Investors ask startup founders during a pitch: What problem are you trying to solve?
Consumers these days subconsciously or directly want to know: How can you solve a problem I have?
A boss or colleagues come to you with a question: What is the solution to this problem?
It seems our modern lives are characterized by problems! Pain points all around! But consider this: problems keep people busy. If you’re trying to be productive, you hit a curve. If you’re pursuing meaning, you encounter adversity. And amidst all this, your ability to solve problems is called forth and tested.
How about you include in your design the very idea that you’re a problem solver?
Sounds like a good problem, right? Let’s make this notion a bit concrete by looking at some principles and steps to becoming a problem solver.
Define the Problem
Kumail Nanjiani recently appeared on the Ellen Show, and in this clip he talked about how he was angry all day, yelling at people, honking, etc. And then he had a glass of water and realized he was just thirsty. Dehydration was the problem.
It’s a funny bit. But it also introduces the first principle/step neatly. (Thank you, Kumail.)
Define the problem. Spend time on it. Understand the dimensions of the problem. Get to its root cause.
To do this, employ the 5 Whys Technique. Developed by Sakichi Toyoda, whose son created car-maker brand Toyota, this method requires you to ask why 5 times to uncover a problem with multiple root causes. Or simply to arrive at the right question or problem. The fifth iteration is anecdotally observed to be enough in exploring cause-and-effect relationships. But you can go as high as sixth, seventh, eighth, and so on.
Another handy tool is related to the Socratic Method. Wait, you’ve heard this one before. I’m referring to inductive reasoning. This kind of reasoning starts with a conclusion you want to prove to be true.
Here’s how it can be applied. In charge of tourism efforts in your area, you conduct a focus group discussion on how to improve. You find out that a lack of transportation options is preventing people from exploring your sights. So you recommend close coordination with neighboring local areas to set up a point-to-point transport system.
In inductive reasoning, the premises seek to supply proof of the truth of a conclusion. You cannot, however, arrive logically at the certainty of the conclusion. By this approach, you can only obtain the probable cause of the problem. To better understand how it works, watch this Crash Course video on the subject:
Solo-Brainstorm 3 (or More) Solutions
You’ve reached the key step. This is important. A friend shared this with me, and it changed my perspective. If you’re given a problem or found one on your own, identify 3 solutions. I don’t mean, call a meeting and let people throw ideas. I mean, sit down, unleash your creativity, and come up with your ideas. It’s good exercise for your brain.
But there are also two reasons I’m encouraging you to go on an express solo-brainstorming session.
First, people’s creativity is unleashed when they’re asked to generate ideas privately. You read that right. Generating ideas is an individual task. You don’t need the company’s collective mind to birth ideas. Instead, teamwork is required when initial ideas have been gathered and sorted. That is when you need more heads to build on ideas with the highest potential.
Second, and this is for the greater good, it’s more productive to present solutions instead of problems. Absorb that statement. Perhaps recall how someone—a colleague or a friend—approached you with a laundry list of problems. And that person kept ranting the whole time. While it’s also cool to ask if they want to brainstorm solutions with you, you’d probably have liked it better if they consulted you with solutions instead.
It’s like, “Hey, boss/friend/partner/parent, what do you think of these solutions to our/your/my problem?” Wouldn’t that be a good use of everyone’s time? And let’s admit, listening to rants can be draining.
Share Your Hypotheses With Others
So, you have defined the problem and identified possible solutions. It’s time to see if your ideas hold water. This is the part where the teamwork comes in (from the earlier example). But if you’re working on a personal problem, inviting fresh eyes is just as necessary.
If you have a framework that you want everyone to use, share it with them, too. The 80/20 method is useful at this stage. Instead of proving or disproving the validity of each hypothesis, you can determine the most meaningful ones. Which among the proposed solutions will create the greatest impact? This is a good starting ground, especially if you’re working as a unit and potential solutions abound.
Check out the image below for one way to approach this phase:
As you can see above, you’re now encouraged to validate your hypotheses. In fact, if you can test your biggest assumptions more quickly, the better.
