Figure, don’t Flail

My cliff notes for “The Art of Response“:

How we respond to problems makes a difference. Switching quickly into problem-solving mode is one response pattern. Another is flailing (for a variety of reasons: Lack of confidence, lack of knowhow in the skill domain, lack of problem solving strategy, etc.). Flailing is destructive.

You don’t need to solve all problems before you — sometimes dodging them is good, so the point isn’t to always reflexively start problem solving. Effective response patterns also don’t necessarily need to be quick — often pausing to think is best (compare this with blurting an incorrect answer, or misunderstanding the problem and thus solving the wrong one). Response patterns are effective when they “answer well.”

Effective response patterns are generally characterized by applying experience to break down large problems into smaller pieces that can be tackled individually: Parts that are well understood can be addressed with known tools and perhaps simplified to create incremental solutions; parts that aren’t understood can be identified and then probed with investigation skills. (What these effective patterns lack is a focus on the enormity of the problem, or other thoughts likely to lead to self-doubt and inaction.)

Making response patterns explicit and conscious can be very useful. Develop checklists, and apply meta-thinking to your problem-solving process to hone it.

This post is part of the thread: Replacing Guilt Cliffs Notes – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.