Quote of the day: problem solving by Albert Einstein

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
I remember reading a book many years ago, I believe it was published somewhere within Stanford University. The book was about problem solving. It’s probably been 25 years since reading it but two things remain a part of my approach to life:

  1. Identify the problem before you start trying to solve it. One of the keys here is that most people try to solve symptoms of the problem and not the problem itself. If you have a headache you take an aspirin, right? How about stopping what started the headache? Maybe you need new glasses, you’re a bit dehydrated or your hat is too tight. Sure, take an aspirin too but don’t expect it to make a new pair of glasses suddenly appear. In business I see this all the time. I think there’s a related effect here… in an earlier blog entry, “Don’t confuse confidence with competence or education with experience“, overly confident people assume to be too smart to not get the problem at hand and charge a company to go in the wrong direction.
  2. There was a great story about the process of trying to build a machine delicate enough to pick tomatoes. Long story short, the problem was the tomato… after spending years and millions, some of the original machinery would have sufficed… they grew a hybrid tomato that had a more resilient skin.

Back to Albert’s quote… brilliance, simplicity. My lesson learned today… if my current trajectory becomes problematic, I need to stop and reconsider how I got to this point. Identify the root cause of the problem and then reshape how I came to the conclusions that caused it… think differently.


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