The science of how to get things done

If you want people to be able to do something complex, you need to provide them with the tools. Here’s an example of the basic methodology for solving an unstructured problem.

  • State the problem: What is the problem you are trying to solve?
  • Parse it carefully into pieces: words matter
  • Is there an example of what a solution would look like? Describe it
  • Do you have to solve it now? Do you have the data?
  • How much time do you have to solve the problem?
  •  Understand the physics of the system: Why does the problem arise? Why is it intractable?
  • Distance yourself emotionally from the problem
  • Reason through robust statements
  • Parse the problem into pieces
  • Raise your frame of reference from the problem. Go up 1-2 levels
  • Relax constraints
  • Take variables off the table
  • Imagine what-if solutions
  • Give yourself multiple options
  • Play it forward / Think 2-3 steps ahead / Run simulations in your mind / Think probabilistically – See the likely future – What is likely to happen if … / Think forward / System dynamics
  • Sequence the proposed solution practically: Prioritize / Triage
  • What can you do right now that improves your situation?
  • Build things to not fail in the first place
  • Will the solution persist on its own?
  •  Plan for entropy and evolution: Know there is no finality

You can teach people how to do this. That’s what we do, and it’s why we build things that work.