Problem Solving

A lot of people have asked me how I solve problems over the last few years. This is an interesting question because it's one that I've struggled with at times as well. Some of the issues that we try to resolve can seem insurmountable given the obstacles that face us. However, thanks to lessons learned from people way smarter than I'll ever be, I do have a short list of steps to follow that allow for a more focussed effort:

  1. Identify the problem that needs to be solved/improved
  2. Identify how the problem is currently being addressed
  3. Identify means to improve the solution
  4. Discuss the proposed solutions
  5. MVP & Trial

For people wondering how these five items might be associated with The Most Valuable Things, consider these points:

  1. Pay attention.
  1. Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you need to know. Listen to them hard enough so that they will share it with you.
  1. Make at least one thing better every place you go.
  1. Be precise in your speech.
  1. Notice that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated.
  1. Remember that what you do not yet know is more important than what you already know.

Of course, it would also be good to remember these two as well:

  1. Do not try to rescue someone who does not want to be rescued, and be very careful about rescuing someone who does.
    ⇢ Solving a problem — or reducing friction — that someone does not want "solved" is a sure-fire way to create new problems. Provide options, but leave it up to the recipient whether they adopt your solution or not.
  1. Don't let bullies get away with it.
    ⇢ The number of projects I have seen fail because one or more bullies commandeered the effort and drove it into the ground is … ridiculous. Do not let people walk all over you if you are the one offering the solution. Stand up straight with your shoulders back (Rule 28), be precise in your speech (Rule 27), and remember that you can say "No".