Before solving any problem, one needs to understand it. Albert Einstein once said that if he had been given an hour to save the world, he’d have spent 55 minutes to analyze the problem and 5 minutes to solve it. This approach seems to be very distracted, but it brings great results.
By the way, I would use practically the same approach every time I had to do my assignment at university. I “analyzed” requirements for an essay for five days and wrote it on the sixth day – the ideal solution for meeting deadlines. Don’t follow it though.
Of course, 7-year experience has disciplined me very much. So now I prefer to complete samples students’ papers as early as I can.
Yet let’s get back to the problem analysis. Remember that the human brain has two systems of thinking. The one is based on fast instinctive processes: it is responsible for your thoughtless (!) actions. And the other system is conscious, it takes you more time but supports the development of a maximally rational approach. In this article we are going to review techniques that allow the most careful analysis of the problem, giving you more “food” to generate ideas and make decisions.
The Method of “Why” Diagrams
People analyze things in order to get to the point, to find connections between particular causes and effects, to split problems into small bricks that are much easier to cope with. Do you know how 3-year-old children explore the world? They ask thousands of simple “Why?” questions and dig it deeper and deeper. They have a new “Why?” for each of your answers.
This trick works to solve adult tasks as well. Its point is quite simple. Describe the problem in a couple of words by writing them on paper. Ask yourself why the problem emerged and write the main reasons nearby. Then ask the same question for each of them and go on until you find the “atoms” of the problem you are trying to solve. Mind mapping technique can be very helpful here.
When you come to the origins of the problem, you’ll be able to see the complete picture. And you’ll have ideas of influencing the situation by involving the most vulnerable systemic elements at once. This method works especially well when you need to solve complicated problems.
The task can be complicated a bit. Have a certain limit of answers for yourself and don’t proceed to the next level until you reach it. For example, you may have the rule of giving at least 6 answers for each question. You ask the same question to all the new answers and then look for 6 more reasons. This may seem to be a bit artificial, but such frames can stimulate and discipline your mind. It will be possible for you to throw some answers away in the future if they are not reasonable.
The Method of Twelve Questions
There is another technique that can expand the possibilities of the previous one. It lets you consider the problem from much more angles. The method consists of six main questions: “What?”, “Why?”, “When?”, “Where?”, “How?”, and “Who?”. Each of them is put in both positive and negative contexts.
This is how you receive 12 questions reviewing multiple sides of the problem and touching on the negative ones as well, which people often forget about.
The Way to Perfection
In the previous cases we paid more attention to the reasons of certain problems, considering them from the angle of the past. Now we are going to find solutions. Here you should take a look from the future.
Take three blank sheets of paper. On one of them write about the problem, its reasons, features, pros and cons. The second sheet should be titled “The way”. And on the third sheet describe the perfect state of your reality after solving the problem.
Now write the main actions and stages that will help you move from the first sheet to the third one. You don’t have to describe a lot of details in this case, it is enough to find the “magic points”, the milestones that will let you reach perfection in something after you pass through them. This helps you estimate the problem from the point of its solution.
Later you’ll be able to turn these “milestones” into basic questions to brainstorm by applying techniques of ideas generation to them.
- Understanding the problem deeply helps you solve it;
- To get to the point of the problem ask yourself the question “Why?” until you reach its origins;
- Discipline your mind by limiting the number of answers;
- Use the technique of 12 questions to look at the problem from various viewpoints;
- The technique “Way to Perfection” lets you see the problem from the point of its solution.
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