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Taxonomy of Methods
A Partial Summary of All Possible
Techniques for Solving Problems


by Win Wenger, Ph.D.

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Taxonomizing — A way to solve problems by brainstorming out every possible aspect of an issue, then sorting the results into an organized catalog which helps to make other information apparent. The example here was chosen because its topic is nothing less than the features of all possible ways to discover answers and solutions!!! This document both exemplifies "Taxonomizing" and maps out for you the features of hundreds of various methods of problem-solving now in professional use around the world.

(Adapted from the book, Discovering The Obvious)

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The following summarizes the features to be found from among hundreds of the highly various methods now in professional use around the world for discovering solutions and answers to problems and questions.

This organized catalog of features is part of an effort to discover even better such methods. The reader is most cordially invited to join this discovery effort. Meanwhile, the world's current one hundred best such actual Creative Problem-Solving (CPS) techniques, including their step-by-step instructions, are being collected and published free to the world, in this CPS Techniques section of the Project Renaissance website.

The method and system and theory of Project Renaissance began to evolve soon after this writer first came into the literature on creativity, in 1967, while he was still serving full-time as a college teacher. This writer's one real contribution was his asking the proposition:  If you have a good method for solving problems, one of that method's best uses is on the problem of how to create better methods for solving problems. One of their best uses is on the problem of how to create even better such methods.....

Several years later, the development of visual thinking opened a major path into discovery of new methods for this writer:  We re-opened this principle of re-investment of methods into better methods, to see if one could also "get there" from such methods as that of simple brainstorming ("brainstorming" as in the free instructions provided in the Gravel Gulch exhibit under CPS Techniques).

Indeed one could — and this gave rise to the method of "taxonomizing," among other benefits. One by-product of that procedure, in turn, is this partial "taxonomy" of solution-finding methods.

With hundreds of methods now existing in the art and science of creativity and effective problem-solving, we may need a map to find our way. Creating a "taxonomy" can provide us some sense of order and relationship among such methods.

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Advantages of a taxonomy
Such advantages are essentially the same as those of the periodic table of the elements in chemistry and nuclear physics. The flora and fauna of geology and biology; the educational objectives of Benjamin Bloom; and our own taxonomies of methods for improving teaching and learning, and of ways to increase human intelligence, are a few other examples.

Grouping specific elements into more general categories is conceptually easier and cleaner than is entertaining the hundreds of specific elements separately. To do so brings into view regularities and patterns which in turn suggest potentially useful models and theories, accounting for the dynamics of the field.

Laying out the possibilities categorically, in some sort of order, whether in this present initial scheme or in some other, also generates predictions where further effective techniques may be found or invented, much as happened in the discovery of new elements in the chemical periodic table... ("There ought to be a rare metal right here, with XYZ atomic weight and such-and-such characteristics.....")

Please note also the general principle that no categorical system is "right" or "wrong" (except for needing to be reasonably consistent), so much as it is more or less useful for the purposes to which you put it.

This present draft outline is an initial cut only. In no way is it to be regarded as a complete taxonomy. It greatly needs extensive criticizing, revision, testing, and a generation of alternate models for comparison. We hope this present draft does stimulate creation of alternate models, comparison of which will lead toward an eventual authoritative (or at least generally useful) taxonomy.

We offer this draft taxonomy here, among other purposes, to:

  • underscore that many methods are available.
  • underscore that, armed with a variety of such methods, you and almost anyone are probably more than a match for almost any problem or difficulty.
  • underscore that even the resources taught in this book are but a drop in the bucket of what's available.
All of the great minds of the past had hit on only one or a very few such methods as basis for their successes. You now have all these available to you, not just one or several. Many of the methods listed are self-evident from their descriptions, and so their inclusion here provides you with a wider working toolkit of methods.

Of course, not all methods are equally effective. Perhaps this listing may lead to the creation by some reader of a scoring system with which all such creative methods can begin to be systematically compared and evaluated.

Each category or sub-category below contains one or several specific techniques. Some categories and sub-categories each contain many diverse specific techniques. Some of the more successful techniques involve more than one category, as each category or sub-category also comprises strategies, with various possible tactics (specific techniques) with which to implement that strategy.

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