Trial & Error vs Recipe

Jamie Jamie Follow Jul 24, 2022 · 1 min read
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Problem-solving can be seen broadly as transitioning a situation from one state to another. This view covers a host of human endeavors. Most often the end state is considered a goal or objective. Problem-solving methods can be categorized as either trial and error or the use of a recipe. Recipe implies a method with a proven track record for success. Trial and error, however, attempts an approach that hasn’t been done successfully. The task of baking oatmeal raisin cookies can be done through trial and error where various ingredients are combined. You might expect that through careful experimentation a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies that are suitable for consumption might result. But you would also expect in the process to produce several batches of either soggy mush or inedible bricks.

By following a recipe for oatmeal cookies, it’s possible to produce an excellent batch on your first attempt. The key lesson here is to use a recipe whenever you can. Recipes have originated through trial and error experimentation. Using a recipe benefits from the experience, lessons learned, and discoveries of others. A recipe allows you to avoid repeating the mistakes others have encountered and save both time and money.

When no recipe exists to do exactly what you want starting with the recipe closest to the goal and applying a trial and error to modify it is an excellent approach. You are essentially starting further along the learning curve to create a recipe that meets your requirements. Adding some chopped macadamia nuts to your oatmeal raisin cookie recipe is one example. This particular modification may be unusual and not guaranteed to be to your liking. Beginning with a recipe to attempt this combination still avoids a lot of unnecessary mistakes.

Written by Jamie Follow
Hi, I'm Jamie, an author here at On Knowing. I hope these posts add to your understand of what knowledge is!