Just a quick note to let you know that the book I’ve been working on, Strategic Thinking in Problem Solving, is now officially under contract with Oxford University Press.
“The more cheese, the more holes; but the more holes, the less cheese. Therefore the more cheese, the less cheese.” So goes the paradoxe du fromage à trous. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a little more accuracy on what we mean.
So accuracy—the conformity to truth or to a standard or model (per Merriam-Webster)—is desirable. But past a certain amount, striving for more accuracy isn’t necessarily beneficial.
“Problem solving in medicine is not the same as in military” or so the thinking goes. Of course, there are obvious differences and these differences call for specialized training. But there are also common denominators, and it’s to your benefit to recognize when you can borrow ideas from other disciplines.
Effective problem solvers have both deep and broad knowledge. Depth of knowledge usually isn’t the problem, because it is the central component of many formal training programs. However, most of us don’t receive much training on developing the broad, transferable or generalist skills that make us good strategic thinkers. So you need to take the matter in your own hands.
This is an excerpt of my post on MIT Sloan Executive Education’s innovation@work Blog. I’ve also included below an expanded list of resources.
“When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?”
— John Maynard Keynes
In many situations, we don’t follow Keynes’ approach. In fact, in light of new evidence, we usually don’t update our initial beliefs as much as we should. Bayesian inference can help.
Specifically, Bayesian inference allows you to revise the likelihood of a hypothesis h (the prior) in light of a new item of evidence to get to a posterior. The posterior P(h|d) equals your prior P(h) times the conditional probability of the datum of evidence P(d|h) given the hypothesis divided by the probability of the evidence P(d). That is,