25 Mar 01

p = s

the interdependency of problems and solutions

For a long time I have been using this little equation (the equals sign is supposed to be two-directional, as in a reversible reaction in chemistry) to remind myself and others that it is not realistic to define and fix the problem, the requirements, the needs, the wishes before exploring the possible solutions, ideas, designs or decisions.

For instance:

in the apparently straight-forward action of booking a journey by public transport it is not possible to know when or even where you want to travel until you know quite a lot about the available times, fares and destinations.

I was reminded of this yesterday when booking a journey from London to France. While I was discovering the times and destinations and prices of the travel by air, by rail, by ship, by hovercraft and by bus my plans and intentions kept changing. Travel agents and other people involved lost patience with my apparent dithering as I kept changing my intentions. Only when I'd learnt what I call the systemics (the interactions of my wishes with the various options) could I make up my mind and book a particular transport mode and time and destination.

This unpleasant experience stayed in my mind and then I remembered the little mnemonic p=s.

I realised that

- if I'd begun my inquiries with a less fixed idea of where and when I wanted to travel

- and if the travel agencies had been able to show me in a single communication all the routes, travel modes, costs and times etc. as a quickly understandable pattern with which my wishes could interact -

the whole experience would have changed from slow and painful learning and mind changing to easy and informative exchange between my wishes and the totality of available options.

... so, to make a first step towards this presently unattainable ideal, I can begin my next travel inquiry by

getting the data re all the travel options first

and then pausing to discover HOW my wishes change according to the consequences of each option

BEFORE I decide where and when I am going!...

- that should make quite a difference - and I hope it will turn this presently miserable experience (of attempted stability of wishes in face of awkward options) into a more enjoyable experience (of looking at the whole situation before deciding my wants)!

But then my thoughts went from this seemingly trivial example to many others that occur in everyday life: e.g. buying a house, choosing a school or college or a career,

and I realised that this p=s experience applies to 'almost everything'...

and there I stopped, conscious that to extend this little thought any further will take more time and effort than I can spare just now

(perhaps I'll be able to continue this later...?)

but it could be wonderful ... and very useful!

(says he)