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June 9, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

60 problem solving tools and terms which apply to debate and public policy

1. Baseline
2. Benchmarks
3. Trends over time
4. Context & causal factors (5 whys?) (alternative causalities & root causes–ranking or comparing. can those be solved?)
5. Data? Credible? Biased? Representative? How representative?
6. Possibility/opportunity/what if?
7. Patterns of solutions in industry or in related industries or sectors
8. Knowledge from other sectors (some idea of application & representativeness)
9. History both in industry and out of industry.
10. Roleplaying. What would X person do?
11. Metaphors
12. Problems/challenges
13. Motives/whats at stake for the actors?
14. Industry specific tools & models
15. Does this leave anything out? Are other valid perspectives possible or available?
16. What is the spin?
17. Re-frame
18. Change the level of analysis
19. In addition to motives…think about values, drives, & incentives (also think about beliefs, attiutes, and values)
20. What problems is this like? What lessons can I apply here?
21. Analogies
22. What is the history of these initiatives? Have they been successful elsewhere? Has it been prototyped?
23. What worked? What went wrong? Why?
24. Law of averages/outliers
25. Early adopters/adoption curve
26. Perception & reality (whats the spin?)
27. Is vs. the ought. Reality vs. values/principles
28. Counter-examples (generally historical, but could be hypothetical or intuition or psychology based)
29. Fairness/Empathy/the Other
30. Democracy/Survey
31. Ethics
32. Exclusions/-Isms
33. Cause & effect (proving, disproving, comparing, etc..)
34. Ways to assess impacts and compare them.
35. Cognitive biases and heuristics
36. Opportunity cost (problem avoidance + opportunity)
37. Alternatives (aka counterplans)
38. Assumptions & worldviews
39. Categories: Add/Combine or subtract/edit/exclude/eliminate
40. Leverage and multipliers
41. Futurecasting. Futurism. Projecting the present into the future.
42. Reading between the lines
43. Searching for the why….
44. Searching for the ultimate impact…
45. Searching for interactivity
46. Determining strengths.
47. Determining safe places.
48. Anticipating objections
49. Integrating ideas & fields (and even paradoxes)
50. Re-characterizing the truth from misconception or manipulation
51. Contrast/Juxtaposition/The art of distinction
52. Storytelling (concrete & conflict & characters)

(Human psychology, economics, different brands or branches of each field–for instance more humanist or more behaviorist)
53. logic & persuasion & justification (this is kind of a repeat)
54. audience adaption. its natural. (this has overlap with democracy)
55. change/evolution
56. nested patterns
57. legos
58. argument pods (get to a terminal impact)
59. said and the implied
60. mechanisms & process

Here are a couple more:
1. Various tropes & patterns of argument.
2. How strategies & worldviews fit together.
3. Begin with the end in mind.
4. Think like a web.
5. Think like a matrix
6. Think in stages. (2ac & the block)
7. Gateway issues
8. Isolating the nexus question
9. How do theory & debater interact.
10. How does IR theory interact with the real world and concrete.
11. Micro & the Macro
12. Curiosity. Getting clear on your why? & objectives. Kaizen improvement. Asking questions and pursuing them.

I believe every debate textbook should have an explication of at least 90% of these terms and ideas….and yet I’m pretty sure they don’t….



Leave a Comment
  1. compassioninpolitics / Jun 9 2012 5:16 am

    Other random debate ideas:
    • Continuum versus black and white (degrees of truth).
    • Also universals & math & science. Rules of the universe.
    • Explaining the interaction of post-modern & modern ideas. Explain the concept of progress & the Hegelian synthesis.
    • Principles of democracy & Constitution & federalism & other American values

  2. compassioninpolitics / Jun 9 2012 5:33 am

    Interesting parallel between debate & action science.

    Argyris and his colleagues recommend the following rules to improve inference when working with groups of people:

    1) Combine advocacy with inquiry.

    2) Illustrate your inferences with relatively directly observable data.

    3) Make your reasoning explicit and publiclly test for agreement at each inferential step.

    4) Actively seek disconfirming data and alternative explanations.

    5) Affirm the making of mistakes in the service of learning.

    6) Actively inquire into your impact on the learning context.

    7) Design ongoing experiments to test competing views.

    * Could also point to the parallels between debate and experiential learning–or rather the ways in which each could mutually re-enforce the other.

  3. compassioninpolitics / Jun 9 2012 5:40 am

    Worldviews (thinking about them as schemas & assumptions)
    Exceptions to the principle don’t really disprove the principle.
    Utilitarianism vs. Deontology
    Rule utility vs. Act utility
    The overlap between deontology and rule utility.

    Curious how the ladder of inference might apply to debate–or how one might compare competing inferences.

  4. compassioninpolitics / Jun 14 2012 4:04 am

    Here is a rundown of some logic arguments–which aren’t usually used in debate, but are potentially critical thinking tools. I haven’t read the chapters yet–both potentially worth exploring:

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