Smaller problems are easier to solve than big ones. In this video, learn how to break big problems into component parts and understand what could really be driving the issue you're trying to solve.
- One of the first steps in any good critical thinking process is taking a very big problem and breaking it down into smaller ones that you can actually solve. The time you invest thinking through what the components of the problem are is going to pay dividends on the backend when you look at the possible solutions, because you'll have a better sense for what recommendations and solutions to pursue and how those solutions help you solve the bigger problem. Let me illustrate. So, let's imagine we have a problem where our profits are down. That's a huge issue to solve. We can't solve that in and of itself. We have to look at smaller components of it. So, if we have a profit problem, we have two components. Either our revenues are down or our costs are up, or some combination of the two. But those are still very big problems to try to solve. So, let's break down revenues and what could be causing our revenue shortfall. Well, that's either volumes are down or prices are down. And on volumes, that's still a big issue. We may have a smaller issue of current customers are buying less or we're selling less to prospective customers. Now, on the cost side, the reason that costs could be up are either prices are up or we're buying more stuff. If prices are up in terms of the stuff we're buying, well, that could be a function of base prices are up or we're getting less of a discount. When I take these big problems and I spend the time to think about breaking them into smaller and smaller ones, those smaller problems are much easier to solve. What I'd encourage you to do is take a big problem you're currently facing. Go find a whiteboard somewhere and ask yourself, "What's that big problem composed of? What are the smaller issues that are driving the big problem?" Once you have those smaller issues, break them down again, and continue breaking those big problems down into smaller and smaller ones until you say, "Oh, I know how I might solve that component of it." When you can start seeing the solutions emerge, you're moving from that problem identification stage to a problem solving stage. And the time you invest in dimensionalizing this problem solving space is going to help you solve problems more quickly and more effectively.
- Identify how to break down complicated issues into smaller components.
- Determine the definition of an effective problem statement.
- Identify the primary benefit of focusing questions.
- Identify a problem's root causes.
- Apply critical thinking tools to analyze and unpack consequences.
- Recognize how to prepare others to think critically.