One of the engineering exercises in my upcoming workshop is called “House of Cards”. I played with it again today, and here’s a picture of what I built.
More interesting than what I built, was what I learned.There were many engineering lessons in this simple exercise, such as:
When I realized that folding the cards lengthwise it yielded twice as much height (see row 3 in the picture). Yet, I didn’t consider starting over. This was because I didn’t want to lose what I had already built.
When I reverted back to my original technique (row 5), it was because I lacked confidence in my new approach. So, I switched back to the tried-and-true.
In row 6 I realized I could simply rotate the original fold technique by 90-degrees and achieve 20% more height. This was obviously better, but I didn’t restart again. Instead, I defended my design to myself, telling myself “It’s a good thing you built a solid foundation.”
Toward the end I became more adventurous, going back to folding lengthwise. I also experimented with attaching cards by tearing them, which didn’t help at all. Yet, I didn’t go back and fix them.
Row 3 was very shaky the entire time, and badly I wanted to refactor that row, but it was supporting too much. I figured I was almost done, so it probably didn’t really matter.
My final row (at the top) I reverted back to my ‘safest’ design, even though it applied the most weight to the structure. This may have made it the worst design for the top.
I didn’t learn much in the moment. These learnings came as I went on a walk afterward and talked to myself about how I’d do it better.
The next time I do this, I’ll apply these rules:
1. Build wide AND tall (because the structure gets very shakey by row 5)2. Don’t use my original technique at all, it takes too long, uses too many cards (which brings the most weight)3. Think in advance about how tall I want it to be, and what I want it to support.4. Evaluate each row before I build the next row, and be open to refactoring THEN (not after I build two more rows!)
(Even looking a the picture right now, I see that the right-side is buckling under the weight. The original folding technique was worse than I thought!!!)
With these inventions in hand, I’m sure my next attempt will be better.
And what more can I ask of myself, than to embrace the try->adapt->apply cycle. This is the cycle you’ll learn first-hand at my workshop. Then you can bring it back to your team.
What can you learn by looking backwards at your work? How can you help your team do the same?