The example IBM gave relates to creating prototypes. But you can also try to apply that in your personal life. For instance, you can test your assumptions right away, such as in considering a more sustainable lifestyle. Just figure out how to do it without spending too much or wasting resources. Otherwise, it will kind of miss the point.
Analyze the Best Solution
Now, you may have reached the end stage of your problem-solving journey. At least for that one problem you’re working on. (There will be more to come. You know this.)
You might be thinking: What end stage? Didn’t you already apply the best solution in the previous step? Perhaps the proper term for this phase is post-mortem. That has nothing to do with anyone dying. But it has everything to do with the solution you just executed.
You should now evaluate if it was able to solve the problem. Are there aspects of the execution that you didn’t expect? What did you correctly predict? If it didn’t solve the problem, are you back at square one? Or can you move forward by integrating another hypothesis?
That’s a lot of questions! The questions never stop! I feel you. But it’s important to continue the process as long as your problem isn’t solved. But if you got it the first time, good for you. Now it’s time to solve another. What do you say about that, genius?
Bonus: Take Credit For What You Did
There’s a part of us that wants to share the glory with other people. Here’s an example. You’re interviewing for your dream job. The interviewer asks you to tell him or her about a time you solved a problem. Most people are hesitant to share their “most triumphant stories,” says HR expert Liz Ryan. They have to understand the person asking already knows you were working on it with a team.
“Just tell your problem-solving story and be proud of yourself for jumping in to make a positive impact way back when,” adds Ryan.
Two things to glean from this.
First, do not disqualify yourself from the job. You are a problem solver. So own your problem-solving stories. That doesn’t automatically mean you’re hogging the spotlight or discrediting your collaborators. Chances are you have solved a problem before, on your own or with others. How did you approach the situation? Is there something you can do to replicate what you did or revise it for future use?
Those questions lead us to the second point. And that is to keep refining your approach. Different problems require different approaches. Even one problem can be solved by looking at it from different angles. So, grow the confidence in your ability by trying out new things. Don’t rest on your laurels. You’re just as good as the last problem you solved.
Why it is Hard to Stay Motivated
Change is the only constant.
How many times have we heard this in our lives?
Do you realize this is not merely a saying but an experience every individual goes through multiple times during his entire life?
None of us know what the next second has in store for us. Right now you may be elated and you might find yourself in complete folds the next hour.
Well, these are the times when you need to chomp in a well-prepared meal.
No no, not your regular food, this meal has special ingredients which when cooked together, give you the dish called ‘motivation’.
It is extremely important to sense when our morale starts losing for if not paid attention to, it can turn into a habit and you might find yourself quite comfortable.
To be able to pull yourself out of lethargy, an understanding of what motivation actually is should be taken into consideration.
When defined, motivation is the power that activates the engine of success and moves you to act. It is not some external drive but comes from within and is very much related to your ambitions and desires in life.
Keep reminding yourself that this is a recurring process, you’ll have to be your own source of encouragement every day, sometimes even more than once a day.
Easier said than done right?
I am aware.
However, a strong and logical mind is sure to overrule your emotions. After all, you are not your mind but much beyond that.
To be content and motive-driven, you need to have clarity. Like I mentioned above, a strong mind has control over your emotions and will help you keep track of your visions and goals. It is usually easy to get distracted by external factors but if you are sure enough of what you want ahead, nothing can come in your way.
Let’s see some things that you could do when you feel like there’s not much productivity flowing out :
- The foremost thing is to stop and take deep breaths. A calm and relaxed mind is capable of viewing different point of views of the same situation. A moment of panic is sure to push you away and impact your ability to work.
- After you find yourself quiet, drink two sips of water to give fuel to the brain.
- Now, look closely at what you have in hand. An assignment to finish before the deadline? An examination to prepare for, due the day after? A project you just stepped into? Well, the list obviously is endless.
- Having the work outline made, sit and divide it into smaller tasks, hence now you have shorter goals which are comparatively easier to achieve.
- When a 4-5 hour project is broken down into sets of half an hour each, after the completion of every 0.5 hours there will be a sense of contentment and pride. The satisfaction thus attained will be far greater than anything else.
Now, this was just a little glimpse of what can be done or something that I usually adhere to. However, is this the only standard procedure?
