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Thinking tools and problem-solving methods

Image credit: Hannah Busing / unsplash.com

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Oct 16, 2020
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Necessity

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Conciseness

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Let's come up with a list of effective problem-solving methods, thinking tools, and mental models that someone can employ.

The goal is to help people think clearly and reach solutions more effectively. Different problem solving methods may be suitable for different people. So let's list the best ones we know of.

Which thinking method is your favorite?
4
Creative contributions

Meta-learning

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Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain Oct 20, 2020
Humans are different from computers in the sense that humans have the ability to learn new concepts and words from a limited number of examples which contrasts with the traditional methods of computer learning. However, the capacity to meta-learn remains mostly untapped by most of all beyond mere natural learning. We can hence adopt meta-learning as a new set of practice whenever it comes to getting new ideas and concepts formally established in our minds.
In the process of meta-learning, the learner is not trained for a single task, but with a number of tasks with similar characteristics. By its adaptive nature, our brain will then leverage the commonalities across these tasks such that we not only become better at solving each individual task, but also to solve any future tasks better and more quickly. Hence, the process of meta-learning is all about learning to learn. Take for example the learning process of new languages. When we learn a first language foreign to us, we tend to take more time and effort. However, once we learn one or two languages, our brain inherently adapts to the common nature of linguistic logic and syntax, hence making it easier to learn any new languages we might try to learn. Similarly, meta-learning can be objectively used to strengthen our overall cognitive and intellectual prowess as well. With the assistance of the internet and search engines, it is even easier to find the right tools to learn new things. Once we learn a set of similar things, then we can move on to the secondary level of learning to learn; that makes it exponentially easier for future tasks.
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Meta reasoning

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Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain Oct 25, 2020
The processes that monitor our ongoing thought-process and hence control the allocation of mental resources are called metacognition. Metareasoning is the cognitive process that oversees the progress of our reasoning and problem-solving activities, regulating the time and effort devoted to them. In other words, meta reasoning is reasoning about reasoning, which means making intelligent decisions in regard to how to think.
Such a process is generally experienced as feelings of confidence: how certain or uncertain we are about anything we are. These feelings are based on heuristic (short-cut) cues, which are necessarily not reliable. Whatsoever, we naturally rely on these cues to regulate our mental effort. Most meta-reasoning comes from memorization and knowledge retrieval, with little focus on the reasoning itself. If we are confident in our answer, we will act on it. For example, the decision to proceed with any new given task we are given is dependent on our past knowledge and experience. If we are unsure about our own capacity to complete the task, we may hesitate and seek help or give up entirely. However, meta-reasoning aims to obtain a met-level of rationality that might enable us to not just make decisions in a flash of immediate thoughts but to adaptively search for new cognitive strategies that may enable us to perform a task that is relatively new to us. As such, we might reason against the reason to reject the task- “I don’t have the full capacity to perform the job XYZ, but with a bit of help from source A and a reference from person B, I might actually do the job just well.”
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What Are You Really Trying To Do? (WAYRTTD)

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Oct 16, 2020
What are you really trying to achieve? Note the emphasis on "really".

Take a step back and rethink. What is the best definition of your goal?

Here's an example from Shreyas whom I got the method from:

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Using Thought Experiments

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Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain Nov 09, 2020
As the name suggests, thought experiment is the mental tool where we experiment in the thinking process. Basically, thought experiments can be taken as the devices of imagination. We can employ thought experiments for a variety of purposes: entertainment, education, conceptual analysis, exploration, hypothesizing, theory selection, theory implementation and so on. Sometimes when imagination is in absolute demand for understanding something, thought experiments become imperative to learning and creativity. Take for example while learning about things that we cannot directly see: about electrons or the DNA, we are at the disposal of only our thoughts and imagination. In such investigation of otherwise unseen reality, thought experiments are the best tools to come of any knowledge. Not just for understanding things, for understanding the very nature of the thought and ideas, we can use thought experiments.

They become particularly useful in a lot of philosophical discussions and exchanges. The famous trolley thought experiment in the realm of moral-ethical philosophy is one such example. The role of intuition and the human cognition, the bridge between fiction and truth can be very well traversed with the help of thought experiments. Einstein used various thought experiments to think about the nature of reality: for general relativity, he is cited to have imagined a person falling off a roof, or accelerating elevators and blind beetles crawling on curved surfaces. In his famous Cosmos saga documentary, astrophysicist Carl Sagan too uses a lot of thought experiments to explain to the audience the complex ideas of gravity, light and time. Similarly, Neil Degrasse Tyson ingeniously in the revamped Cosmos odyssey uses amazing thought experiments. My personal favourite is when he offers us the audience to imagine being on a spaceship that can travel back and forth in time anywhen we want to, unhindered by all other laws of physics. Though such a thing would be impossible, it sure helps us understand the other messages that we can grasp once we manage to imagine the scenario. What makes thought-experimenting a robust thinking tool is also their interdisciplinary appeal. Not just philosophers and scientists but psychologists, historians, artists and economists to use these approaches to find new lines of thinking and to boost their creative capacities. Once conceived, thought experiments are not just restricted to thoughts, they can be propagated through diagrams, texts and other visual forms as well. They are different from real experiments in that rather than counterfactual reasoning, we use the free-flowing logic of the mind when we thought experimentally. In thought experiments, we always leave a room for personal subjectivity, especially when the experiments are on the philosophical spectrum of things. When we use thought experiments to think through problems, issues or tough decisions, we perform a structured process of intellectual deliberation about possible outcomes and consequences of an action. We imagine hypothetical scenarios and both short and long-term effects. We try to reason beyond the obvious and shed a light on behind the curtain scenarios as well. This way, thought experiments are the most holistic way of attempting to find a solution. We should more often use the power of thought experiments in our personal and professional lives.
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General comments

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarnia year ago
This plaform, hands down! :)
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Darko Savic
Darko Savica year ago
Shubhankar Kulkarnithat's the plan:)
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