It is my belief that with the advent of modern search engines, forums and the like, in general; we as a society are learning to think less for ourselves. It would seem that anything we could possibly need to know is out there on the Internet waiting for us in a nicely packaged web page. All we need to do is enter key words into a search engine. Problem solving is only a click away – or is it really?
This technology has been a fantastic leap forward in many ways and I acknowledge I myself make use of this type of technology on a daily basis. It is the way in which we are “learning” that I call into question. It wasn’t all that long ago that we did not have access to the Internet as it is structured today. We were all compelled to go to a library, review an out-dated encyclopedia, sift through newspaper clippings, read a book or physically consult an expert in order to attempt to gain a better understanding of a given topic or situation.
If we were to look at the introduction of the pocket calculator we could possibly draw similar conclusions on changes to the way in which we learn. The pocket calculator appeared in the early 1970s. There have been many contentious arguments over the past forty years that have suggested that the excessive use of a calculator can have an adverse effect on the overall mental process engaged by an individual – possibly limiting the way in which a person comprehends the processes behind simple mathematical equations. More recently, calculator sales have fallen – could this be because almost every smart phone/smart device has some kind of pocket calculator function built-in? If we were to extend these questions further and include a study on spelling and handwriting, there is a definite shift occurring whether we like it or not – who uses a pen to write a letter these days?
So what is changing?
I believe that the prevalence of the “always on” ideal has had a profound impact on our global society. With the ever increasing demands on individuals to keep up, shortcuts (or in other terms “macros”) have been introduced in order to speed up turnaround times. The problem with this is that the underlying process tends to get lost in translation and many become one step detached from what is actually going on. This, in turn, tends to lead to a wide range of potentially incorrect assumptions and a level of dependency on unknown processes; creating a market for a range of “super geeks” that simply understand the inner workings of something. If we all understood a little more on how to map things out (ie: work things out the long way “by hand”), I think we would be in a far better place. Obviously, this is not entirely practical in every given situation.
What has that got to do with Problem Solving ?
Everything in this universe has a process – known, unknown or assumed from a perspective. If you cannot theologically, theoretically or physically break something down into meaningful steps or parts, you cannot then expect to reconstruct it successfully.
We as a society need to ensure that we at least understand how to research and learn. Unfortunately, the schooling I myself received did not seem to cover “learning” how to learn, or perhaps I was away that day.
It is my belief that learning HOW to learn is the fundamental building block for true education and should be taught as early as possible. Hopefully, the processes and ideas that will be outlined here at Jigsolving.com can be of assistance to others – they seem to work well for me, and have been helping for as long as I can remember.
Promise me that the next time you are engaged in the problem solving process, you’ll stop for a moment and think things through, and maybe even map things out on paper BEFORE hassling the engineer/person next to you or jumping onto your favourite search engine in order to find the answer. You may be surprised to find that you already have all the pieces needed to solve the puzzle yourself. What’s more; you are more likely to be strengthening that gray matter of yours.
If you want to really set yourself a challenge – try problem solving all week without accessing a search engine, unless you’re looking for an online reference chart or similar. Of course, if you actually work at a search engine company, that may prove quite difficult.
PS> Yes, there is a certain level of irony that you more than likely have reached this page using a search engine or the fact that the primary purpose of this site is to share knowledge, thoughts and ideas on problem solving. Remember, I am not suggesting we stop using search engines at all, nor am I suggesting that we shouldn’t discuss technical issues online; I’m merely prodding you with a stick – think first, click later.