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Title: Problem Solving Through Cognitive Engagement
Contributor(s): Houghton, Luke (author); Saravanamthu, Kalathevi (supervisor); Metcalfe, Mike (supervisor)
Conferred Date: 2008
Copyright Date: 2008
Open Access: Yes
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Abstract: The traditional problem solving model characterised by Simon's chess playing steps of first collecting information and then evaluating alternative solutions, has been found to be problematic for dealing with complex, messy or wicked problems. Continuing in the tradition of the 'soft' management sciences and pragmatic systems thinking literature, this thesis seeks elaborations to this traditional problem solving model. It adopts an interpretive epistemology, believing problems to be social constructs. It therefore suggests that problem solving be seen more in terms of appreciating and responding to participants' cognitive frames. These frames are seen as the "windows" that form the conceptualisation of the way in which actors understand the world. Responding and interacting to these conceptual frames is called the 'cognitive engagement' approach to problem solving. This thesis, therefore, first highlights some of the limitations of the traditional problem solving model to demonstrate that something more generic is required for messy or wicked problems. It then summarises the now extensive literature that argues that this sort of problem solving is best understood in terms of shifting participants' cognitive frame rather than in terms of information collection. Next, the cognitive engagement literature is summarised to demonstrate that this does seem to provide a viable alternative. The cognitive engagement concept is then justified by using it to interpret two areas of concern. One involves an aid agency, which solved its perceived funding problems only when it was forced to change its conceptual frame by a tragic event. The second is an in-depth case which involves a large transport company that was having problems implementing its supply chain enterprise system because operators had a different conceptual frame to that of the management. It is concluded that the cognitive engagement concept offers a useful alternative addition to how we should think about problem solving involving human activity.
Publication Type: Thesis Doctoral
Rights Statement: Copyright 2008 - Luke Houghton
HERDC Category Description: T2 Thesis - Doctorate by Research
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