Albert Einstein, who represents a popular idea of an absent minded professor genius, apparently said that if he had limited time to save the world he would spend most of the time defining the problems and only five minutes finding the answer. This is perhaps a good approach to solving any problem.
Before we try to run straight towards a solution we should invest some time and effort into understanding the issue. If we misunderstand the issue we might solve the wrong problem, or just get stuck.
Learning to solve problems is a skill that can be taught and learnt. Intelligence helps, but we can always add to our skill in order to reach the potential that our intelligence affords us.
- If no already presented as a question try reducing the problem to a question.
- Rephrase the problem – increase productivity, increase efficiency, produce more with less time, produce more with less effort, produce the same with less overhead – which applies to the particular problem.
- Try to make the situation engaging.
- Challenge assumptions. Did you assume the gender of the person? That the person who reported the crime was innocent?
- Gather information and facts.
- Can the problem be looked at as a several smaller connected problems?
- Consider intentions and motives behind the actions of others. They could be very different to your ideas.
- Look at how everything links together, there are no facts in isolation, there are always some links.
- Find multiple perspectives. How do things look to others?
- Consider all sort of solutions, including half solutions. They might lead to better ideas.
- Reverse the problem. What would cause problems? What would make it worse?
This is a genius approach as opposed to the genius approach. The whole point of genius is that the approach is always unique and the answer is different to what came before. Yet at the same time it is always a good idea to get the best possible understanding of the problem before searching for the solution.
Escape rooms are designed to be solved. The pieces will fit together. The designers just want you to find one of several ways to fit it all together.
It helps to know that there is a solution.