Monday, October 1, 2007

Quotes: Problem Solving

A collection of quotes on various topics. The sentnece in bold face is a plain statement of the quote that follows.

Problem Solving
While doing something else, I solved in my mind a different problem.
Problem Solving 88 Albert Schweitzer: While I was building [buildings], I managed to work out the fingering problem for a difficult Bach cantata. Anderson, The Schweitzer Album.

Education must involve problem-solving skills.
Problem solving 254 More than ever, an education that emphasizes general problem-solving skills will be important. Gates, The Road Ahead.

Bring together every agency concerned with the problem and give the chairman the responsibility to make recommendations.
Problem solving 390 By bringing together working representatives of every agency concerned with the matter and giving one man [the chairman] the job of producing recommendations, the task force could greatly improve the speed and coordination with which policy was made. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

JFK tried to look for areas on which he and his opposition could agree, while defining and accepting the inevitable differences between them.
Problem solving 516 He [Kennedy] gave the impression that he was looking for areas where he and they could work together; where disagreement was unavoidable, then let each side understand the reasons and respect the differences. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

JFK did not recriminate, but always tried to figure out what to do next.
Problem solving 631 Kennedy…wasted little time in recrimination and always buckled down promptly to the problem of what to do next. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

Present alternatives and then make clear decisions.
Problem solving 631 Above all, the responsibility of the staff, Kennedy said, was to make certain that “important matters are brought here in a way which permits a clear decision after alternatives have been presented.” Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

A total solution is rarely possible.
Problem solving 679 JFK: “We simply must reconcile ourselves to the fact that a total solution is impossible in a nuclear age.” Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

Insoluble problems lead to extremism, hysteria and the desire for simplistic solutions.
Problem solving 690 JFK: An age of insoluble problems…breeds extremism, hysteria, a weakness for simple and passionate solutions. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

In critical periods, there are always those who suggest simplistic solutions, slogans and scapegoats.
Problem solving 690 JFK: “In the most critical periods of our nation’s history, there have always been those on the fringes of our society who have sought to escape their own responsibility by finding a simple solution, an appealing slogan or a convenient scapegoat.” Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

You ask why? I ask, why not?
Problem solving 811 JFK: …recalled the lines from Back to Methuselah: “You see things and you say ‘why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘why not?’” Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

If problems are man-made, they can be solved by men.
Problem solving 823 JFK: “Our problems are man made—therefore, they can be solved by man.” Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

We might not live to see the conclusion, but we must take the first step.
Problem solving 277 JFK: All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days...nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet...but let us begin. Sorenson, Kennedy

JFK sought recommendations for clear solutions to problems.
Problem solving 290 He[Kennedy] often expressed impatience with lengthy memoranda from certain aides which boiled down to recommendations that he “firm up our posture” or “make a new effort” on some particular problem. Sorenson, Kennedy

For difficult and complicated problems, JFK tried to come up with first steps.
Problem solving 439 To help the next generation, he [Kennedy] was always fashioning, not grand designs, but single steps—toward disarmament and space discoveries and salt water conversion and an end to illiteracy and disease. Sorenson, Kennedy

We must be willing to resist force, but we must also be willing to talk.
Problem solving 575 JFK: “A willingness to resist force, unaccompanied by a willingness to talk, could provoke belligerence—while a willingness to talk, unaccompanied by a willingness to resist force, could invite disaster. Sorenson, Kennedy

Solutions to problems like achieving peace existed only in the distant future, the result of many actions leading to the solution.
Problem solving 582 JFK: Peace…was a long haul, ‘the sum of many acts.’ Sorenson, Kennedy

The world is dangerous and disorderly and we will have to learn to live with it.
Problem solving 608 JFK: “I think it is a very dangerous untidy world…we will have to live with it.” Sorenson, Kennedy

JFK: My duty is to make decisions based on as much direct, firsthand knowledge as possible.
Problem solving 611 JFK: “It is my duty to make decisions that no adviser and no ally can make for me…to see that these decisions are as informed as possible, that they are based on as much direct, firsthand knowledge as possible.” Sorenson, Kennedy

Deal directly with people, not through letters and ambassadors.
Problem solving 650 [Kennedy]…encouraged State Department officials to deal with their counterparts first hand on special crises instead of through letters and ambassadors. Sorenson, Kennedy

When dealing with problems, you cannot count on the other side’s backing down.
Problem solving 671 But no one knew when either side, convinced that the other would back down, might precipitate a situation from which neither could back down. Sorenson, Kennedy

When dealing with problems, don’t use rigid formulas.
Problem solving 675 JFK: “We are committed to no rigid formula…we see no perfect solution.” Sorenson, Kennedy

Rusk used prolonged discussions to avert deadlines and disasters.
Problem solving 675 Rusk…tirelessly and skillfully demonstrated the value of using prolonged discussions to avert deadlines and disaster. Sorenson, Kennedy

