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Think Smarter: Critical Thinking to Improve Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Skills by Michael Kallet

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11 The Ingredient Diagram

Ingredients of Your Headscratcher

If you were asked to bake a chocolate cake but weren't sure what the ingredients for this particular recipe were, how good a cake could you bake? It probably wouldn't be that great. Similarly, if you're going to solve a problem, but you're not clear on the variables affecting the problem, how good a solution do you think you can create?

The ingredient diagram is a tool that helps you transition between clarity and conclusions. At this point, you're still getting clear on the headscratcher. However, you are also now starting to get ideas about where to look for solutions. The ingredient diagram helps you understand the variables defining your headscratcher. Your solution will incorporate all, or many, of the variables.

Here's a very simple example: Your car has a full tank of gas. You're planning a long road trip during which you will need to stop for gas. There are many variables that affect how far you can go with a full tank of gas. You look at a map and ask yourself, “Where along the route should I stop?” One of the key ingredients of this headscratcher is your car's miles per gallon (MPG) rate. Without determining this ingredient (variable), your solution won't have much of a basis. Another variable is your speed. The rate at which you're driving will affect how often you'll need fuel for your car. Other ingredients might be how much traffic there is, how many passengers you are carrying, whether you are hauling a ...

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