How can we solve problems we don't understand?

Solving What We Don’t Understand

“How do you solve a problem like Maria?” For those of us familiar with the movie, “The Sound of Music,” you’ve probably heard this famous line before. Maria wasn’t conventional – in fact, she was the very essence of one who didn’t conform to the rules, regulations, and expectations of the convent. She didn’t belong there.

Maria was running away and hiding. If you didn’t take the time to understand her, you wouldn’t know that. This raises a key point – it’s nearly impossible to solve what we don’t understand. Too many assumptions, too many guesses, too much uncertainty. This exposes the critical need for analysis when solving problems.

When we desire to solve a problem, the more we analyze it, the better we’ll perform.

If I had one hour to solve a problem, I’d spend fifty-five minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about the solution.

Albert Einstein

This begs a great question – how do I solve a problem when I don’t understand it or perhaps don’t know what the problem is? Many of us experience this situation on a regular basis – inside and outside the office. I’ve often had my children come to me at home and complain that they have a problem, but they can’t verbalize it or describe it in a way that I really can’t grasp. I still don’t understand Minecraft.

At the core of the issue is a critical problem-solving technique – gaining a shared understanding (or perhaps reality) of the problem. On its face, it sounds simple. But add the dynamic of people with differing perspectives and priorities and you realize you can walk right into a minefield. Key analysis will fail without a clear and concise understanding of the problem. This is why good root-cause analysis systems are so critically important.

After all, was there really a problem with Maria?

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