three are on a 3 dimensional continuum...hmm..)

    It often seems easier to start from scratch with a design that you created and "trust" than to reverse engineer someone else's failed design. How difficult is it to look at a failed design, maybe even one that ruined a competition for you, and see the good in it? But how easy is it to be critical of it? When we're in this sort of situation, we obviously need to combine critique (the easy and obvious one) with the skills of creativity, and analysis (the difficult ones) in order to succeed. The focus needs to be on shifting the team's mindset away from being armchair critics to being analyzers. In becoming the senior members on the team, we're expected the set the tone for new members and if managers work to create an environment of learning, rational analysis, and constructive criticism then that is what the team will become.

    I really like Loz's point that the first step to improving is admitting our faults, which we all do to our car relentlessly, but often hesitate to do to ourselves and our team. We need to take it a few steps further and dig deep into the whys and then come up with potential solutions from there. Our program at university seems to paint engineering as a profession of designing, not one of analyzing, and certainly not one that teaches you to deal with other human beings. So here we have a group of people who have no experience managing, trying to work with people who have little to no experience being managed, and convince them to build a racecar together. I'm still amazed we've ever managed to pull it off.
    Dalhousie University
    Halifax, NS, Canada
    -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
    2012 to Present - Chassis (Frame, Suspension, Steering)

  3. #13
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    1,690
    CRITICAL THINKING 1.01 - WHAT IS IT?
    ===================================


    Geoff (and others interested),

    While I agree 100% that there is too much FAULT-FINDING and NEGATIVITY in the typical Engineering workplace, I really DO NOT think this has anything to do with "critical thinking". Here I am much more in agreement with Loz, namely that good critical thinking is a positive force that enhances "creative thinking".

    But to explain this is going to take quite a few words. Apologies for this, and I have split these hastily cobbled together notes into multiple posts for easier reading.
    ~~~~~o0o~~~~~

    It has taken me the better part of a half-century to realize that "too much criticism" in our societies is NOT THE PROBLEM at all. Rather, it is almost the exact opposite. It is the COMPLETE LACK OF GOOD CRITICAL THINKING these days that has given us a world where nothing much really new, or useful, or interesting, ever seems to happens. (I am happy to debate this claim, but moving on for now...)

    So, just what is "critical thinking"?

    Looking up the definition of "critic", "critical", "criticism", "critique", "criterion", etc., I find words that stem from Greek kritikos = able to discern, or judge, which ultimately stems from krinein = to decide. Sure, some of the many variations of meanings of the above words refer to "finding faults in...". But for the most part the words simply refer to the ability to "clearly see the differences" between different things.

    So, how do we go about making a good decision (krinien), or judgement (kritikos), on any particular matter?

    I would suggest that we start by gathering as much relevant evidence as we can find on the subject. We should then sift the evidence, rating it for reliabilty, and then remove the dross. We then put the reliable evidence on the balance-scales, weigh it, and finally see which way the balance-scales fall.

    And, like Lady Justice, whose statue stands in front of many "judgement" rooms, we should do all this while metaphorically wearing a blindfold. That is, we should NOT let any of our many innate prejudices and biases affect this assessment process.


    [Disclaimer: Real Courts may NOT work as advertised above... ]

    Note that this evidence, which is gathered and sorted by the process of "critical thinking", is just objective stuff. It is observable facts, and numbers, and measurable quantities. It is NOT feelings, or hunches, or, to quote Daryll's lawyer from "The Castle", a "vibe".

    This objective evidence should always tilt the balance-scales in the same direction, regardless of who is weighing it out, or even who might be looking at it.
    ~~~~~o0o~~~~~

    Example 1. In my dictionary, in amongst all the quoted words above, is "critical-point". This is the point on a phase diagram, measuring temperature and pressure, at which a substance can change its phase between solid and liquid, or between liquid and gas, and so on.

    Importantly, note that this "critical-point" is NOT FINDING FAULT with any of the phases. It is NOT BEING NEGATIVE in any way. It is simply making a clear distinction, in terms of some numbers specifying temperatures and pressures, between the different phases of solid, liquid, or gas.

    Now, if we happen to be swimming in very cold water (perhaps in a heated wetsuit), and the water suddenly passes through the critical-point and changes to ice, then, yes, we might get mightily annoyed at that "criticism".

