Heart of the Matter LO20665

Winfried Dressler (winfried.dressler@voith.de)
Mon, 15 Feb 1999 17:44:19 +0100

Replying to LO20647 --

At de Lange responded to Fred Nickols answer to his question "What makes
something a problem"

>>What makes something a problem is not knowing what to do about it.
>I will articulate it slightly different:
>A problem is when a person knows something incompletely.

I wish to give two examples of problems, of which I don't know how they
fit to At's slightly different articulation, although they fit perfectly
to Fred's:

1.) Conflicts are in my eyes problems, which are characterised by too much
instead of incomplete knowledge.

This can arise in mathematics, when n variables are determined by m
equations with m > n. Incomplete knowledge would be the case m < n. Both
cases are "problems". (Side remark: Mathematicians usually call the case
n=m a propperly defined problem - but there is no doubt what to do in
order to solve it. The path of evolution is determined. Fred, is this
still a problem?)

Every child can understand following set of knowledge as a problem without
incompleteness: I want that choclate - I don't want to get punished - I
get punished when I take that choclate.

Freds definition "not to know what to do about it" fits well also to
conflict situations.

2.) The problem of implementation of a solution - the problem that arises,
when the completion of incomplete knowledge is blocked. This is related to
"ignoring ignorance", that is under discussion in another thread. This is
the situation where not the problem but the solving of the problem is the

With respect to implementation, it is again Fred's defintion that hits the

In the context of business organisations, conflicts and implementations
are prevalent problems.

And, At, how does a person in your definition know that s/he has a

I like very much your triade, but instead of "problem-solution-solving" I
would prefer "question-answer-answering":

What makes something a question?
A question arises when a person becomes aware that s/he knows
something incompletely.

What distinguishes the answer from the question?
An answer is when a person knows something more completely than in
the question itself. It means that the answer is additional knowledge
to the knowledge of the question.

What is "the heart of the matter" when answering any question?
The heart of the matter is to let the answer evolve consistently and
coherently in terms of the question and nothing else.

This triade relate to problem-solution-solving: in order to solve
problems, questions need to be asked and answered and also vice versa.
But solving problems include another specific activity ("to do"): making
decisions. The first decisions to be made in order to solve problems are
to choose the apropriate questions to be answered.

You may argue that making a decision is a special kind of answering a
question and that with such a decision "a person knows something more
completely". And especially for decisions it is important, that they
"evolve consistently and coherently".

But I still think that it is important to distinguish a problem from the
questions to be answered in order to solve the problem. And I think it is
useful to distinguish the two qualities "answering questions" and "making
decisions". May be I can say, that decisions make answers to become

Liebe Gruesse,



"Winfried Dressler" <winfried.dressler@voith.de>

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