In the world of problem-solving, it's important to approach challenges with a clear and strategic mindset. "The problem-solver's playbook: 17 questions to sharpen your thinking" provides valuable insights into how to effectively tackle problems and find innovative solutions.

Aviral Vaid

Hatched by Aviral Vaid

Jan 14, 2024

5 min read


In the world of problem-solving, it's important to approach challenges with a clear and strategic mindset. "The problem-solver's playbook: 17 questions to sharpen your thinking" provides valuable insights into how to effectively tackle problems and find innovative solutions.

The first question that arises is whether the problem at hand is merely a symptom of a larger issue. It's easy to get caught up in solving surface-level problems without addressing the root cause. By asking ourselves if there is a bigger problem underlying the current issue, we can ensure that our solutions are comprehensive and long-lasting.

Another important aspect to consider is the impact of the problem on customers. We need to assess the reach, intensity, and user segment affected by the problem. This allows us to prioritize our efforts and focus on solving problems that have the greatest impact on our customers. After all, companies exist to serve customers' needs and provide value.

However, it's not enough to just solve problems for the sake of it. We need to align our solutions with the long-term vision and strategy of our company or product. This requires us to make tough choices and prioritize certain problems over others. By thinking about the cost of delay or the cost of doing nothing, we can better understand the urgency of certain problems and allocate resources accordingly.

In addition, we need to consider what would happen if we do nothing. Some problems require immediate attention, like a fire that needs to be extinguished before it spreads. Others may seem less urgent, but if left unaddressed, they can have long-term consequences, like a leaking roof that slowly deteriorates until it collapses. By understanding the potential consequences of inaction, we can make informed decisions about which problems to tackle first.

To truly understand the needs of our customers, we need to go beyond surface-level issues. The jobs-to-be-done framework prompts us to think wider and consider the bigger picture. For example, when a user flies from London to Dublin, their goal is not to ride a plane, but to meet their colleagues. By understanding the customer's underlying job-to-be-done, we can design solutions that truly meet their needs and provide value.

Building a deeper moat for our product is another important consideration. One effective way to do this is by creating network effects. This means that as more people use our product, its value increases for each individual user. By focusing on building a strong network and increasing the value of our product, we can create a sustainable competitive advantage.

It's also crucial to disrupt our own product before someone else does. By constantly challenging ourselves and seeking ways to improve, we can stay ahead of the competition and ensure the long-term viability of our product. This requires us to critically evaluate our own solutions and identify potential areas for improvement.

When it comes to finding solutions, it's important to involve a diverse group of stakeholders. Solutions should be driven by a collaborative process that leverages the expertise of engineers, designers, data scientists, and other relevant parties. This ensures that solutions are not only desirable for users and viable for the business but also feasible to build within the given constraints and resources.

As we delve into the solution discovery process, it's important to consider the point of diminishing returns. There comes a time when investing additional resources into a solution may not yield significant additional value. By recognizing this point and strategically allocating resources, we can optimize our problem-solving efforts.

To further strengthen our solutions, it's valuable to adopt the perspective of a "Red Team." This exercise involves looking at our solutions as if we were the enemy, the biggest critic, or a competitor. The goal of the Red Team is to challenge our solutions and identify potential flaws or weaknesses. By subjecting our solutions to rigorous scrutiny, we can strengthen them and ensure their effectiveness.

Risk assessment is another crucial aspect of problem-solving. It's important to identify the riskiest assumptions underlying our solutions and find ways to de-risk them. This may involve conducting thorough research, gathering data, or conducting experiments to validate our assumptions and reduce uncertainty.

In addition, it's important to consider the smallest chunk of value we can deliver. Time is a critical factor in problem-solving, and delays can lead to changes in requirements, trends, or customer preferences. By focusing on delivering incremental value and iterating quickly, we can adapt to changing circumstances and ensure that our solutions remain relevant.

Finally, it's essential to ask ourselves if we are the best person to solve a particular problem. Sometimes, it may be more effective to involve others with different perspectives and expertise. By recognizing our limitations and seeking help when needed, we can ensure that problems are solved in the most efficient and effective way possible.

In conclusion, effective problem-solving requires a strategic mindset and a thorough understanding of the problem at hand. By asking the right questions and considering various perspectives, we can develop innovative and impactful solutions. Three actionable pieces of advice to keep in mind are:

  • 1. Prioritize problems based on their impact on customers and align them with the long-term vision and strategy of the company.
  • 2. Continuously disrupt your own product to stay ahead of the competition and ensure its relevance.
  • 3. Involve a diverse group of stakeholders in the solution discovery process to leverage their expertise and ensure feasibility.

By following these principles, we can become better problem-solvers and drive meaningful change in our organizations.

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