    On the other hand, if we are walking across a frozen lake and the ice suddenly passes through the critical-point in the other direction, and turns from ice into water, then, yes, we might get very annoyed again.

    But there is nothing intrinsically faulty, or negative, with either side of the critical-point. Ice and water can be both good and bad. The critical-point is simply the objective dividing point between the two. Any fault-finding, or annoyance, that we might find in either situation, is simply our subjective assessment based on our wishy-washy feelings at the time.

    These subjective, wishy-washy, feelings are hardly a good basis for making rational, well-reasoned, Engineering decisions.
    ~o0o~

    Example 2. Another good example of an everyday "criticism" is the sign in front of the fun-park ride that has a horizontal line painted on it, and the words "You must be taller than this to ride.".

    The short little boy who loves running around and crashing into things thinks that this "criticism" of his height (or lack thereof) is a disgraceful example of fault-finding and bullying.

    On the other hand, the much taller, but suddenly rather cautious, young girl might also dislike this criticism of her excessive height. Especially as her father (yes, Old Z) mumbles "Oh, stop being such a sook! You whinged and moaned all last year because you were too short, and now you are head-and-shoulders above the line. The line says YOU RIDE!!!". And he drags her kicking and screaming onto "The Vomitron"... (All children should be made to vomit from too-much-fun at least once a year! )

    Either side of the "critical line" can be good or bad, depending on the viewer's perspective. The line is just a line.
    ~o0o~

    Example 3. Another word related to "critical" is "crisis". This also stems from krinein = to decide, and it means "a turning point in the course of events...".

    Interestingly, it seems that nobody ever looks forward to a crisis, even though, in principle, it could mean that things suddenly change for the better. This asymmetric attitude is, I believe, the crux of this whole matter. Please read on...
    ~~~~~o0o~~~~~

    IMO, a great deal of the fault-finding and negativity that goes on in our societies is due to FEAR OF CHANGE. Another plausible reason is good old-fashioned LAZINESS.

    Observing a typical H.Sapiens society, I see a flock of sheep that are waist deep in a mud-hole. There is only an occasional thorn-bush poking out of the mud that they can graze on. An Old Goat standing further up the hill yells out "Hey, why don't you all come up here. The grass is beautiful and lush. No mud. No thorns...". The sheep all bleat in chorus "Nooooo waaay! Weeee're doing just fine heeere. And what would a stupid old goat like you know anyyywaaay...?".

    Mud hole? Thorn bushes? No problem, because it could be much worse! Things have to get VERY BAD before anyone considers changing their lifelong habits. As Geoff noted earlier regarding FSAE, the all-too-typical attitude is "Well, we've done sort of OK until now. So we may as well just keep on doing the same-old, same-old...".

    Yep, life is very comfortable in modern Western society. Nobody could be bothered rocking the boat.

    Not even if this "rocking" is in a rather insignificant, and risk-free, student competition like FSAE. A place where rocking the boat just a little might get you 3.5 second Acceleration times, sub-4.0 second Skid-Pad times, and all-round performance that makes every other car look like it is standing still. "Oh, no, no, no... Don't listen to those stupid old goats. Much better to stay here, waist deep in the s#:+, with ... yippeee, found another one ... all these thorn-bushes to eat!"
    ~~~~~o0o~~~~~

    Anyway, to sum up this section, the vast majority of what passes as "criticism" these days, even when it is dressed up as "rational Engineering analysis", is nothing more than a desperate attempt to prevent change. I am not sure if the root cause of this is mainly "fear", or "laziness", or a bit of both. But it is most certainly "H. Sapiens".

    One way to break out of this boring prison is to simply start making RANDOM changes. This is how Nature does it with "evolution", and very well it works indeed. But, unfortunately, this method is very expensive, since most of the random mutations end up being, quite literally, dead-ends. (Note that Nature can afford this expense, because, to put it bluntly, life is cheap.) In fact, the many dead-end results of this "trail and error" approach may be why people are so frightened of change.

    So, is there any sensible way of sorting the few potentially good changes from all those dead-ends, thus reducing costs and speeding up progress?

    OF COURSE! It is simply a matter of THINKING CRITICALLY!

    More coming...

    Z
    Last edited by Z; 09-03-2014 at 01:17 AM. Reason: Because many, many words...

