Monday, October 31, 2011

Problem-Solving Thinking Is Becoming a Celebrity

Yes, I'm exaggerating. But suddenly, just as you notice hundreds of Nissan Leaf's when you buy one yourself, I'm noticing references to problem-solving everywhere I look.  Neuroscience is investigating and exploring new evidence of styles of problem solving, books are being written for the mainstream, and articles are being written about the books!

I'm quoting today from a friend's commencement speech. Carl Morgan, an engineer spoke to graduating U of W electrical engineeers last spring about problem-solving. From my perspective, he was also talking about the psychology of coping with life transitions. And he was motivating and inspiring graduates to become good managers of their lives. Here's a small section of that speech that tells the story.

"Everyone in the Core Curriculum has told you, over and over, that you need to be a lifelong learner. And you do.The difference is, before,  most of the things you learned were picked by others. Now, they have to be picked by you. But how? It’s daunting: you’re smart enough to know that there are things that you will need to know, but you don’t know that you need to know them! How do you sort it all out now and make decisions that give direction to your future development.

The punch line is this: An excellent way to sort out your future development is to find a big problem that calls to you, and to then develop yourself through the struggle with its intense demands."
A great message for engineering graduates. We can also think of Carl's words as metaphorical: Core Curriculum stands for all we've been told, and learned, at various transitions of life; graduation, first job, committed relationship, parenthood and on and on to retirement and beyond. Lifelong learning and development can go on forever, if we choose. And so can problem-solving; as an everyday tool, but also as Carl suggests, as an exciting way to challenge yourself through some potentially difficult times.

Carl goes on in his speech to tell the interesting story of his own big problem. I can e-mail you the PDF if you're interested. Just e-mail me at intelligentwomenonly@gmail.com

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