Dr. Ed Sickafus Memorial Archives

 (6) WordPress Blog site:  edsickafus.wordpress.com

(A) Top Pages: on Theories of Problem Solving for Innovation and Invention

Ed Sickafus
Accessed & Edited by Toru Nakagawa 

 Access:  Mar. 15, 2020;  Posted: Mar. 22, 2020 

Editor's Note (Toru Nakagawa, Mar. 15, 2020)

This page is (the first half of) a restructured copy of the Web site developed by Dr. Ed Sickafus in the WordPress plaform, as is accessed at present.  He used the site name of 'Theories of Problem Solving for Innovation and Invention', instead of 'USIT (Unifed Structured Inventive Thinking)'.  He said that his USIT Web site was affected from mal-hacking several times and he decided to build a new site in a new environment in Cloud. He started this site in July 2015, but did not finish it, unfortunately.  The last article was uploaded in November 2015. 

 

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            "Theories of Problem Solving for Innovation and Invention" Site
            http://edsickafus.wordpress.com/

 

 

  Site Structure: http://edsickafus.wordpress.com/ 

Site:  Theories of Problem Solving for Innovation and Invention

(compiled by Toru Nakagawa, Mar. 15, 2020)

Home :   

A B-l-o-g on Theories of Problem Solving for Innovation and Invention 
TOPICS to be addressed in due time with definitions, theories, methods, examples, and exercises. [Draft]
Level of experience expected of readers     

Start/Free-Downloads:

Introduction to this Blog   ==> PDF (1 page)  

About:

Early Experience with Problem-solving Heuristics
Theories of Problem Solving:
Theories of Problem Solving for Innovation and Invention (Ed Sickafus)  I. Meaning of problem 

Theories:

Structured Problem Solving:

Problem Solving Theories  (I. Meaning of Problem)  ==> PDF  (3 pages.)

USIT :

History      [Vacant]

USIT an Overview    [See 'Books, Overviews, Tutorials' page ]

I3             [Vacant]         [See ]   

Brief USIT Tutorial     [See 'Books, Overviews, Tutorials' page ]

Heuristics:

Early Experience with Problem-solving Heuristics 


See the next page: (B) Blog Articles and Publications      

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  A B-l-o-g on Theories of Problem Solving for Innovation and Invention

[If eager to get into the meat of this blog, with a minimum of 'distraction', I'll tell you in two sentences what the rest of this page is about and you can move on. Here it is:

The short-answer purpose of this blog is to discuss problem solving based on logically structured heuristics and problem solving devoid (as nearly as possible) of logic. The short-answer target is students, teachers, professional problem solvers, recreational puzzlers, and other curious types.

Gender is irrelevant. Intellectual curiosity is good. The stuff below is an expansion of these two sentences with emphasis on the use of heuristics and introspection.]

My first task in assembling this blog on problem solving is a problem itself – how to introduce it and introduce it to an invisible but imaginary audience? As I've learned in my professional career as a problem solver (research physicist), ill-defined problems arise as typical starting points. They can be so ill as to offer barley a hint of their nature. Even worse, they may give no warning of their complexity—think can of worms – with no idea of how large is the can! I've been there and done that and here's how.

Getting started can be an interesting challenge. At the outset, you know immediately that one has to start with a single problem.

One cannot solve multiple problems at the same time.

Italicized comments are used to point out heuristics* in action. (*See glossary  for definitions.)

I first thought about the scope of this problem, i.e., the variety of topics involved. Then came an estimate its size, the number of targets that need to be addressed. The opening sentence of this discussion has two clues: explain this blog to an imaginary audience*.

Audience, without further differentiation, is a plural concept. Simplification suggests thinking of one imaginary person. The heuristic simplification pops up very frequently in problem solving. In this case, redundancy can be reduced to one repeat unit, person, to simplify the problem.

Without trying to out guess myself, I'll make a list of potential topics, suspecting that each one will spark another one. This could be avoided by deciding on a filter ahead of time.

Another heuristic: No filtering is allowed when searching new ideas.

Here's the list as ideas come to mind: First some definitions like problem situation, problem (logical and neuronal), solution concept, brainstorming, heuristics, structure, structured problem solving, crutches, … At this point I stopped and reviewed what was just written. There is no strategy evident in this list – where is it going?. Now I have another problem, think up a strategy for explaining the blog. At least a short answer comes to mind. (I think I'll stop while I'm ahead.)

