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Describe, don’t define

Describe, don’t define

Good problem-solving starts with an accurate description of the situation. Not with a definition.

If you start defining the problem (for e.g, calling it an “accounting problem” or a “marketing problem”) you define the range of solutions that you will consider.

So, instead of defining the problem, describe the situation.

494

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For a solid description of a situation

  • Get the story of the problem - a timeline with its evolution.
  • Make lists of what you know and what you need to investigate.
  • Ask the journalist’s basic questions: who, what, when, where, and why.
  • Refine your answers by comparing the situation you don’t like to one that’s acceptable.

477

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Optimal problem-solving meetings

  • Schedule them early, before people have used up their thinking and attention on less important things.
  • Eliminate distractions: put laptops and phones on a table at the back.
  • For serious problems, do more than one meeting. Do some work on the situation, then let things rest. Some people may have ideas the interim that may prove helpful.

446

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Wernher von Braun

"One good test is worth a thousand expert opinions."

WERNHER VON BRAUN

441

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