Category

# Ideas

Using analogies can help you approach new, unfamiliar problems creatively, but they can also be constraining. To sidestep this limitation, understand your assumptions and look for alternative analogies. Analogies can help you approach unfamiliar problems Facing an unfamiliar problem, using…

On January 8 1989, British Midland Airways Boeing 737 was cruising at 28,000 ft when a strong vibration shook the plane. Fumes and a burned smell led the crew to believe that one of the engines was malfunctioning. When they throttled back…

Before actively looking for solutions, you should ensure that you understand the problem and its root causes. That is, diagnose before prescribing. Our four-step process makes this explicit—and it makes implicit sense to do so, too—and yet, as my colleagues Enders, König and…

Frame, diagnose, explore, implement. This is all fine and well, you might be thinking, but how does this work in practice? Well, dear reader, let’s look at a concrete case. Have you lost your dog? Here are some ideas that…

Yale’s Edward Tufte, a preeminent specialist in data visualization, vehemently criticized PowerPoint presentations, noting that it “promotes a cognitive style that disrupts and trivializes evidence” (Tufte, 2003). From experience, thinking about the dozens of presentations I sat in over the past…

The task is simple enough: I’ll give you three numbers, and you guess which rule I had in mind that applies to the set. Ready? 2 – 4 – 6 This is the initial step of Wason’s famous 1960 experiment. The…

Having identified a set of hypotheses—either diagnostic ones, the potential root causes of your problem, or solution ones, the potential options—you need to test them. To do so, you need to conduct tests that can help you rule out some…

Most of us have heard of inductive and deductive logic. Fewer have heard of abductive, and yet, all three are needed to solve complex problems effectively. Deductive logic helps you identify a hypothesis’s surrounding Deductive logic starts from a hypothesis and…

Did Chris Froome dope to win the 2013 TdF? My opinion is that he did. Here is why. In our previous two posts (1 and 2), we talked about Froome’s dominant victory in the 2013 Tour de France to see if we…

Last week, we talked about how we can evaluate whether Chris Froome doped to win the 2013 Tour de France. Let’s retake the issue where we left it. Building the diagnostic map With our problem-solving approach, we use a diagnostic map…

If you went on any cycling-related forum around August 2013, you’d a raging controversy: Did Chris Froome dope to win the 2013 Tour de France? The arguments on both sides echo those that we’ve heard for all doping cases. Also…

A few weeks ago, we talked about the importance of looking for disconfirming evidence when testing hypotheses. Indeed, this is vital, but, in some situations, supporting evidence might actually be the one helping you reach a solid conclusion. So, don’t discard it….

Complex problems can have a lot of moving parts, and it is easy to lose track of some of those. This why our working memory is a strong limiter in resolving complex problems. One way to address this limitation is…

This is part 4 of our 4-part on MECE thinking — part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4. We’ve talked a few times about being mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive (or MECE) in our thinking: First, we’ve seen…

A recurring theme in this blog is that intuition can be misleading. In brief, we all tend to trust our intuition more than we should. All of us. Yes, that includes you. Not convinced? Here is a little exercise to…

Have you ever had a coworker that you felt was a bit of a bully? Maybe a flat out autocrat, or someone that makes you feel that, most of the time, he is just not cooperating. How do you deal…

Bazerman and Neale, in their excellent Negotiating rationally, cited Wason’s famed problem: Here is a three-number sequence: 2–4–6. Your task is to discover the numeric rule that produced these numbers. To determine the rule, you can generate other sets of three…

Not all conversations are equal, be it in person or online. Take two random posts; say one from the Chronicle of Higher Education and one from Harvard Business Review. As I’m writing this, the first one has 69 comments, less…

I’ve heard that the Swedes make fun of the Norwegians by attributing them silly stories. The French, on the other hand, make fun of the Belgians. Here is one of these fictitious histoires belges: “To demonstrate their frustration with the European Union,…

We all say we are open to change but in reality, well, it depends.When solving CIDNI problems in organizations, you are challenging the status quo, and this has implications for people who stand to lose something. They might lose tangible…

When solving CIDNI problems, constraints are those factors that reduce your solution space, such as the money, time, expertise, etc. at your disposal. Too many constraints will reduce your solution space so much that you might not find a satisfactory…

Do you consistently beat Hercule Poirot at identifying the murderer in Agatha Christie’s novels? It might be that the legendary detective just isn’t quite in your league. Or it might be that you come with a head start. The difference…

“Arnaud, are we using you in the right way?” I joined Accenture’s strategy group right out of grad school and was assigned to my first project for a large petrochemical company. It was a huge project, and the engagement team had…

Chances are, you are not solving the problem that you should. Nothing personal, dear reader, as I wholeheartedly trust your instincts and impeccable judgment, but focusing on our perceived problem—rather than a better one—happens to the best of us. We…

Working for Accenture had its ups and downs, but one great, great up was a simple idea: help others be successful. Thinking about it after so many years, there are a couple of instances that stem out: – In my…

Decision making is a critical part of the problem-solving process. But it is also only that: a part. The process has several others; don’t overlook some at the expense of others. (This post is a summary of a guest article I did…

“Assume you’re a scientist and you have a flea with six legs”, the joke goes, “that does what you ask him to do. “So, ask him to jump, and he jumps. Next, cut off two of his legs and ask…