"Winsights" Part 6
A Partial Taxonomy of All Possible Methods for Solving Problems
Page 3 of 3

Sector One
Sector Three

Sector Two

--obtaining solutions from resources external to the problem-solver:

A. "Serendipity," an elaborate word for "luck." This factor is far slighter than the creativity literature suggests. "Many men," said Winston Churchill while language was still male-bound, "stumble over discoveries. Most of them pick themselves up and walk away." In truth, everyone is often in the right place at the right time, but very few have practiced enough observation to notice it when it happens. Fleming's penicillin antibiotic response was apologetically shrugged off by at least 27 previous researchers in print (and Fleming himself got around to examining the odd effect only after 15 years, at the urging of a student who didn't know any better!). Reportedly, the breakthrough on discovering a plasma test for effects of Dioxin (Agent Orange) was made by similar "accident" at the Center for Communicable Diseases in Atlanta, Georgia. Reportedly one of the research team, who liked to hunt, noticed how clean his bullets were. Investigating how and why, led to a new method of hyper-cleaning the parts to a mass spectrometer, using ammunition casing brass and dried corn cobs. The extra cleanliness, in turn, enabled the mass spectrometer to operate far more sensitively, a discovery ranging far beyond the Dioxin project.

Similarly, tens of thousands of researchers, teachers and students have had the same experience as did Dr. Michael Zaslov in his 1987 discovery of a new antibiotic at the National Institutes of Health, as reported by A.P. in most major newspapers. His case, too, will no doubt be cited in the literature as "another instance of Serendipity." But being observant was the critical variable here, not luck. Millions have partially dissected frogs, then returned them still living to their highly septic medium overnight, and gone on with them the next morning, and thought nothing of the fact that they were still alive and uninfected. Millions with that experience, and only one Michael Zaslov.

The most potent technique presently known for building powers of observation is the simple practice of Image Streaming, as taught earlier in this book.

B. External Expertise. Today this strategy is relatively overinvested, but can still often be useful, not least of all because the outsider has not yet learned all the places where s/he should not look, and moreover has not yet neuronally habituated on the matter in question. Thus, we (I emphasize the "we" - that includes you) can often solve one another's problems more easily than we can our own.

1. "Library research," data in the computer or in Internet and in other records. Information explosion and the information revolution illustrate both some of the plusses and minusses of this strategy for solution-finding. Note that it seems natural to try to solve a problem based upon what we know about it - but if the problem does not solve fairly readily by that means and most don't, what we know about it becomes the problem because that "knowledge" obscures our view of the fresh perceptions needed for that solution.

2. Consultant experts - mostly overinvested, relative to other ways of finding solutions, but still productive at times.

3. Charisma, "rally the troops" en masse to the task so that some of them, at least, will manage to solve the problem(s).

4. Train more people to be effective problem-solvers - the avowed purpose of our own programs and publications.

C. External Power, external leverage - the effectiveness of this category of techniques can be argued but is uneven. Strong cases have on occasion been made for each of the various following approaches--

1. Call on The Boss to do it.

2. Call on the Godfather to do it.

3. Magic - some way to manipulate the territory from the map, however necessarily the one differs from the other.

4. Call on God to do it - some way to manipulate the Owner of the territory, commonly called "the power of prayer," but "prayer" in the sense of telling God what to do instead of "prayer" in the sense of listening.

5. Depend upon Luck, or the passage of time, or for the problem to somehow solve itself.

Sector Three

Though discussed briefly at the start of this draft taxonomy, Sector Three deserves to be a major division of problem-solving methods despite its usually being ignored: Reinvest whatever are your best methods for solving problems, into the problem of how to create new and BETTER problem-solving methods! Pursuit of this principle of reinvestment can build and has built phenomenal methodological capital over time.

Extending this "Sector Three" into a concluding comment:

Traditionally, each main school or proponent of creative problem-solving, developed (or borrowed!) one or a few good techniques and practices, and offered these as The Way to effectively solve problems.

In a world where problems are accumulating far more rapidly than solutions, we strongly urge more people to begin applying this principle of re-investing methods into better methods, building effective problem-solving into an even better science than it has recently become.

One way you can start doing this is to start brainstorming out, sorting out, and "taxonomicizing" everything that you know about creativity and answer-finding. You may have a lot more of this than you yet realize.

Hey - the whole universe is yours to draw upon. The resources available to your mind truly appear to be without limit, and having read this far, how can you not put at least some of all this to legitimate test. Having tested these matters and found something of what truly is at stake, how can any living human being not go forward with this, without apparent limits? --And look at all that wonderful scenery you get to take in along the way!

Indeed, we concur in yet one more regard with Dr. Jean Houston, who in her recent lectures has been saying that "for the uses we put our remarkably developed brain to, we are obscenely over-endowed!" You, for instance, have brains enough to run a galaxy. What have you been doing with them?

Sector One
Sector Two
Sector Three

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