Jordan Ogren

May 12, 2022

Don’t try to solve the problem. Do this instead...

Take two steps back.

Every time you face a problem or opportunity, take two steps back and breathe.

Don’t jump right into solving it. Please.

This is especially for you if:
- You’re someone who prides themselves on getting shit done, or
- You’re someone who needs to be busy to feel productive

The first thing I will do every time I get a new task or revisit an old problem is pause.

How I do this is to breathe twice. First, a deep inhale, followed by a long exhale. 

At this point, I’ve stopped my body’s natural reflex to dive into solving it.

Now I can deploy my critical level 2 thinking (level 1 = instinctive thinking). This looks like starting at the foundation with a few simple questions.

What is it that we are trying to do?
Whom are we trying to do it for?
How will we know if it’s working (if we’re correct)?

I can approach the problem or task more effectively by asking and answering these questions. Then, I can see it for what it truly is and avoid biases.

Then I will usually sketch some 1st order thinking for the task on paper.

An example of this is the onboarding flow for our software.

Rather than diving right into the content already there or jumping to solve the problem (i.e., defining the flow perfectly), I go to the root of the issue.

I first sketched what it looks like to buy our software. What is that journey?

From there, I then split up that journey into different sections that relate to onboarding.

To finish up my 1st order thinking, I created three meta buckets:
  1. In-app onboarding (i.e., product tour)
  2. Pre-process onboarding docs in the help center
  3. Post-process post-process in the help center
Only now can I take all of that and begin creating the onboarding flow to assist the user. I can fit different things they will need to know into different lessons which fit within one of the buckets.
One thing to note is that this approach has a higher cost than benefit for small tasks or problems.
Onboarding is vital for software. That’s why I used the approach here.
Use this approach when you need to make the best decision around something important.
Clarity is what you create by taking the slow -> fast approach. By gaining a holistic view of the task, you can execute the minute details to a greater degree of quality.
The lesson is not to avoid a bias to action.
In reality, by doing the 1st order thinking, you’re doing work that will be useful. No matter the solution or end product, you can use this content with your team to show why you did what you did.
If you don’t begin solving the problem or doing the task, you can share this work with your team to ensure you’re on the right path.
The lesson is to use critical thinking to pave the path for a better solution.
How do you approach problems or tasks in a way that helps you effectively move forward?

🧠 + ❤️ // JO