August 8, 2022

How to define a problem so you can solve it

Blackboard with winking smiley and Albert Einstein quote

Problems pile up and soak up your time. They glare at you from your to-do list and you’re not quite sure of the next step.

It is this: define the problem differently.

Stand back from it (because often we don’t) and…

1. Decide what the problem is, and what it is not.
2. Define where the problem is, and where it is not.
3. Define when the problem exists, and when it does not.
4. Describe how the problem occurs, and what happens when it doesn’t.
5. Notice if it has variations in intensity or magnitude, and why.

Then think how a complete stranger might define the problem. Someone who is not steeped in your assumptions and so is not boxed in like you. After all, if your thinking were not boxed in, you wouldn’t have this as a problem!

Better yet, ask someone, maybe close to you, maybe not. Surprisingly, this often works well with a child because you have to explain the problem differently to the way you would normally think of it, and their creativity will delight you.

Here’s a link to a famous movie moment about solving a problem

My best wishes, Paul

Paul Matthews

CEO and Founder of People Alchemy

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