Problem Solving 101 Book Summary, by Ken Watanabe

Download "Problem Solving 101 Book Summary, by Ken Watanabe" as PDF

Want to get the main points of Problem Solving 101 in 20 minutes or less? Read the world’s #1 book summary of Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe here.

Read a quick 1-Page Summary, a Full Summary, or watch video summaries curated by our expert team.

Video Summaries of Problem Solving 101

We’ve scoured the Internet for the very best videos on Problem Solving 101, from high-quality videos summaries to interviews or commentary by Ken Watanabe.

1-Page Summary of Problem Solving 101

To solve a problem, take a systematic, logical approach.

Everyone has to figure things out, make decisions and solve problems. Although most people don’t know about it, there is a proven system that can be used for these three purposes. The solutions are elegant, effective and satisfying. Sometimes they change the world for the better.

The tools that accompany this problem-solving system are easy to understand and apply. Having a specific thinking and planning approach helps you organize your thoughts logically and effectively, broaden your thinking to consider a variety of solutions, and manage life’s various challenges. It helps you build capabilities that anyone can learn over time through repetition.

Avoid adopting an attitude that hinders problem solving.

Some people are not good at solving problems. Some of them: * Miss Sigh – She gives up when things get difficult or complicated. Her default attitude is that she can’t do things well and that she’s not talented enough to succeed. * Mr. Critic – He thinks everyone else’s ideas are stupid, he never tries to solve any problems, and his default attitude is “I told you so” whenever someone makes a mistake.

  • Miss Dreamer – She’s got a million great ideas but never does anything to make them happen. She prefers to think about how she can change the world with her creativity, instead of doing what’s necessary to implement those ideas. Miss Dreamer doesn’t like to be bothered by details.

  • Mr. Go-Getter – Mr. Go-Getter is a problem solver, but he doesn’t always think his way through problems before acting on them. He jumps into action and never stops to plan ahead or diagnose the situation at hand. His motto is “Ready, Fire, Aim”—he believes in just getting started without thinking about what comes next or how to do it properly.

Problem solving requires determining its root cause, developing a sound plan and implementing it.

On the other hand, Kiwi is a soccer player who has learned to focus on what’s in front of him. He doesn’t dwell on mistakes or past events. Instead, he focuses tightly and develops action plans that are efficient and effective. If something goes wrong, he adjusts his plan accordingly and learns from it as well so that next time he can do better.

People who solve problems look for root causes before they act. Doctors do that when treating their patients. They ask questions, investigate the patient’s medical history, take temperatures and run tests to find out what caused a problem in the first place. Problem-solving people use similar techniques; they try to scope out root causes as well as set definite goals regardless of setbacks or obstacles.

To identify the root cause of a problem, you need to target the symptoms. You can do that by taking these steps: 1) Identify all possible causes of a problem and 2) analyze which one is most likely. To find out more about it, 3) gather information and 4) confirm your hypothesis.

  1. The first step is to come up with a solution. To do this, you should think of many possible solutions and decide which one will work best. Next, you need to plan your actions to implement that solution and put it into action. Finally, you need to determine an implementation plan for the idea so that it can be successfully implemented in real life situations.

To solve a problem, think and act in four components.

To solve a problem you must first figure out exactly what the problem is. You then need to determine its root cause, come up with an action plan, and execute that plan until the problem is solved. This method works for any size of problem.

Break down a large problem into smaller problems. Solve them one by one, and establish milestones to track progress. Ask yourself the question, “What should I do today?”

Your problem-solving plan should include a firm schedule with clear goals.

To solve a problem, you must have goals. To achieve your goals, you need to decide what they are and then figure out how to reach them. You can do that by setting up three steps: 1) Define the goal; 2) Figure out where you’re now in relation to your goal (the gap); and 3) Create a hypothesis about how you will eliminate the difference between where you are now and where you want to be. Your hypothesis should be based on all of your ideas and options for solving the problem at hand. Once it’s determined that there is no better option than this one, create an action plan as follows: Detail all your ideas and options fully, choose the best option or idea as your hypothesis, determine if it makes sense if applied correctly, revise it if necessary, check whether or not information is needed before proceeding with an action plan, analyze potential actions thoroughly, develop each step of the action plan fully.

Break down big problems into smaller problems and solve them one at a time.

Break down your problem into logical categories. Include all relevant information. Don’t leave out or forget anything. In this system, everything fits into its own special box. None of the boxes overlap with each other and they are organized logically in a hierarchical manner that helps you solve problems by understanding them better.

A yes/no tree is a great way to figure out the root cause of problems. For example, you overslept because you turned off your alarm clock and went back to sleep. To solve this problem, discipline yourself to get up when the alarm rings.

If your clock is not working, the first thing to do is figure out if it has a battery. If it does have a battery and the alarm is set, then you need to check whether the alarm was turned on or off. If that doesn’t fix it, you might need to go back and examine how well you installed the battery in the first place.

The “hypothesis pyramid” helps you structure your hypothetical argument and elucidate your conclusions.

