Problem solving

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Process of problem solving.

Problem solving consists in using generic or ad hoc methods, in an orderly manner, for finding solutions to specific problems

CONTENT : A - F , G - L , M - R , S - Z , See also , External links


Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author

A - F

  • A problem never exists in isolation; it is surrounded by other problems in space and time. The more of the context of a problem that a scientist can comprehend, the greater are his chances of finding a truly adequate solution.
  • Social workers help people increase their capacities for problem solving and coping, and they help them obtain needed resources, facilitate interactions between individuals and between people and their environments, make organizations responsible to people, and influence social policies.
    • Barker (2003, p. 410), cited in Charles Zastrow, The practice of social work, (1995) p. 2
  • In mathematics the art of asking questions is more valuable than solving problems.
  • The concern of OR with finding an optimum decision, policy, or design is one of its essential characteristics. It does not seek merely to define a better solution to a problem than the one in use; it seeks the best solution... [It] can be characterized as the application of scientific methods, techniques, and tools to problems involving the operations of systems so as to provide those in control of the operations with optimum solutions to the problems.
  • The design of my philosophical life is based on an examination of the following question: is it possible to secure improvement in the human condition by means of the human intellect? The verb 'to secure' is (for me) terribly important, because problem solving often appears to produce improvement, but the so-called 'solution' often makes matters worse in the larger system...
  • Answers to problems can come from any country, however little.

G - L

  • A solution which does not prepare for the next round with some increased insight is hardly a solution at all.
    • Richard W. Hamming, Richard Wesley Hamming (1997) The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn. p. 200
  • Recent researchers in artificial intelligence and computational methods use the term swarm intelligence to name collective and distributed techniques of problem solving without centralized control or provision of a global model. … the intelligence of the swarm is based fundamentally on communication. … the member of the multitude do not have to become the same or renounce their creativity in order to communicate and cooperate with each other. They remain different in terms of race, sex, sexuality and so forth. We need to understand, then, is the collective intelligence that can emerge from the communication and cooperation of such varied multiplicity.
  • The hegemony of immaterial labor does, though, tend to change the conditions of work. Consider, for example, the transformation of the working day in the immaterial paradigm, that is the increasingly indefinite division between work time and leisure time. In the industrial paradigm workers produced almost exclusively during the hours in the factory. When production is aimed at solving a problem, however, or creating and idea or a relationship, work time tends to expand to entire time of life. And idea or image comes to you not only in the office but also in the shower or in your dreams.
  • And we must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent or omniscient—that we are only 6 percent of the world’s population—that we cannot impose our will upon the other 94 percent of mankind—that we cannot right every wrong or reverse every adversity—and that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem.
    • John F. Kennedy, address at the University of Washington's 100th anniversary program, Seattle, Washington (November 16, 1961), reported in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy (1961), p. 726.

M - R

  • There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.
    • H. L. Mencken, "The Divine Afflatus", originally published in the New York Evening Mail (November 16, 1917); reprinted in Prejudices: Second Series (1920), and A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949), chapter 25, p. 443.
  • It makes sense to ask, "Which methods might work for the problem I'm facing—and which representations are likely to work well with those methods? ...Most computer programs still, today, can do only one particular kind of task, using only a single representation—whereas our human brains accumulate multiple ways to describe each of the Types of Problem we face. ...we need to learn how to switch to another alternative whenever the method we're using fails.
  • So much of our human resourcefulness comes from having multiple ways to describe the same situations—so that each one of those different perspectives may help us to get around the deficiencies of the other ones.
  • Swamp Thing: Always guns. Are they...your only...solution? You can shoot...the the forest...but you cannot shoot the forest.
Detective Harvey Bullock: I think we can chip the bark a little. Men if it moves, shoot it.
  • If you think there is nothing problematic or mysterious about a symbol system solving problems, then you are a child of today, whose views have been formed since mid-century. Plato (and by his account, Socrates) found difficulty understanding even how problems could be entertained, much less how they could be solved. Let me remind you of how he posed the conundrum in the Meno:
    And how will you inquire, Socrates, into that which you know not? What will you put forth as the subject of inquiry? And if you find what you want, how will you ever know that this is what you did not know?
    • Allen Newell and Herbert Simon (1975) Computer Science as Empirical Inquiry: Symbols and Search. Turing Award Lecture. p. 120-121
  • Managers within organizations sometimes confront a type of problem that is difficult to solve, in part, because the problems involve many stakeholders with diverse perspectives. The different assumptions from each perspective result in differing views of the problem and potential solutions. It is difficult to produce a satisfactory potential solution when the formulation of the problem definition is the major concern and when applying a potential solution risks unintended consequences. Churchman (1967, p. 141) writes that the solutions proposed to solve these problems "often turned out to be worse than the symptoms"
    • Lars Paul (2010) A method for developing Churchmanian Knowledge Management Systems. p. 2 Citing: C. West Churchman (1967) Guest editorial: Wicked problems.

S - Z

  • The capacity of the human mind for formulating and solving complex problems is very small compared with the size of the problems whose solution is required for objectively rational behavior in the real world—or even for a reasonable approximation to such objective rationality.
  • In the literature of problem solving, the topic I am now taking up is called "problem representation." In the past 30 years, a great deal has been learned about how people solve problems by searching selectively through a problem space defined by a particular problem representation. Much less has been learned about how people acquire a representation for dealing with a new problem—one they haven't previously encountered.
    • Herbert A. Simon, "Bounded rationality and organizational learning." Organization science 2.1 (1991): 125-134.
  • This provides us with our first major clue to the solutions of the problem. Even if the left cannot see the world as full of potentiality, it can hold on to the moments of insight and refuse to let go of them. If I know that present difficulties will end in triumph, I am un-discourageable; I merely have to know it intellectually. And if I can 'know' that reality actually has a third dimension, I shall never fall into the mistake of complaining that there is nothing new under the sun and that life is futile.

See also

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