Heart of the Matter LO20693

Fred Nickols (nickols@worldnet.att.net)
Wed, 17 Feb 1999 17:30:10 -0500

Replying to John Zavacki in LO20672 --

John writes...
>I think we all know what a problem is.

I take the sentence above to mean that John is saying there is widespread
or general agreement as to what constitutes a problem. If that is the
meaning of the sentence, I don't agree with it. I think we all have our
own notion of what constitutes a problem and these notions differ widely.

>What appears to be the problem in
>this thread is the notion of 'problem statement', or 'operational

The word "problem" is used in the sentence above. I'd like to ask John to
provide a definition of that word in that context.

>In solving a problem, we must first clearly state what the
>problem is without making reference to possible causes or solutions.

I also don't agree with the assertion above. I think it is natural and
productive for discussions of problems to jump around from statements of
the problem to possible causes to possible solutions and back again. My
term for this is "checker boarding" and I view it as far superior to an
enforced linear approach.

>there, we can start looking at potential cause, then move to the probable
>root cause, and finally, to possible solutions, and ultimately, the
>probable best solution.

Again, I disagree. I think we human beings are natural parallel
processors and we think about all these aspects of a situation on a more
or less simultaneous basis even if we are limited to articulating them in
serial fashion. Moreover, I am not a fan of the concept of cause in
general nor the concept of "root cause" in particular. The concept of
cause has strangled more good solutions than I care to count. What is
important about the notions of problem, cause, solution, etc., is to view
them as pieces of the puzzle or bases to be covered, not trotted around in
a 1-2-3 and then home basis. I'd also ask, "the probable best solution"
according to whom?

>Of course, we still have to verify our findings, but we won't get there if
>we spend our lives talking around the nature of the meaning of the various
>linguistic constructions for problems rather than the things in

That is clearly your position, John, but it's not mine. I'm a firm
believer in the notion that language shapes thought and thought shapes
behavior. The label placed on a problem, for example, invokes a frame of
reference that constrains and restrains the problem solver's efforts to
solve the problem. So, I guess I'm more inclined to explore the
"linguistic constructions" of problems than you might be.



Fred Nickols Distance Consulting http://home.att.net/~nickols/distance.htm nickols@worldnet.att.net (609) 490-0095

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