The short-answer purpose of this blog is to discuss problem solving based on structured heuristics and problem solving devoid (as nearly as possible) of logic. The short-answer target is students, teachers, professional problem solvers, recreational puzzlers, and other curious types.

There is also a short-answer purpose to this page – even though you didn't ask. As this blog develops, I'll be adding discussions of the origins and metamorphosis of structured problem solving methodologies in the last half-century or so.

Two aspects of this metamorphosis are to be addressed. They are the gradual minimization of logical structure and the recent arrival on the problem-solving scene of a logic-less methodology.

The latter emphasizes introspection – once debunked as a research tool by cognitive psychologists. You may have noticed that most of the above writing was voiced in my own introspection. As will be seen, introspection has become a major game changer in cognitive science research and is being entered into problem solving.


  

  TOPICS to be addressed in due time with definitions, theories, methods, examples, and exercises.


 

  Level of experience expected of readers

It is intended that the essays available on this blog will fit all sizes of interests, but not necessarily all essays will be equally appropriate for a particular level of experience. It is expected that each reader will have personal interests according to their technical experiences and current needs.

For example, consider a reader who has a specialty of studying hematology. She has discovered a problem with identifying a certain type of blood cell anomaly and wants to invent a solution to this problem. Her experience is a basic knowledge of cell morphology – knowledge now in her long-term memory. She spends a period of time discussing the problem with other experts, reading in the medical literature, and investigating how current cell counters work – knowledge now in her short-term memory. She's ready to examine the size and scope of the problem situation and to select a specific problem to address.

Her short-term and long-term memory now have enough information to investigate possible solutions. At this point, she turns to structured analysis, specific problem selection, and quick exploration of possible solution concepts using brainstorming. She could be a high school student working week ends in a hospital hematology lab and working on a science fair exhibit. Or she could be professional medical-physicist working for a major medical instrument company. These are situations where non-engineered, plausible, and interesting ideas are found. Brainstorming is an excellent place to start innovating.

Newcomers to structured problem solving are suggested to investigate USIT essays first. These are based on a nearly generic form of structured methodology and have a minimum of heuristics to learn. Those experienced in structured problem solving may find the OAF methodology fascinating, where all of USIT mental imagery is reduced to a single graphic heuristic. All of structured problem solving is based on inferred (or ignored) logic of how the brain solves problems. If you are interested in the impact of this century's research by cognitive scientists on problem solving see the I3 essays.

To be creative U-SIT and think.

 


 

 Introduction to this Blog

[Note (TN, Mar. 16, 2020):  The following is taken from a PDF file  :

A blog on Theories of Problem Solving for Innovation and Invention
Ed Sickafus, Ph.D.
I. Introduction to this Blog.
II. The Trial and Error Heuristic
III. The Lateral and Bilevel Models of Thinking
IV. ...- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -                                                               ]

 

I. Introduction to this Blog

Theories of problem solving have been with us since the beginning of solving problems using our brains. They have not always been advertised in neon lights to make us aware of them; nonetheless they have been present in our subconscious. Furthermore we have always been solving problems. Time spent solving problems can range from an intellectual hobby like chess, or a tedious interruption like untying a knot, to a professional occupation like writing computer code for quantum qubit processors. The word theory spans the intellectual range of simple algorithmic heuristics such as 'knit one purl two', in making a thread pattern on a background cloth, to deconvolution of electron scattering spectra.

Then there is another level of intellectual challenge regarding problem solving. That is in developing models of how the brain does it. The scope of this blog covers the development and analysis of heuristics used in all manner of problem solving including that of an individual's brainstorming to a team's challenge to solve a vehicle safety problem by tomorrow!

My industrial experience with the latter has brought me to the appreciation of what can be accomplished by an individual or a team working only from memory; i.e., without crutches such as computers, cell phones, and handbooks. It begins with an assigned problem, then a search for information to compliment a technologist's short-term and long-term memory, and finishes with a cloistered, intense, brainstorming event. Multiple solution concepts (non-engineered ideas) are found without filtering.

There is a down side in this experience. As the cloistered team progresses in its intense discussion, fresh ideas begin to wane and the leader is found wanting in ways to rejuvenate its enthusiasm. This was the beginning of my interest in learning, developing, and teaching structured problem solving methodology. This blog is designed for problem solvers to share ideas in heuristics and thinking models for problem solving.

A glossary of problem solving terminology is available on this blog. It is living document meant to accommodate new and missing terms. Please submit yours.

