How To Solve Problems

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Have you ever been stuck with a problem and couldn’t find a solution?

Welcome to the club. This happens to many people – and more often than you might think.

So, today I want to share with you a 7-Step process based on seven questions to ask yourself to get unstuck and to find the perfect solution.

In Step 1, we need to be clear about the problem. Take a piece of paper and define the problem in as much detail as you can. Why does it bother you? What is the negative impact right now? Who is impacted, and when is it a problem? Take your time.

Step 2 is the preparation of the environment. What we need is a table with free access all around. Remove any chairs that might be in the way. Place the problem description in the center of the table.

Step 3 is the preparation of the seven questions.

The questions we need to ask ourselves are based on seven different perspectives. Not all of them will fit every problem, use whatever works. The perspectives are:
Look: At which aspects of the problem can we look differently or in a new way?
Use: What parts of the problem can we use in a new way or for the first time?
Move: Which parts of the problem can we move or change its position in time or space?
Interconnect: Are there any parts that are not yet connected, or we could connect differently?
Alter: What could we change in terms of design or performance?
Make: What could we make to create something new?
Imagine: What could we imagine that would create an amazing experience?

Start thinking of the bigger picture

Next, place seven pieces of paper along the table sides in equal distance to each other. Write one question on each page. What we have now is a table with the problem description in the center surrounded by seven pages, each with one question.

Let’s continue:

Step 4 is the completion of the questions with a checklist. Each question has its checklist to go through depending on the type of problem. Complete each page with the related checklist:

Higher: Look at it from a 5km aerial view
Reverse: Look at it in reverse, from the back and from behind
Value: Look at it from the point of its value
Kids: Look at it in the way a child might look at it
Ignore: Look at it ignoring what you know to be true about it
Holistic: Look at it as a whole, from a system point of view

Leverage: How can you use this to leverage something else?
Foundation: How could you use this as a foundation for something?
Substitute: How could you use this in place of something else?
Aspect: How could you use some aspects of it in a different or new way?
Change: How could you use this to change something else?
Apply: How could you apply this differently?

Import: What new element could you bring in to make a change?
Rearrange: What could you rearrange to make a change?
Replace: What could you replace or swap to make a change?
Remove: What could you remove to make a change?
Speed: What could you speed up or slow down to make a change?
Frequency: What could you do more often or less often to make a change?

Power: What could you connect to make it more powerful?
Combine: What could you combine to make something new?
Network: Who or what could you network with to make something new?
Transparent:* What could you expose to make something new?
Open: What could you open to the world to change the impact?
Partnership: What could you partner with to make something new?

Quality: How could you improve quality?
Design: What could you design differently?
Performance: How could you increase the performance?
Aesthetics: How can you change the look?
Experiential: How can you change the experience?
Standardize: How can you make it fit with other things?

Process: Which new process could you create?
Meaning: What new meaning could you give it?
Harness: What could be harnessed to change it?
Instantiate: What could you instantiate into something new?
Functions: What new functions can you create?
Specialize: What could you make more specialized?

Amplify: How could you make this bigger?
Easier: How could you make it easier to use, buy, assemble…?
Negatives: What are the negatives you could fix?
Go: Imagine anything that comes to mind
Sci-fi: Imagine a sci-fi solution or improvement
Try: Try using it in different ways and see what happens

Now the fun begins!

Step 5 is the fun part and where the real problem solving happens.

Start on the first sheet of paper with the question ‘Look’. Go through the checklist and answer each part in short words. You have two minutes for each page before moving on to the next page. Don’t worry if you can’t answer all the questions in that short time. Just keep going on. Go around the table until you feel you can’t answer any more questions.

Step 6 is the collection of all the answers and writing them down on a separate page. Now you have a pool of ideas to solve the problem and to create amazing solutions. Put them in any order you might feel comfortable with starting from the easiest to implement or change to the most difficult.

Step 7 is selecting a single solution and acting on it. Problem solved. Or at least you started with solving the problem, and you’re on the right path.

Just give it a go. You will be amazed by the results. You will have a much better understanding of the actual problem having looked at it from all angles. And you will have multiple options to solve the problem right in front of you. If you work in a team or with your family at home, get everyone involved going around the table answering the questions and adding comments to the checklists. This is a great way to come up with new ideas and solutions together, which makes it even more powerful.

Which problem would you most like to solve today?

John Di Stefano

An entrepreneur at heart and founder of the Entrepreneur Academy in Brussels, Belgium. He is teaching and supporting entrepreneurs in the skills every entrepreneur needs to create a better life for themselves and the people around them.

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