Problem-Solving Under Pressure
Near the end of a long morning building a small table, I encountered the following simple geometry problem: I needed to cut four small rectangles from a square of self-adhesive rubber to serve as the feet of the table’s legs. So I cut the square into four equal strips, lopped off the end of eachand had my feet.
All well and good, but I missed the superior solution that any decent problem solver should have seen immediately:
This solution would have left me with one long rectangular remainder, as opposed to four small square remainders.
After working on the table for a while, I was mentally and physically drained, and I think this affected my ability to see the better solution. I guess it makes sense that being tired [and frustrated!] would negatively impact one’s ability to solve problems.
It’s interesting to think about how our physical, mental, and emotional states can affect our problem-solving abilities. And I think this suggests that problem-solving stamina is something we might want to work on.