Zen is you – Be.

Solve Problems by Asking, not Telling

Posted in ideas, objectives by dave225 on January 15, 2010

“What you need to do is …”

Here’s my problem of the day with Twitter:  looking at most tweets, I see people proposing (to whom, I’m not exactly sure) solutions to the world’s problems.  Reducing the problems to easily-solved contests that are met by spouting platitudes like, “No more bonuses for Wall St. until …” or “Provide health coverage just like they do in (whatever country)” .

So why haven’t the decision makers just looked to Twitter to fix things?  The answers are there, and they’re so simple!  Well, for the same reason they haven’t solved the problems in the first place – everyone has an answer.  Who has an earnest question? (I ask rhetorically. J)

Instead of presuming to know enough to spout off a solution, what if people started asking questions?  “Why do we need Wall St bonuses?  What would happen if the financial community cleaned house and paid salaries competitive with other industries?”   At the least, the people asking the questions might learn more about a subject (if they care to listen to the response.) But possibly, the people responsible for solving the problem may think of the problem in a new way – particularly if a naïve question demands that they defend something that they take for granted.

All this musing led me to the real point.  It’s easy to criticize popular media for not asking enough questions.  But is there a problem-solving methodology buried in this premise?  Beyond the simple “ask ‘Why’ three times” idea , “what if” scenarios, Pareto analysis, Ishikawa, Decision Trees, etc…  is there a more formal methodology and workflow that uses questions to solve problems?  Something that ties all of those methods together, but is more formal than using “expert judgement” to determine which method to use at various stages.  E.g. ‘Use X method to obtain output in the form of ______, which is used as input into Y method.’

What if I started to formulate one?  No – wrong question… Where can I find such a thing?  Why doesn’t exist if it doesn’t?  How would I go about documenting and testing it?


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