  4. #14
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    1,690
    CRITICAL THINKING 1.02 - HOW TO DO IT.
    ======================================


    I Googled "critical thinking" and, unsurprisingly, I found a lot on it, but mostly in the form of many rather meaningless buzz-words and phrases. I doubt most of it would help student Engineers who are trying to build a better "small racecar".

    So what follows are some brief hints on different ways that you students can separate the wheat from the chaff (ie. apply "critical thinking") as you search through the myriad alternative ways of building your small racecars (ie. do the "creative brainstorming"). These tips only cover a very small part of the full range of critical thinking skills, but they are a start.
    ~~~~~o0o~~~~~

    THEORY vs PRACTICE.
    ===================
    In THEORY, you students should be able to decide (= krinein, remember) whether an alternative design of FSAE car will be "better", in whatever objective way you wish to measure that, by simply applying well established Mechanical Theories. In short, your "simulations" should give you the objective answers.

    But, unfortunately, because of the failed Education system many of you have very little understanding of how these Theories work. The clues confirming this are the number of times I have seen rather complicated looking equations posted on the Forum, that seem somewhat irrelevant to the problem at hand, and which were probably just cut-and-pasted off the first website that covered that subject. The clincher comes when some crudely guessed input is loaded into these equations, and the results are then printed out to FIVE DECIMAL PLACES!!!

    So, to once again paraphrase Prof Lewy, "All your simulations are UTTERLY USELESS, if you DO NOT KNOW THEIR UNCERTAINTY!!!".

    Even the simplest, most predictable, simulation is unlikely to give five decimal place accuracy. So, rather than fooling yourselves that your analysis is so precise, you should be spending much more time estimating your errors. At the least, this requires looking very closely at the many simplifying assumptions that are used in most of the simpler Engineering Theories, and how these might introduce errors. You should also estimate the errors in your input data, which in many cases in FSAE are of the order of ~+/-10%, if not more.
    ~o0o~

    In PRACTICE, I am confident that suitably motivated Trade School students, who might have absolutely NO knowledge of any Mechanical Theory at all, could nevertheless build a very competitive, perhaps world-beating, FSAE car. They could do this simply by making a critical analysis of all the "prior art" that is out there, and then selectively COPYING those parts of the prior art that seem most useful in FSAE.

    This prior art includes 100+ years of motor racing (of all types, including bikes, boats, and planes), and everything from Go-karts up to Monster-trucks. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to realize that the wheel-bearings on a Monster-truck are probably a good deal oversized for FSAE. On the other hand, those on a Super-kart might be a pinch too small. So something inbetween, perhaps off a small production car? And so on with all the other parts.

    My point is that all the sub-systems required for a world-dominating FSAE car are already out there. They have already been designed, and thoroughly developed, tested, and PROVEN. Sure, some of them might not be running around today, like some aero-approaches that were banned ~30 years ago because they worked too well. But you can still see this stuff on the interweb. Or, better yet, GET OUT THERE and go to historic racecar days. Or just wander around a car wreckers yard.

    In Engineering terminology this practical approach is called "Reverse Engineering". It is quite legal in FSAE, and it can be very educational.
    ~o0o~

    To sum up here, the theoretical approach allows you to EXTRAPOLATE designs to places no one has ever been before. But, to have any hope of getting the right answers, you must understand the theories VERY well. I suggest using the most fundamental theories (eg. Newton's Laws), and putting in much more effort estimating how WRONG your answers might be.

    The practical approach allows you to INTERPOLATE your new design between other existing designs that have thoroughly PROVEN performance. The key to this approach is recognising which of the many existing designs have the best features for your particular application. This can be done with a stop-watch, or a weighing machine, or even with a theoretical simulation. But first you have to GET OUT THERE and study as much of the prior art as you possibly can!
    ~~~~~o0o~~~~~

    QUALITATIVE vs QUANTITATIVE.
    ===========================
    QUALITATIVE assessments are based on comparisons of general "qualities", and use words like "greater than", "heavier", and so on. It is natural that the early stages of critical analyses use mostly this type of thinking.

    For example, "We know that MORE torsional stiffness is better for a chassis, and layout-A has the potential to be MUCH stiffer than layout-B, so we should definitely use layout-A. Err..., except that LESS weight is also better, and layout-B will probably be a LITTLE BIT LIGHTER than A. So..., err..., maybe we should use ... B???"

