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Reasoning Backwards

Arthur Conan Doyle

in a study in scarlet , sherlock holmes explains to Watson: ‘In solving a problem … the grand thing is to be able to reason backwards. That is a very useful accomplishment, and a very easy one, but people do not practise it much. In the every-day affairs of life it is more useful to reason forwards, and so the other comes to be neglected. There are fifty who can reason synthetically for one who can reason analytically … Let me see if I can make it clearer. Most people, if you describe a train of events to them, will tell you what the result would be. They can put those events together in their minds, and argue from them that something will come to pass. There are few people, however, who, if you told them a result, would be able to evolve from their own inner consciousness what the steps were which led up to that result. This power is what I mean when I talk of reasoning backwards, or analytically.’ Steve Jobs understood this. He said: ‘You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.’ He thought about the design and functionality of computers and wondered: How did it get to be this way? While out shopping one day, a Cuisinart food processor attracted his interest. He studied it, connected the dots, and realized that there is an intersection of technology, design, and ease of use that the early computers of the mid-70s had yet to find. The result of his observation inspired the design of Apple products from the Apple II in 1977 to today. In your efforts to improve the productivity of your business there is no substitute for going out and looking. You have to see and understand what’s happening at the street level. And then you have to reason backwards: How did it get to be this way? HN HN hownet


HOWnet Magazine March 2015  

The webzine of HOWnet, aimed at assisting wireless companies worldwide increase their sales, increase their ARPU, reduce their COA, and impr...

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