How to figure out what the problem really is

Type: Principles, Process, Rules
Sources: Don Gause & Gerald Weinberg, Are Your Lights On?; two own thoughts


Problem DEFINED AS difference between things as desired and things as conceived
Note: Don's and Gerald's original definition stated 'perceived' instead of my 'conveived'. I changed this due to some buddhism-oriented mindset of mine. Thanks to my friend Sven for reminding me.


P1) Each solution is the source of the next problem.

P2) Moral issues tend to melt in the heat of a juicy problem.

P3a) You can never be sure you have a correct problem definition, even after the problem is solved.

P3b) You can never be sure you have a correct problem definition, but don't ever stop trying to get one.

P4) The trickiest part of certain problems is just recognizing their existance.

P5) There are problem solvers and solution problemers.

P6) In spite of appearances, people seldom know what they want until you give them what they ask for.

P7) The fish is always last to see the water.

P8) In the valley of the problem solvers, the problem creator is king.


S1) Ask: Who has the problem? Then, for each party, ask: What is the essence of your problem?

S2) think of at least three things that might be wrong with your understanding of the Problem. If you can't think of at least three things that might be wrong with your understanding of the problem, you don't understand the problem.

S3) Test your problem definition on a foreigner, someone blind, or a child, or make yourself foreign, blind, or childlike.

S4) Generate points of view. Every point of view will produce new misfits between problem and solution.

S5) As you wander the weary path of problem definition, check back home once in a while to see if you haven't lost your way.

S6) Once you have a problem statement in words, play with the words until the statement is in everyone's head.

S7) Ask: Where does the problem come from? Who sent this problem? What is she trying to do to me? The source of the problem is most often within you.

S8) Ask yourself: Do I really want a solution?

S9) Ask Why 5 times. Normally this leads you to the essence of the problem.

S10) If a person is in a position to do something about a problem, but doesn't have the problem, then do something so he does.

S11) Try blaming yourself for a change - even for a moment.

Rules and Notes

R1) Don't take s.o. solution method for a problem definition - especially if it's your solution method.

R2) Don't solve other people's problems when they can solve them perfectly well themselves. If it's their problem, make it their problem.

R3) If people really have their lights on, a little reminder may be more effective than your complicated solution.

R4) If you solve s.o.'s problem too readily, he'll never believe you've solved his real problem.

R5) Don't leap to conclusions, but don't ignore your first impression.

R6) We never have enough time to do it right, but we always have enough time to do it over.

R7) We never have enough time to consider whether we want it, but we always have enough time to regret it.



Related Pages

rating: +1+x

If you want to know more about a topic, simply tag the article with a 'morePlease' or 'examplesPlease' tag!


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License