 


 

 About

 Early Experience with Problem-solving Heuristics

Original motivation for studying theories of problem solving arose from my experience at Ford Motor Company with cloistered fresh eyes teams, CFET (ca. 1975). This brief program involved four events. A different company problem was addressed at each event with different participants. They were selected according to their experience and its relevance to the specific topic to be addressed.This was an exercise in bare-brainstorming; meaning that no crutches were allowed like smart phones and handbooks.

The goal of these exercises was to generate as many solution concepts for a problem as rapidly as possible. These were the first ideas to come to mind and the instant spin-off reactions that accompanied them. No time was given to engineering. That would come later after all ideas were recorded and filtered.

Two memories stand out about this experiment. The first is how well the participants did with team brainstorming. Each session was very productive with fresh ideas. However, the other memory is of how brainstorming began to wane in an hour or so. My analysis of this problem was that we did not have any heuristics for reinvigorating the excitement of problem solving. This experience led eventually to my interest in studying and developing theories of problem solving and heuristics for rapid generation of solution concepts.

 

Theories of Problem Solving

[Scope of writings found here:     <-- Note by Sickafus for himself.]

A variety of writings are presented, in the several menus above, discussing theories of problem solving. They contain developments in structured problem solving since the mid 20th century. Demonstrations of various heuristics are given. Emphasis is placed on degrees of method from intuitive brainstorming, having no theoretical basis, to rather sophisticated, logical, structured methodologies. My main interest underlying these papers is how the brain solves problems.

Several definitions will help to understand what you can expect to find and what is not to be expected. These definitions include the words problem, solution, heuristic, theory, structure, and logic. Others will be defined as needed.

 


 

Theories of Problem Solving for Innovation and Invention

Ed Sickafus

I. Meaning of problem

It occurred to me, in a moment of conscious access (to be explained later), that the title of this essay might best be introduced one word at a time beginning with the meaning of problem. Furthermore, that this is an essay on theories of problem solving for innovation and invention, it seems to require the perspective of the unusual, the unexpected, and the not so obvious. That's the perspective. The goal eventually is to understand how the brain identifies, analyzes, and solves problems – a model or theory. The strategy unfolds as follows.

Problems can occur at a point where and when one or more objects are in contact. Did I say, "… one or …?" Yes. The tongue of the object person can touch the object's nose, for example. Thus, a problem has objects, which have location (point of contact), time, and 'contact'. Given these conditions a problem, to be a problem, has to have an unwanted effect associated with the point of contact. This implies that effects (also called functions) are what points of contact are all about. An unwanted effect is a mal function; i.e., a problem. You can think of function as the reason for the existence of a contact in the first place; i.e., an engineer's design intent. The word function puts life into the metaphor point-of-contact.

Notice that the words object, point, contact, and function have not been defined. Here's my spin on those concepts.

Point is a metaphorical simplification of volume, area, line, and time to a tiny spatial or temporal location of mental focus.

Function (or effect) is the existence of change (or its prevention) of attributes of the objects in contact. Multiple functions can occur at the same point of contact.

Attributes characterize objects. They distinguish otherwise identical objects.

Contact (also interaction) is a metaphor for how (and where) one object 'knows' the presence of another, which occurs through the interaction of their attributes. This includes action at a distance, such as, resulting from a field (e.g., electric, gravitational, etc.). Radiation from a hot object may cause impurities in a 'contacting' object to diffuse modifying the local concentration gradient attribute.

A small hole in two plates in an electrolytic solution and at different potentials, regulate the amount of current flowing between them. When a blood cell passes through the hole, the rate of flow changes and a pulse of current is registered. Voilà! We have a blood-cell counter. The hole and blood cell represent a dimensional scale on the order of 10 microns (10-5 meters).

A book resting on a table constitutes two objects in contact. The function of the table is to localize the book in space and time. The weight of the book interacts, at the point of contact, with the elasticity of the table to counteract the force of gravity that would otherwise destabilize book's location. Multiple functions and other attributes may be active at the same location with or without other objects – an opportune point of focus for innovation and invention.

So what's going on at the point of contact; i.e. what's unique about it? Gravity is not unique. It's there before, during, and after the interaction. What's happening is that the elasticity of table, an attribute of table, interacts with the weight (gravitational force) of book, an attribute of book, to stabilize book's location in space and time. The function (the effect) of the interaction is to counteract gravity. Note, in reverse, object–attribute–function, OAF, more on this later. That is what this two-object interaction was designed to accomplish.

