7 Steps Problem Solving Skill LO26844

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Date: 06/21/01

Replying to LO26817 --

Dear Organlearners,

Barry Mallis <theorgtrainer@earthlink.net> writes:

>The 7-Step Problem Solving methodology as I
>learned it, and now as I bring it to others, has
>brought significant focus to work teams in business
>organizations, especially--but not restricted at all
>to--manufacturing environments.
>It's based upon the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle well
>known to leaders of continuous improvement activities
>in product/service organizations, and elaborated by
>Deming, Juran, Shiba and many, many others.

Greetings dear Barry,

Thank you for telling us more about you experiences with the 7-Step
Problem Solving methodology.

I have no quarrel with any problem-solving methodology, including the
7-Step one or my own 3-Step one. (By the way, I designed it after a
careful study of the Scientific Method. Today I realise that it is good
for solving problems scientifically, but otherwise it is almost worthless.
And for motivating students to solve any problem spontaneously, it is less
than worthless.)

My quarrel is principally with myself for not having told the pupils and
students clearly that what I presented to them is for them from the
"world-outside-learner". This is the one part of the complementary dual.
The other part is from the "world-inside-learner". Both these
complementary duals are requisite to problem solving. In other words, the
inner "structure-process" of the learner is just as important to the outer
"structure-process" presented to them.

My best meant attempts to articulate this inner "structure-process" is
doomed to failure. Its like me telling our dogs, cats or even parrot:
"Listen here, this is how you solve problems." Our dogs and cats still
make their distinctive sounds while the parrot will have copied a word or
two more, but when they solve problems from time to time, they still do it
spontaneously on their own. They feel hairs or feathers for me as a human
on this issue.

By this I do not want to give the impression that humans are the same as
dogs, cats or even a parrot. But humans are certainly also not completely
different. It is the easiest for me to observe in the parrot when she is
ready to solve a problem. I will only say the following: "Jy kan nie met
haar huis hou nie." (Literally: "You cannot keep house with her.")

What I can do, is to write how it is with myself as the
"world-inside-learner". But as soon as written, it becomes to fellow
learners as part of the "world-outside-learner". As such it may undo its
complementary dual as part of the "world-inside-learner" of these

Perhaps the most interesting example which I can offer, has to do with
logic. Whenever we begin to express logic on paper with sentences or even
symbols, it is called symbolic (formal) logic. This result is not the same
as the logic within us because we kwow more than we can tell. I know of
only one book on logic in which this is made the pillar for understanding
logic. It is the book "Logic for Mathematicans" by J B Rosser (1953).

How I wish as a student sombody would have told me to study this book, in
itself a great work of art. Likewise I would encourage everybody to study
the 7 Steps of Problem Solving.

Rosser's first chapter "What is symbolic logic" is one of the beauties
among human literature and not merely logic. He ends the chapter by

. "Although we think that the average mathematican
. will find a study of symbolic logic is very helpful in
. carrying out mathematical reasoning, we do not
. recommend that he should abandon his intuitive
. methods of reasoning for exclusively formal methods.
. Rather, he should consider the formal methods as
. supplement to his intuitive methods to provide for
. mechanical checks of critical points, and to provide
. the assistance of symbolic operations in complex
. situations, and to increase his precision and generality.
. He should not forget that his intuition is the final authority,
. so that, in the case of an irreconcilable conflict between
. his intuition and some system of symbolic logic, he
. should abandon the symbolic logic. He can try other
. systems of symbolic logic, and perhaps find one more
. to his liking, but it would be difficult to change his intuition.

I think that what applies to symbolic logic, also applies to any process,
methodology or algorithm for problem-solving. I think it even applies to
the use of a natural language. But, of course, what I think is less
authoritative that your own intuitive thinking.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <amdelange@gold.up.ac.za> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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