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Problem Solving

106 SAVED IDEAS

Benefits of thinking like a detective

Clear thinking is essential for every aspect of life, yet many of us have not really learnt how to think and make safe judgments under pressure.

When you learn to think like a detective, you can gain an advantage in the following areas:

  • It can help you think sharper and more creative.
  • It can make you a better listener that is less judgmental.
  • It can help you solve everyday problems.

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Problem Solving

We tend to solve problems in superficial ways. When we make everyday decisions, our mind often only weighs the immediate information so that it can build a coherent story, even if the story is incomplete or unreliable.

  • WYSIATI, or "What you see is all there is" refers to the fact that we usually make our judgments according to the information we have available, even if the information is incomplete.
  • Confirmations bias compounds WYSIATI. We tend to find more evidence to support our current belief.

Expert detectives have two main qualities:

  • Detached involvement
  • The ability to keep on asking questions

Good investigators don't make quick judgements. They know that their mind will try to convince them that their first impression is right. Instead, they force themselves to walk away from a problem they want to solve. This can help when making important life decisions where it would be dangerous to jump to conclusions, such as buying a new home, hiring a new employee or planning a career move.

  • Assume nothing
  • Believe nothing
  • Challenge and check everything

It is hard to resist our automatic assumptions and our need for closure. Therefore, always ask yourself what you do know and what you don't know. Remind yourself that correlation does not imply causation. To help find the truth, try to disprove your conclusions.

The favoured approach is not deductive logic, which is reasoning based on known facts, but abductive logic, which identifies the best possible explanation in the absence of complete knowledge. Doctors make use of abductive reasoning. They are given a set of symptoms and diagnose on what would best explain most of the symptoms.

Always create a short outline of all the possible alternative explanations you can think of. Then plan how you will test your different reasons.

Use a systematic approach to eliminate as many explanations as possible through falsification.

  • Collect the available information.
  • Check the facts for accuracy and relevancy.
  • Connect the dots. Do different sources say the same?
  • Construct all possible solutions.
  • Consider what information you need the most to test your remaining hypothesis.
  • Consult with somebody you trust to help narrow the scope of your investigation.

When constructing alternative options, you may find that you will gather more possibilities than you perhaps thought of in the beginning. To assist our minds, we need practical methods and information-handling tools to keep track. This will reduce the risk to jump to conclusions.

A mindmap or matrix can help to create transparency and allow for a second opinion of your ideas. With every bit of new information, mark on your matrix what the implications are for each hypothesis.

We will always forget something or not have all the facts. That's why an open-minded and critical friend can be indispensable.

Evidence and new perspectives can be found where you least expect them. It is essential to hold back your own opinion, ask open-ended questions, and use silence and active listening techniques.

Whether you have to work out why a product launch failed, why your kid is struggling at school or why your smartphone has stopped working, it is essential to think more systematically.

But you won't always know everything and perhaps won't ever know. If you learn how to write down your understanding systematically, you'll increase the chance of finding a simple solution and avoid blunders. Practice can help to sharpen your inner detective and improve decision-making.

Big decisions are significant because they are rare

We make decisions throughout life. Some decisions are big and affect our lives for years or even decades.

A big decision is so significant because it is rare. You don't get an opportunity to learn from your mistakes. This makes it important to learn from others who have been there before.

Research found decisions that are very significant and common are getting married and having a child. Other fairly common big life decisions include starting a new job and pursuing a career.

Less common, but among the highest-ranked life decisions include ending a life of an unborn child or a dying parent and engaging in self-harm.

Much can be learned about how to make good life decisions by finding out what people's biggest regrets are. The five biggest regrets are:

  • I wish I'd dared to live a life true to myself, not what others expected of me.
  • I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
  • I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I'd stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish I had let myself be happier.

Women commonly have regrets about romance/family, while men have regrets about career/education.

  • Inaction causes regret. (Deciding not to pursue something.) Males, in particular, regret not pursuing a romantic relationship.
  • Poor decisions produce greater regret when you can't justify those decisions afterwards.
  • Poor decisions in domains relevant to our sense of social belonging. (Breaking up your family by having a fling.)
  • Regrets for lost opportunity, such as not being there for your children while they were growing up.
  • Decisions that move you further from the ideal person you want to be.
  • The most important life decisions relate to family and friends. Spend time getting these decisions right, and don't let other distractions undermine these relationships.
  • Seize opportunities. You can always apologise or change course later, but you can't go back in time.
  • Avoid making decisions that are against your personal values.
Reading Fiction
  • What may sound a bit counterintuitive, is that reading fiction can provide us with self-improvement benefits, even though the stuff we read would just be a figment of someone’s imagination.
  • Fictional books, poetry and other works are a form of therapy for many centuries, with their unique spell that taps into our creativity and forms beautiful worlds inside our minds
  • Reading also helps us sleep better, be less stressful, have a high level of self-esteem, and low rates of anxiety and depression.

