Institute Programs

INSTITUTE PROJECT DESIGN
                     — Pietro Athelӧre

The process of project design depends on creativity and intelligence, for the conversion of ideas or needs into viable organized activities capable of accomplishing specific goals.  This harnessing of imagination to practicality must be underpinned by a methodology.  The process moves from conception, through clarification of the goal(s), to the generation and selection of activities with the potential to meet requirements, and into the structured development and detailed design of the full project.  At each stage of the process, choices must be made between possible ways and means, according to the demands and desires established in the target specifications.

Due to severely limited resources and monumental goals, the need for a systematic approach to the design of Institute projects cannot be overemphasized.  Intuition, insight, and inventiveness must all play a part in what is, in the final analysis, a type of ‘experiment’, and must be supported and enhanced by a disciplined methodology.  Once the initiating conception for a project has been conceived, the question arises how to best actualize it.  As a general strategy for problem solving, it is often useful to reduce complexity by dividing the overall challenge into manageable sub-problems, to be addressed independently (although in context, solutions to sub-problems will influence each other), and then combined.  The approach can be broken down into four stages.

The first stage begins, of course, with noӧdynamic analysis, to fully conceptualize the proper desired and required means of an Institute project.  Importantly, there is seldom one correct program for attaining any desired goal: design problems are essentially open-ended, although some solutions are of course better than others.  The best way to discover the best solution is to define the actual task in a clear project statement.  Divergent thinking (openmindedness) should be used in preparing such a statement: ideas and information about a possible project are assembled and coordinated; or alternatively, a solution-neutral formulation of perceived problems or goals is written, in order to identify the desired accomplishment without making assumptions as to solutions.  After this, convergent thinking (i.e. systemization) is used to elaborate target specifications: the proposal needs to focus and delimit the agenda by detailing the precise requirements and constraints necessary to accomplish specific goals in a particular manner.  Relevant considerations will include purpose(s), resources, time scales, academic standards, and Institute image.

Having clarified the task, the second stage is conceptual design: generating concepts with the potential to meet the requirements.  Problem-solving principles will be conceived and analyzed to discover which can be combined with each other and with other Institute operations.  Ideas may be derived from consideration of other Institute programs and projects, or other programs or projects in Academia, brainstorming with fellow members and/or staff or perhaps the whole Institute via the Internet, etc.  Here, once again, divergent thinking is essential to generate as many useful ideas as possible.  Following this, convergent thinking comes back into play, because the best solutions to various sub-problems must be selected.  Criteria detailed in the established specifications will be used to evaluate all viable possibilities, with a view to determining which will provide the maximum Institute advantage.  It should never be forgotten that Institute resources may always be the overriding consideration at any stage of project development.

The third stage is that of embodiment, in which concepts brought forward through the foregoing processes undergo a structured development.  Sometimes even the best laid plans succumb to the embodiment stage because attempts to structure or facilitate them prove to be nonviable in actual practice.  Here again, a combination of divergent and convergent thinking is needed to suggest solutions to the dual problem of ends and means.

The final stage is detailed project design: specification of the exact functions, structures, methods, criteria, and goals of the project, including personnel, equipment, oversight, and so on.