Our goal is to control force in the world, not seek to use it.
Problem solving 703 JFK: “Our foremost aim is the control of force, not the pursuit of force, in a world made safe for mankind.” Sorenson, Kennedy

RFK made the difference, not because of his ideas, but because he elicited questions, alternatives and arguments while people constantly came into and left the meeting.
Problem solving 765 …the best performer…was the Attorney General [Robert Kennedy]—not because of any particular idea he advanced, not because he presided (no one did), but because of his constant prodding, questioning, eliciting arguments and alternatives and keeping the discussions concrete and moving ahead, a difficult task as different participants came in and out. Sorenson, Kennedy

Always give your opponent a way to save face.
Problem solving 768 Our response would have to offer the Soviets a way out…. Sorenson, Kennedy

Begin by defining the issues.
Problem solving 773 A day of meetings in the State Department…had made some progress in defining the issues. Sorenson, Kennedy

He prepared a list with areas of agreement, disagreement, possibilities and unanswered questions.
Problem solving 773 I [Sorenson] had prepared a four-page memorandum outlining the areas of agreement and disagreement, the full list of possibilities and (biggest of all) the unanswered questions. Sorenson, Kennedy

Subcommittees listed possible solutions, possible enemy responses and possible responses by us to their responses.
Problem solving 776 On Thursday afternoon subcommittees were set up to plot each of the major courses in detail…kind of blockade…likely Soviet response…U.S responses to Communist responses. Sorenson, Kennedy

Begin with the lowest level solution, leaving yourself the possibility to move up to the next, more difficult solution.
Problem solving 780 He [Kennedy] liked the idea of leaving Khrushchev a way out, of beginning at a low level that could be stepped up. Sorenson, Kennedy

With the issues nebulous, I tried to put in writing what the specific issues were.
Problem solving 780 Yet it was true that the blockade approach remained somewhat nebulous, and I [Sorenson] agreed to write the first rough draft of a blockade speech as a means of focusing on specifics. Sorenson, Kennedy

I began with a list of questions.
Problem solving 781 Back in my office the original difficulties with the blockade route stared me in the face: …relate it to the missiles? …how help to get the missiles out? ….what if they became operational? …say what about our surveillance… [and] communicating with Khrushchev? …returned to the group late that afternoon with these questions instead of a speech…concrete answers…provided in…discussions. Sorenson, Kennedy

With serious problems, avoid giving an adversary an either/or choice.
Problem solving 783 The moral of this crisis: “While defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war.” Sorenson, Kennedy

You need to prepare people to face the facts.
Problem solving 797 He [Kennedy] must have inwardly taken some satisfaction with his labors over the previous two years to prepare the American people to face the facts. Sorenson, Kennedy

Avoid falling into a mood of helplessness and hopelessness.
Problem solving 825 JFK: We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Sorenson, Kennedy

According to the Chinese proverb, a long journey begins with a single step.
Problem solving 831 JFK: According to the ancient Chinese proverb, “A journey of thousand miles must begin with a single step….” Sorenson, Kennedy

The public inaction was the result of a sense of hopelessness in the face of the complexity of the problems.
Problem solving 852 JFK: The public complacency…was partly due to a sense of hopelessness—that wars and recessions and poverty and political mediocrity could not be avoided, and that all the problems of the modern world were too complex to be understood, let alone unraveled. Ssorenson, Kennedy.

One solution to solving problems: take a hot bath.
Problem solving 25 He [Freud] wondered if a good part of the world’s problems might not be solved in a hot bath. Irving Stone, The Passions of the Mind (Life of Freud).

Hearing people’s stories, determine the big issue behind the story.
Problem solving 100 When I hear from individual Americans, I ask myself what is the big-picture issue behind their stories. Bradley, Time Present, Time Past.

Questions the pragmatic approach used by the Kennedys, summing up the pluses and the minuses and then making a decision.
Problem solving 69 Bowles: The question which concerns me about the new [Kennedy] administration is whether it lacks a genuine sense of conviction about what is right and what is wrong…adds up the plusses and minuses of any question and comes up with a conclusion…the pragmatic approach. Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest.

First he identified the problems, then he set groups of people to study them.
Problem solving 241 McNamara had come in at a dead run, by the time he was sworn in he had already identified the hundred problems of the Defense Department, had groups and committees studying them. Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest.

Human beings can solve any problem created by human beings.
Problem solving 111 JFK: No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

One way to solve a problem: don’t be aware of it.
Problem-solving 379 Arthur…was hoping to weather the trouble by refusing to become conscious of it. T. H. White, The Once and Future King.

McNamara’s “tools” for solving problems.
Problem-solving 293 McNamara...devising ingenious tools by which to formulate problems, break them down, distinguish alternatives, establish their quantitative equivalents, compare the effects of different decisions and seek the most favorable results in situations characterized by a great mass of variables. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days

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