Every individual is different and has his own psychological being. For some, a pep-talk would do wonders while for others just a 10-15 minute alone time is enough to get back to normal.
Therefore, don’t try to follow any steps mechanically. See various things, read about various things, and in the end, come up with different permutations and combinations that suit the best for you.
Enough of how to get motivated and why to get motivated. Let’s step into the deeper issue – ‘Not being able to work and to not be productive does not mean I am any less serious about my career. I am not making excuses just so that I can get off of responsibilities easily. Why does no one believe when I say this?’
The thoughts that we ponder over every time we are hit by a wave of disinterest. The problem is not anybody not believing you, the setback is of how society isn’t accepting of low workload times.
The pressure of watching every other person excel and hear stories of how people work 36 hours a day, has made this the notion of how one should approach his professional background.
The fear of not being able to report in time and the stress of being a few steps behind others always is daunting our subconsciousness. It’s high time we as individuals accept that this is what it is and it’s completely okay to be not okay somedays.
Embracing your own shortcomings will give you the courage to stand by yourself and fall back into action with double the motivation and power.
You know that these aren’t mere excuses, you know your mindset at that point in time and you know that you will give anything and everything to not be in this position and this is all that matters.
A sense of belief and confidence will automatically provide a boost and you’ll see yourself springing into ideas and creative techniques to give shape to the same project.
Hence, two things are the highlight of your gloomy days – One, that targets smaller goals to reach the bigger goal in less time and with less stress. Two, to accept and face the fact that you will have no willpower one day and it’s okay but at the same time knowing that you have to get back on your feet the next day.
How Reading can impact your Day to Day Life?
Reading is a healthy habit, which, if practiced daily, can change your entire life around. Do you want to know why? Through Reading, one can not only gain knowledge but also stay acquainted with the outside as well as the inside world. The best thing about reading daily is to have an isolated place for yourself in your mind, where you can run off to. Most people don’t have the patience or intention to read, and that too, daily. Though this is a habit that takes time to settle in but trust me, once it does, you would never regret it. So, here is a list of reasons why you should read daily?
Why should you read daily?
- To gain knowledge
Once you start reading daily, and by Reading, it can be anything – you can read few pages of a novel, or a magazine, or newspaper, or even poetry – you would notice within weeks how much your knowledge regarding the outer world has improved. Through Reading, one can have clear information regarding the current affairs, and hence, stay updated.
- To improve your vocabulary
Through Reading, you can definitely learn new words and hence, improve your vocabulary. Most people make it a habit to learn a new word from the dictionary every day, but if you read daily, you are bound to get new words and make a list of them on a notebook with their meanings, which is definitely going to be helpful for you.
- To have a make-believe world
The most beautiful consequence of Reading is having one’s own imaginary world, where one can live a life full of magic. This is the extraordinary superpower one acquires while reading. In this busy daily life of ours, we all look for a secluded place where we can feel the essence of peace. Reading can fly you off to the imaginary land of sunflowers, daisies, and cats who can indeed talk.
- To become more attentive
Most people lack patience nowadays. Being impatient and restless has become a severe problem in today’s world. Here, Reading can help you calm your mind and improve your observation skills. It works like meditation. In no time, you would find your mind focusing on details and becoming more attentive to events, which used to go unnoticed.
- To reduce stress
Reading is similar to meditation, and hence, it definitely helps to reduce your stress. Books always have a calming effect on one’s mind. It takes you away from daily problems and stressful situations and helps your mind to gain stability. Not only it helps in reducing stress, but it also helps to decrease the anxiety levels of a person.
Everyone should make reading a daily habit. One should switch off the mobile phones, turn off the television and take some time out to read. It works wonders on one’s day-to-day life and changes one person’s entire personality. Though it can be hard at first, with time, you would cherish the moments alone, reading in a corner while your mind is flying off to Narnia.
Is this Shoe the Right Fit: Gender Stereotyping in Fairytale through Cinderella
Growing up the first source of literature, children are exposed to are fairytales. These stories are read to them by parents as bedtime stories or watched by them on television. These stories are great influencers on a child’s’ mind, and therefore start conforming to its stereotyping, especially gender. Fairytales truly do educate and instill in children’s morality, but children get accustomed to the fairytales and thus begin to identify with the character in the story. The stereotypes in fairytales concern both genders and lay their roles out for them, but at large, the stereotypes are targeted at women.
