In this crazy world of Covid, many of us spend more time at our desks, heads down, overwhelmed by work, with few excuses to take breaks. In general, we know this isn't healthy, and I definitely recommend not only carving out time on your calendar to take breaks, but when that break time comes to actually STOP what you are doing and TAKE that scheduled break (talking to myself here).

This inactivity, being chained to our desk, actually impacts our ability to think critically and creatively. We need the physical movement and change of scene to help us see situations from a different perspective.

My day job is helping people and businesses solve problems. In my current role, these primarily revolve around solving problems around fraud & identity, but as a well rounded individual, I can tackle problems that involve many industries (banking, payments, insurance, healthcare...) and many channels (physical, digital, call center....). As such, I am really looking for ways to enhance my critical thinking skills and developing more tools to help quickly get to the root of a problem and quickly find answers. If I can get these answers through collaborative thinking and exploration, so much the better.

Albert Einstein told us that “If I [Albert] had an hour to **solve** a **problem** I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the **problem** and five minutes thinking about solutions.”

That tells us that defining and articulating the problem is really important. You are going to be solving the problem you define, so if you don't really understand the problem, the resolution you get may not help because you could be solving the wrong problem.

Here are some quick tips on how to think about the problem at a broad level:

**Define the problem.**Spend time trying to clearly and*simply*articulate the problem you are trying to solve.**Define the goal**or the outcome you are trying to achieve, this will help you understand the gap you are trying to fill.**Understand your motivation**when trying to achieve this goal - do you need the credit, or do you just need the problem solved - sometimes you won't have the answers, but can turn to your network of experts to help get the problem solved.**Ownership**. If you see something that needs to be fixed, don't just say something, do something. Only by someone taking ownership of a problem can the problem get resolved.**Come up with 2 solutions**to the problem. Uncover one solution, and then put this aside and come up with another solution. This way you can pick the "better" solution (better will be defined by the situation - faster? cheaper? more politically correct?). You don't have to do this alone. Work with a buddy or divide into teams - work independently and then come back together and compare ideas.**Ask questions**about the problem. Asking questions will help you think about the problem differently, and thus come up with different solutions. What don't we know about the problem or situation? what are people thinking or feeling about this? how does this align to our strategy? Does it align to our strategy?**Inventory resources**(aka "givens").

Here are some specific tactics you can use to solve problems:

**Guess and check**. I hear this term a lot from my husband who does geocaching when trying to solve some of their more outlandish puzzles. This method is good when you already have a pretty good hunch of what the answer should be, and you don't have a lot of time for deep analysis.**Brute Force.**Figure out*all*the different permutations, and pick the best answer. This is a lot of work, and not necessarily the best approach.**Backward analysis.**Start with the end solution in mind, and step back what was the activity that most likely happened just before the end, then take another step back from there. You can also pair this with a forward analysis to figure out the middle bits.**Sub-tasking**. Break the problem out into bite-sized chunks. Maybe you can't figure out the whole problem at once, but maybe you can break the problem into parts you understand and solve for those to make forward process. As you clean up the pieces, some of the trickier bits will look less complex.**Reframing**. This is where taking a walk really can help get you out of your head and give you a different perspective. When you have a particularly tricky problem, you need to get new angles to the situation. One trick may be to explain the problem to someone who has no knowledge of the industry or situation (your kid maybe?) and get their perspective. Just the act of trying to simplify the question for someone may help give you a new view of the situation.**Cheat**. Has someone else solved this problem before? Look at your role models, peers, industry experts, and even books to see how other people have solved problems in the past.**Intuition**. Trust your intuition when you get inner whispers or guidance. You know more than you think you do, and you are better than you think you are. Years of training guide you even when you don't realize it.

So what will you do next time you are stuck trying to solve

a problem? Hopefully you will put your pencil or computer down, and take a quick walk to clear your head, but I also hope that some of these ideas about looking at the problem from different perspectives can get you back on track. Good luck with that next problem!

*(This article was inspired by a recent Peter de Jager PMI webinar I attended)*

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