Friday, February 1, 2019

Problem-solving reconfigured

Eugenia Cheng, author of The Art of Logic in an Illogical World, gave a talk titled, How to Think Like a Mathematician at The Royal Institution. She argues that pure math is about how to think, rather than about how to exclusively work with numbers. She addresses how she uses math to think about analogies, interconnectedness, relationships, pivots, and intelligence. Cheng provides her audience with methods to gain flexibility to our thinking, which is a goal that design often seeks to accomplish.
Two different maps of the London tube.
"You can think about certain aspects of a situation for some purposes and other aspects for other purposes." - Eugenia Cheng

Her explanation of interconnectedness was familiar and compelling. She explains that framing problems in a specific way can lead to more illuminating and productive arguments, or problem-solving. Problems should be evaluated, not linearly or by individual factors, but as a web of relationships. This bigger picture should help stakeholders distill and better evaluate the broader dynamic that is driving a problem.

Cheng's flowchart of The United Incident.
Cheng's flowchart of The 2016 US Election.

This is familiar to me because I am a student currently studying pathophysiology, where interconnected processes form cycles that literally represent the difference between life or death. Specifically, there are both positive and negative feedback loops for every bodily process, ranging from the kidney regulation of blood pressure to the oxytocin delivery to the uterus to stimulate contractions.

Homeostatic feedback loop.

I can attest that framing processes or problems as charts is incredibly useful to both the dissemination, interpretation, and policy- or procedure-building of solutions to problems both broad and small. (Otherwise, modern medicine wouldn't be a thing.) Most importantly, I think that Cheng's (rather preliminary, to some) idea of interconnectedness is useful to design because it's a reminder of inclusivity and transparency.

No comments:

Post a Comment