One of the biggest and widely spread fairytales is “Cinderella” and as a child one watches her beautiful transformation, her damsel in distress moment, her prince charming who saves her and with everything going on in her life still being the ‘kindest soul’. There are about a thousand various versions of Cinderella, and also different movie adaptation, one of the famous one is by Disney. This fairytale has portrayed so many genders stereotyping that as a child one doesn’t realise but going back to the text, the stereotyping seems a little too evident.
These stories nearly always start with the phrase “once upon a time”. Cinderella was no exception, her story was once upon a time. It revolved around the tragedies in her life with her mother passing away to, father remarrying, treatment by her step-family, and finally meeting the prince who rescues her. These stereotyping are witnessed in stories depicting the higher class and hence talks about the consumption market of the same. The story is said to inspire girls to behave ladylike even if you are not born into nobility. Someday such beauty and grace, not just physical, will get them their prince. Which, will further give them approval from society on their shift from a girl to a lady. Taking the abuse pushed on her by her family instilling the idea of female leads being submissive in nature and continuously requiring help and support from various characters in the story. To have something good, one needs to face hardships in life; this concept is portrayed in the idea by depicting Cinderella as a servant, who is abused and works hard to please people. The prince saves Cinderella, and intern becomes the writer of her destiny. Cinderella further depicted as a perfect template on how to be a proper lady 101. As she doesn’t argue nor talkback makes her the ideal woman.
As far as beauty is concerned, Cinderella is described as a beautiful woman with her feminine features and wearing a stunning gown to the ball makes her even more attractive. This has been propaganda sold to girls at a very young age that she doesn’t need to sound intelligent as the prince in Cinderella did not care about her intelligence instead only cared for her beauty. This ideology is even seen today where people tell girls they need to ‘dress to impress’, that the only way to grab a man’s attention is by looking ‘beautiful’ adhering to society’s definition of beautiful. The society’s interpretation is influenced by Cinderella and various other fairytales. Who has sold the idea of a small waist, fair and clear-skinned, having her hair always almost perfect – has made girls feel insecure about their body and physical appearance. Due to the obsession of having a smaller waist leads to a lot of girls developing bad eating habits and trying to obtain fair and glowing skin.
The prince in the story is a strong character who is portrayed as a rescuer and knight in shining armour who comes in and rescues Cinderella from her miserable life and showcases that the whole story revolves to lead to this moment. Cinderella also had to prove her identity to the prince who did not recognise her.
The love story between the two main characters – Cinderella and Prince Charming seems utterly unreal and cringe-worthy. Love termed here is physical attraction and no interaction to know each other’s personality. Adding to the standard of beauty is applied to boy’s as well. They have to look a sure way to meet the standard of being ‘handsome’. Further, the knight in shining armour syndrome makes boys believe that they are entitled to rescue girls and marry girls based on their look. They think that they need to look for a girl who will take care of the house and not talk back, which leads to a biased society where females and males are conformed to stereotypes. This further makes children believe that marriage is the end goal.
Cinderella is just one classic fairytale that is discussed and portrays gender stereotypes, but other stories like Sleeping Beauty, snow-white, Rapunzel to formulate stereotypes. As Cinderella is famous and is one of the widely read novels, it made sense to use that as a platform to prove that fairytales are a source of gender stereotypes. There has been a surge in positive and unbiased fairytales and children’s movies such as Shrek, Mulan, Frozen, Brave to name a few but none the less the other stories still exist and propagated to children widely.
The end of the story is, do we really want children to have unrealistic standards on gender and beauty, and do we want them to believe that vulnerable and weak women are the only ones who grab men’s attention. If we need to formulate change, we need to start with fairytales. Being a fairytale fan myself I don’t mean to say scrap out fairytales all together, fairytales are an essential source of literature that shouldn’t be taken away from children. What we might think about doing is change the stories, portray roles of men and women as strong characters, who value equality and that stereotyping has to take leave from Fairytales.
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