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Industrial Progress and Human Economics Part 8

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Be Practical.

The toughened idealist may not look or act like an idealist, but in reality his idealism is one of the practically-wise construction. He allows his memory to hold all that is helpful of the past, both of the blunders or successes.

The dreamer who has been toughened by experience is one who lets his rational brain have control. He ranks next to the stalwart knight of the eraser, because he has the courage to arrest the endless tinkering of design in order to get something done. He will not let the family freeze while he is thinking up some grand scheme of sawing and splitting wood by magic.

A most cursory glance at the machinery in use in the world will show that the work has been done by imperfect machines. A study of the design of any machine brings out the innumerable shortcomings.

If we see a machine that seems perfect, it is perfectly safe to set it down in black and white that we do not fully comprehend it.

It is safe to say that the only perfect machine is the new model that is to be tried very soon.

With these facts in mind it does not require very much courage to go ahead with an imperfect design, but unfortunately these thoughts will not stay in the mind of the average designer. They are crowded out by the flood of ideas for still further betterment. That is why it is just to give high rank to the man who had courage to go ahead and build, even when he realized the faults of a design.

Perhaps one of the aids to this action is the knowledge that the apparent opportunity to improve a design may only be apparent. In reality the change is only a change, and is no betterment, a very common outcome of such ideas. The knowledge of the great array of failures of such "improvements" is wholesome and helpful to bear in mind.

The Inventor Sees Opportunities to Improve.

The inventor, from his point of view, sees the great need and opportunity to improve the design of the machine being manufactured. He sees that the big machines are nothing but enlarged editions of the early and smaller ones. He knows that with a change of size there should be a change of design. He knows that although a granite rock weighing a few tons will not be kept suspended in air by a heavy wind, a small part of the same rock will be carried away by a breeze, and may be kept suspended by a very slight current of air. He knows that the small particle of granite has a greater superficial area in proportion to its weight. He sees on every hand that a change of dimensions frequently entails a change of design.

He also sees the opportunity to effect a great saving by building the large machine for its special service, and not on the exact lines of the smallest model. The failure of the management to adopt his plans seems nothing less than unreasonableness to the inventor, for like other mortals he is a trifle slow at grasping the fact that no two beings have exactly the same point of view or the same quality of sight.

Another inventor sees a chance to make further improvements and he is disturbed because there is a ban on changes. He feels that the mechanical success of his previous work should be a sufficient guarantee of the economic advantage of the last proposed plan.

If an attempt is made to show him that the ban on changes is absolutely necessary from an economic point of view, it is found that the reasoning does not get the same reaction in his mind as in that of the manager. To him the great advance of the new scheme fully warrants the temporary expense.

Improvements May Be Disasterous.

Improvements should be sparingly made. Any improvement that requires a change in construction or operation may be disasterous financially.

This may all seem extremely pessimistic. But it is only seemingly so. Experience shows it to be the true view.

If it is true, then the machine designer should know it. A mere knowledge of mechanism is insufficient for him. A large business experience cannot be purchased, and his success should not be contingent on the business ability of another. He should know how a machine should be designed, and should not depend too heavily on the views of the business men who have not a clear knowledge of the technical problem.

Perhaps some of you may feel that there are many other problems to be encountered before you will meet these which I have set forth.

But we should remember that the mind holds some of such impressions a very long time. It holds them below the threshold of conscious thought, and under ideal working conditions it brings them above it when they are needed.

If you have caught my meaning you will not be weakened in enthusiasm for new work, but you will be protected in a measure against some of the reaction due to disappointment. There is a great field for earnest workers, and it is easy to become one by working on the lines set forth.

Natural Fitness.

One of the first questions that arises in the mind of one who intends to undertake machine design is, what const.i.tutes natural fitness for it. There seems to be no positive basis on which to determine in advance a natural fitness for this work, but there are certain temperamental characteristics that undoubtedly have much to do with the success.

The temperament should be one favorable to continuity of thought along a given line, as well as one that will by nature take an intense interest in the subject.

