A Short Reading on Problem Solving
On August 4th, 2003, right before the start of school that year, I
ran across an interesting article highlihgted on the firt page of the New
Brainstorm to Breakthrough: A Surgical Procedure is Born.
Since then, I have introduced and discussed this article during my first
few lectures (I primarily teach freshmen) every semester.
The article discusses the history of a simple operation for treating "Short
It comprises many interesting educational themes that resonate with me:
The article is of moderate size, but easy to read.
It illustrates a common pattern: first an idea is dismissed; eventually
it is seriously examined; finally it is thought obvious -and no one can
understand why it wasn't discovered sooner.
By observing this pattern we might be able to avoid it -although as humans,
the odds are against us.
- Simplicity vs. Complexity.
- The difficulty for unorthodox ideas to find acceptance by authority
([Students]are not here to worship what is known, but to question it
- Questions vs. Answers -or how asking a better question leads to a better
The name "Short Bowel Syndrome" itself implies that the question that must
be answered is, "How can we make the bowel longer."
By recasting the problem into more general terms, admitting to different
kinds of questions, Dr. Kim was able to explore radically different
-and better- kinds of solutions.