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The Handbook of Technology and Innovation Management by Scott Shane

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4.3. The Problem-Solving Process

The problem-solving process is influenced by the structure of the problem and how the problem is represented. If a mental representation of the problem exists, we can use mental selection instead of incurring costly failures in the real world. Depending on the structure of the problem, we may or may not be able to learn from the past and subsequently guide new variations towards a better performance. This leads to a 2×2 logic, which is summarized by Figure 4.8.

4.3.1. Generic problem-solving processes

Consider the lower part of Figure 4.8 first, i.e., assume that we do not have a mental representation of the problem. To the extent that we are able to establish some structure in the problem, we will be able to improve our problem solution incrementally (lower right). In the example of creating a safe vehicle, this would correspond to first building and launching a vehicle and then using damage to the vehicle and its passengers (e.g., were passengers injured because of a deformation of the door or the steering column?) as created by real accidents to incrementally improve the safety of the vehicle. This leads to a new (safer) vehicle and the process begins all over. Iterations are performed, one-by-one, in the real world, each of them increasing the expected quality of the problem solution (darker shades in Figure 4.8). This is how the Mousgoums built (and improved) their huts.

The approach at the lower right of Figure 4.8 assumes that the problem ...

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