‘How to Solve it’: the ‘Oblique Strategies’ for scientists

In 1975 Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt published a deck of cards entitled ‘Oblique Strategies’. Each card contains a blurb, phrase or word intended to help artists think about their work in different way and get out of creative jams. From Wikipedia, some examples include:

  • “What to increase? What to reduce?”
  • “Try faking it!”
  • “Use an old idea”
  • “Work at a different speed.”

I can imagine that these ideas, drawn randomly from a deck of cards, are useful for overcoming artistic roadblocks. But can I use them as a scientist? After mulling this over for awhile, I realized that there already exists a set of ‘Oblique Strategies’ for scientists — George Polya’s book ‘How to Solve it’Polya lists a total of 67 ‘heuristics’, techniques used to solve problems. Examples include:

  • “Analogy” (see here)
  • “Do you know a related problem”
  • “Draw a picture”
  • “Symmetry”
  • “The future mathematician”

Now I just need this made into a deck of cards…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s