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Turning Numbers into Knowledge: Mastering the Art of Problem Solving Paperback – April 28, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 247 pages
  • Publisher: Analytics Press; 2nd edition (April 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0970601921
  • ISBN-13: 978-0970601926
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.7 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #445,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"There is nothing else like this book out there. Nobody who deals with problems where numbers matter — and everybody in today’s world really needs to — should be without it."  —John P. Holdren, past president, American Association for the Advancement of Science, from the Foreword


"A lively, well-written, attractively packaged book on the art of critical thinking."  —Skeptical Inquirer


"Dr. Koomey's book deserves to be widely read and shared, especially by those who take seriously the fragile yet critical role of an informed citizenry in increasingly complex democratic societies."  —Professor Michael Maniates, Allegheny College

From the Author

This book grew out of my experience in training analysts whom I've hired in the past decade. It is written for beginning problem solvers in business, government, consulting, and research professions, and for students of business and public policy. It is also intended for supervisors of such analysts, professors, and entrepreneurs (who may not consider themselves analysts but who need to create analyses to justify their business plans to potential investors). Finally, it covers many topics that journalists who focus on scientific or business topics will find useful.

I’ve included cartoons and other amusing graphics, as well as quotes and examples galore. The chapters are short and to the point, with plenty of further reading in the back for readers who want to explore further. I hope that any person who takes an intelligent interest in the world will enjoy it and find it useful. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Customer Reviews

I found the book very interesting and enjoyed reading it.
Mary D.
The book is very well organized into mostly self-contained chapters that address all the major steps and issues in the process of distilling knowledge from numbers.
Dr. J. Richard Beer
How to collect and critically analyze data and information, common fallacies and how to spot them.
Mike Tarrani

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

125 of 130 people found the following review helpful By Mike Tarrani HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on May 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I was expecting a book about quantitative methods and advanced problem solving techniques. What I got, instead, was a book that didn't even discuss numbers until page 111 of a 221 page book, and it was lite on problem solving techniques. Although it was not what I expected it turned out to be one of those rare books that deeply influences and provides fresh perspectives. The book led me on a journey that broke the process of critical thinking into manageable steps. Among the things I learned were:
* Examine key factors, such as information, attention and action within the context of a cycle of actions that begins with goals, and moves through execution, how events in the external world influence the meeting of those goals, an evaluation and refinement of goals. Then the process starts anew.
* Structured methods for getting organized. The techniques given are simple, yet powerful.How to collect and critically analyze data and information, common fallacies and how to spot them. Two of my favorite parts that reinforce these are then single-page chart titled "What Scientists Say, and What They Mean", and Chapter 20 (Uncertainty Principle and the Mass Media).
* The straightforward process of numerical analysis, using relatively simple math techniques to make sense of numbers and turn them into knowledge, is priceless. What makes this part of the book valuable is that the author integrates the preceding chapters that lead you to a critical thinking mindset with common sense and techniques that are within the grasp of high school students. It looks easy, but is testimony to the author's exceptional ability to communicate and inspire.
Overall this book is one of my personal favorites and one that I recommend to colleagues. Another book that complements this one nicely is Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity by Jamshid Gharajedaghi.
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89 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Paul Preuss on November 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In his role as leader of the End-Use Forecasting Group in the Environmental Energy Technologies Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Jonathan Koomey is professionally concerned with using numbers from many different sources to gain knowledge about where markets for energy-efficient technologies may be headed. It's an approach called quantitative problem solving.
"Although the technical aspects of this process are taught at many universities, the art of problem solving is rarely discussed and even more rarely written down," Koomey notes in the preface. His goal is to amend that lack, helping the reader "to become a first-rate analyst in your chosen field."
"Your chosen field" covers a lot of ground, and while the book delivers on Koomey's promise, much of the pleasure of reading it comes from his eccentric definition of both his topic and his audience. Not a textbook -- or not just a textbook -- "Turning Numbers into Knowledge" is aimed at students and professors alike; at problem solvers in business, government, and research; at middle managers and potential investors; and even at journalists.
Beginning with a chapter titled "Beginner's Mind" and including others titled "Question Authority" and "Reflect," one might think Koomey's book could have been named "Zen and the Art of Statistical Analysis." But it's also full of technical advice, in chapters like "Let Tables and Graphs Do the Work," "Use the Internet," and many more.
In fact Koomey has organized his topics thoughtfully, beginning with considerations of why anyone, professional or amateur, would undertake quantitative analysis.
Read more ›
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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Burnham VINE VOICE on March 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The subtitle of this book is slightly misleading. This isn't so much about problem solving as about information literacy, learning to do your research and think about the credibility of your sources. The book is presented in an enjoyable format, with very short chapters (2-4 pages) on each subject consisting of an anecdote or two, a few quotes, and perhaps a comic. It also cites a wide variety of references for readers who want to learn about the topics in greater depth.

But aside from a few enjoyable stories, this book didn't teach me anything that I hadn't already picked up by the end of college. There is a great deal of commonsensical advice, like "Next time you find yourself resisting a new idea, take a deep breath and try to see the other point of view," plus outright fluff, like "After deciding what to do, you must follow through with action" and "Science and technology are a critical part of modern life." This might be an excellent primer for high schoolers, but based on the blurbs I was expecting something more advanced.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Harold McFarland HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on December 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"Turning Numbers Into Knowledge: Mastering the Art of Problem Solving" should be required reading for anyone engaged in producing, reading, or analysing information. Based on the title one might assume that I mean numerical information, but that is not the case at all. The basic principles, such as how to sift through information and the importance of documentation of sources, are important parts of any information product. In fact, except for the sections on graphs, tables, normalizing data and a few others, the rest of the book (fully at least three quarters of it) is dedicated to determining what constitutes good information, good techniques, good analysis, good documentation, etc. This is a book on problem solving techniques and analysis of the information products of others.
Filled with useful tools and tips for problem solving under real-life situations it is one of the most useful books available. "Turning Numbers Into Knowledge: Mastering the Art of Problem Solving" is a masterful work in the area of critical analysis and a highly recommended read for anyone involved in creating or using information of any kind.
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