Decision Making and Problem Solving Book Summary - Decision Making and Problem Solving Book explained in key points
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Decision Making and Problem Solving summary

John Adair

Break Through Barriers and Banish Uncertainty at Work

3.9 (63 ratings)
17 mins

What is Decision Making and Problem Solving about?

Decision Making and Problem Solving (2019) explains decision-making, problem-solving, and creative thinking. It provides instructions for building and improving these skills and explores the importance of these abilities enabling you to expand your practical thinking capacity.

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    Decision Making and Problem Solving
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    Types of Practical Thinking and Your Mind’s Metafunctions

    Have you ever stopped to think about thinking?

    The ability to think, to string together thoughts, to make conscious decisions – this sets humans apart from most of the animal kingdom. But how do we do it?

    Yes, of course, we have physical brains in our heads with cells that send electrical signals. But that’s the mechanical system behind the actual thoughts. According to the author, John Adair, there are three types of applied thinking we use: decision-making, problem-solving, and creative thinking. They do have a lot in common and overlap a bit, but we can distinguish between them.

    Decision-making involves choosing to take a certain action, often selecting from a few options- Problem-solving involves coming up with solutions or answers to obstacles. And creative thinking involves generating ideas, whether entirely new ones or different variations of existing ideas.

    For common or routine actions, we might not need to think at all. When was the last time you consciously thought about your everyday commute to work? Or how to brush your teeth? Unless something unexpected crops up – an accident that forces you to drive a different route, a toothbrush that tumbles into the toilet – you probably don’t really have to think about how to complete these familiar actions. But whenever we face something new or unexpected, anything involving a choice, we often end up using one or more of the three types of thinking.

    But how do we actually employ our thinking when dealing with something unfamiliar? How do we make a decision or solve a problem?

    This is where the metafunctions of the mind come into play. Adair’s model of the mind includes three metafunctions: analyzing, synthesizing, and valuing. When we consciously think, we use at least one of these three functions.

    When analyzing, we break down a thing or idea into its component parts to see how they work together. This doesn’t involve a complete separation though – imagine loosening a knot only enough to be able to trace how the rope loops around itself.

    Synthesizing, on the other hand, is putting things together to get something whole. Imagine assembling Lego to build a castle. Or putting together the ideas of feathers, a warm body, wings, a beak, and a long neck to assemble a full understanding of a swan.

    Valuing involves judgment. If we’re making informed valuations, we use valuing alongside synthesis and analysis to judge things. For example, you might use the first two metafunctions to come up with possible solutions to a problem, then use valuing to determine which solutions to cut and which to pursue.

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    About the Author

    John Adair is an academic from the UK. Before entering academia, he worked in many fields, including in a hospital operating theater and on an Arctic trawler. He has authored over 50 books, several of which have been translated into over 30 languages.

    Who should read Decision Making and Problem Solving?

    • Business leaders who want to improve their teams’ decision-making and problem-solving.
    • Employees seeking to polish their practical thinking skills
    • Anyone interested in elevating their capacity for creative and critical thinking

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