How to Problem-solve Like a Kid
In the Freakonomics podcast, “Think Like a Child,” Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt extol the virtues of “doing things differently and simply and with a kind of joy and triviality that leads you to a really special place that, as an adult, you don’t get to go to very often.”
Sometimes those “really special places” are right in front of our noses. The assumptions. The obvious stuff. The facts.
Dubner appreciates that kids are really great at stating the facts, at “…describing something that’s pretty obvious.” It’s the kind of thing they do all the time, but adults miss. Adults “…tend to think it indicates that we are not thinking hard” — even though the obvious can often lead to absolute breakthroughs.
“It’s the thing that once you step back and look at it through lens of, in this case, a childlike ignorance, it opens you up to seeing what the truth is.”
In my work as a facilitator, getting to the truth is critical, so I often begin by asking clients to explain the facts to me as they know them, as they would to a child.
Here are seven reasons to start with the obvious:
- It may be obvious to you, but not to everyone else.
- It may seem obvious to you, but you may not fully understand it.
- You may fully understand it, but it doesn’t mean everyone else does.
- Everyone may understand it, but not in the same way.
- It may have been obvious in the past, but circumstances change.
- It may have appeared obvious in the past, but never really was.
- It may be so, totally, obviously obvious, that everyone assumes somebody else has already done it, is doing it or will do it.
In short, exploring what you think you know often shows you don’t know as much as you thought you did.
So take a cue from the kids. It’s obviously a great approach to better thinking.