4 Tips for Solving Tough Problems

I’ve never come up with a great idea sitting at my desk going through my to-do list.  My best ideas come when I do one (or more) of these things:

  1. Walk away from the problem – Sometimes when you leave something alone for a couple of days, you see it from a different perspective and you see a solution that wasn’t obvious before.
  2. Talk to someone – Just explaining a problem to someone else might show you something you haven’t tried or help you see something you’ve missed.  And if you don’t see it while you’re talking, the other person may see it or may have ideas you haven’t considered.
  3. Go for a walk – There’s something about walking that makes your brain work.  I have some of my best ideas out in the woods where I can’t actually do anything about them.  When you unplug from all the distractions (including your ipod) and just let your brain work, sometimes it comes up with amazing stuff!
  4. Read – This is not just shameless promotion for bloggers either!  There are a lot of smart people who have been through what you are going through and many of them write about it.  There are tons of wonderful resources to help you solve just about any problem.  Read books, read articles, subscribe to newsletters, listen to podcasts, whatever floats your boat.  Just keep adding fresh ideas to your head and sooner or later you’ll find someone who has been where you are and thought about the situation differently.

It’s easy to think that everyone else knows something you don’t know.  But a lot of being a good manager and a good leader is about solving problems by using your own common sense.  How do you solve tough problems?  What are your favorite resources?



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  • I noticed your approaches are action oriented.

    Interestingly, in Brain Rules, John Medina teaches us that we think better on our feet, and on the go.

    J.D. Meier Reply
    • Hi J.D. – yes, I do think that taking action or shifting our perspective physically can be important to finding solutions and thinking creatively. Did you like Brain Rules? I haven’t read it but I’ll put it on my list if you recommend it.



      Katy Reply

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