So then, how are we going to improve our decision making processes?  Most pundits will probably tell us first to eliminate all the unnecessary junk and proceed from there.  I, for one, often being accused of not being the sort just to go with the flow but continually sticking my head up to see why the flow is going that way (occasionally dangerous), should proceed to stay in character and suggest the following: embrace the junk, or actually GUNK.

I keep telling my students in both science and finance that their dreaded word problems aren’t really that bad (I don’t think I am quite successful, however).  These problems are actually microproblems exactly like the decision demanding situations that they will encounter in life and that are also well demonstrated by virtually every course of study in a liberal arts education.  Except for the math, of course.  I now give them the following acronym for problem solving (which is equally applicable to decision making) – GUNK

-What information or data have you been Given (or you already have)?
-What is
Unknown; that is, what’s the issue, or what’s the situation asking for?
-What additional information or data do you
Need (the missing stuff)?
-And most importantly, what additional information or data do you already
Know? (you know, like stuff you learned in class yesterday.  Or perhaps five or ten years ago.  Some of this stuff really does come in handy at some point.)

That’s it.  GUNK – What do I have, what’s the issue, what do I need, and what do I already know?  Keep that in mind and most issues will shrink from mountains to manageable molehills.

This GUNK is not the sort of stuff that you throw out or use a strong solvent to remove.  When practiced regularly, GUNK can grease the wheels of both life and career progress, and has been shown to be effective in treating student loans and reducing them rapidly.

Of course, I have to admit that besides hoping to transfer a workable process for problem-solving to a multitude of arenas, there was an ulterior motive.

When a parent or relative asks you after graduation,

“So, what’s the most important thing you learned for that $100,000 I invested in your college degree?”

You can honestly respond,


But be prepared to explain.

About Jim Edmonds

I am a husband, father, mentor, who once was a chemist turned physicist turned marketer turned executive turned missionary turned professor. And survived it all.
This entry was posted in 06: Incomplete Information and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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