Problem-specific and tool-specific

When you have a problem, you can try to solve it from two angles: from the angle of the problem, or, if you’re lost, from the angle of tools.

Let’s say that you don’t have money. You can analyze your situation and make the most reasonable plan that fits your situation – this is solving from the angle of the problem itself.

Or you can think of any number of tools – for example, a tool might be asking yourself what would person X do – and try to solve the money problem like that. “What would Delboy do?” – and then you try that. You just “blindly” apply the tool and see what the result could be.

This approach – solving from tools, not from problems – can be useful when you don’t know what else to do, so you just throw your entire toolbox, one tool at a time, at the problem, and see if anything new will come up. An analogy: you’re trying to crack someone’s password. Approach A: think about what that person would put as a password. Put a keylogger on their computer. Watch their keyboard when they type. Create a phishing site for them. Approach B: Just try to type a bunch of random things, see if it will stick.

One tool that’s particularly useful is asking yourself “What is the easiest solution to this problem?” Even if you have a problem-specific solution, you may still sometimes prefer to take a step back and ask yourself this question.

For example, there are many possible solutions for congestion problems in cities. To solve these problems, you could make metros, new train lines, experiment with Uber, taxi, air drones, whatever. The simplest solution would probably be to make the residents use bicycles and existing public transport much more. That’s the easiest solution. That’s the low-hanging fruit. Invest more effort into that which already works.

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