The Art of Problem Solving

You may think that because I have an advanced degree in philosophy that this post will be philosophy-laden. You’re only partly correct.

My problem solving skills have definitely been enhanced through my decades-long study of philosophy. But this post is about more than that.

Recently, I overheard someone say, “She’s always complaining about something. What does she want me to do? Wave a magic wand?”

It’s that comment which sparked this post.

Over the past year, I have built a relationship with one of my brothers. He’s very different from me in a lot of ways, but he’s very smart, and our approach to problem solving is similar a lot of the time. We have worked on small and big problems together, often with good results.

What we don’t do is wave magic wands to make problems go away. That doesn’t even seem to cross our minds.

I believe that many problems–from those in politics to those in intimate relationships–are due to the fact that people don’t know how to work together to solve problems.

Notice I mentioned work. It is work. It’s the total opposite of waving a magic wand to make something disappear.

When my brother and I work together on a problem, we each use our brain, we research, we communicate with each other about results and findings, we each perform our necessary task to get the thing done.

We may get frustrated by a hard problem, but we don’t necessarily get angry.

We don’t ignore the problem. We don’t hide the problem.

I image us crouching down, fellow workers, doing our thing independently and occasionally checking in with the other to update on progress or get feedback.

We set aside our egos. This is something I learned in philosophy. I taught using the Socratic Method, in which all are equals.

We use our judgement and check with each other to see if our judgement makes sense and isn’t unreasonably wild.

We don’t usually take a problem personally. It’s just a problem–and our job is to try to solve it together.

We stay humble in our approach. It’s teamwork at its finest.

I believe the world would be a better place if more people learned the art of problem solving and teamwork

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