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I remember being a small boy growing up in 1970’s England - Pele, Rivelino and Zico dancing in colour on my black and white TV - the long hot summer of ’76 - David Bowie telling us that “We could be Heroes” - Adidas SL76 trainers - accidentally shooting my friend in the head with an airgun - Space Hoppers - my first kiss! Everything seemed new. Everything seemed exciting. I had the feeling of limitless possibilities that always come with youth and the belief that I could achieve anything. I also remember that I had an innate desire to understand things. That burning desire took me in two different directions and both of those directions were driven by questions… HOW and WHY.

Asking How - Looking Down - Structural

The first direction was asking the question HOW or more correctly “How do things work”. This desire drove me to take things apart (much to the annoyance of my mother as I rarely approached putting things back together again with the same vigour that I had exhibited when taking them apart) to see what they were made of and how those parts worked and were connected together. Initially starting on small battery powered things like torches, telephones, and radios, etc but gravitating to larger items that also had the power to kill me such as electric irons, lighting, electric door bells (yes they used to be 240v in those days!) and record players. On more than one occasion my inquisitiveness caused me to accidentally electrocute myself. Firstly when still almost a baby I thought “I wonder what will happen if I push this knitting needle into the socket thing on the wall” (For those who are interested in what happened, my mother reports that there was a bright flash of blue light and a loud bang. This loud bang was shortly followed by a more muted bang as my head hit the wall opposite that I had been thrown against) and later when holding a light socket in my hand and plugging the other end into a wall socket. I am sure there were other times but the unintended electroshock therapy I had been subjecting myself to, appears to have had the unintended side-effect of clouding my memory! Regardless of this, I was very much interested in HOW things worked.

Asking HOW is the fundamental question The Engineering Paradigm™ forces us to contemplate. For without knowing HOW something is constructed we cannot know HOW to change it or what the unintended implications of any change will be.

Asking Why - Looking Up - Contextual

I very quickly learned that although answering the HOW question was interesting, the HOW question seemed to have a logical end point and therefore my interested waned. It then occurred to me to ask WHY things existed in the first place and WHY they were constructed as they were. I also soon discovered that answering the WHY question appeared to have no end at all and whatever was provided as a response could lead onto another WHY. Many people just got plain angry (especially teachers - although it applied to anyone in authority - which when you’re ten years young - is everyone!) as it made them think that I was just trying to annoy them. This was not the case at all - I really did want to know WHY. Many years later it occurred to me that the reason that people tended to get angry was because people either a) had not actually considered that question themselves at all and had no idea WHY or b) could answer the first or maybe even the second WHY but then reached a limit of their knowledge and instead of saying I don’t know would proffer “interesting” reasons which did not make sense which only made me ask WHY even more, which got them more annoyed, etc, etc, etc.

For, me there has to be a point. To achieve something. A WHY. For without a point or reason for something it is literally - well - pointless! Even things that I enjoy doing have to have a purpose higher than just enjoying them. A purpose that achieves something. For example, I love driving. Driving anything; cars, vans, lorries, taxis, dumper trucks, anything. So you might expect that when I bought the best car I have ever owned (A Porsche Boxster S) that I would go for long drives around the countryside to enjoy driving it. I loved to drive that car, the smell of the leather, the weight of the steering, the sweet sound of the flat-six Boxer engine, but I could not “just go for a drive”. There had to be a purpose, there had to be a reason there had to be a WHY. It didn’t matter what it was (going to the shops to buy a loaf of bread, going to work, giving my daughter or son a lift) but there did need to be a goal. I needed a WHY.

Asking WHY is the fundamental question The Architecture Paradigm™ forces us to contemplate. For without knowing WHY we need to change something we cannot know HOW to change it. To use an example of Deming’s:

“If you ask me to clean that table I cannot. You may want to use it to store surgical implements. You may want to eat off it, you may want to put a plant pot on it. Without knowing WHY I cannot clean the table. Don’t tell me HOW to clean the table - tell me WHY you want the table cleaned.”

- W.E. Deming


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Questions to ponder...

What is your burning desire?

Do you annoy people by asking questions?

Do people tell you how to do things or do they tell you why?

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