If these characteristics are missing, it may be due more to the distracting interests that in these days crowd in upon the mind, than to a lack of natural apt.i.tude. The absorbing interest, however, is essential, and it may be developed by conforming to well-known principles of orthodox psychology. Self-torture or hard driving is not nearly as helpful as a strong inner purpose to keep the chosen subject in the real center of conscious thought.

The subject that comes to mind when there is a lull in the outside demands on the attention, or one that is insistent on taking possession of the mind, even when other matters are objectively more in evidence,--that subject is the one that holds the center of the inner attention. That is the controlling idea or purpose.

Ordinarily, it is some diversion; occasionally, the haunting bugbear of some unfinished work or obligation. If the mind is dominated by such ideas or any other than the real problem in hand, the individual is seriously handicapped.

When a problem of machine design is undertaken, the mind must make it the real center of attraction. To one having an average endowment for such work, this is not a difficult task, but to get the best results it should be rightly undertaken.

Repeated Thinking.

A chosen subject is brought, with some lasting effect, to the center of attention by repeatedly bringing it into the mind at the moments of lull in the pressure of other affairs. The astronomers wait for the moment of best seeing, and the designer must wait for the actual psychological moment.

The best seeing condition for the astronomer is due in a small measure to his own physical condition, and in a large measure to atmospheric conditions, but the most opportune time for clear-headed vision of the designer is due mostly to his own physical and mental condition.

Probably no two men have their minds equally affected by their environment or their physical condition, but the fact that there is a most favorable time and condition for such thought and work should continually be borne in mind. Without this a man with natural endowment may try his wings at flight at an inopportune time, and if he fails he may be firmly convinced that he was never made for flying.

This undoubtedly applies equally well to other kinds of work. It may not be strictly true of a perfectly normal man (if there be such a creature), but it is truly applicable to many workers in this and similar kinds of work.

This phase is mentioned in order to make clear, not only how a designer should work, but the thought that should be kept uppermost in the mind of one who is trying to do this work.

The physical condition is more or less dependent on the mood, and to a great extent the mood is dependent on the condition of the body. The strenuous gait is seldom the best, and, of course, the extremely indifferent one is of little value. The best for the average man is one born of a quiet environment, with mind and body in a fairly restful condition, or still better, in a rested and fresh condition.

Concentrating Attention.

The quiet end of the day is almost as good for clear thinking as the early morning, especially if the day has not been overstrenuous and the activities have been gradually tapered off.

There are many instances that would seem to show that the strenuous gait is the best, but nearly all of these evidences are questionable. When finally simmered down, the good work done under high pressure is frequently due to latent ideas that were the product of quiet thinking. The mood and the dominant idea may be predicated as necessary.

As already stated, the habit of thought most favorable for the persistence of a single group of ideas is attained by the practice of switching the attention back to the desired subject.

This should be done at the opportune time. The subject should not be forced on a tired mind. It should not be taken in as a painful duty, but it should be made the one thing of interest. Really valuable results can only come along the line of the dominant thought. All other work lacks directness. It follows precedent to an unnecessary extent.

Interest Must be Awakened, Not Forced.

Another way of saying all this is that the designer must get interested in the particular problem, and he must have an interest that crowds out all other thoughts, even thoughts of similar work.

It is useless, however, to say, "get interested in the work,"

unless we suggest a way to awaken interest. Surely, we know that interest does not come at mere bidding, and that it cannot be forced by hard work. But it can be induced by an easy process in a normal being, providing he has not already too firmly established a set of habit thoughts of another kind.

The normal being, by persistent intention, can establish the desired thought habits by returning the preferred group of ideas to mind. Interest is awakened by this comparatively easy process, and when a genuine interest exists, the actual work follows as a natural result, and it is a pleasure instead of a drudgery.

This is not intended as preaching in any sense; but only to bring to mind facts known to all, with the view of implanting these facts in the mind of the machine designer.

Some designers have done excellent work with no thought of psychological problems. But in this more strenuous age it seems best to take advantage of every aid to the desired end.

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Industrial Progress and Human Economics Part 8 summary

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