In essence, attributes of objects at a point of contact interact to support a function that changes or stabilizes attributes of an object. Of course objects have many attributes. They distinguish objects form each other. However, not all of their attributes are active (in use) at a given functional contact. Here, in unused attributes, lie potential roots of innovation and invention. By design we can turn on or off attributes to achieve fixes to mal functions and creation of new functions.

So you're walking past your desk and drop a book on it for later use. However, the book slides off and lands on the floor. That's a problem situation. Can you find a problem and solution concepts to this problem by turning on and off attributes of these objects? Begin with a point of contact. Identify objects and their active and inactive attributes at your chosen point.

Once an OAF concept has been established there may be opportunities for scaling and invention.

Consider a molecule-size hole, ca. 1 nanometer or 10,000 times smaller than a blood cell. Again add an electrolyte and a potential difference, which together produce an electrophoretic force that can move even a DNA molecule through the hole and thereby count it. (M. Muthukumar, C. Plesa, and C. Dekker, Physics Today, Aug. 2015)

We have arrived at theories of problem solving for innovation and invention.

But wait a minute! There's more to the definition of a problem than has been covered here. After all a problem does not occur at a point of contact! (That'll give you pause after reading the above paragraphs.) A point of contact is where a problem situation becomes apparent. Ah ha! 'Becomes apparent' is getting closer to a problem.

When our unconscious recognizes an unwanted effect and points it out to our conscious, now we have a problem. This recognition becomes a disturbance on the brain's neural network that must be attended to instantaneously. The brain, to ascertain whether it is a threat to its homeostasis, must attend quickly to such a disturbance. If not a threat, it becomes a problem that can be dealt with in due, thoughtful time. From this conclusion we infer that a solution is anything that quells a neural net disturbance.

For the moment, I'll settle for these definitions of a problem situation, a problem, and the latter's solution. One caveat is needed. Beware the problem situation. Herein may hide multiple problems with complex interactions, an overwhelming mental challenge.

Current technical minds have learned how to tackle a problem situation. First it is identified in its full threatening complexity. Next it is parsed into individual problems. These are then broken down to points of contact of objects. Since we can solve only one problem at a time, the next step is to pick a single point of contact and there to minimize the number of objects to be dealt with, like 3, 2 or even 1 object. Now a single problem is analyzed and multiple solution concepts found using theories of problem solving.

Solution concept needs definition too. Then theories will be defined.

Follow the Blogs for more.

 


 

Problem Solving Theories

Problem Solving Theories ( I. Meaning of Problem)   ==> PDF  (3 pages)

\WordPress\Problem solving theories Introduction.doc 10:06 AM 8/23/2015   Aug. 23, 2015

 

Problem Solving Theories

Ed Sickafus

I. Meaning of problem

It occurred to me, in a moment of conscious access (to be explained later), that the title of this blog might best be introduced one word at a time beginning with the meaning of problem. Furthermore, that this is a blog on theories of problem solving for innovation and invention, it seems to require the perspective of the unusual, the unexpected, and the not so obvious. That's the perspective. The goal eventually is to understand how the brain identifies, analyzes, and solves problems – a model or theory. The strategy unfolds as follows.

Problems can occur at a point where and when one or more objects are in contact. Did I say, "... one or ...?" Yes. The tongue of the object person can touch the object's nose, for example. Thus, a problem has objects, which have points of contact, time, and location. Given these conditions a problem, to be a problem, has to have an unwanted effect associated with the point of contact. This implies that effects (also called functions) are what points of contact are all about. An unwanted effect is a mal function; i.e., a problem. You can think of function as the reason for the existence of a contact in the first place; i.e., an engineer's design intent. The word function puts life into the metaphor point-of-contact.

Notice that the words object, point, contact, and function have not been defined. (See Glossary for definitions.) Here are examples of problems starting out with the need of solution concepts (as do all problems).

A small hole in two plates in an electrolytic solution and at different potentials, regulate the amount of current flowing between them. When a blood cell passes through the hole, the rate of flow changes and a pulse of current is registered. Voilà! We have a blood-cell counter. The hole and blood cell represent a dimensional scale on the order of 10 microns (10-5 meters).

Hole is not an object. It is an attribute of an object. Hole size, electric field strength, and induced charge on a particle regulate the current through the hole.

