Saturday, February 13, 2010

Of late night journeys into the recesses of the mind

Sometimes you don't notice the obvious until someone points it out to you, especially when it's late at night and everything else is quiet around you. It's like having someone crack open an egg and explain the patterns on the shell where it's cracked, and point out how the yolk and white feels different to the touch... it's something you knew subconsciously deep down inside but never paid attention to, but you're sort of seeing it again, in a whole new light... maybe through their eyes. Or something like that...

I was having a late night/early morning online conversation with a friend earlier today, and among other things we spoke about was how the human mind is wired, how it works... forever seeking for patterns in order for us to make a decision, or to find the answers to something. Well, he was doing most of the explanation and I was more of the 'listener', nodding in agreement in my little corner of the planet whilst he expounded his thoughts from his little corner of the planet. This whole thing made me realise that searching for patterns is indeed what I did/still do when trying to solve a problem at work... It has always been the same old problem solving technique, asking those questions of who, when , how, why, where ??? And trying to place them under the same old categories used by everyone, using the same old analysis methods that leads you nowhere... and why?

Because, maybe just maybe there is no pattern. The tools lead you to make the assumption that there is a pattern, and you end up identifying a wrong root cause and taking the wrong countermeasures, which of course does not solve the problem and so it happens again. I mentioned some issues we were facing in this post, and sadly, they keep occurring much to the dismay of B and me.

This revelation of course brings about a whole new dilemma, because your investigation results will definitely be greeted with raised eyebrows if you don't use the 'proper and tested problem solving tools' But seriously, what if those tools are simply that... tools created because it worked for some cases 30 years ago? It would be very interesting to find out if you can identify the cause of the problem using a whole different approach (according to my friend, you'd need a mad genius for that, or simply being a mad genius wouldn't be too bad either). It is of course something to think about... and something I plan to attack when I get back to work...


  1. this reminds me of the Tobin Tax everyone is talking about.... how come no one ever thought of it before...?

  2. Seems to me it often makes sense to use the old ways AND to think outside the box on a difficult problem.

  3. Now this is interesting, because your questions actually kind of answer themselves in your observations. I think of "proper problem solving technique" as the starting place. I follow the steps and come up with a proposal to solve a problem, then consider and discuss it, then implement it.

    Sometimes I've found the root cause and the problem gets fixed. But sometimes I haven't gone far enough in my questions and investigating. So I take the result of my proposed solution and begin the process again from there.

    I think the problem solving pyramid actually does work for most issues. But the key is going to be asking enough of the right questions about what you're trying to solve.

    Sometimes it takes trial and error to get to the root cause. And as Secret Agent Woman suggests, this can lead a problem solver to an outside the box solution.

    This is a great post to get me thinking.

  4. nursemyra: maybe they did... just probably never voiced it out, etc...

    SAW: That's the thing... we use the old methods for analysis even with out of the box ideas..., so at the end, we are still limited by the patterns we wish to see. If it doesn't fall in the expected pattern, we end up not accepting it, no matter how convinced we were about it initially...

    Travis: I know... It got all my brain's gears turning after the conversation with the friend that day.

    We seem to sort of employ a similar approach to problem solving... sometimes it works, but sometimes the problems recur even when you've done countermeasures for the rootcause... that's the worst in problem solving...

  5. sometimes we have to use the same method because of the environment itself. you try to invent and apply it but then, it can't be accepted. leave you in depress because you can't express yourself out, and you can't prove that you are better than others. it's pathetic sometimes.

    usual quote would be "do as what you've been told". rubbish isn't it?

    sometimes, i think i'm not meant to work with people. i mean, with a boss.

  6. I feel your pain... but I'm also not cut out to open my own business...

  7. You are such a dedicated employee Terra!

  8. Maybe I am... I don't know :)

  9. you choose late at night to engage on such topic? wow!

  10. LOL... I don't think we chose the topic. The topic chose us, and coincidentally it was late.