Before you start working on a problem, use this exercise to help focus your problem statement. The idea is to zoom out or zoom in and make the problem either more general or more specific. You may discover that the problem is bigger or smaller than you originally thought and this may give you an idea for a creative solution.
For example, suppose the problem is that you have a messy living room. To zoom out, you can ask yourself why questions.
“Why is my living room messy?”
Because I don’t have the time to clean it.
“Why don’t I have time to clean it?”
Because I am always at work.
“Why am I always at work?”
Because I don’t have an assistant to help me finish on time.
In this scenario, we have determined that the problem may be bigger than a messy room. Even if you were to clean your living room, it would just get messy again because the larger problem has not been solved. If you hire an assistant, then you’ll have more time at home, and thus more time to keep your living room tidy.
Now try zooming in on the problem. The easiest way to do this is to break the problem into subproblems.
For example, you may narrow the problem to, “My desk is messy” or even “My top left desk drawer is messy” You may find a solution to the smaller problem that you never would have thought of if you had stuck with the larger problem. An added benefit of zooming in is that smaller problems are easier to start and finish than very large problems, so you are more likely to complete them.
If you ever feel overwhelmed with a problem, try zooming in. If a problem keeps reoccurring, try zooming out.
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