This tool will help you structure your argument and support it with evidence. Your conclusion is at the top of the pyramid, while each layer underneath it supports that claim.

There are two types of hypothesis pyramids. One is the grouping structure, in which you have a conclusion at the top and support for that conclusion underneath it. For example, “School is fun.” You can support this with separate blocks such as “School sports are fun,” “Lunchtime is fun,” and so on. The other type of pyramid is called an argument structure because it’s based on arguments rather than groups or categories. In this case, your main point would be at the bottom of the pyramid and each supporting fact would be placed above it to form a hierarchy; for example:

In an argument, you want to come up with a conclusion first. Then, support that claim by providing evidence in the form of facts and statistics. If any one piece of evidence is wrong, then your entire argument falls apart.

Problem solving involves identifying multiple options and figuring out which one is the best. Then you can use the Pros and Cons tool, which enables you to list all your possible good and bad options and weigh their pros against their cons.

You can evaluate your options by listing every possible option, detailing the pros and cons of each option, scoring the attractiveness of each pro and con on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being unattractive), then selecting the best one.

The pros and cons tool helps you organize your thoughts, identify important information that may be overlooked in the analysis, and discover questions to ponder. This tool can help you minimize shortcomings of various options.

Before you solve any problem, recognize and put aside your preconceptions.

Everyone has their own opinions, but they might not be realistic. It’s important to challenge them for good problem solving and open yourself up to new possibilities in your life. Problem solving requires careful preparation. As the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” With that in mind, always be ready to move at this juncture of preparation and opportunity. If action becomes necessary, don’t hesitate; take it. Follow these six rules which apply to all problem solving: 1) Don’t focus on worrying – instead just do something about your problems and get as close as you can towards achieving your goals; 2) Focus on alternative solutions rather than dwelling on one solution or another; 3) Be prepared with a Plan B if things go wrong 4) Have confidence in yourself 5) Look for opportunities 6) Always think positively

  1. It is useful to get other people’s perspective. You can do that by asking them for their ideas and advice. It is also important to question your own judgments, because you may not have thought about all the aspects of a problem or situation.

  2. When evaluating a person’s performance, focus on the right factors and weigh them correctly. Ask yourself if your evaluation is correct by providing solid information to support it.

  3. When you’re faced with a decision, consider all of your options and the pros and cons of each one. Then choose the best option based on that information.

Problem solving isn’t a mystery. It’s straightforward, as long as you have the right approach and mindset. You need to figure out what your goal is, how to reach it in the best way possible, and then execute that plan while constantly monitoring progress. If you do this correctly, problem solving will become a habit that helps you solve problems better than anyone else can.

Full Summary of Problem Solving 101


If you want to be more successful at business, it can seem like a lot of obstacles are in your way. However, with the right strategies and techniques, you can become more successful.

The following are some key points about solving problems. These tips will help anyone who is having trouble with a problem solve it in an easy, systematic way. The advice comes from the Japanese government and was originally written for school children to use when they had problems.

In this article, you will learn the simplest first step to solving any problem. You will also learn about a useful tool called yes/no tree and how big dreams can be achieved.

Big Idea #1: Problem Solving 101 starts with breaking your problem down to its core.

We all face problems, like poor grades or tension with friends. Some of us are better at solving those problems than others. When we’re faced with a problem, the first thing to do is to identify it and break it down into smaller parts. For example, let’s say you’re having trouble in math class (poor grades). The problem seems huge and impossible so you wonder whether you should stop playing soccer with your friends to study more. But before doing that, think about the problem differently by breaking it down into its smaller parts (like asking yourself what exactly you don’t understand).

You should ask yourself which subjects you are having trouble with. If it’s geometry, algebra and fractions, then you should focus on those areas of your studies. But before you start studying those subjects in depth, break down the problem further by focusing on geometry specifically.

Focus on the details of geometry and find out what you are struggling with. Is it measuring cylinder volume or trapezoid areas, or is it the Pythagorean theorem? Once you’ve figured that out, focus all your attention on that particular problem and you’ll probably have time to play soccer with your friends as well.

Now that you’ve identified the problem, it’s time to figure out what is causing it.

Big Idea #2: To discover what’s causing your problem, brainstorm the potential reasons and test your ideas.

Once you’ve determined the problem, it’s time to figure out why that is. What are the causes of your problem? Think about possible causes and list them all down. For example, if there’s a children’s band called Apples and Oranges who want to know why their monthly concerts aren’t popular, they might think maybe people haven’t heard about them or don’t like pop music.

But these are only hypotheses. To know for sure whether one hypothesis really is the root cause of your problem, you need to test it out. A great method of testing is to use a tool called a yes/no tree to answer a few yes/no questions that help clarify your hypothesis. Apples and Oranges start creating their yes/no tree after listing the possible causes. The first yes/no question is: Did people know about the concerts? If no, perhaps they’re not fans of pop music? If the answer is also “no,” then that’s the cause. But if they are fans, then dig a bit deeper by asking why more people came to their first concert than their second one.

Ask questions to get all the answers you need for your root cause. Then, analyze that information and form an action plan.

