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Problem Solving 101

A Simple Book for Smart People

By Ken Watanabe
12-minute read
Audio available
Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe

Problem Solving 101 (2009) is a short and snappy guide to problem-solving. Originally written to help kids become better problem solvers, it can help anyone who wants to improve their ability to resolve issues, no matter how big or small.

  • Schoolkids and young adults
  • Business owners and leaders
  • Anyone who wants to realize their dreams

Ken Watanabe is a Japanese author. He was formerly a consultant at McKinsey & Company and is now based in Tokyo where he manages his own education, media and entertainment company, Delta Studios.

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Problem Solving 101

A Simple Book for Smart People

By Ken Watanabe
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe
Synopsis

Problem Solving 101 (2009) is a short and snappy guide to problem-solving. Originally written to help kids become better problem solvers, it can help anyone who wants to improve their ability to resolve issues, no matter how big or small.

Key idea 1 of 7

Problem Solving 101 starts with breaking your problem down to its core.

We come across problems every day, like grammar difficulties in English class or tension with colleagues or friends. No matter the scale of the problems we face, not all of us are well-equipped to solve them.

That’s where the four essential steps come in. They can help you solve any problem.

The first step is to identify what your problem is really about. To do so, you have to take the problem and break it down into smaller parts.

For example, let’s imagine you’re struggling with poor grades in math. At first glance, the problem looks huge and almost impossible, so you wonder whether you should stop playing soccer with your friends to devote more time to studying. But before you ring your friends to tell them you’re off the team, think about the problem in another way.

You should ask yourself which categories are causing you trouble. Is it geometry, algebra and/or fractions? If only geometry is bringing down your overall marks, then only geometry should be your focus of increased study. But before you start studying, break your problem down even further.

Take a narrower look at geometry and single out the specific problems you have with the subject. Is it measuring cylinder volume or trapezoid areas, or is it the Pythagorean theorem? Once you’ve pinpointed your weak spot, you can begin to solve the problem much more effectively by focusing all your attention on it – and you will probably have time to play soccer with your friends, too!

So now you know exactly where your problem is. However, you haven’t solved it yet. Next up, work out what exactly is causing your problem.

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