Lesson 1.2

How Heuristics Work

Dive into this topic by watching the video, followed by key explanations and exercises below.

Key Concepts:

  • Heuristics are how we approach things in life. They’re our “rules of thumb” or strategies.

    • When it comes to collaboration, we can think of heuristics as problem-solving approaches.

    • Sticking two boards together with velcro, and sticking two boards together with nails, are two different heuristics for solving the same problem.

  • Heuristics are the second 1/2 of our problem-solving “mental toolkit.”

    • If perspective is how we see and encode a problem, heuristics are how we try to tackle it.

    • It’s possible to have lots of different heuristics for something, just as it’s possible to look at something from multiple perspectives.

  • How do you tell if someone has different heuristics in their brain for something than you have? We can guess… or ask.

    • We learn heuristics through formal and informal education. A nurse will have some different heuristics than a piano tuner.

    • We also develop heuristics just by navigating life.

  • Both visible and non-visible traits contribute to our developing of different heuristics in our lives.

    • If you are tall, you may have developed different techniques for playing basketball than someone who is short, and has had to work extra hard to reach the basket.

    • Research shows that, for example, police officers who have been less physically strong than their peers growing up often tend to develop good negotiation heuristics; meanwhile, their beefier counterparts often develop heuristics that make good use of their size.

    • If you grew up in a 10-person family, you may have developed heuristics for negotiating with (or for hiding candy from) kids that your single-child peers have not.

    • If you grew up in a society where your racial group was minoritized, you may have developed heuristics for defusing tense situations that your peers in majority groups have not.

    • Etc.!


Practice This:

  • Think About: What’s something that you know how to do that most people you know don’t?

  • How did you develop this heuristic?

  • What aspects from this heuristic might be useful in other situations?

  • Think About: What’s something that a collaborator of yours knows how to do that you don’t? If possible, think of something unrelated to their actual job.

    • How did they develop this heuristic?

    • How could knowing how to do this thing potentially change the way this person approaches problem solving?