The evolution of an idea, from conception to obsolescence.  This all seems to me to apply to programs and systems, processes and methodologies, whether technical, managerial, national or personal.

Fire conceives.  From the void which is everything old, ideas are consumed and reconfigured in a furnace of progress; the entire idealized extent burns brightly.

A surrounding context (the white page) gives rise to an idea (the black dot).

Winds change.  Cool reason hammers and blows hot molten concepts into shape; swirling variation crystallizes initial implementation.

The idea is greater in scope than is immediately implemented, so the implementation starts small (the thin black line coming out from the black dot).  Before long the central concepts are worked out, as a concept prototype (the top of the diagram).  This could be considered a stage-gate, at which some ideas are winnowed out.

Rivers progress.  Expansion changes nature in quantity and quality, as the implementation carries a greater and greater load; floods into the plain of technical debt.

The idea grows in complexity, at first proceeding rapidly (distance traveled from the dot, vs. thickness which is effort or time).

At this point the prototype can take actual customers, and expand its scope (from the top of the picture, to a diagonal line from the center to the lower left corner).

Mountains stand.  Inflexibility rocked by earthquakes, but nature does not change; a new idea springs from the nature of the old.

Eventually the system becomes too large to reliably expand (the diagonal line from the center to the lower left corner, another stage-gate), and all effort is spent just to maintain what is in place.

It’s at this point that someone realizes that there’s a better way to do things: the project has become a surrounding context in its own right, and gives rise to a new idea (the white dot), which incorporates some aspect of the original environment neglected by the first idea.

At first, people attempt to tack on the new perspective to the developed original idea (the thin white line coming out from the white dot). Eventually they transition to an entirely new system (another black dot), and abandon work on integrating the new idea into the old idea’s implementation (another stage-gate).