Imagining stories activates the particular regions inside our minds that facilitate better understanding of others and seeing our surroundings with a new perspective, equivalent to putting oneself in someone else's shoes.

When we read about a situation and how someone else is feeling, we create the feeling inside our minds.

With just six minutes of silent reading, a person can lower their heart rate and ease the tension in their muscles by about 68 percent.

Reading puts our mind in a low gear, resting its cognitive ‘chips’ and disengaging it from active duty for a while. Reading puts our mind into a light trance, a form of meditation, and has similar benefits like relaxation and a peaceful, calm feeling.

Reading non-fiction before bed makes us project into the future, and increases our anxiety levels.

Reading fiction does the opposite, it stokes our imagination, disengaging our mind from the day’s tensions and being conducive to a relaxing sleep.

Reading fiction can help us explore many ideas of complex emotions, change and other unknown factors that are missing from our lives.

Peeking into a different (fictional) reality of someone else's story helps us learn how others live and adapt to changing situations, something that benefits us in our life situation.

Hearing a good story makes us remember information for a long period of time. Studies show that regular readers have better memory, and a 32 percent lower rate of mental decline.

Even memory-related disorders like Alzheimer’s disease are less in regular readers, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Reading fictional tales with diverse characters makes a reader more tolerant and open-minded towards marginalized groups.

Young readers are less discriminating and more inclusive towards others who come from a different socio-economic background or look different than them.

Reading fiction creates activity in the left temporal cortex region of the brain, which is associated with language.

Reading fiction helps build up our vocabulary, far more than reading non-fiction, as fictional books have a greater variety of words and phrases.

Fictional writings are diverse, uncertain and ambiguous. This leads to creating the ideal environment for creativity inside our minds. It decreases our need for cognitive closure, strengthening our mind.

Reading fiction also leads to having more evolved procedures for processing information in our minds.

Reading makes a large majority of people feel good, more satisfied with life.

Reading for pleasure has been able to foster even with the advent of the internet along with so many attention magnets like video games, smartphones and even Netflix. This is proof that it has something in it that makes people happy.

You don't need to master every detail of every subject to become a world-class thinker.

If you can master the fundamentals of each discipline, then you can develop a remarkably accurate and useful picture of life.

Mental Models: Out of Box Thinking

Mental models are the various thinking frameworks that are used to understand life, make decisions, and solve problems.

Just raw intelligence is not enough to solve problems. A different or a broader set of mental models can provide a different view of the problem, leading to an unconventional, new solution not thought of before.

Mental Models: Examples

A mental model is an explanation of how something works. They are beliefs, worldviews or frameworks of thinking. You carry a certain kind of thinking in you to arrive at a solution to a problem.

Some examples:

  • Demand and Supply: to understand the economy
  • Game Theory: to understand trust and relationships
  • Entropy: to understand disorder and decay
Yuval Noah Harari
Scientists generally agree that no theory is 100 percent correct. Thus, the real test of knowledge is not truth, but utility.
Different perspectives

Each individual mental model is just one view of reality. The challenges and situations we face in life cannot be entirely explained by one field or industry.

All perspectives hold some truth. None of them contain the complete truth.

Charlie Munger
“All the wisdom of the world is not to be found in one little academic department.
Liquefy all your Knowledge

Develop "liquid knowledge" that flows easily from one topic to the next.

Instead of separating knowledge into different sections, isolating it, we are better off expanding, merging and liquefying the knowledge.

How your brain becomes dull

In the era where information can be easily accessed by almost everyone, the brain becomes less sharp because we don't use it to find or create solutions anymore.

The brain then gets discontented whenever we can't figure out an answer to our questions in an instant. It chooses to move away from the problem instead of trying to solve it.

To develop your resourcefulness, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you solve your problems in the easiest way you can or do you take the time to figure out a solution?
  2. How can you reach your desired result for the problem?

Make sure to practice this consistently in the moment. To be able to answer your own questions is where creative and astonishing ideas materializes. Take control of your actions, thoughts, and emotions.

© Brainstash, Inc

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