Three Cat Analysis Model

A methodology for refining one's understanding of complex systems

Three Cat analysis addresses how you develop an understanding of a complex system (or, for that matter, a simple one). Three Cat Analysis is about developing and using models, both conceptual and tangible, and the role of feedback in the process. Here the domestic cat represents the system we seek to understand.

Real Cat: Observing
So where do you start? Most of us would begin by direct observation and perhaps seek to observe the cat under a variety of different conditions. You might want to keep a journal or log for your observations. You might want to compare your observations with those of others, perhaps seeking experts of various forms.

Concept Cat: Thinking and Modeling
As a natural consequence of observing, you will update your mental model of cat. You will enlarge your concept of cat to include each new behavior observed, and perhaps develop theories to explain some of the observed behaviors. You might deliberately change certain variables and observe the results to test your theory. This represents the first feedback loop of our model--that by comparing our concept of cat to what we observe, we are able to update and revise our mental models.

Mechanical Cat: Invention
This next level occurs when you seek to build a mechanical cat to test your ides. The essence of the mechanical cat is some real world test of your idea or concept. The process of building it adds the third element to our Three cat model, and the two additional feedback loops. You further define your purpose and clarify which features of cat are important to your purpose. A cat has a variety of properties, such as four feet, playfulness and sharp teeth. Not all of the cat's properties are important to you; instead, you select those properties significant to you based on your goals and objectives.

The process of building the mechanical cat brings new questions and perspectives: leading to new observations and revised concepts. Similarly, the performance of the mechanical cat once completed provides additional feedback and a basis for refining your concepts.

"The only way to really know cat is to try and make one. If you try to make a mechanical cat, you gain insight into what a cat really is... you update the mind's concept of cat... you then see the real cat in a new way... you discover new ideas about the mechanical cat... revise concept...re-look at cat."

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copyright 1997, MG Taylor Corporation (except where noted)
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