Whether looking for the root causes of your problem or identifying solutions, you must be collectively exhaustive (CE). That means looking for all the possible solutions. That’s fine in theory but in practice, that induces paralysis by analysis. So you need to learn to balance your quest for collective exhaustiveness with practical considerations.
Know the difference between satisficing and optimizing
Satisficing is a portmanteau between satisfying and sufficing. It means that you’re looking for the first adequate solution to your problem. Once you’ve identified it, you stop.
Optimizing, in this context, means looking for the best possible solution. No matter how good the solutions you’ve found are, you are looking for a better one.
So, applied to culinary tastes, a pure satisficer will always go to the same restaurant and order the same dish. After all, if he likes it, why take a chance? Conversely, the pure optimizer will always try a new restaurant and a new dish, because, no matter what he has tried before, surely there is something better out there.
So which one is the right approach? Neither of course. It would be too simple.
First, strive to optimize
The pure satisficer throws away innovation: he’s found one good-enough solution and will stick with it. So there’s no room for progress. On the other hand, the pure optimizer throws away real-world considerations, such as deadlines and implementation.
So neither extreme of the spectrum is the right solution. Instead, you need to be somewhere in the middle. At the beginning of your solution process, push for optimization. That’s the divergent thinking part. That’s where you’re looking for innovative ways to answer your key question. Actively looking for new answers, even absurd ones, will get you out of your comfort zone and force you to explore new ways.
We’ve talked about it in another post (and we’ll talk about it some more in future creativity-related posts): go too far to the absurd side before restraining yourself. Don’t stick with the usual suspects for solutions/explanations: go look for the irrational ones, the bad ideas, the suggestions that will make people laugh at you. In short, give it your best effort to be truly collectively exhaustive.