The classic “ten-steps-to-success” methods in system engineering should be regarded with distrust. It is almost impossible or, at least very improbable, to cope with an articulated reality made of light, darkness and in-between nuances with a sort of unerring and clear-cut recipe. Nevertheless, we can find inspiration from a quite simple and, above all quite natural, example from the four seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. In fact, any serious process of knowledge almost invariably undergoes a four steps progression in this order:

  1. Perception (Spring);
  2. Ecstasy (Summer);
  3. Assimilation (Autumn);
  4. Introspection (Winter).

Perception – Perception is the first phase in which an object is known imperfectly. The problem is glimpsed or the solution is sensed but never in clear and well defined terms. This is like the Spring when the nature awakens but without a full blossoming, it is just a start, a beginning toward the light in a context of darkness or semi-darkness.

Ecstasy – The perception of the object is a sort of challenge that invites you to deepen your knowledge. To reach a clear understanding of the object (problem or solution or whatever else) you must go out of yourself, you must exit to reach the object that you have just perceived. This exit, this ecstasy, is like the Summer when the nature reaches its apex, when the harvest is ripe and you have to go out to gather it.

Assimilation – The object is now clearly identified but you need time to meditate on it, to gather any nuances, to fully understand its meaning, its premises and its consequences. This is like the Autumn the season past the Summer when the nature decline starts but the colors are warmer and you may store the wheat that you gathered in Summer.

Introspection – Once you have assimilated the object at hand you possess it in your interior, you have not to go back to the object for any further consideration because the object is in you, you simply may access the object in your memory or in your mind, in your well-meditated model. I compare this introspection to the Winter where the nature is far from  its full manifestations but you still conserve and use the past fruits to bake bread, for example.

You should compare this very ecological (and I will say very wise) approach to system engineering to the current legalistic approach of sign-this-document-to-do-this-and-this-other. Without surprise, sincere curiosity, rumination and internal understanding you will never reach a great design and, to be sincere, not even a modest design. You are not doing engineering, you are only cheating with yourself and your deceived customer.

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Alessandro Bellini

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