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Thought Experiment - Rejecting Your Intuitive Solution

Published 2/12/2020

Take a problem that you expect to face - one that you haven't solved yet or taken action on but have an ideal of how you would take action. Today's thought experiment is to imagine rejecting your proposed solution and forced to think of an alternative solution.

What exactly are you solving?

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Every once in a while on this show, I propose a thinking experiment for you to try. The goal of these thinking experiments is not to output a new way of working, it's not to be something that you do every single day, but instead it's supposed to exercise a different way of considering the world around you a different way of seeing things. And whether you reuse this thinking experiment again in the future is really up to you. This isn't intended to be a principle of thinking, but rather a different angle. In today's episode, I'm going to pose a thinking experiment, a thought experiment for you to try in your work day to day, or maybe you're journaling, and you can try it at that point, with the goal of flexing your lateral thinking muscles. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, you're listening to Developer Tea, and my goal in the show is to updriven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. Here's the simple thought experiment I want you to try. In today's episode is going to be very short, and in the time that you would have used listening to this episode, perhaps you should try this thinking, this thought experiment. So here's the thought experiment I want you to try. Take a problem that you have either encountered recently, or a problem that you expect to face in your day to day, and preferably a problem that you haven't solved yet, a problem you haven't taken action on yet. But one that you might have a clear idea of how you might take action. And the simple experiment that I want you to do is to reject your own idea. Reject your own idea. Now, you don't have to come up with a reason for why you're rejecting it. Just imagine that you are not capable, or you're not allowed, for some reason, to execute on whatever your proposed solution was, and you are forced to come up with a different solution. And when you are coming up with a solution, and want to guide you with some questions, the first question is, what exactly are you solving? Don't think about the solution as an answer to a problem, but instead think about the problem at its core. Part of this process would likely require you to reword the question, or maybe dig a little bit deeper on the question. You might ask why to get to a preceding question. You might find an underlying problem that's a little bit deeper than the question itself. Very often, the questions that we try to answer with solutions have already framed the solution as a part of the question, so we need to widen our frame. It's also very likely that whatever your default solution or your fastest solution was required that you make a lot of assumptions, because the speed of the solutions that we typically give are only possible if we make assumptions. We have a love-hate relationship with assumptions on this show. The love part of our relationship with assumptions is that very often assumptions are very useful. We don't make bad assumptions all the time, and they can really help us avoid overthinking or avoid solving the same problems that someone else has already solved. We can make useful assumptions about the world around us, and usually they help us operate better. The part of our relationship with assumptions is that very often our assumptions box us in into a very narrow frame of solution making. You'll notice in both of these widening questions that I'm asking, you're hearing the word frame, and there's an important reason for that. When we approach a problem with a particular frame, in other words, a particular perspective or with a constrained picture of the world, and we cut out the vast majority of other options that are available to us. If we widen the frame, then we have to consider more, the more that fits in the frame, the more there is to consider. So it seems to our benefit to tighten the frame, to zoom in into an area that we feel has the solution. Especially if we solved a problem in the past before, and the present problem looks a lot like that previous problem, we're likely to zoom in where we found the answer the last time. But sometimes there's a better answer in that wider frame. That is the thought experiment, to widen your frame by initially rejecting your first solution, reject your first solution. This can be a very useful exercise to do as a team. It can be a useful exercise to do as a manager. It can be a useful exercise to do as a designer. I encourage you to try this just to see how your brain operates under these false constraints of forcing yourself to reject your first solutions. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. Today's episode like every other episode of the show can be found at spec.fm. Today's episode was produced by Sarah Jackson. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. And until next time, enjoy your tea.