When was the last time you tackled a problem at work, so large that others took notice? Or, are you someone who plays it safe, never doing anything that could get you in trouble? Being BOLD wins you the promotion. You can read books to hone problem solving skills.
But there is a caveat – you have to apply what you learn from the books
Life is about growing and evolving into the person you might become. And that often involves changing your mind and doing things differently.
For your personal library, here are some books on problem solving that you need. I own some, and plan to purchase all.
[color-box color=”mycustomcolor”]All the images in this post are clickable. Please use the Table of Contents below to move to the sections of this post that you’re interested in.[/color-box]
Initial Thoughts on Read Books to Hone Problem Solving Skills
Years ago, I created a template for reviewing and summarizing books. It was very detailed, but very cumbersome and difficult to use, so I didn’t always use it. It’s a good tool though. There are sections in the template that will accelerate your professional development, if you consistently answer those questions while reading.
Although the template was overwhelming, that didn’t stop me from reviewing and summarizing books. But one thing I noticed, is that for the best reviews and summaries I wrote, there were certain components of the template that I always include.
And on top of that, those reviews/summaries are pinned very frequently on Pinterest. In moments like these, you realize that you may be on to something, that you may be able to fill a need, creating work that matters to others.
Read Books to Hone Problem Solving Skills: Original Book Review/Summary Template
As you can notice from the template, there are some sections that you would not include when summarizing non-fiction. After working with the template for years now, there are two sections that I really like and use a lot: Body, 5 Great Ideas and Summary.
Read Books to Hone Problem Solving Skills: Book Summary Template – Body
Read Books to Hone Problem Solving Skills: 5 Great Ideas from Books
- Key Ideas
- Key Takeaways
Read Books to Hone Problem Solving Skills: Book Summary
- Ideas/insights/takeaways to increase the value of your products and services.
- Ideas/insights/takeaways to make you become more valuable to yourself and to others, such as your employer.
Read Books to Hone Problem Solving Skills: Deconstructing Book Summary Template
Yes, the sections of the template that deal with the author’s knowledge and the job he has done writing a good book are important. But if you spend enough time vetting the books before you decide to summarize them, then these sections become less important in your summary. You can take them for granted.
You must be wondering where I am going with this post, and bear with me for a second. Let’s say that there is a problem that is impacting the way you perform your job. You realize that if you can solve the problem, that means increased revenues for the organization, and possibly a promotion for you. This is a compelling reason for you to solve the problem, even though it will not be easy to do
So where do you begin?
The process is involved and will take time. But think of it as investing time in your professional development. You are investing the time it takes to become more valuable to you. Even if the organization you work for doesn’t award you for solving the problem, the skills you develop in the process are portable, so remember that.
- Simply, clearly and not too broadly or narrowly, describe the problem you are having in your organization.
- Uncover the facts surrounding the problem: What are the underlying causes of the problem?
- Are the underlying causes internal or external to the organization?
- Are the underlying causes solvable?
- Look at problems in many different ways, and find new perspectives that no one else has taken.
- On a blank sheet of paper, do a brain dump for 15 minutes, writing down as many answers and solutions to the problem. If necessary, go back to Step 1 and redefine the problem.
- Do a search on the problem to see the results. Has someone solved that exact problem? Gather as much information as you can.
- Compile a bibliography of books that could potentially help to resolve the problem.
- Ask colleagues for book recommendations.
- Ask subject matter experts for recommendations.
- Check the bibliography of scholarly journals and books on the topic.
- Ask a librarian at a good reference library to find titles.
- Include titles of books you discover during your internet search.
- Spend half a day at the library inspecting the books listed in the compiled bibliography. This process involves looking at the Table of Contents as well as scanning the books. After you have inspected the books:
- Whittle down the number of titles on the list.
- Get a cursory understanding of the topic/situation.
- Determine which books say anything important about the topic of interest.
- With a cursory understanding of the subject:
- Develop questions you are trying to answer or issues to resolve.
- Clarify the information that you are seeking. Distinguish between ‘must know’ and ‘nice to know.’ What information will derive the most benefit?
- Write down the elements of what you require
- How will you know when you have found the answers?
- Inspect the books identified as relevant to solving the problem.
- Find the most relevant passages and record page numbers.
- By authors, use the Problem Solver Matrix to record your answers.
- Read and ANALYZE all the information gathered.
- Distill the information germane to the problem.
- Compare and contrast the answers to each question.
- Reorganize the information in many ways. Combine, and recombine, ideas, and thoughts into different combinations no matter how incongruent or unusual.
- Draw conclusions and identify possible solutions (Do not limit yourself to what has been done before, but be open to new and better alternative solutions).
- Which option best serves the organization?
- Is the option consistent with the mission, goals and objectives of the organization.
- Select the best option.
- Implement the solution.
- Evaluate the solution.
- If the solution does not work, repeat Step 10.3 and 10.4. If you feel comfortable enough, bring others into the process to get another perspective. This is also another opportunity to talk to the subject matter experts, letting them know what you have uncovered from reading the top books and analyzing the information.
When answering the question in the Problem Solver Matrix, use your own words, including your thoughts and insights. Make sure that you include information that answer the questions in the Body and Great Ideas section of the Book Summary template. A critical step in the process is to complete the Problem Solver Matrix. When you have information in the matrix, it makes it easier for you to analyze.
Additionally, you are quickly able to spot gaps that you have to fill. This year, we are also participating in The Invisible Mentor Read the World Extreme Reading Challenge, where we are reading a book each week. At the end of each month, we are connecting the ideas from each of the five books.
So if you are reading to solve a problem, follow the steps above, reading only the books that will enable you to solve the problem you are facing within the organization. An additional step to the problem solving process is to interview a couple of subject matter experts to get their take on the problem. Integrate this information into all the other information you have gathered.
If you cannot view the SlideShare presentation, view it here.