I like two Georges’ ways of thinking, so I’ve taken note of them here.
From George Pólya’s method for mathematical problem solving:
1 Understand the problem
- What is the unknown?
- What are the data?
- What is the condition?
- Can the problem be solved?
- What can you or need you assume?
- What shouldn’t you assume?
- Have you made subconscious assumptions?
3 Devising a plan of attack
- Have you seen this or a related problem before?
- Have you seen a similar unknown before?
- Can you restate the problem?
- If you can’t solve this problem, can you solve a similar or simpler problem?
- Are you sure of the solution? Can you see it at a glance?
- Did you use all the data? the whole condition?
- Can you get the same solution another way?
- Are there other valid solutions?
- Can you apply the solution or method to another problem?
- Was this a satisfying problem to solve?
I was lucky to have a different George, George Heilmeier, as my boss’ boss back when I worked at TI’s Artificial Intelligence Lab in the 80s, but I had no idea how famous or important he really was. I just knew he was cool.
From George Heilmeier’s method for solving research challenges:
- What are you trying to do? Articulate your objectives using absolutely no jargon.
- How is it done today, and what are the limits of current practice?
- What is new in your approach and why do you think it will be successful?
- Who cares? If you are successful, what difference will it make?
- What are the risks?
- How much will it cost?
- How long will it take?
- What are the mid-term and final “exams” to check for success?
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