Heart of the Matter LO20673

AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Tue, 16 Feb 1999 12:30:11 +0200

Replying to LO20662 --

Dear Organlearners,

Fred Nickols <nickols@worldnet.att.net> writes in reply to my:

>>>>What makes something a problem?

>>A problem is when a person knows something incompletely.

>We might be saying essentially the same thing. Not knowing
>what to do about a situation that requires action certainly qualifies
>in my thinking as incomplete knowledge of that situation.

Greetings Fred,

It is possible to systemise all problems into many kands of problems.
Inadequate action is one kind of problem. Inferior relationships is
another kind of problem. Should we work through all these kinds of
problems, it becomes clear that all these problems point to incomplete
(insufficient) knowledge.

Winfried Dressler has given in LO20665 us much to think of. He offered
examples of problems which do not qualify as a result of incomplete
knowledge. As his first example he defines "Conflicts are in my eyes
problems, which are characterised by too much instead of incomplete

As I see it, this "excess" of knowledge of each party in the conflict is
caused by the lack of a common interpretation of each party's knowledge.
The incomplete knowledge in this case which causes the problem, is not
knowing that a common ground will prune the "excess" of knowledges by
sharing them.

Winfried also give a second example. He writes: "The problem of
implementation of a solution - the problem that arises, when the
completion of incomplete knowledge is blocked. (snip). This is the
situation where not the problem but the solving of the problem is the

Winfried writes here about two kinds of problems The one kind of problems
concerns a problem of which the obtaining of the solution is not a
problem. Are they problems? Yes, I call them artificial problems because
they are formulated by someone who know more than the actual problems
solver. In then some knowledge is cut away to formulate the problem. The
problem solver then has to obtain a solution which points to the knowledge
having been cut away. The problem solver self often create such artificial

The other kind of problems are those of which not only the solution is not
known, but obtaining the solution is blocked. This kind of problems have
intrigued me since the early seventies. They arise because of a lack of
creativity and not merely incomplete knowledge due to insufficient
learning. More learning seldom result in solving these problems. The heart
of the matter is to imbetter the creativity of the problem solver. But how
should the creativity be improved? Unless we know the relationship
between creativity and learning, our attempts are often in vain.

>>>>What distinguishes the solution from the problem?

>>A solution is when a person knows something more
>>completely than in the problem itself. It means that a solution
>>is additional knowledge to the knowledge on the problem.

>Certainly once you have determined the solution to a problem
>you probably think you know more about the situation than you
>did before, however, as some wag once said, "The proof of the
>pudding is in the eating," which is to say that you won't really
>know if you know more about the situation until you implement
>your solution and see if it works.

Fred, I like your answer. But let me explain why. Knowledge is not
only theory, but also practice. It menas that knowledge is an art.
When somebody obtains a theoretical solution to a problem, it merely
indicates to an increase of knowledge on the theoretical level. When
that person implements the solution in an actual situation to make
sure that it works, it indicates an increase of knowledge on the
practical level. Note that in both cases the solution indicates an
increase increase in incomplete knowledge.

>>>>What is "the heart of the matter" when solving
>>>>any problem?

>>The heart of the matter is to let the solution evolve
>>consistently and coherently in terms of the problem
>>and nothing else.

>Well, I think I know what you're driving at but I also take issue
>with the way you've phrased it. Clarity regarding a problem rarely
>springs for full blown. Said a little differently, clarity in our
>and objectives emerges over time (similar to the way strategy is
>said to emerge). Thus, the solution to a problem must evolve
>because the definition of the problem is itself evolving over time.
>But, once the definition is set, the solution must then be worked
>out in the context of that definition. I guess what I'm saying here
>is that I tend to agree with what At wrote immediately above
>provided an evolving definition of the problem is taken into account.

Let me try to explain what I meant. Reality consists of "zillions of
things". In my learning endeavour, I try to form more and more knowledge
on some of these "zillions of things" One way is to learn by problem
solving -- becoming aware that I have incomplete knowledge on "something"
and consequently trying to obtain more knowledge on that "something". The
solution of one problem leads to another problem to be solved. Eventually
I have experienced a web of connected "problem-solution"s on which I base
my formal knowledge of that "something". This web helps to record the
evolution (irreversible self-organisation) of my knowledge.

>>Problem solving is going from a less complete knowledge
>>of something to a more complete knowledge of it such that
>>the integrity of the something is conserved.

>I'm not sure I understand or agree with the last statement. It's
>the use of "something" that blocks my understanding. If by
>"something" is the meant the situation at hand, then I agree that
>problem solving is going from a less complete knowledge of that
>situation to a more complete knowledge of it.

The "something" can be "anything", a situation, an entity, a topic, etc.

>However, I don't know what that has to do with conserving
>the integrity of it. So, I'll try again and then it will be At's

The usual meaning of the integrity of "something" is that it refers to
wholeness. But for me the integrity of anything means that I have to
honour the role played by all seven essentialities of creativity in that
"anything" and not merely the essentiality wholeness. Let us then
complexify integrity by homouring also sureness. What can we now say about
integrity? I need not to explain it myself because you have done it as

>A problem is a situation that requires action and the action
>to take is not known. Hence, incomplete knowledge and
>uncertainty regarding action. Problem solving is an information-
>based activity that aims at reducing uncertainty regarding action.
>About the only way this can happen is to expand one's knowledge
>of the situation (especially its structure). But, once clarity and
>certainty emerge, action is imminent (even if its effectiveness
>remains to be seen).

You have been stressing how important it is to preserve sureness.

>Now, I'll ask: What do you mean by "such that the integrity
>of the something is conserved"?

It means that the increase in my knowledge (through learning) of the
something should be a just, faithful and encompassing rendering of that
something (object). This is not an easy matter because I learn in a
particular context. This context is not static, but dynamic. As it
changes, my knowledge also have to reflect the change. Furhermore, I am
bound by the languages which I can use to articulate my increasing
knowlege. Using different languages leads to different articulations and
possible misconceptions. This I have to try and avoid confusion by
language. Add to this how my world view and leading paradigms shape the
way in which I articulate my knowledge. All these factors can cause
misconception and confusion with fellow learners. The only way in which I
can react, is to be true to myself -- and when a articulation of mine
creates confusion, to explain what I meant. In short, integrity means that
I admit my subjectivity in trying to be objective.

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

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <rkarash@karash.com> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <http://www.learning-org.com>