Solving problems


Whenever I’m doing something, I usually need to solve a problem. That’s something we’re used to deal with in our daily lives, specially when facing challenges. For example, scientist often need to find answers for an unexpected behaviour in a certain experiment and community managers set social media & community strategies that do not always work.

Pictionary Graph

If you have ever played Pictionary, you know that this picture applies to, well, almost everyone.

Facing problems is common, what matters is how you solve them. Although the best approach depends on the problem you’re facing, I usually take some simple steps before making a decision and going forward with it.

I – Abstract

Speaking for myself, the first thing to do when I don’t know what to do is abstracting from the problem. Do not panic: take the time you need to calm down, otherwise you won’t be able to analyse the situation properly.

II – Analyse

When I feel ready, I look into the situation. It is important to analyse the whole issue as a whole to understand what went wrong and to find workable means to meet those problems. For example, if you create a social media strategy but, after implementing it, you find out it isn’t working, there could be several reasons for that and you’d need to find the reason(s) that led to the failure.

III – Answer

Ok, you know what’s the problem — the question. However, you’ll need to find an answer to the question; this is, a solution for your problem. Relying on only one solution is not a good idea, because, if that fails, you’ll be back to square zero. I like building Issue Trees, since it helps finding the question(s) and the answer(s) to those problems.

IV – Simulate/Predict

Before putting anything into practice, it is important to simulate or, at least, predict the consequences of your acts. We don’t want to cause another problem when trying to solve one, do we? Of course, sometimes, it’s not possible to simulate and prediction is not very reliable, since there’s a good chance we’ll be forgetting possible consequences that may arise.

V – Execute

Now, after all this steps, you know what do do? Do it.

VI – Be ready

Sometimes, solutions can be wrong and/or cause more problems. You should be ready to deal with any issues that may arise.


All right, what about Pictionary?

So, I’m playing Pictionary and my friends won’t guess the drawing, in spite of my great skills?! Damn. Ok, according to this “guide”, I’d start by abstracting and then analyse the situation. What am I drawing? A python digesting an elephant. Does it look like it? Yes. Why won’t my friends guess it? Because they are dumb. What can I do to solve this problem? Nothing, they are dumb. Seriously.

After finding the problem, I’d need to answer it, this is, solve it. Of course I wouldn’t be able to make my friends smarter, so the wisest decision would be drawing the feacking python again. But would they guess it after drawing it again? Not sure, probably not (because they’re dumb, remember?). Still, this would be my best chance. Of course, after drawing the python and the elephant again, my friends couldn’t guess what it was, and I lost. 😦

Of course, when it comes to Pictionary, the limited amount of time makes trial and error the best method to solving problems. Repeatedly pointing to the drawing would definitely not be a good method. However, even if trial and error can be used in certain situations, it will be useless when there’s an infinite amount of solutions.

Oh, and btw: curious about what my drawing looked like?

Python elephant


I mean… it’s obvious, right?

P.s. This picture and story about pythons eating elephants was taken and adapted from the book “Le Petit Prince” (The Little Prince), from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I highly recommend you reading this book.

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