There is scarcely a subject that cannot be mathematically treated and the effects calculated or the results determined beforehand from the available theoretical and practical data. The carrying out into practise of a crude idea as is being generally done is, I hold, nothing but a waste of energy, money and time. – Nikola Tesla
A lot has changed in 100 years but some things haven’t. We still tend to learn through expensive methods of production through trial and error.
At the time Nikola was writing the above he had been taken to task for not producing something from the ideas he had. Nikola’s reasoning was that he didn’t have to actually produce the product in order to determine the results.
This recalls to mind a similar story told (I believe by Richard Williams) of the Disney animators all crowding around to see the first glimpe of their animated drawings springing to life on their tiny moviola. Noting that Milt Kahl didn’t appear at all interested in seeing his drawings animated in this way they asked him if he wanted to join in and see how his animation played out. His response was a terse (and I paraphrase), “Why should I need to do that, I animated it!”
Okay, back to Nikola then:
My method is different. I do not rush into actual work. When I get an idea I start at once building it up in my imagination. I change the construction, make improvements and operate the device in my mind. It is absolutely immaterial to me whether I run my turbine in thought or test it in my shop. I even note if it is out of balance. There is no difference whatever, the results are the same. In this way I am able to rapidly develop and perfect a conception without touching anything. When I have gone so far as to embody in the invention every possible improvement I can think of and see no fault anywhere, I put into concrete form this final product of my brain. Invariably my device works as I conceived that it should, and the experiment comes out exactly as I planned it.
Don Bluth once said of the process of hand drawn animation (with a pencil), “The first step in animation is to put the pencil down.”