    Decisions based on qualitative thinking are very easy to make when ALL the qualities point in the same direction. So if some new design is "win, win, win", then the choice to adopt it is obviously "Yes, yes, yes!!!". But the problems start when some qualities of a particular design point in a good direction, while others point in a bad direction. Typically, this is the most common situation.
    ~o0o~

    QUANTITATIVE assessments are based on comparisons of hard "numbers" (ie. "quantities"). The above common problem of deciding whether the "fors" outweigh the "againsts" in a particular design can be solved by "quantifying" the various factors (ie. putting numbers to them). The numbers are then simply summed to a single total, and the answer is easily determined. Or is it?

    Unfortunately, getting accurate numbers is not always easy. If "theoretical" calculations are needed, then there are problems related to the uncertainties mentioned above. And even if accurate measurements can be made from pre-existing "prior art" parts, it is not clear how to rank, say, a numerical stiffness value against a numerical mass value.
    ~o0o~

    So neither of the above approaches is guaranteed good. Here are two warnings of what can go wrong.

    1. Say I take ten hops forward, and then one skip backward. Am I now in front of, or behind, my starting point?

    Note that the size of these "hops" and "skips" are qualitative, because they have NOT been quantified. So I could end up well BEHIND where I started, simply because the "skip" was much, much, bigger than the "hops".

    Much qualitative decision making goes wrong for this same reason. A particular design might have a hundred qualitative assessments in its favour, and only one against, but it could still be a COMPLETE AND UTTER FAILURE. The one "against" might be a really big one.

    So be wary of arguments that try to boost one side of the balance-scale with many lame entries. A typical FSAE example is the list of reasons in favour of Push/Pullrods&Rockers, which includes "...can reduce unsprung mass...", and "...can make damper adjustments easier...". The first claim is nonsense, and the second is so insignicant as to be worthless. (And there are many more such lame claims.)

    Using such "bottom of the barrel" reasons to boost the numbers on one side of the balance-scale is a sure sign of subjective bias, and poor critical thinking.
    ~o0o~

    2. Quantitative decision making often involves the use of arbitrarily determined "weighting coefficients", which are intended to scale the differently dimensioned values (eg. mass, stiffness, etc.) so they can be "fairly" compared against each other. Be aware that whenever this happens the whole process can very quickly descend into subjectivity, and a truly fair objective comparison is lost.

    A recent FSAE example is a "decision matrix" a Team used to rank the suitability of a single cylinder engine against various configurations of twins. The single was a clear winner in all areas, except one. For some reason, in this area the single was given a "power potential" of 0/5 points, with the twins getting up to 5/5. This particular attribute was also given the highest weighting. As a result the single was just squeezed out of first place.

    There was NO real objectivity to this process at all, and the parallel-twin which won was clearly the intended winner all along.
    ~~~~~o0o~~~~~

    The best decision-making comparisons you can make in FSAE are with a stop-watch on the completed car. I suggest you try to get your other, more academic, comparisons as close to this as possible.

    And please wear that metaphoric blindfold while doing so.

    Last bit coming next...

    Z
    Last edited by Z; 09-03-2014 at 12:47 AM. Reason: More selective shouting.

  5. #15
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    1,690
    CRITICAL THINKING 1.02 - HOW TO DO IT (Continued...).
    ==============================================


    The above post suggests that "critical thinking" is not always easy, and we cannot expect the right answer to fall out after minimal effort.

    So how do we decide which results of the above processes we should trust and follow, and which we should ignore and discard?

    TRUTH vs FALSEHOOD.
    ====================
    This is a very important subject.

    So much so, that from Antiquity to only a few hundred years ago, all students in the Western world would study this as one-third of their foundational education. That is, Logic was one of the three subjects of the Trivium, which itself was the first part (ie. literally the easy, or "trivial", part) of the Academic curriculum.

    Sadly, nowadays almost all students who finish tertiary education have NEVER BEEN TAUGHT how to tell truth from falsehood.

    What follows is just the briefest of brief introductions to this subject.
    ~~~~~o0o~~~~~

    All Ronald McDonalds are Redheads.
    All Ronald McDonalds are Clowns.
    Therefore, all Redheads are Clowns!


    Is this argument, which consists of two premisses and a conclusion, a GOOD argument?

    Well, most people know of a particular Redhead who is NOT a Clown, so they conclude that the above bit of reasoning is, err..., probably, ummm..., not right? (I tested my children on this one years ago, and that was their answer.)

