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A Systematic Approach to Solving Just About Any Problem

Create a Plan

You need a plan with actionable steps. Ask yourself what's barring you from moving forward and make step one. Step one will open doors to other steps. 

Consider which steps will open more doors, add them to the plan, and keep doing that until you get to your solution. Things will change as you act on the plan and you'll need to adapt, so it's best to keep your plan somewhat open-ended and try to include steps that involve preparing for trouble you can foresee. 

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A Systematic Approach to Solving Just About Any Problem

A Systematic Approach to Solving Just About Any Problem

https://lifehacker.com/a-systematic-approach-to-solving-just-about-any-problem-5795228

lifehacker.com

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Key Ideas

Basic steps to solving any problem

  • Understand the Problem, so you know you're actually focusing on the the real issue at hand.
  • Create a Plan, so you have a series of actionable steps to follow.
  • Keep Yourself Motivated, so you don't give up or get frustrated when it takes a while to successfully resolve the problem.

Understand the Problem

Often the most difficult step, because it's easy to focus on the wrong part of the problem, or look at the problem too broadly.

The first thing you need to do is reduce it to its simplest and purest form so you know exactly what you're dealing with. While you're doing this, you need to ask yourself questions to make sure you're focusing on the right things. 

Create a Plan

You need a plan with actionable steps. Ask yourself what's barring you from moving forward and make step one. Step one will open doors to other steps. 

Consider which steps will open more doors, add them to the plan, and keep doing that until you get to your solution. Things will change as you act on the plan and you'll need to adapt, so it's best to keep your plan somewhat open-ended and try to include steps that involve preparing for trouble you can foresee. 

Keep Yourself Motivated

You not only need to make your plans flexible, but you want to try and plan for surprises as well. 

You won't always know what they are, but you can make educated guesses and be a little more prepared to deal with issues when they arise. This will help keep you motivated when solving problems that take more time, as these surprises won't be so devastating if you're ready for them. 

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Use the why lens

Great leaders only solve problems within their control. Ones connected to their biggest why. They ask:

  • Is this our problem?
  • Why should we solve this problem?
  • What ...
Problems as opportunities

Problems fuel great leaders, providing opportunities to learn and grow to the next level. 

The greater the problem, the hungrier they are for a solution. Leaders like Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates view problems as golden opportunities to disrupt the market and revolutionize the customer experience.

Acknowledging the problem

Great leaders acknowledge there is a problem and demonstrate the severity of the problem and the benefit of the solution to stakeholders, partners, and shareholders. 

This way, the leader not only takes responsibility for making the problem transparent, but he or she also explores different dimensions of the problem, consequently benefiting from others’ ideas.

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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 “m...

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.
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.

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Systematic approach
Most people jump straight from finding a problem to attempting to solve it.

Having a systematic approach to how you deal with problems, as opposed to just going by gut and feelings, ca...

Study the problem first

Detectives and investigators use the process. They ask both obvious and unthinkable questions.

Get close and collect information about how the problem is manifesting.  Understand where the problem does and doesn’t happen, when the problem started, and how often the problem occurs to generate critical insight for the problem-solving effort.

Question for great answers
  • Don’t look for solutions immediately; Keep redefining the problem until you arrive at the root cause.
  • Don’t try to guess the solution; try to understand how the obstacles, or challenges manifest first.
  • Gather data to analyze all potential root causes.
  • Consider all options, regardless of how irrelevant they currently appear.
  • Find a way to connect the dots. Make better analogies. One good analogy is worth three hours of discussion.

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The Motive
The Motive

A simple fact like the motive for your business being profit or bottom-line oriented, or a genuine desire to help your customers, can be the reason for your success or ...

Real Work

Entrepreneurship is a selfless endeavor. It is only when you genuinely are solving people’s problems, that you are going to win.

You will only make money if you really help your customers, not because you want to make money.

Start Small and Solve Problems

While having a grand vision is great, demonstrating the essence of your idea and solving the core issues of customers, no matter how small, can put you in the path to success.

The problem-solving mindset is the way to succeed, instead of grand self-delusional plans.

Puzzles and Cognitive Abilities
Puzzles and Cognitive Abilities

People have loved puzzles since the stone age. It is a phenomenon that is now becoming a craze.

Being able to solve puzzles provides us with an ‘aha’ moment and improves our pattern rec...

Math And Music

The ability to solve complex puzzles involves being able to process, match and synthesize a lot of different kinds of information at the same time.

Mathematics and Music are two areas that are different yet have connections in puzzle solving.

A Playful State of Mind

Paradoxically, the more you get inside a puzzle with seriousness and increased effort, the harder it becomes. Just like the losing chess player who is leaning too close to the board, solving puzzles is not about sheer effort, but a playful, relaxed state of mind.

Being able to be non-serious and enjoying the moment helps form the necessary connections that are hindered if the mind is in stress.

Quit When...
  • You're consistently experiencing more frustration than reward.
  • You can't envision a possible solution or continuing this way.
  • Spending time on this keeps you from more rewardin...
Before You Call It Quits
  • Make sure you've identified the real causes of your unhappiness. Keep a diary of events and problems.
  • Give it a chance. Many things, like diets, require time to work out.
  • Try many other solutions.
  • Have a backup plan. Know what you're going to do if you quit and what you need to do to prepare for that.
Deduction and Mindfulness Go Together

Sherlock Holmes observed facts without being judgmental. He would construct a hypothesis about what he believed happened. He would then search for more evidence to logically validate his ini...

All Stories Are Possible — Until They Are Not

Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot encourages everybody to tell their story.  Stories help Poirot comprehend what kind of person the victim was. And to uncover the murderer’ motive.

Storytelling is powerful to uncover insights, not just the truth. Design Thinking — a process for creative problem solving — leverages the power of stories to detect human desires and needs.

Be Relentless

Sarah Linden is the least self-aware television detective.

Her dedication to her work and stubbornness are unbeatable. She never gives up. Even though she fails in many aspects of her life — like being a mother. But, she keeps showing up and trying to do better. She tries again, fails again, and fails better.

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Overthinking

It  means overanalyzing something that happened, regretting an action, or worrying about the future of something. 

It's when you can't think about anything else, and it'...

Overthinking and action

If you're overthinking an idea you can actually do something about, the best thing you can do is take action now.

This doesn't mean you have to suddenly run off to make something, it just means you start taking a step forward. We tend to overthink because we fear failure, but if we just start working, that dissipates quickly

Break the circle of overthinking:
  • Relabel the ideas you're overthinking ("self-doubt," "anxiety," etc)
  • Reframe your experience and identify your thinking errors
  • Refocus your attention on the part that matters
  • Revalue your brain's messages with the new information
Concept creep

... or moving the goalposts, it happens when problems never seem to go away because people keep changing how they define them.

This can be a frustrating experience, because you don't r...

Relative comparisons

These comparisons often use less energy than absolute measurements. For e.g, it’s easier to remember which of your cousins is the tallest than exactly how tall each cousin is. Human brains have likely evolved to use relative comparisons in many situations because they often provide enough information to safely navigate our environments, with very little effort.

Systems thinking

Is a way of seeing the world as a series of interconnected and interdependent systems rather than lots of independent parts. 

As a thinking tool, it seeks to oppose the reductioni...

Systems

...are sets of related components that work together in a particular environment to perform whatever functions are required to achieve the system's objective.

The 3 main systems at play
  • Social systems: rules and structures, created by humans, that keep society functioning.
  • Industrial systems: all manufactured material world, created to facilitate human needs.
  • The ecosystem: which provides all the natural services (clean air, food, fresh water, minerals and natural resources) needed for the other two systems to exist.