Unit 7: Strategic Reasoning and Creativity
While the majority of this course has focused on the types of reasoning that is necessary to critique and evaluate existing knowledge, or to extend our knowledge in accordance with correct procedures and rules, there remains an enormous branch of our reasoning practice that runs in the opposite direction. Strategic reasoning, problem solving, and creative thinking all rely on an ineffable component of novelty supplied by the thinker.
Despite the seemingly mystical nature of such activity, problem solving and creative thinking are best approached by following a set of tried and tested procedures, which prompt our cognitive faculties to produce new ideas and solutions by extending our existing knowledge. In this unit, you will investigate techniques for problem solving, representing complex problems visually, making decisions in risky and uncertain scenarios, and creative thinking in general.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 2 hours.
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:
- illustrate several types of problems and explain how to understand and problem-solve for each;
- use visualization tools to analyze problems;
- explain the principles of creative thinking and their implications; and
- compare the methods for approaching problems creatively as a means to think creatively about real-world problems.
7.1: Strategic Reasoning
Read this tutorial about what to consider when defining a problem and the three major classifications that problems usually fall under. Problem solving is an activity that combines skills of critical and creative thinking. The first task in any problem-solving scenario is to identify the type of problem one is dealing with.
Complete the exercises for this tutorial, and check your answers.
Read this tutorial, which outlines the mathematician George Pólya’s four-step procedure for problem solving.
Read this tutorial, which introduces the technique of process analysis. This course has focused primarily on problems that are relatively simple in structure. You should be aware that many problems encountered will be highly complex, involving multiple variables and a mixture of problem types. You will read about flowcharts next.
Read this section on flowcharts. It may also be helpful to review subunit 6.2.5 on cause-and-effect diagrams. There are several useful visual techniques to facilitate solving complex problems.
Read this tutorial about basic decision-making rules. Decision theory provides tools for evaluating the best course of action in scenarios involving risk and uncertainty.
7.2: Creative Thinking
Read this tutorial on principles of creative thinking. Creativity is a ubiquitous human activity, not just the province of artists and inventors. Human beings solve problems creatively every day. The nature of creativity thus incorporates both spectacular creative acts and more modest instances of creative reasoning. This tutorial explains what all forms of creativity have in common.
Read this tutorial on the creativity cycle. Although there remains something mysterious about just what occurs during a flash of creative inspiration, there are nonetheless certain definite procedures that encourage creative thinking. This tutorial outlines a repeatable four-step process for creativity based on what is known objectively about the production of novel ideas and solutions.
Read these tutorials, which offer procedures for initiating creative thinking on the basis of factual knowledge we already possess. The quotations in the second tutorial demonstrate how these procedures form part of the creative process of some of the most famous minds in art, science, and philosophy.
Consider your experiences with thinking creatively. In particular, using a personal experience as an example, discuss whether, and to what extent, one of the strategies in this section for thinking creatively has been/would have been helpful.
Share your thoughts on the discussion forum by clicking on the link above and creating a free account, if you have not already done so. Review and respond to at least one or two other students’ posts.