4 Stages of Problem Solving

Problem Solving is about having the right mindset, breaking a problem into smaller sub-problems, defining the blackboxes, thinking first principle and more. But Problem Solving is not just about finding a solution to a problem. Oops! Then what? There is a bigger picture to that as well, let me walk you through that. There are 4 stages to problem solving:

  1. Understanding the Problem: The first step is to understand the problem. This is where most people fail. Getting the problem wrong. You wouldn’t solve it right if you don’t get it right or can’t think of edge cases too. Whenever I am unable to solve a problem, I say to myself – Samasya Ka Samadhan Samasya mein hai!(The solution lies in the problem itself – read 100 times). This is the utmost important key to problem solving.
  2. Finding a solution: Of course, this is the main point. In our brainstorming around problem solving, we discussed following ways to approach problem solving:
    1. Positive Mindset
      • I am capable and I can do it. 
      • What if in the world, I had no help. Would I not find the solution? No one limits you more than yourself
      • Don’t fear the failure
    2. Ownership
    3. Breakdown a problem into smaller problems
    4. Define blackboxes, inputs and outputs. 
    5. Pick one blackbox at a time and detail out the solution
    6. Try writing/drawing to better clarity
    7. If you don’t find an efficient solution, write down the brute force one and so that you can improve on it. Sometimes, when we implement the worst solution, we get ideas about a better one. 
    8. Don’t think continuously about the problem. Take a break. Go for a walk. Walking/Shower bath are the best places to think of a solution. Figure out what works for you.
    9. 99.99%, you are not the first person to face this. Somebody must have gone through the same. Do research, search the internet or talk to people. 
    10. If there is no help, apply first principles. What is first principle thinking?
    11. Reach out to seniors or peers. Don’t care if they will judge you or not. This is a superpower!. 
    12. If it still doesn’t solve, let it go for sometime. Your mental health, motivation, energy are far more important. 
    13. Attack after sometime back. You are a born warrior!
  3. RCA(Root Cause Analysis): Why the trouble? Why did it happen in the first place? Why did you have to spend so much time on this? If it hadn’t happened, you would have spent this time reading a book, playing a sport or spending time with your family & friends. Find out the root cause!
  4. Do not repeat yourself(How do you ensure that it doesn’t happen again?): After 3rd, it’s super important for you as an individual to ensure that others shouldn’t face it. Document the first 3 points. Share it somewhere where others can access. If you are a part of a company, it is important for the team to not face it again. But how do you really ensure that it shouldn’t happen again to you/your team/your company? Think about that! The answer might be defining a process, it might be doing some automation or anything.
    • Think about the evolution of Science. Everything is documented. If it hadn’t been, humans would be repeating the same.

Great leaders/executioners always spend their time on 3rd and 4th. That’s how they become great. But all 4 steps are important. What stage are you at?

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