The reality we manage to get into our heads is largely that reality which is abstracted through our symbol systems.


The uniquely human ability to build on the accumulated knowledge of others, potentially to an exponential degree.

Sun 31 Rocktober 2010

The Four Horsemen of the Problem-Solving Apocalypse

The thoughts of Steve Stockdale', former IGS Director,
advocating an informed, open, and tolerant world view
that’s consistent with what we know, without deference to dogmas, traditions,
or what passes for culturally-dependent "common sense".
And - Preparation for the National Conference

Led by David hewson


1. Catching Up & Introductions
2. GS Diary Reports - "Our GS Experiences"
3. "Here's Something About GS ... – Presentation and discussion
4. AGS Business
5. Close.

1. Catching-up

We “always” allow a little time for review of our lives and activities.

2. GS Diary Reports - "Our GS Experiences" Some of us experienced events in the month past, which demonstrated the value, and perhaps some limitations, in the applications of GS principles. Sharing of these is a valuable part of our time together.

3. "The Four Horsement of the Problem-Solving Apocalypse"

We started the day with some warm up exercises that showed up some common thinking errors.

These were related to some GS formulations like indexing. Some of these thinking errors came from Edward MacNeal’s book “Mathsemantics: Making Numbers Talk Sense”, e.g. what is 2 apples plus 5 oranges?

We then introduced the GS formulations that we would use later in the day, i.e.
1) Map to territory relationships.
......“Map is not the territory” and
......“Map is not all of the territory” => perfection is impossible. Maps can be made of Maps.

2) Identity and non-identity. And “does the difference make a difference?”

3) Extension versus intension.

4) Extensional devices: date, index, etc, hyphen, quote.

5) Projection.

Then we started the main topic of the day. Error and problem solving. We reviewed a paper titled: “The four Horsemen of the Problem Solving Apocalypse.”, by Major M. Nicholas Coppola.

Here are the four horsemen reviewed (with extra information added in):

i) The first Horseman of Problem Solving is Linearization. I.e. using the problem solving method below, in just a linear manner without going back to earlier steps when appropriate. We discussed the errors that can occur from this, like type III errors. Problem solving method:
......a) Define the problem
......b) Gather the data
......c) List or create possible solutions
......d) Test the planned solutions
......e) Select the best planned solution
......f) Implement the chosen plan (We related problems with implementation to “ballistic behaviour” as described in Dietrich Dorner’s "The Logic of Failure".) f) Check how well the solution went and try to learn from that. (We added this step so that the problem solver can time-bind.)

ii) The second Horseman of Problem Solving is Recidivism (relapsing into a previous solution) and Cognitive Dissonance (anxiety resulting from inconsistencies between one's beliefs and one's actions or other beliefs). (The overall effect of these two is similar to paralysis by analysis.) Here a problem solving method is used, but the decision maker faces so much cognitive dissonance or anxiety at each stage that they find it difficult to select between solutions. They may change solutions back and forth resulting in absolutely nothing being accomplished. We related this to the GS formulation that the “Map is not all of the territory” and that perfectionism can be very counterproductive at times.

iii) The third Horseman of Problem Solving is Problem Solving Creep. One sort of problem creep lets the problem scope or goal get bigger and bigger. Another sort lets their planned solution continue to grow until the solution may actually deviate from solving the original problem and may actually make it worse.

iv) The fourth Horseman of Problem Solving is Avoidance. I.e. Problem solvers avoid tackling their problems all together. They may become afraid to fail or make mistakes. This can lead to procrastination. The suggested solution was to produce something non perfect, then improve on it.

v) Recommendations for avoiding the Four Horsemen. View problem solving as a continuous process. Avoid letting the successes of the past cause of our current failures. I.e. we get fixated on past successes and fail to see that things have changed. (We gave some examples like when the PC came out. And we related this to the GS formulation of dating.) Note: you need to determine when change is necessary for better outcomes and not simply change for itself. (I.e. watch out for “the new broom sweeps clean” leadership stereotype.)

In the afternoon we reviewed our Melbourne conferences. And some of us related this to some of the four horsemen above.

Then we looked at James Reason’s book "Human Error" about the three main categories of errors (which are summarised below):

1) Errors of omission – the required action is not carried out.
i) Sometimes the entire task is omitted.
ii) Sometimes one of more steps in the task are omitted.

2) Errors of commission - Required actions are performed incorrectly.

i) Selection error – You select the wrong task. E.g. advertising GS in the wrong newspaper.

ii) Sequence error – Task steps are carried out in the wrong sequence. E.g. turning off the library lights before looking for the book you want. E.g. closing the barn door after the horse has bolted.

iii) Timing error - Correct task is carried out too early or too late. E.g. advertising a GS course too many months before it starts. iv) Qualitative error - Correct task is carried out to, too great or too little degree. E.g. You advertise in the correct media and at the correct time but only place one advert when at least 3 may be needed.

3) Extraneous acts - Wrong or unnecessary tasks are performed. (We related this to the Type III error of solving the wrong problem.)

We wrapped up the day with a revision of the NVC (Non Violent Communication) method, summarised here:

1. Observations are "the concrete actions we are observing that are affecting our well-being."

2. Feelings involve "how we feel in relation to what we are observing."

3. Needs, tell of "the needs, values, desires, beliefs, etc., that are creating our feelings."

4. Requests refer to "the concrete actions we request in order to enrich our life." [Your suggested solution. You can offer more than one and be willing to negotiate.]

Each participant applied this to an issue they could relate to

~ 0 ~

4. ~ AGS Business ~

a. AGS National Conference 27-29 Aug, and the UN NGO Conference 30 Aug - 1 Sept.
....We had some post-mortem review and evaluation of this great experience, satisfied that we'd
achieved the plans and commitments, and thinking about how we might do it even better next time!

5. ~ Close ~

Next Meeting: Saturday 20 November, 2010 at Bonnet Bay.

(Updated 4 November 2010)