How do you see a Problem?


I was really trying to be productive today, so I finished my homework, read more of The Falconer, made version 2.0 of my semester 1 ID video to promote to the 8th graders, looked into stuff for Duke TIP/Nerd Camp, and worked on various google docs in preparation for both the stuff for promoting and Kat and mine’s meeting with Mr. Lichtman.

I felt pretty successful over all, so I’m mentally ringing the progress bell right now. ūüôā

I still need to finish this book, so I set a timer and told my self I would read for a full hour without doing ¬†anything else. This worked pretty well, but my family got home when I had about 20 minutes left so I got called to answer a question every now and then, but I stopped the timer and continued the full hour of reading. I finished Step 3: Understanding the System, Step 4: Finding Problems, and started Step 5: Solving Problems, and I will read more after I’m done blogging for tonight.

Step 3 was the longest chapter in the book and for a good reason because understanding the system is a very important step in problem solving. When you have a problem it is important to know all of the factors that are actually contributing to your problem, so it helps to stop and observe the system for a little.

“When we want to understand something, we usually first ask what is there. After we know something about the whats, we can stat asking about the whys and¬†hows. And when we put all of those pieces together, then we’ve really learned something new” (78).

Mr. Usher has several lessons with the Children in this chapter where they do activities about trying to classify what is in a particular¬†system such as a square in the forest and the school office. They learn quickly that they must be¬†careful¬†to account for both tangible and intangible aspects of the system because sometimes the things you can’t see, such as love, hate, values, faith, judgment, loyalty, and desire, play a bigger role in a system (take a house for example) then some little piece of wood that fell off of an old piece of furniture. By looking at the intangibles you are starting to examine the relationships between parts of the system which is what really holds a system together.

Making decisions about what things are more important to your area of concentration, as well as deciding the boundaries of this area, is also very important because there are different times were it is more helpful to zoom in or zoom out to make sure that you are collecting the best data.

What I really liked about this step was actually how it connected with Step 4: Finding Problems. The idea in Step 4 is that problems can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how we look at them. You may not like eating broccoli for dinner for example (I don’t), so you might say a problem is when you are forced to eat it. However, when you turn this problem into a question, “Why do we need to eat vegetables?”, now you have a problem that leads to an opportunity; after all, we learned already that questions lead to more questions.

(What I found really funny was that when I wrote my “Hypothetical Conversation” I had talked about “why do airplanes fly?” simply because I was on a plane and it seemed like a relevant question. Then while I was reading today, I stumbled upon this same question actually in the book. It is always funny when things come full circle like that.)

“The power of perception is infinite.” This is a quote from Annabel Soutar’s play Seeds which MVPS did the American premiere of last fall, and this line has always stuck with me. When you really understand what you are looking at, then you can change your perception of problems to go from a bad feeling¬†to a curious challenge and opportunity.

Mr. Lichtman explains how problems are caused my dissonance, which is a lack of harmony or agreement. Problems are all around us, but there are 2 kinds of people in this world; there are those who state problems and just continue on with them in their life, and then those that choose to do something to fix the problems.

Which are you?

If you think you are the former, do me a favor and stop being that person. Don’t accept problems just because they are problems; question them to death instead!

Problems give you something to think about, they give you something to act on, something to learn. If you are only going to state a bunch of problems then you really are helping absolutely no one, but you may feel pretty bad pretty often.

An adult talking to me yesterday had said something along the lines of, “in the real world people don’t care about your problems and you have to figure out how to deal with them on your own.” Well I’m not so sorry, and I need to question authority on this one.

I don’t care if I’m just a teenager, and maybe I haven’t been out in the “real world” as much as others, but I know that there are a lot of people out there that do care. Design thinking is entirely based around the principle of solving problems for other people. Problems cause innovations. Without them we wouldn’t have water bottles, stick notes, paper clips, suit cases, or practically anything lying next to you right now.

Problems can be really hard to handle sometimes, but just like how every coin head has a tail to go with it, every problem has another side with an opportunity waiting to be explored. And just as Into the Woods so beautifully sings to us, “You are not alone, no one is alone.”¬†


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