Problem Solving 101 | Ken Watanabe

Summary of: Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People
By: Ken Watanabe


Problem-solving is an essential skill in navigating the complexities of everyday life. The book ‘Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People’ by Ken Watanabe offers a practical guide in tackling problems we face. In this summary, we unravel the four vital steps that can help you overcome any challenge: identifying the real problem by breaking it down, finding its root cause, analyzing the cause to generate solutions, and creating an actionable plan. By understanding and applying these steps, you can not only improve your grades or boost your local band’s concert attendance but also achieve your seemingly impossible dreams.

Problem-solving Made Easy

We all encounter challenges daily, and some of us may not have the know-how to solve them. That’s where the four essential steps come in handy. The first step is breaking down the problem into smaller parts to assess what it’s about, like identifying which categories are causing the problem. If geometry is the issue, identify the specific problems you have with it, like measuring cylinder volume or trapezoid areas. Once you pinpoint a weak spot, focus on it to solve the problem effectively. The last step is identifying what is causing the problem. With these steps, you can solve any problem systematically and quickly.

Problem Solving Method: Finding the Root Cause

After identifying your problem, step two of the problem-solving method is to determine its root cause. Listing all possible causes including hypotheses is the first step. To verify and confirm these hypotheses, a yes/no tree is a great testing tool. Keep asking yes and no questions until all possible answers are exhausted. This will help find the root cause of the problem, which is essential for the next step: forming a plan of action.

Actionable Steps for Effective Problem-Solving

The book highlights the essential steps for effective problem-solving. After identifying the cause of the problem, collating and analyzing information, developing possible solutions, and prioritizing solutions, it’s time to create an action plan. The action plan comprises concrete steps that are impactful and easy to implement. The author provides an illustration of how to use these steps by showing how a music band, Apples and Oranges, solved their problem of low concert attendance. They employed solutions that were both impactful and easy to implement, such as placing radio announcements, to create their action plan.

Hunting Down Big Dreams

Break your big dreams into small, specific goals to pave the path to success.

Many of us aspire to achieve big dreams, but often, they remain unattainable due to their enormity and sheer impossibility. However, transforming these dreams into reality is not an impossible feat if we break them down into smaller goals. By setting clear, specific goals, like getting hold of a used Apple computer within six months without taking out a loan to pay for it, we can set ourselves on the path to success.

By considering the gap between our current situation and our desired goal, we can come up with a plan to bridge it. For instance, by calculating his savings and future earnings, Eric Squirrel discovered that he would have $352 by the deadline he had set for himself, which was $248 short of his goal. By identifying the shortfall, Eric could now form a plan on how he could close the gap.

The key takeaway is that you too can make your big dreams come true by breaking them down into smaller, clear, and specific goals that pave the way to success.

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