    Indeed, as all schoolboys USED to know, this particular Logical Syllogism is INVALID. Note that a "valid" syllogism implies that the conclusion is true IF both premisses are also true. An "invalid" syllogism might have a true conclusion (ie. by chance), but its use in an argument is worthless. So, while all Redheads might by chance be Clowns, the above argument is a waste of words, just hot air...

    The purpose of teaching olden-day students Logic, as one-third of their entry level subjects, was so that they had some chance of drawing the correct conclusions from arguments that they might hear in their later, much harder, subjects (ie. the Quadrivium). For example, all the different syllogisms were given their own, unique, names, for easy recognition. The above syllogism is "Barbara in the third figure", from the mnemonic bArbArA for All-All-All.

    So a student would hear the above argument, quickly recognise its structure as "Barbara in the third...", and then immediately dismiss it as piffle. No need to even think about Redheads, or Clowns, and so on.

    But the really troubling thing is that I know many modern-day Academics who replace "Ronald...", "Redhead", and "Clown" in the above syllogism with terms appropriate to their field, and then use exactly that same syllogism to support their hypotheses, in the ignorant belief that their argument is VALID.

    My point is that, as shown in the earlier posts, it is hard enough to determine if individual premisses are true or false. But nowadays there are too many people, all of whom should know better, who cannot string two premisses together and deduce a reasonable conclusion.

    Anyway, no space here to go into more detail about syllogisms, other than to suggest that you try Venn Diagrams to make sense of such arguments. But it is worth noting that out of 256 possible syllogisms, ONLY 24 ARE VALID. And even some of these are considered dubious in "existential" cases.

    So keep in mind that MOST ARGUMENTS you hear in your Concept Design meetings are probably INVALID. This applies both to those arguments that say "We should keep doing the same-old, same-old, because...", and also to those that say "We should use this new-fangled bit of gee-wizardry, because...".

    The stop-watch, and a real, finished, car, are the best way to decide "true or false".
    ~~~~~o0o~~~~~

    Along with syllogisms, the olden-day start-of-school Trivial subjects of Logic, and also Rhetoric, taught students about the MANY OTHER FALSE WAYS OF ARGUING. There are far too many of these to cover completely here, so just a few examples.

    * The "non sequitur" (="it does not follow"). Does the following argument make sense? "I had cornflakes for breakfast this morning, therefore we should implement rear-wheel-steering on our car." OK, that one is obviously nonsense. But it is surprising how many people fall for non sequiturs that are a little less obvious.

    * The "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" fallacy. This "after this, therefore because of this" way of thinking is sometimes nowadays referred to as "causation versus correlation". Just because A happened before B, does NOT mean A CAUSED B.

    * Excessive emphasis. One way of spotting a false argument is by noting the volume of its delivery. This is especially so when the argument comes with very little quantitative back-up, or none at all. Saying "WE MUST HAVE THIS ON THE CAR!!!" does not make it a better argument. Ahh..., but then again, we are talking about H. Sapiens, "the wise one".

    * The "ad hominem" attack. In sporting parlance this is called "playing the man, not the ball". Despite Lady Justice's blindfold, this is perhaps the most beloved tactic used by lawyers. "If Your Honour pleases, I will now show that many years ago the witness's pants once fell down in public, and therefore not a single one of his vile and slanderous rantings can be trusted one iota!!!".

    * Finally, "ad hominem" is often used in a reverse way. How many times have you students been told that you should believe an argument, simply because the deliverer of said argument has worked with NNN professional race teams, over M decades, and has given countless seminars, to even more countless students and Engineering professionals, and they also have a Racecar Simulation software package they can sell you? Ask yourselves, "If the argument is really that good, then should it not stand on its own merits?"

    (Edit Nov2014: Students may wish to google "Appeal to Authority", "Argumentation from Authority", or "Argumentum ad Verecundiam", for more background on this fallacious way of arguing a viewpoint. This post gives a recent example.)
    ~o0o~

    More than enough for now...

    As always, critical critiques of above most welcome.

    Z
    Last edited by Z; 11-30-2014 at 09:27 PM. Reason: Polishing...

  6. #16
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Perth, Western Australia
    Posts
    717
    Z,

    I think you are too harsh on students that are the product of a western society that embraces relativism. It is also interesting that the Indian teams (from a country steeped in relativism) seem to perform worse. We are raised to believe that what is true for you is not necessarily true for me. There are many roads leading to the one place.

