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The key to problem solving

One of the more interesting challenges of being an idea person is that you never quite know what crazy notion is going to pop into your head from one moment to the next.

You have to learn to pick and choose which ideas to share with others, what to shelve for future use, what to discard and ultimately, what to devote your time to.

This might seem completely obvious if you are applying this to a situation that you are very familiar with, deciding what food to prepare for Sunday dinner for example, but challenge yourself to decide what six books you would want to have with you if you were stranded on a deserted island and things start to get a little more complex.

On the one hand it’s tempting to list famous literature like the collected works of William Shakespeare reasoning that they would keep your mind engaged and help you pass the time.

On the other hand, exactly how much time do you suppose you would really have for reading if you are busy trying to survive? After all, Shakespeare might have written The Tempest, but would he be able to help you catch a fish or build a shelter to protect yourself from the elements?

As worthy an endeavour as reading Shakespeare might be, it might not be a practical solution under these particular circumstances, and yet it is typical of the sort of answer that is often given to this question.

Often in our rush to find an answer we completely misinterpret the problem that we are actually trying to solve and wind up proceeding with a solution that does not address the situation as adequately as it could.

That being the case, is there a formula that you can use to evaluate an idea and decide whether it is the best or most practical solution to your current needs?

Believe it or not, the answer lies in taking the time to analyse the nature of the problem before considering the solution.

Particularly if the problem lies outside your personal knowledge base, you can gain a better understanding of the situation by asking yourself as many questions as possible.

In the context of being stranded on a deserted island, for example, you might ask yourself:

What is your current level of expertise regarding this situation?

What sorts of things would you need to accomplish in order to survive?

Do you currently possess any relevant skills?

What sort of skills or information would you need to be able to access while you were on the island in order to survive?

And finally, now that you know the answers to these questions, of all the books that you could bring with you, which ones would you choose to make your chances of survival most likely?

The interesting thing about employing this sort of logic path to solve problems is that it can result in some very unexpected insights, thereby increasing both the range of options that you have to choose from and the success rate of your results.

Robin Trimingham is the chief operating officer of The Olderhood Group Ltd and a virtual presenter, journalist, podcaster and thought leader in the fields of life transition and change management. Connect with Robin at https://bit.ly/3nSMlvc or robin@olderhood.com

Of all the books that you could take with you, which ones would you choose to make your chances of survival on a desert island most likely?

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Published May 18, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated May 16, 2021 at 10:45 am)

The key to problem solving

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