The 2021 Summer Gedanken Institute for Problem-Solving

The Gedanken Institute for Problem Solving is dedicated to developing problem-solving skills of next generation. A key skill for success in today’s economy is to think hard and long to come up with creative ideas to solve challenging problems. Here is a link to a video that describes the educational philosophy of the Gedanken Institute its associated summer program.

Link coming soon!

If the goal is simply to get the answer to the problem, then the teacher should tell the students how to do it. If the goal is to produce graduates that have mental strength, mental stamina, and can come up with new ideas to solve challenging problems, the teacher should give them the time they need to struggle, fail and develop.

At the Gedanken Institute for Problem Solving our goal is not to get the answer as soon as possible, our goal is to provide challenging problems and give the attendees the time and coaching that they need to develop problem-solving skills.

The problems we use at the Institute do not have many prerequisites – just the ability to think hard for a long time. Virtually all of the problems are tackled in small groups. This develops teamwork, collaboration, and the ability to reach a consensus. Here is a good example of the type of problem that should be tackled individually. It is one that I used in hundreds of job interviews to test the candidate’s grit, determination, and the ability to learn from mistakes.

Take the 13 cards of one suit from a deck of cards. Arrange the 13 cards in a deck such that the repeated procedure of flipping the top card face up onto the table and putting the next card on the bottom (flip face-up onto table, next card to the bottom face down, flip onto table, next card of the bottom…) until all thirteen cards are face-up on the table results in the cards appearing in order (A-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K).

There is no formal training needed to solve this problem – just grit, persistence and the ability to think hard for a long time. The “answer” the problem is utterly useless. There is no reason to memorize or study the order of the deck that will solve the problem. The problem is simply an excellent mental workout to develop problem-solving skills. If a teacher is continually providing suggestions and hints, this robs the student of the opportunity to develop their problem-solving skills.

If you or someone you know is interested in develop his/her ability to tackle challenging problems, the Gedanken Institute for Problem Solving may be a good opportunity.

If you have questions, please e-mail the director of the Institute, Dr Edwin F Meyer at emeyer@bw.edu.

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