The art of problem solving

You may be wondering why there’s an image of a cat with an unrelated exert accompanying this blog; just bear with me. I wanted to share one of the strategies I have come across on my travels, for when you’re stuck in a problem-solving rut.

It could be that you just can’t nail the ‘big idea’ for a pitch, or you’re totally out of new ideas, or you’re suffering from a major case of writers block, or even that your cat is sad (hence the image).
You get the idea, the underlaying issue could be anything, but this strategy should help you to tackle it head-on and come out winning every time.
The 5 whys technique has been circling global boardrooms for years and that’s testament to it’s effectiveness. It explores cause and effect by using the favourite pass time of a Five year old in the car; repeatedly asking ‘why’?
So it might go something like this:
Problem  – my cat is sad
Why? – Because he is acting strangely
Why? – Because he hasn’t sat on my lap
Why? – Because he has been sat by his food bowl all day
Why? – Because I forgot to feed him
Lo and behold, the problem is solved.
Usually you’ll get to the root of any problem by peeling back 5 ‘layers’ (hence the name), but don’t feel like you have to stop there, by all means keep going if you need to.
I do, however, have a few words of warning on this one:
  1. Make sure the rest of the team are up for playing, otherwise you could end up getting on their last nerve.
  2. The effectiveness is limited to the knowledge of the people involved – although a different perspective or insight should come to light, this technique is not going to help you discover any totally new information.
  3. Not all circumstances only have one root problem, so you might have to keep repeating the technique with multiple questions.
Having said all that…I like this technique it’s easy to remember and implement and I’ve found it can work, as long as you’re willing to be honest and receptive to thinking outside the box/square/whatever that overused phrase is.
Use it and let me know how you get on, I always love a good success story.

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