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GSBGEN 541: Problem-Solving and Creativity

This is a project-based course on problem solving and creativity. It is expected that everyone who takes the class will work on some significant problem that'€™s currently ongoing (e.g., the design of part of a complex project, a difficult negotiation over a new venture). The course is designed to achieve two goals. First, it will give you tools that should increase the probability that you'€™ll make (hopefully substantial) progress on your problem. Second, it will introduce you to research that explains why it'€™s sensible to try those tools on hard problems---i.e., the point of those tools.nPlease note that the first goal is stated rather cautiously. There are good reasons for this. I expect that most students will be working on hard problems. (Everyone in the class will be getting help from classmates on their particular problem; why bother your peers with an easy problem that you could solve yourself?) An important idea in cognitive science, Newell's Law, says that magic doesn'€™t exist: if a problem-solving method is powerful (very likely to solve a certain type of problem), then it only works on a narrow class of problems. So... this course will not give you tools that are both powerful and general. It can'€™t: such tools don'€™t exist. Happily, improving your problem-solving skills, at least in certain domains, is possible, and that'€™s what the course aims to do.nProgress on hard problems usually requires help from friends and colleagues. Virtually all researchers of creativity agree that most innovations that are both bold and useful involve multiple problem solvers. This course will implement this important pattern by requiring every student to help some classmate with their problem. Carrying out this help will be an important part of your grade. nAnother important empirical regularity in the field of innovation is that when problems are hard many (perhaps most) candidate-solutions don'€™t work out. It'€™s easy to accept that about other people'€™s ideas; about my own, not so much. So a vital component of effective problem-solving is tough-minded evaluation. This implies rejecting bad ideas or bad parts of a would-be solution. Hence, at the end of the course you will be required to evaluate the progress that a classmate has made on his/her problem and to explain your assessment. (For obvious reasons you will not evaluate the same person you'€™re helping.)nIn sum, every student will do three things in this course: generate new ways to make some progress on a problem of their own choosing; help somebody else work on their project; evaluate somebody'€™s progress.
Units: 2 | Grading: GSB Student Option LTR/PF
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