    While this keeps the philosophers and artistic types quite happy and entertained it wrecks havoc with engineering. In reality there is truth that is true whether you believe (or like) it or not. Argument about what is true is constructive, argument about whether there is truth is not.

    Kev

  7. #17
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Chennai, India
    Posts
    3
    Hey Big Bird and Z, thanks for taking out time and bringing an interesting point up. It sure makes you think more on how you and the team works.

    We are just in the process of redesigning our Pedal tray and those couple of paras really crack'd me up but in our defence our reasons are different from those pointed out there.

    I agree with Z on the reverse engineering and particularly more so in the Formula Student scene as here (atleast in my team) every year you have fresh bunch of junior designers. I believe that it is better if they study some existing design and then redesign it to suit their car and over the course they will definitely hit on some intriguing questions which will push them to bring creative solutions.

    ABCD.

  8. #18
    Newer designers go for "safer" solutions. A Formula car looks huge when you first look at it - all of those parts to design, all of those parts to make, all of the integration to connect one part to another. If it's your first time designing a nontrivial part, you're less sure of what you want, less sure of why you want it, and less sure that you'll be able to do it than afterwards. So you want a path leading from what you know how to do now to a result that resembles what you've seen before. Next time you'll know more and will go about it differently.

    Think of it like cooking chili. If you're starting out with a new recipe you haven't eaten, the first time you cook it, you'll follow the directions exactly, like a baker. That way, you know exactly what ingredients to get, how much of each to add and when, how hot to get it for how long, and you can expect that it'll taste like the recipe writer's chili. It's gonna cost $15+ and take up six hours on the stove, so you don't want to end up with something to throw away. Once you're done cooking it, you now know which steps were difficult (chopping green pepper to < 10 mm chunks), which ingredients were expensive (beef) - you know the process. Once you and your friends have eaten it, you know what it tastes like - you know the process. Once you've heard what they thought of it (man, that was bland) and thought about what you were tasting (hmm, onions, beans, chili powder and what else?), you know what they thought about it - you know the result. Now you get to do the evaluation and the analysis for next time - you get to improve (that word's got "probare" in it somewhere, if someone who knows Latin can find it) and change the recipe. I suppose this is like the post-critical part of the design process. In go the green peppers 20mm on a side, in go three cloves of garlic, in goes the salt that some dietician reviewing the recipe before publication took out, and maybe you even dare to take a risk you haven't comprehensively evaluated and switch the beef for some tiny beans - but you think it'll work. You've got some confidence that the changes you're making will go from where you started, in a direction where you wanted.

    After the second pot of chili, you're able to move to an active rather than reactive mode. You know you'll definitely be able to make an edible chili (confidence), and have a good idea of what the taste and texture are mostly determined by. You can now estimate quantities and effects. I've got 5 kg of vegetables in that pot, so adding a gram of black pepper is unlikely to change it much. You can start from a completely different plan with a little knowledge of what's going in - I want a few clear French flavors with all those beans, so I'll saute' the onions half as long, put them in last, and put in two bulbs of garlic.

    Of course you can still be surprised; you don't know everything. Some process can be sensitive to a variable you didn't know about (the TVP might need the whole mixture to be bubbling merrily away for a few minutes before it absorbs the liquid) and if the plan is to just let it slowly cook along after it's added you'll have to change the plan after the first taste. You can always be let down by your inputs (the jalapenos and cayennes that had no heat at all). Finally, sometimes maybe your goals aren't the same as the ones you had as a beginner. The looks of delight on my friends' faces as they tasted the onions, garlic, and pintos and then the looks of surprise as those five Carolina Reapers rolled in steadily bite by bite and crested several minutes later were worth a 9th place finish in the chili cookoff today. I had no difficulty ladling out extra chili afterwards.

    To sum up - few first-time designers handed an assignment to "design a suspension rocker and pushrod system" will come back with a transverse leaf spring, few first-time chili cooks will come back with enough garlic to make canned beans and tomatoes taste like they'd been fresh.
    Charles Kaneb
    Magna International
    FSAE Lincoln Design Judge - Frame/Body/Link judging area. Not a professional vehicle dynamicist.

+ Reply to Thread
Page 2 of 2 FirstFirst 1 2

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts