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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tools of the Trade

Microscopes, Telescopes, and Kaleidoscopes

     Selecting the right instrument for any task is important. A microscope is too often employed in the analysis of reports and statistics. Robert J. Kriegel, writing in his book, If it ain’t broke… BREAK IT!, refers to a puzzle that demonstrates how we often apply sophisticated problem solving templates on challenges that are relatively simple, thus confusing efforts. He uses the test below to illustrate his point.(Kriegel, 136)

     Which of the following letters is most out of place?

The two most common answers are either the “c”, because it lacks a stem, or the “p”, because it

doesn’t follow the alphabetical pattern. However, the correct answer is the large “t” formed to divide

the four letters that it dwarfs. A trick? No, just a hasty application of preconceived solutions.
Some results are very difficult to understand from up close under a microscope. Immersion can obscure an investigation. Instead we could benefit by exploring distant possibilities and forecasting future opportunities with a telescope. Once we have our target in sight we can view the data through a kaleidoscope that offers ever-changing patterns and perspectives. Rowan refers to the practice of kaleidoscopic thinking as, “The ability to see new patterns in old phenomena by taking the existing fragments, twisting them, and coming up with an exciting new view.”(Rowan, 175) The intention, as Waterman advises, is to seek “a difference that makes a difference.”(Waterman, 124)


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