Solving problems is a transferrable skill and a mighty useful skill to have. Solving problems is usually a process of elimination that uncovers the real problem and provides clarity of thinking. Once we are thinking clearly then 'reserved knowledge' can emerge and be applied to the problem. We think of 'reserved knowledge' as something we already know but hasn't yet been applied to this situation – its just sitting in reserve waiting to be useful again.
For example, one of our software suppliers called on us recently and made the observation that they rarely hear from us. They wanted to know if we had unresolved problems or had needed help but hadn't asked. We were able to tell them that we could resolve most of the problems ourselves and that the few times we had called on their support we had learnt new information that allowed us to solve more of our problems ourselves. This is how we like to work, seeing if we can find the solutions for ourselves from what we already know and what we can work out based on what we know about other situations. Problem solving takes practice so we practice wherever we can.
The ability to solve problems is a transferable skill.
In order to be good at problem solving we have to be good at learning. Learning takes practice, which is why school kids are good at it and adults aren't so good at it.
In our office are all constantly learning something new - usually something software related but not always: David has been learning Mandarin, I have been learning to fly a Jabiru.
The process of learning something is good for your brain (ref pref post). Repeating the same skill over and over doesn't develop your brain nearly as much as learning something new.
We are passionate about skill development and like to have ready access to information when we need it. For years we have been relying on lynda.com for tutorials on software, business and creativity.
In order to be good at problem solving we have to be good at learning.
So, here's how make it easier to pick up new knowledge quickly:
- find learning resources that are easy to tap into when you need to know something. Use lynda.com for software tutorials. Try 99u.adobe.com for ideas on productivity and creativity
- read articles from heaps of different sources instead of just your area of expertise. Feed readers make this much easier – more in feed readers in another post coming soon
- find the time to learn a skill that is way outside your comfort zone – if you are ham fisted, learn to do macrame (this is really just tying knots in patterns so nothing for you macho types to feel emasculated by) or if you have no ball skills try learning golf – that will really test you!
The more variety in the things you learn, the more broad the knowledge is that you can apply to new situations. And the more fun you will have – I promise!