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How to Define a Problem and Find It’s Solution

Published on January 27, 2021


How to Define a Problem and Find It’s Solution

When we think of problems and problem solving, our mind typically goes to Mathematics. Because every other subject is framed as questions and answers. Only Maths is framed as problems and solutions. So the word ‘problem’ comes up, our eyes glaze over, and the day-dreaming starts instead. ‘Yea, let somebody else figure it out..’

But we face ‘problems’ in every aspect of our lives. What book to read, what show to watch, what food to order. Even these can be considered as problems. Sure they aren’t the same as figuring which university to attend or which Ivy league mentor to find. But these are all problems too. A problem is defined as any question involving doubt, uncertainty or difficulty. I’m sure you can agree we face this all the time.

So you need to find a solution to these problems. How?

Well the crux of solving any problem is to define what the problem is in the first place. To reframe that question and try to see things differently.

Take any sport. If you have an opponent beating you, that is a problem. But is that really the problem? Is your strategy the problem? Is it the opponent’s strategy? Are they playing their best player less to give him a rest, or are they playing him more so that the others are open? Have they identified your game plan? What exactly? Until you know this and identify the actual problem, you won’t be able to find a solution. You need to work backwards and figure out what the issue is. Puzzles always seem puzzling until you know the solution. Then your mind works backwards and it almost seems dumb. But you didn’t really catch on when it was needed right?

Now don’t get lost in just identifying the problem also. You need to focus on the solution as well. Often we worry about the consequences of the problem, so we don’t think straight and actually come up with a solution. Always know that you’re solving small problems constantly, you just don’t realise it. The trick is to find a more efficient solution. You can either climb ten floors or you can take the elevator. Both are solutions to getting up to your house, but one is more efficient. When you relax and focus on a solution, you will find it.

And don’t worry if you go wrong somewhere. Elon Musk said ‘Something will always go wrong’. Those are words to live by. Once you accept that things will go wrong, you don’t stress as much about it. His SpaceX rockets explode constantly; he was on the verge of bankruptcy. But he learned from his failures and found a better solution to his problems. Now look at his company. Does it mean that he doesn’t have any more problems left?

Another way of looking at all of this, is trying to figure problems that exist in the world and coming up with a solution for that problem, but as a business opportunity. Elon Musk thinks the world is going to end, so he’s finding solutions to get to Mars. Closer home, restaurants were all scattered around, so Zomato came in and created a billion dollar solution. Find the problem, and make the solution your business.

But how?

– Trust your instincts.

– Learn about the problem. Understand it completely.

– Ask for help. Always. You’re never alone in your problems.

– Steal other solutions. Others might have had the same problem and have found a solution. There is no copyright on that.

– Ask for a fresh pair of eyes to look at the same problem.

– Know when to change the question altogether. Some problems can’t be solved, so you change the question being asked.

– Have courage to know that you might make mistakes.

– Relax. A stressed mind will never find the best solution.

– If the problem looks to big and scary, break it down into smaller parts. Solve those.

– Find a mentorship program or a leadership workshop to help you.

– Don’t ignore the smaller issues, which can be quickly solved. Don’t let them build up.

– Have patience. The solution will come to you.

– Information is not the same as understanding. Google has a lot of info, but learn to make it more relevant to your problem.

Always remember that you aren’t born a problem solver. Nobody is. It is a skill developed over a period of time by facing your challenges, not running from them.

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