Mapping the Path Between Problem and Solution

August 19, 2012

As I’m working with new ideas and unfamiliar concepts, I occasionally find myself confronted with a problem for which I have no immediate solution. My flow can easily break, and I will become stuck. During these times, I must remind myself that there’s an easy way to find what may or may not be an easy solution: get the problem out where it can be seen.

This means getting it out of your head and in front of your eyes.

A great first step is to establish what you want as a result to this problem. You’ll never reach the solution if you don’t know what that solution should give you. Next, write down every observation about this particular obstacle. Create a list, starting with what you have as well as what end results you want.

After that, look over the items and ideas written, and begin finding the relationships between them. Map these connections. Be visual - draw pictures. Illustrating an idea can bring clarity to an otherwise unfocused thought process. Look at your ideas - don’t just think about them. Get them out of your head, rearrange them until they make sense, then reabsorb them.

This approach encourages me to break down the problem to its base components, from which I can build a solution to the problem. Like anything in critical thinking and problem-solving, it will take practice. Old habits do die hard. Though, newer and better habits are often worth the effort required to forge them.

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