July 12, 2006

Tool for detecting fuzzy thought...

There was a comment that struck me at this post. I had written: Peter Drucker always taught that the key to making decisions is figuring out what the question actually is.

Reader Mike replied: I learned this when I started working alongside of engineers for a few years. It's probably the single most important thing I learned during that time.

Here's another key: things are defined as much by what they are, as what they are not. For example, when somebody suggests a new product that does A, B, and C, we take pains to clearly specify that the product will not do X, Y, or Z. This additional step is crucial in defining the problem we are trying to solve. In engineering terms, it's the difference between a product specification, and a wish list.

In more abstract terms, it's a great tool for detecting fuzzy thought. For example, ask a 9/11 conspiracy buff what the conspiracy could
not have accomplished. What are its limits? If he says that anything was possible, then he's hoist in his own petard - "How do you know that Bill Clinton wasn't behind the whole thing?".

Well-formed thoughts have edges. Poorly-formed thoughts are like clouds that endlessly shift and fill the available space.

The "lack of limits" characterizes a lot of goofix thinking today. Whatever the criticism, people keep raising the bar, and can never be satisfied. A friend wrote to me, "I always point out that the people in the top 10% pay 66% of the taxes and then ask: How much do you think they should pay? What's the right number? I don't think I have ever gotten an answer."

They don't dare, those clot-brains who cry, "Bush is giving tax cuts to the rich!" And they never, ever, ever will give you a definition of "the rich." Probably because they mean you and me and at least half the people in the country, horrid bloodsuckers that we are, stealing from the poor...

Posted by John Weidner at July 12, 2006 9:26 PM
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