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How To Solve Problems

Wouldn't it be great if you could solve problems more easily? You can. Problems you have at home, or problems from science, work, or business - you can use special techniques to help you find solutions to all of them. The following is one of the best.

A Problem Solving Story

I had written an ebook on buying cheap homes, based on our experience buying a house for ,500. I tried to sell it without much luck. I lowered the price to seven dollars, and it still wasn't selling. At least I was getting no returns on the ones that sold, so I knew the readers were satisfied with it.

I had previously sold ebooks and given them away. Free ebooks are a way to generate interest in and traffic to websites. Both selling and giving away information are workable business models. Then I realized that I was assuming I had to do one or the other. It seemed like a valid assumption, but when I questioned it, I came up with a new way to solve the problem.

I gave the book away AND sold it. I left the sales page in place, but gave visitors the option to get the book free as well. They just subscribed, and then received a chapter every few days by email. It took over three months to get the whole book this way, and of course I reminded them that they could go buy it right away at any time.

Sales picked up. Nothing spectacular, but I was selling more than before. Apparently many readers like what they saw, and didn't want to wait to get the rest. I have since used this new model for other ebooks with some success.

Solve Problems By Questioning Assumptions

The hardest part about questioning assumptions is identifying all the assumptions that we so easily and subtly make. Learn to do this, though, and you'll have some truly creative ideas and effective solutions.

Start with pen and paper, and write a list of assumptions you are making about the situation or problem. Write down even the most obvious "truths." Once done, begin questioning each item on the list.

Suppose a man is always arguing with someone at work, and he wants to restore peace in the office. On his list of assumptions, he might write, "I need to have a better relationship with this fellow employee," and "We need to change our behavior." Questioning these assumptions, he might realize that he can change his own behavior, and that will be enough, or that he really doesn't need a better relationship. Maybe he can just work away from this other employee.

Suppose you are a bicycle manufacturer, and you want to produce a new type of bicycle. Your assumptions may include that bicycles need wheels and that they have to be made of metal. Challenge the first, and you might imagine a "bike" with skis that hydroplanes on water when you pedal fast enough. Challenge the second assumption and you find that there are advantages to using fiberglass or plastic instead of metal.

Then you might ask "Do we really need a new product?" Maybe there is more money to be made marketing existing products in new ways. That would save the cost of retooling. Notice that this challenges the problem itself. Challenging the primary assumption, or the definition of the problem, can often yield the most creative and useful ways to solve problems.

Systematically questioning assumptions is just one technique. There are dozens more you can use. Make it a habit to use several of them, and soon you'll be able to solve problems more easily and creatively.

About the Author: Copyright Steve Gillman. Want to learn another 23 Problem Solving Techniques and other useful information? Visit:

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