Problem solving, in the words of Ken Watanabe, is an underestimated skill that is necessary in completing goals.
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His book, Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People, was intended to help teach these priceless skills to children, but it quickly became a bestseller among adults.
His simple teaching method helps people of all ages acquire vital abilities in a way that is both efficient and fun.
Watanabe, a former McKinsey & Company consultant, obviously has immense expertise on the subject of problem solving. He studied at both Yale and Harvard Business School and is the CEO of his own media company, Delta Studio. The simplicity and effectiveness that is achieved by Problem Solving 101 could only be produced by an author as masterful and experienced as Watanabe.
So how is this short book, at only 110 pages, so useful?
Interestingly, the fact that it was written for kids makes it easier to understand and process for adults. It has pictures, charts, and graphs; it is candy for a visual thinker. There is absolutely no confusion, which is exactly how the process of solving a problem should be. Watanabe introduces a fool proof process designed to find the root of a problem and explore all the options before taking the actions to fix it.
There are, in fact, four steps in successfully solving a problem. First, one must understand the current situation. What specifically is the problem? Secondly, one must identify the root cause of the problem. Watanabe encourages the readers to be very specific about distinguishing the exact factors that are causing the issue. Planning is vital; next, one must develop an effective plan of action. Lastly, as the fourth and final step, the plan of action must be executed and modified until the problem is solved.
These steps can be carried out through a process of hypotheses and analysis.
Sound complicated? Not in the least; all of the topics are carried across through stories that kids and adults can identify with. For instance, the Mushroom Lovers, a middle school rock band, need to find a way to increase their concert attendance. What can they do to optimize their popularity? Tofu and Eggplant, two members of the band, successfully find a way to increase the awareness of their concerts and to boost their acclaim.
Also mentioned is Kiwi, an aspiring soccer player looking to move to Brazil to polish her skills. Which school should she choose to attend? Kiwi uses pros and cons to make her decision, and in doing so teaches the reader how to develop plusses and minuses, how to judge the importance of criteria, and to keep exploring different options.
One aspect of the book that could have been improved was showing what would happen if something went wrong in the plan. For example, what if the Mushroom Lovers weren't able to advertise on the radio? What if Kiwi didn't spontaneously receive a call about being sponsored by Nike? These possibilities were not discussed by Watanabe.
However, I do believe that sufficient problem solving skills were taught by this book. It addresses issues ranging from big to small, and common to rare.
I would recommend this book to anyone, old or young. It will definitely change the way that I looks at obstacles in my life, and I believe that anyone and everyone could identify with and make use of the topics discussed in Problem Solving 101.