The Guide To Effective Problem Solving For Beginners

Life is a long fall from the womb to the grave.
On our way down we get our solid share of problems to solve.

Some are petty. Some are not.
But the latter will batter and bruise you if you don’t take care of them.

The funny thing is that solving problems is a problem itself.
I mean, do you have any method to tackle them? Any tool, maybe?

Do you just put on your helmet of optimism and hope and run head headfirst into the robust wall of problems?


I really hope you don’t. Like I did for a long time.
I was like a retarded chimpanzee who tried to lick his finger and put it in a keyhole.
But to no one’s surprise, that never worked.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

Because that’s the thing about repeating some actions (no matter how stupid they are!) for the long period of time – it’s hard to break the vicious circle.

I guess that the helmet crumbles away after 10th or 20th time. And then you just keep on hitting the same wall with your bare head.

Until you suffer head trauma. Serious enough to actually convince you that it DOES make sense.
But it doesn’t.

REALLY effective problem solving should rely on some systems.

You need some tools. Not a finger.
I am familiar with many methods and systems. But there is just ONE I use on the permanent basis.

It’s simple, elegant. And it has the power to transform you into the problem solving beast.

But we will get to the specifics in a moment.

Fortune Favors The Prepared Mind

Do you know how penicillin was discovered?

In 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming, a Scottish researcher was experimenting with the influenza virus in the Laboratory of the Inoculation Department at St. Mary’s Hospital in London. He was also well-known for being as untidy as brilliant.

The long story short, Fleming returned from a two-week vacation to find that a mold had developed on an accidentally contaminated staphylococcus culture plate.

After examining of the mold, he noticed that the culture prevented the growth of staphylococci.
And voilà! The discovery was made. Some years down the road the penicillin became the most widely used antibiotic in the world.

Effective problem solving for beginners

Picture by: Marja Flick-Buijs

It’s often described as a pure accident.

But was it really?

How many other brilliant scientists would have paid attention to this “incident?”.
Not many, I guess.

You have to really set your mind on a question or a problem to deserve your “Eureka” moment.

It doesn’t happen just like that.

So where can you start?

The Problem-Solving List

The idea is deceptively simple. But it helps you to put some order into the way you solve your problems.

Take a piece of paper and draw a line across the middle. Or use the word document.
Whatever works for you.

Write down the problem you’re having on the left.
The right side is reserved for potential solutions or ideas.

That’s why, try to come up with as many of them as it’s only possible. Don’t hold back.

It’s worth mentioning that sometimes ideas which (seemingly) have nothing to do with each other can turn into a breath-taking answer to your problems!

Tools To Help You With Producing Ideas

Creativity is like a muscle. The more you use it, the better you become.
But you have to start somewhere, right?

Here are two websites which help you produce some ideas.
To be a bit more precise, they are random word generators.

Just choose the number of random words you would like to see and click the “generate” button.
And BAM! Magic happens! Ideas!

Treat these websites as your birdbrained buddy.
He doesn’t know exactly what you want but he wants to help.

So he feeds you some ideas to play with.
Let’s take a look at the screen-shots to see what I mean.

  • Creativity Games

Effective problem solving for beginners

  • Text Fixer

Effective problem solving for beginners

It might look meaningless. But is it?
Let’s move to some practical application.

Problem – You Want To Design An Extraordinary Lamp

Of course, you would like to come up with some (relatively) fresh design.
But you just keep looking at the damn piece of paper with a blank expression on your face.

Frustration sticks out its ugly head. Anger overcomes you.
Damn you Muses!

But before you break something, let’s use some of the words from the random word generator.

Words: ham, rib, gossip, sunburn, speaker, spotlight, boxing gloves, iceberg

Some potential ideas:

rib – I guess it would look cool if instead of a normal, boring lamp, you could have something skeleton-related. Maybe a skull impaled on a spike? Oh, and the switch button can be hidden inside an eye socket! Since we are at it, why not design the entire line of gruesome lamps?!

speaker – why not connect the speaker with a lamp? It might look cool! And will be useful as well!

iceberg and spotlight – I can’t help but combine them in my head. The result is a light house.
Don’t ask me why. Anyway, the lighthouse as a lamp sounds quite interesting. Doesn’t it?

What comes after the ideas?

Another part of the effective problem solving is testing your assumptions.

It’s great to have some hypotheses. But how can you be sure that your solution will work?

The framework I’m using looks as follows:

  1. come up with hypotheses as quickly as possible.
    2. set yourself a suitable deadline to test the idea
    3. test it
    4. measure results at the end of the experiment
    5. draw conclusions
    6. rinse and repeat
No Shortcuts: Being Creative Is Ordinary Labor

You have to come to terms with a fact that your initial ideas might be terrible or average at best.
If you have been neglecting your problem-solving skills for a long time, it might take some time before you get good at it.

Being truly creative requires showing up day by day.
Yes, it will be frustrating. Yes, it will be messy.

But however frustrated you might get, don’t forget that there is a pot of gold at the end of this story!

What Will You Do With This Knowledge?


what you know doesn’t mean a damn thing.

It’s the things you do consistently that really count!

I want you to think about just ONE PROBLEM which has been bugging you for a long time.
Write it down and problem solve the heck out of it!

And, of course, let me know about your results!