Take a moment to imagine a problem that you're currently facing. Take a minute to think about ways that you might solve this problem. In today's episode, we're going to take a minute to think about ways to solve the different problems we're faced with on a day-to-day basis and give a framework for problem-solving.
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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
I want you to take a moment and imagine a problem that you face. This may be an interpersonal problem, it may be a problem that you're trying to solve on behalf of your users, where it may just be a problem in the world. Maybe not necessarily only your problem, but one that is shared. And I want you to take a minute and think about ways that you might solve this problem, ways that maybe you are already trying to solve this problem. And the specifics of the problem are less important for today's episode. It can really be in any area. It's something that you want to be true. You want some reality to match up with your experience or maybe the other way around. You want to shift your experience to match up with a reality that you imagine. In today's episode, I want to take a minute to inspect the shape of these solutions. Just perhaps give you a way of thinking in an inverted way about how to solve these problems. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea and my goal on the show is to help driven developers connect better to their career purpose and do better work so they can have a positive influence on the people around them. It's a bit of a broad generalization to talk about problems. What exactly is a problem and how do you classify it? How do you choose to begin addressing a problem? And how can you decide what the best way is to solve it? Most of this line of thinking and most of our common reactions to problems is to add something, to add an opinion or to add a feature, to add our presence or add medication or some substance, add an experience for yourself, add money. We like to think that if there's a problem, naturally something is missing. In today's episode, I want to challenge you to take the problem that you thought about in the beginning of the episode and consider rather than adding something, what subtraction may bring. As a simple example, imagine trying to explain four dimensional space. This becomes a little bit difficult because we don't really have a model. We don't have a way of grasping something by just adding to our reality. We're having to predict something that we haven't experienced yet. Having to visualize something that we can't really visualize. We're kind of physically incapable of doing so. Now imagine if instead of trying to describe four dimensional reality, you start from two dimensional reality and then explain what a third dimension would look like. This is a much simpler task because instead of trying to compound our knowledge into a space that we don't understand, we can subtract from our knowledge and then fill in the gaps towards what we already understand. Another example of this is asking a question about what to do with an excess of money. Perhaps you just received an inheritance or maybe you got a bonus at work and you're not really sure what the best place to put that money is. One way you may answer this question is to think about what if you had no money at all and this money came in? How would you prioritize using it? Now you may not necessarily have the same priorities for this new influx of money but it provides you a framework for understanding what is important to you. How do you view money? How do you use money? Once you've kind of established this extrapolated view, you can then use that information to interpolate better decisions for this new situation that you find yourself in. Another example that you may actually face as a developer is a confused user. User is trying to understand some interface and you've been charged with fixing the confusion. How might you fix the confusion? Designers and developers may have different answers to this and certainly different experiences and different customer bases may have different answers to this question and there's not going to be a perfect answer. But it may be intuitive to start by saying, let's add a tooltip or let's add a new function, a new feature that helps the users understand the existing things better. But it may be a better plan. It may be a more effective plan to remove something from that confusing interface. Similarly, it may be useful to design your nutrition less based on what you should eat and more based on what you should stop eating. Now we should mention that in the absence of something, we may naturally try to fill that void and when we try to fill that void, we may choose the wrong thing to fill it with. For example, if everything that we eat currently is unhealthy and we strike everything off of that list, now we are faced with an additive problem. It's not healthy to never eat again, of course. And so like with anything, your subtractive or additive solutions face limits. But the key insight here, the key trial to run, the key experiment is to understand and try to reverse whatever your first intuition is. If you imagine immediately that adding something is the best way forward, then perhaps the best way forward is actually the other direction. But this isn't always the case, for example, we may intuitively believe that the only way to clean out our homes is to remove things, to throw things away. Maybe we have a messy closet. And we think the only way to clean our closet is to throw away or give away or somehow subtract things out of that closet. It may also be the case that you simply need to add some structure, maybe some shelves or some hangers, such that the problem that you have is not necessarily based on the axis of the amount of things that you have, but rather how the amount of things is organized. So really what we're recommending on this episode is to kind of pivot around that additive or subtractive position for your solutions. Now, interestingly, there's another position, a third position that is neither additive nor subtractive, but rather is a reorganization of existing things. Perhaps things are just not necessarily situated correctly. So the solution is neither additive nor subtractive, but rather it is in the order of a thing. Consider all of these solutions and these types of solutions whenever you are looking at a problem. Think maybe there's a categorically different solution that I can apply to this problem that would solve it better than whatever my intuitive solution is. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. If you're enjoying these episodes, I encourage you to subscribe and whatever podcasting app you use. Also if you are getting a lot of value out of Developer Tea, then I'd love to hear from you in the reviews on iTunes. I'm going to read a review from Druestur 1971. Druestur 1971 on the first of this year, January 1st, 2019. He said in this review. He said hi Jonathan. I vote you a five star review for a while now. When I first listened to your podcast a couple of years ago, my first reaction was that it was some guy saying a bunch of obvious stuff while acting like it was profound. Fast forward to today and I'm still here listening. In most episodes, I'm finding nuggets of real wisdom which have helped me in keeping the right perspectives or have helped me to look at things from another direction. Anyone who is a developer or considering being one even a seasoned developer can benefit by subscribing and listening to Developer Tea. Thank you for the podcast and please keep up the excellent work. Best wishes. Well, thank you to Druestur 1971 for that honest review. It is easy to hear these podcasts, hear these episodes of Developer Tea and be a little skeptical at first. And the truth is, I want you to be skeptical. I don't want people listening to this show and thinking that I know what I'm talking about just because I'm saying it, just because I have a good microphone to talk into. Instead, I want you to listen to the show critically and apply what works for you. And if something doesn't work for you, leave it behind. The challenge here is if Developer Tea is providing you even a little bit of value, even 1%. If I say one thing on this show that changes your career for the better, then first of all, this podcast would have been worth it the whole time for me. But secondly, it would have been worth it for you. And I'm lucky to say that we've had people who write in and say exactly those things. We've had over 12 million listens of this show since the beginning and we still are continuing to put out three episodes a week. So I'd love to hear from you. I'd love to hear in those iTunes reviews. Of course, you can also reach out personally at Developer Tea at Gmail.com with questions or comments. And I'm so thankful for all of you who are listening to this show right now. Thank you so much for listening. And until next time, enjoy your tea.