Australian General Semantics Society Inc.




Seminar Summary - 26th April 2015


"Strategy and Tactics in Problem Solving"
We looked at methods that go beyond critical and divergent thinking techniques in the development of innovative strategies to meet your personal or business goals.

The day's discussions focussed on problems solving where we aimed to come up with robust solutions and plans using general-semantics. Strategy concerns translating your mission statement (main goals) into achievable milestones (subgoals) and tactics goes into more detail about the actions required.

This is like the abstraction process in reverse.
Presented by Mr David Hewson

Just for variety, we met at the Towradgi home of Gavan and Pauline
(near Wollongong) !

We started, as usual, with "catch-up" on the life and times of the participants, who hail from near and far for today's gathering.  There is clearly a significant "social" component in the motivation of our members, who make a considerable effort to be here each month.

Today we were priviled to be joined by Wal and Val, who brought a rich portfolio of experiences and insights to our gathering.

GS Diary
In the spirit of "applying general semantics principles" to our lives, as opposed to dwelling in theory, we considered members' accounts of observations and applications relating to the principles and formulations of our discipline.

Strategy and Tactics in problem-Solving

As a warm up exercise, David led us through differential diagnosis with cars that would not start! This was used as an analogy for working from T1 (effect) - P1 (cause) .

We quickly reviewed formulations useful for strategy problem solving.

Timebinding e.g. learning from others - problem or methods/strategies used in other areas.

Intensional and extensional definitions.

Bypassing where two people have different definitions for the same word
e.g. definition of a hill being over 20 m or over 200 m.

Abstracting as deletion, distortion and generalising, etc.

Identification and the solution of index like Man1 is not "equal to" Man2.

We also had a fact-inference exercise.

Then we practised some analogies like "Gills are to fish as ? are to humans?" and looked at how this relates to problem solving.

We then started learning about Strategy and Tactics

We defined Heuristic and Algorithmic approaches ...

   * Heuristic: A rule of thumb, a way of doing things that might or might not work,
      but increases the chance of success

   * Algorithm: A method or way of doing things
      that guarantees an answer, for example, long division.

The goal of problem-solving heuristics is to help us to overcome our own limitations of working memory, emotions, etc.   For example we have a limited "bandwidth" of attention.   And our working memory is 7 +/- 2 pieces of information.   Latest research implies that for most of us it is down near the 5 end.

We then did some exercises to cope with these limits by externalising some of the process by using pen and paper.

We defined strategy and by contrast tactics, both intentionally (with words and graphics) and extensionally (by showing strategies in chess).

An example of divergent and convergent problem solving is that of brainstorming and then choosing the best solutions.   This is like searching for the highest mountain by random search.

We further defined abstraction methods and used this to search for the highest mountain by first looking for the highest mountain range (an abstraction) and then once we found the Himalayas we then search for Mount Everest.

We used an abstraction hierarchy to develop a top down method of problem-solving. Starting with your main goal, one first develops the subgoals to meet this (i.e. the strategy) and then how to achieve these subgoals (i.e. the tactics).

We covered various methods for getting the best subgoals for a strategy tree.  This involved looking at how we can become trapped by habit in our problem-solving, and this can be due to functional fixedness which is related to identification.

Unfortunately time ran out before we could cover strategy in other areas like conflict or competition (e.g. business) and see how we could learn from those examples. Things like the ten factors that account for over 60% of project success.   And how to move our organisation from a fire- fighting culture to a problem solving culture.

Thank you David!

Business Meeting

The usual: Plans for the year: Dates and places of meetings, international liaisons, finances etc.

Next Meeting:

Sat May 23
"Introduction to GS 1"
This will have a different title. Something like Communication and thinking skills. To be held somewhere in Southern Sydney at a public location.
Led by Mr David Hewson (in Sydney)

WritingThis is a "living document", subject to ongoing evolution as recollections re-emerge from our memories of the event, and are re-evaluated in light of ongoing experience and reflection.  It will never be "the full truth and nothing but the truth", or "a map that expresses everyone's notion of the territory"!

Disclaimer: This "summary" is a collection of notes derived from our discussion by a number of means.  It is by no means a scholarly dissertation on the subject as presented.  It does not purport to be the "policy of AGS".  Comment and criticism (constructive or otherwise) is welcome.  If anyone has been misquoted, copyrights infringed or confidences betrayed, please Contact us.


Updated by RJ 26 April 2015

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