On Solving The Right Problem

It is natural in my role that I get asked to solve problems. Quite often, someone tell me specifically what they think the solution to their problem is, asking me to just do that. I refuse.

The reason why I (often) refuse at this point is that the solution typically comes from someone who does not have any experience in what they are solving. What is most important to ask yourself before even trying to solve a problem is: “Am I solving the right problem?”

Many popular techniques exist for this, such as the 5 Whys. Ask “Why” five times to get closer to the true problem and what you should really fix.

The reason I bring this up is that more often than not I see something of a desire to solve just this specific scenario that the perceived problem seems to be the cause of. While you may get lucky you are more likely to fail as you are solving the wrong problem. Solving the wrong problems will eventually cause you losses, in one way or another.

Schools have some fault here. If we are asked to solve a problem, we have come to expect that it is the right problem to solve. Nowhere throughout school and university are we taught to ask whether the problem we are given is the one we should solve.

Yet, this is a trait that the most successful have. To make great solutions, you need to solve the right problem. Start by digging deeper and for an easy method embrace the “5 Whys”. I’ll make you that much better.

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