What’s the problem we’re trying to solve?

When a discussion starts to get overly general, and seems to be generating more problems than solutions, a simple question can help regain some focus:

What’s the problem we’re trying to solve?

Solve that problem first before you try to solve any others. Sure, note down any other problems you’ve discovered, and make sure that the solution to the original problem does not cause any of those problems (or if it does, the other problems are more acceptable than the original).

The question is also useful when someone has a well-meaning “good idea” that may be a solution in search of a problem. You can also ask:

What is the simplest method of solving this particular problem?

as a gentle guide towards doing the simplest thing that could possibly work.

Published 9 February 2009, tags:

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