Saturday, May 23, 2009

We're all Creative

In Moving To Higher Ground, Wynton Marsalis writes that creativity is not the province of  a small, specialized group of people but that everyone is creative.  He gets kids to blast away on instruments doing whatever and points out that they are creating.

He goes on to say "I told you it was easy [to be creative].  It's only hard if you want to sound good."
We don't lack creativity.  The trick is bringing that creativity to fruition.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Relationship of Art & Science

Too often we focus on our strengths. Scientists & engineers have strong analytical skills and cultivate those throughout their education. Others have artistic skills and cultivate those. Frequently this is of necessity because we don't have time for both. Mae Jemison, an astronaut, doctor, and dancer (not necessarily in that order) talks about the relationship between art and science in a TED talk.

Problem solving requires creativity and as I've mentioned before, developing our creativity requires developing all parts of our mind. Try doing something new. Even if you aren't successful (or even moderately good), it will stimulate your mind. Bust out the crayons and color with your kids, try photography, write a Haiku, who knows what. Just try something you wouldn't normally do today.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Scientific Method and Problem Solving

In the scientific method one suggests a hypothesis and then tries to find evidence disproving it. Failure to find evidence that refutes the theory means the theory is true.

This approach is a more robust method of problem solving than suggesting a solution (hypothesis) and then doing experiments to support it.

As Heuer points out in Chapter 4 of his book, a hypothesis (solution) can never be proven by even a large body of evidence since many hypotheses may be consistent with the evidence, but a single instance of incompatible evidence is enough to sink a hypothesis.

When suggesting solutions, plan some experiments that seek to disprove them. If you are unable to cause your solution to fail deliberately, it will be that much stronger.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Psychology of Intelligence Analysis

I recently came across a book written for Intelligence Analysts in the CIA. After reading just the introduction and the a couple of chapters I can tell it will be the subject of several (many?) future posts. Although this book by Richards Heuer, Jr. is directed towards the analysis of what I call "soft" information, it is equally useful for scientists and engineers working with more concrete (or simple) evidence.

Psychology of Intelligence Analysis is available on-line. There is also a 2006 version available .

This book is about avoiding pitfalls when analyzing information and looks like it will address the topic from a higher level. In Chapter 2 Heuer already addresses the issues of simple evidence and confirmation bias. Heuer points out that "We tend to perceive what we expect to perceive" It is easier to notice data that already fits into our mind-set and is similar to what we already know. This is a little different than perceiving what we want to perceive which I think is a little easier to recognize and avoid.