In a different post, I mention that finding more problems is often strangely the solution. However, another way to go about that idea is to consider whether you’d like to solve a problem or eliminate a problem by making the problem irrelevant.
There’s usually an easier way to handle a problem, and it’s by noticing 4 ways to deal with it.
First off, the problem people say is the problem isn’t the REAL problem. It’s buried in multiple layers like an onion. The REAL problem is several layers of problems deep. Let’s say the problem is “I’m late for work,” which is not the real problem. The real problem is getting fired. Which the real problem there is not having a paycheck. Which that problem is not being able to buy groceries. Which the real problem is therefore actually going hungry.
Don’t look for the “root of the problem” unless you want to make your life hard and waste time.
People erroneously say something like, “The root of the problem of being late for work is you need to plan better!” But that’s not the real root of the problem, and that sort of thinking distorts your ability to better problem solve. The REAL root of the problem in this example is “starvation.” It’s also myopic to look at the root of the problem, when in reality, problems form in multiple layers and you can solve any of the layers of problem just as effectively as “the root.”
The secret is simple: Just ask why a problem is a problem and see if solving any of the other layers is easier to solve.
If you have bad traffic in a city as people commute to work. A solution is to build another lane. But if you wanted to make the problem irrelevant, you simply build flying cars that have no traffic jams.
Make the problem less severe: Build another road, change speed limits, etc.
Make the problem irrelevant: Build flying cars.
Solve a different layer of the problem: Allow remote work. Win the lottery and quit your job.
Then you must ask WHY it’s a problem. Let’s say traffic is a problem because commutes are boring and unproductive.
Mitigate the pain of the problem: Create autonomous vehicles so you can work / play while stuck in traffic.
As another example, let’s say turnover is bad in a coal mining company.
The 4 methods are:
Make the problem less severe: “Have a pipeline full of new hires at all times,” or “provide bonuses so they quit less.”
Make the problem irrelevant: “Automate the job with robots,” or “Stop selling coal and build solar panels.”
Solve a different layer of the problem: “Start a new company that doesn’t have turnover problems.”
Finally, why is it a problem? Because new hires take 4 weeks to train and the company loses productivity during that time.
Mitigate the pain of the problem (ie “Making the problem acceptable”): Put a better training program in place so that they’re up to speed so fast that the company doesn’t care if there’s turnover anymore.
Most problem solving books tell you to hit the problem from multiple angles to come up with creative ideas on making the problem less severe. But if you consider all 4 of these methods, one of them will almost always show an easier path.
One final example is climate change:
Mitigate the problem: Pollute less by using electric cars
Make acceptable: Wear gas masks
Make irrelevant: Colonize Mars and leave Earth
Solve a different layer: Invent a huge air purifier
What problems have you had where you wanted to mitigate / solve the problem directly, but it was easier to make the problem irrelevant, acceptable, or solve a different layer of the problem?