A book resting on a table constitutes two objects in contact. The function of the table is to localize the book in space and time. The weight of the book interacts, at the point of contact, with the elasticity of the table to counteract the force of gravity that would otherwise destabilize book's location. Multiple functions and other attributes may be active at the same location with or without other objects – an opportune point of focus for innovation and invention.

So what's going on at the point of contact; i.e. what's unique about it? Gravity is not unique. It's there before, during, and after the interaction. What's happening is that the elasticity of table, an attribute of table, interacts with the weight of book, an attribute of book, to stabilize book's location in space and time. The function (the effect) of the interaction is to stabilize location of book. (Note, in reverse order, object–attribute–function, OAF, more on this later.) That is what this two-object interaction was designed to accomplish.

In essence, attributes of objects at a point of contact interact to support a function that changes or stabilizes attributes of an object. Of course objects have many attributes. They distinguish otherwise similar objects form each other. However, not all of their attributes are active (in use) at a given functional contact. Here, in unused attributes, lie potential roots of innovation and invention. By design we can turn on or off attributes to achieve fixes to mal functions and creation of new functions.

So you're walking past your desk and drop a book on it for later use. However, the book slides off and lands on the floor. That's a problem situation. Can you find a problem and solution concepts to this problem by turning on and off attributes of these objects? Begin with a point of contact. Identify objects and their active and inactive attributes at your chosen point. (Need help getting started? My solutions can be found on this blog at /EXAMPLES/1. BOOK SLIDING OFF TABLE.)

Once an OAF concept has been established there may be opportunities for scaling and invention.

Consider a molecule-size hole, ca. 1 nanometer or 10,000 times smaller than a blood cell. Again add an electrolyte and a potential difference, which together produce an electrophoretic force that can move even a DNA molecule through the hole and thereby count it. (M. Muthukumar, C. Plesa, and C. Dekker, Physics Today, Aug. 2015)

We have arrived at theories of problem solving for innovation and invention.

But wait a minute! There's more to the definition of a problem than has been covered here. After all, a problem does not occur at a point of contact! (That'll give you pause after reading the above paragraphs.) A point of contact is where a problem situation becomes apparent. Ah ha! 'Becomes apparent' is getting closer to a problem, or to its starting point of realization.

When our unconscious recognizes an unwanted effect and points it out to our conscious, now we have a problem. This recognition becomes a disturbance on the brain's neural network that must be attended to instantaneously. The brain, to ascertain whether it is a threat to its homeostasis, must attend quickly to such a disturbance. If not a threat, it becomes a problem that can be dealt with in due, thoughtful time. From this conclusion we infer that a solution is anything that quells a neural net disturbance.

Beware the problem situation. Herein may hide multiple problems with complex interactions, an overwhelming mental challenge.

Current technical minds have learned how to tackle a problem situation. First it is identified in its full threatening complexity. Next it is parsed into individual problems. These are then broken down to points of contact of objects. Since we can solve only one problem at a time, the next step is to pick a single point of contact and there to minimize the number of objects to deal with, like 3, 2 or even 1 object. Here a single problem is analyzed and multiple solution concepts found using theories of problem solving – i.e., using heuristics, tricks and techniques that aid one's thinking.

Think heuristic. Then think big – everything is a heuristic.

Follow the Blogs for more.

 


 

USIT

  History                    [Vacant]

 

  Unified Structured Inventive Thinking — An Overview

USIT - An Overview  (See 'Books, Overview, Tutorial' page)  ==> PDF (45 pages, (2001)) 

  I3                         [Vacant]

See 'Introspection-Insight-Innovation Slides Oct. 2015'   ==> PDF 

  Brief USIT Tutorial

Brief USIT Tutorial (See 'Books, Overview, Tutorial' page) ==> PDF (48 pages, ICSI2014 (2014))

 

 

Heuristics

  Early Experience with Problem-solving Heuristics   ==> See

 


 

  Blog         
  Essays
  Examples
  Publications         

           ==>  See the next page: (B) Blog Articles and Publications                       

 

 

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Sickafus Memorial Archive  Index page

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(2) Historical index (B) Case studies

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(3) Sickafus' Books

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(5) Sickafus' USIT site

(6) Sickafus' WordPress site (A) Top

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(7) Sickafus' USIT NewsLetters

(8) Sickafus' Communicatios, Misceraneous Articles

(9) Comments by others

(10) From Readers 

USIT Overview (2001)

Brief USIT Tutorial (2015)

Japanese Archives Index page

 

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  Last updated on Mar. 22, 2020.   Access point:  Editor: nakagawa@ogu.ac.jp