6 questions to get unstuck

When you get stuck on a hard problem, here are 6 questions that might help get you unstuck.

  1. If I had all the time, resources and money in the world, how would I solve this problem?
    • Often un-bounding yourself from known limitations will provide insights that could apply within your limitations
  2. Where else has this problem had to be solved before (i.e. other industry or discipline)?
    • Most progress/innovation comes from applying lessons from one discipline to another
  3. Does the problem, as it is defined, really need to be solved?  Is it the right question/problem?
    • Lots of energy can be wasted solving the wrong problems
  4. What are other ways to define/describe the problem?  Could you describe the problem without using any industry/discipline-specific jargon?
    • A common approach in math is to use placeholders or representations of elements to make manipulating/performing operations on the other elements more intuitive.  Can you use this or a similar approach in your problem?
  5. How would (an artist, a professor, a philosopher, a customer, a competitor, a famous expert) think about the problem?
    • It can be surprising how taking a step back and looking at the problem through someone else’s lens can bring new insights
  6. What are the fewest, simplest, yet technically accurate, words you could use to define the problem?
    • It’s so easy to get wrapped up in artificial complexity (i.e. knowing too much)

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