Re: Intro -- Dave Swenson LO61

From: John Conover <>
Subject: Re: Intro -- Dave Swenson LO61
Date: Sat, 11 Feb 95 13:57 PST

david swenson writes:

 > --How can strategic thinking skills be taught/learned? I've started to
 > generate a composite skill list and want to compile sample activities that
 > develop each area.

Hi David. Your preceeding questions on strategic thinking are
important issues, IMHO. One issue that concerns me is Kenneth Arrow's
theoretical work on setting priorities in groups, ie., the so-called
"impossibility theorem." He formally proved that it was impossible for
a group of more than two persons to rank priorities, (such as the
importance of social welfare in the social agenda/administration of
the group, etc.) Now, since most of the important priorities address
"infrastructural" issues, how does a group generate infrastructure?
(Specifically, how does a group decide what to do with resources that
are inadequate to satisfy all the member's concepts of which
infrastructural priorities are most important.) It would occur to me
that what this implies is that a strategy is not simply a set of
tactics, but is entirely different-an agenda that ranks a set of
priorities into a common agenda or direction for the group. It is
probably important to note that what Arrow proved was that there is no
logical or formal means of doing this, so it is purely in the realm of
a human creativity, and can never be formalized into a science, ie.,
how to do it must be learned by the constituent members of the group.
I would suppose that those that learn how to do it are called leaders.

FYI, There is an interesting side bar to Arrow's work. A closely
related topic is the works by Alan Turing, who formally proved that
the next theorem of mathematics can never be generated by a machine,
(and invented the modern computer in the process of deriving the
theorem.)  Theorem generation, like setting priorities in a group, is
a strategic, human agenda that can only be learned. All of these
theorems can, in some sense, trace their "linage" back to Kurt Godel's
Incompleteness Theorem-which is now part of the larger science,
information theory.  The "dean" of information theoretic
incompleteness is Greg Chatin, and wrote a book by that name-the
implications of which, a lot of folks are still trying to figure out.

Probably, a far more significant issue is how to teach strategic
thinking.  (Strategic thinking is obviously a creative process-how do
you teach something that can not be formalized into "facts.") Can you
teach it, or does it have to be learned?

Just some thoughts,


BTW, Welcome!


John Conover,,

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