Spacecraft Development Project Team
Section 6.8.
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Problem Solving Techniques

One of the best engineering techniques for engendering creativity, while simultaneously protecting ourselves from the kinds of noise problems we see on general internet discussion groups, is the Pugh method. Basically, it works like this:

  1. Brainstorming stage. The problem is stated and defined, and proposals requested. Any and all ideas are recorded for consideration at this stage, no matter how hairbrained.

  2. Categorization: More-or-less arbitrary categories are set up, simply for the purpose of forcing some minimal order on the chaos resulting in stage 1. Each idea is recorded in only one category.

  3. Funneling: Each category is evaluated by the team as a whole, and the totally unworkable ideas are tossed.

  4. Elimination: The survivors of stage 3 are arranged into a matrix for comparison. The vertical axis is the list of criteria (cost, useability, utility, etc.), and each concept is given a column. Each concept is compared to the existing method (referred to as the 'datum') on a '+', '-', or 'S' basis.

  5. Further Elimination: The top scorers of stage 4 are placed in a matrix of their own, using the top scorer from stage 4 as the new datum. New criteria to address questions neglected in the previous stages are added.

Stages 4 and 5 are looped through until the design team decides that the optimum concept has been filtered out.

The main mailing list is very good for this method, as it gives the ideas to a large body of people which fairly accurately find the best ones by discussions. Committees produce more accurate results then people working alone, and the mailing list has more people working on problems then the largest committees.

Spacecraft Development Project Team

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