Tension Systems

Tension systems is a useful mental model explaining that almost always there are some forces supporting each other and some forces opposing each other. As the previous post discussed, one serious obstacle to adaptive problem-solving is our tendency to oversimplify causal nexus, and we can improve our strategic thinking skills by taking heed of the causal complexity. The model of tension systems not only recognizes the inevitable causal complexity, but also suggests that there is always a tension between driving forces and restraining forces; in any situation, there are some forces supporting each other and some forces opposing each other. Continue reading “Tension Systems”

The Fallacy of the Single Cause vs. Causal Complexity

Causal complexity means that in almost any situation there are many causes behind a single event, including a good deal of random factors and unknown causes. Getting to grips with causal complexity is indispensible for strategic problem-solving, especially for our ability to diagnose the problem, to understand what factors are responsible for the problem and what prevents possible solutions. Yet, our minds are inclined to look for and settle on a single cause, neglecting any causal complexity. This cognitive bias is known as the fallacy of the single cause, sometimes also called the causal reductionism or the causal oversimplification.

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55/5 Rule of Problem-Solving

55/5 rule of problem-solving suggests that often it is preferable to spend more time on identifying and properly framing the problem before trying to solve it. The proportion 55/5 comes from a quote attributed to Albert Einstein (but most likely apocryphal). Einstein supposedly said that if he had only one hour to save the world he would spend 55 minutes identifying and formulating the problem and only 5 minutes solving it. (Another saying attributed to him is that “the formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution”.)

This, however, may be slightly more than just a catchy quote—it also contains a kernel of truth. Research suggests that one difference between experts and novices is that experts spend more time on framing and reframing of the problem.
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