Problem-solving Techniques (May 19)
Taking an organized approach to solving a problem is a good thing. Involving more people in this process to create more options is generally always helpful. Just involving other people has proven to be very useful, especially if those people have some influence over the process/action needed.
Coming up with a creative and realistic solution is what problem-solving is about. Implementing that solution requires another whole set of skills, and like problem-solving, usually works better when lots of differently skilled and differently thinking people are involved. Taking this idea of solution implementation apart, we can come up with many of the same components as we would in implementing any project. Project planning is another whole world of ideas, e.g., see (http://www.projectsmart.co.uk/project-planning-step-by-step.html). Project management is the other side of the coin as it deals with the organization of the implementation, ranging from people management to resource management (e.g., money, raw materials, supplies, consultants, service providers, etc.). The take-home message here is that 1) solutions can be quite complicated from the start (figuring out the solution), through the middle (planning and managing the activity), to the end (evaluating the process and outcomes); 2) there are many supporting “disciplines” to deal with this complicated process (project planning, project management, scheduling tools, organizing software, database, financial tracking, etc.); and 3) there are many organizations that do this (architect/engineering, design firms, project management consultants, etc.). So there is a lot of experienced help out there to deal with complex social and scientific activities targeted at getting something done (landing a man on the moon, building a nuclear power plant, paying for health care for 100 million elderly people, feeding the world).
While this can be both intimidating and expensive, one important thing to keep in mind is that despite the complexity of the planning and implementation, the basic idea of the solution can still be very simple. Thus Wendell Berry’s critique of agribusiness is that despite the government’s $89 billion dollar USDA investment (2008), the hundreds of university research departments, the trillions of dollars of commercial and industrial dollars invested in agribusiness, and the huge consulting industry that has emerged to support agriculture — we still need to ask the simple question: Is the food and the land (= ecosystem) better as a result? The simple problem definition approaches that Professor Hughes leads us through are relevant to this question, despite the “sophistication” and complexity of the agribusiness system.
So in your comment here, think about a problem that you are interested in, think about DOCSKEYS, and reflect on whether you think that a solution that society has chosen is a good one.