Toward a meta-methodology for real-world problem solving

Reed, Ryan (2020-04)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2020.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: There are complexities inherent to the subjective experience of life that render real-world problem solving exceedingly subtle and difficult. Yet, all too often, it is not the complex nature of problems that result in their persistence, but rather the ineffective fashion in which practitioners dedicated to their resolution respond thereto. The process of real-world problem solving comprises three parts: The development of a formal formulation of a problem considered, the identification of an adequate response thereto, often by means of analytical modelling, and finally, the practical implementation of that response. In the history of real-world problem solving, the first of these phases has often been neglected and, as a result, solution methodologies dedicated to the formulation of problems, complicated by the dynamics of human nature, have failed to address several phenomena relevant to the success of problem resolution. Accordingly, the work documented in this dissertation is dedicated first to the identification of such phenomena, and then to the development and application of a meta-methodology dedicated to their management. The phenomena addressed include the identification of stakeholders relevant to a given instance of problem solving, the dissimilar states in which real-world systems exist and the effect thereof upon the resolution of problems therein, the sociological paradigm-based limitations of a select group of problem formulation methods, and the mitigation of irrational influences on human decision making. In an attempt to uncover dynamics relevant to the formulation of real-world problems hidden from a purely qualitative analysis, the unique utility of mathematical modelling is additionally employed to describe the context for which the proposed meta-methodology is designed. In order to illustrate the practical applicability of the meta-methodology proposed in this dissertation, several of its components are applied, first in a hypothetical fashion, to the context of the South African education system during the period of the fees must fall movement and then in a practical fashion, to the context of the South African energy sector.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Daar is kompleksiteite inherent aan die subjektiewe ervaring van die lewe wat werklike probleemoplossing uiters subtiel en moeilik maak. Tog is dit al te dikwels nie die komplekse aard van probleme wat hul volharding veroorsaak nie, maar eerder die ondoeltreffende manier waarop praktisyns toegewy aan die oplossing daarvan, daarop reageer. Die proses van werklike probleemoplossing bestaan uit drie dele: Die ontwikkeling van ’n formele formulering van die probleem wat oorweeg word, die identifisering van ’n gepaste respons daarvoor, dikwels deur analitiese modellering, en laastens die praktiese implementering van die respons. In die geskiedenis van werklike probleemoplossing is die eerste van hierdie fases al te dikwels verwaarloos, en as gevolg daarvan het oplossingsmetodologieë vir die formulering van probleme, gekompliseer deur menslike natuurlike dinamika, soms nie daarin geslaag om verskynsels aan te spreek wat relevant is tot die sukses van die probleemoplossing nie. Gevolglik word die werk wat in hierdie proefskrif gedokumenteer is, eers op die identifikasie van sulke verskynsels toegespits, en daarna aan die ontwikkeling en toepassing van ’n meta-metodologie vir hul bestuur toegewy. Die verskynsels wat aangespreek word, sluit in die identifisering van belanghebbendes wat relevant is vir ’n gegewe probleemoplossing, die uiteenlopende toestande waarin werklike wˆereldstelsels bestaan en die effek daarvan op die oplossing van probleme daarin, die sosiologiese paradigma-gebaseerde beperkings van ’n bepaalde groep probleem formuleringsmetodes, en die teenwerking van irrasionele invloede op menslike besluitneming. In ’n poging om dinamika te identifiseer wat relevant is vir die formulering van werklike probleme wat in ’n suiwer kwalitatiewe analise verborge bly, word die unieke nut van wiskundige modellering ook ingespan om die konteks waarvoor die voorgestelde meta-metodologie ontwerp is, te beskryf. Ten einde die praktiese toepaslikheid van die meta-metodologie wat in hierdie proefskrif voorgestel word, te illustreer, word verskeie komponente daarvan eerstens op hipotetiese wyse in die konteks van die Suid-Afrikaanse onderwysstelsel gedurende die periode van die fees must fall beweging en daarna prakties in die konteks van die Suid-Afrikaanse energiesektor toegepas.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/107792
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