Big Idea #3: To select the best possible solution, brainstorm ideas and conduct careful analysis.

So, you’ve identified the problem. The next step is to analyze it so that you can come up with a solution.

The band started by asking itself what information it needed to analyze the situation. It gathered surveys and conducted interviews with a small sample of students at their school, which helped them realize that they needed to both raise awareness and entice people to come to their concerts.

Now that you’ve gathered all the information, it’s time to develop solutions. Apples and Oranges has listed advertising via student newspapers, email, classrooms and radio. They also made two columns: one entitled “Raises awareness?” and the other “Gets people to attend?”. They arranged each solution under one column or another based on how impactful they are in raising awareness or getting people to come out.

There are many solutions for any problem. You need to prioritize and choose which solution will have the most impact and be easy to implement. Apples & Oranges wanted to do this when they were trying to solve their problem of not enough people attending their performances in school. They knew that having a live performance would have a great impact, but it was also hard work because they had to set up all the equipment each time before performing, then take it down afterwords. However, broadcasting on the school’s radio station would be much easier since there was already a working system in place for them to use. Therefore, they decided that making radio announcements would make both an impact and be simple enough for them do with little effort required from them as well as create buzz about what they were doing at school.

Now that we understand the process of problem solving, let’s see how it can be applied to real-life situations. Then we will go back to the action plan and learn about what comes next.

Big Idea #4: To realize big dreams, set smaller goals to gauge what it will take to reach them.

Many of us have big dreams about becoming professional figure skaters or famous actors. We think that these dreams are too big to achieve, so we don’t act upon them and they stay dreams forever.

But you don’t have to do that. You can achieve your dreams by breaking them into smaller goals and achieving each one of those goals, step-by-step.

For example, a guy named Eric Squirrel wants to become a director of animated films. He has no skills in computer animation and doesn’t even own a computer. His first goal is to get access to one by buying an Apple computer for $600 within the next six months without taking out a loan to pay for it.

Eric’s goal is to lose weight. He wants to do that by eating healthy food and exercising more often. In order for Eric to reach his goal, he needs a plan of action.

Think about the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Eric Squirrel thought he could afford a $600 computer, but when he calculated his savings and future earnings, he realized that it would take him half a year to reach that goal. The gap was $248.

So, how did Eric find a way to close that gap? We’ll look into his next key point.

Big Idea #5: To reach your goal, list all the possible solutions and turn the best one into a hypothesis.

When you notice a hole in your sock, you think of ways to fix it. You can do the same thing when trying to achieve a goal. You must create solutions and then choose the best one that will help you reach your goal.

Eric Squirrel comes up with a lot of ideas, like saving cash and asking his boss for a raise. Then he uses a logic tree to choose the best idea. That’s very similar to how Apples and Oranges use a yes/no tree to find out why their shows aren’t popular.

Eric starts from his main goal of saving $600 to buy a used computer within six months. He draws two branches: one about reducing spending and the other about increasing income. He extends those two branches to new, more specific ones that suggest exactly how he will save money. One suggestion is cutting back on entertainment purchases like games and CDs.

When Eric completes his tree, he eliminates branches that are neither achievable nor effective. The ones left are the good and feasible ideas. Those will be used to form his hypothesis: He can reach his goal of buying a computer by getting a better-paying job, selling some of his DVDs, and not buying any more games or CDs.

Eric Squirrel’s hypothesis is that he can solve the problem of a lack of nuts in winter. Now it’s time to put his theory to the test and come up with an action plan for how he will achieve this goal.

Like this summary? Have too much to read? You'll love my new book summary product Shortform.

Shortform has the world’s best summaries of nonfiction books and articles. Even better, it helps you remember what you read, so you can make your life better. What's special about Shortform:

Sound like what you've been looking for? Sign up for a 5-day free trial here.

Big Idea #6: Once you have your solution hypothesis, you can analyze it and start taking action.

You’ve figured out the problem and formulated a hypothesis to solve it. You’re all ready to take action, but you need to analyze your hypothesis first. To do that, collect information relevant to the situation by looking over receipts or asking friends for advice. Once you have enough information, examine how much money is spent on certain items and what your priorities are in comparison with those costs. In this passage, Eric Squirrel looks at his weekly expenses and compares them against each item’s cost (e.g., candy only costs $1). He also looks at another job offer he received and calculates how much he can earn there instead of working as a video game tester. After analyzing the data, Eric concludes that he could afford an Apple computer if he stopped buying CDs for a while and sold off some DVDs from his collection instead.”

With the analysis complete, it’s time for the fourth step: execution. You need to execute well and be prepared to make adjustments along the way. For example, if Eric can’t sell his DVDs, he’ll know how to solve that problem by walking his neighbor’s dog instead of selling them.

You should do the same. If something goes wrong, you can modify your plan to overcome it and keep executing until you achieve what you have set out to do and solve your problem.

Problem Solving 101 Book Summary, by Ken Watanabe

Enjoy this summary?

Subscribe to get my next book summary in your email.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Want to get smarter, faster?

Subscribe to my newsletter to get free book summaries and startup notes.