I had a major “a-ha” moment about 2 years ago. After attending a cubing competition with my son, I was inspired to learn how to solve it.
I first tried this about 15 years ago by watching a young man on YouTube. I did solve it by following his instructions to the tee. I walked away from that thinking that there was no way I could recreate that on my own. Fast forward 15 years…after observing the diverse crowd at the cubing competition, I felt that it was definitely worth another try.
I started with a less daunting cube – the 2X2. After some research and executions, I concluded that it was easier to follow written instructions rather than watch a video (that in itself was an eye opening moment). I learned how to solve it in a day. I had just graduated to the 3X3!
I continued to follow the path of written instructions, supplemented with advice from my son, and worked on it. After about two days, I was somewhat comfortable with the patterns and the steps required. After another two days, I was solving it without help! It all came down to 4Ps - Patterns, Patience, Persistence and Practice.
The same 4Ps are applicable to solving problems that we encounter in our careers.
In order to recognize a problem, we need to recognize symptoms (patterns) first. This is mainly done through observation. Never underestimate a leader that doesn’t feel the need to talk all the time – they are most likely observing, learning and assessing in that silence. Recognizing patterns helps us understand when there is disarray and indicates to us that action is needed.
Once we recognize the symptoms, we need to get to the root of the problem. There are documented techniques that can be used to do this such as the “Fishbone/Ishikawa Diagram”. Techniques aside, it is more important during the process, we maintain patience. Problems are generally not solved overnight. It is an iterative process (with a hope of incremental improvements). The first round of problem solving might clear some symptoms, but not all.
This is when we need to persist. We should be willing to drive the problem to resolution even if our attempts fail on the first, second or even third attempt. When we finally get to the desired state, the feeling is priceless! The intrinsic reward is quite high and that gives us more love and motivation for what we do. It helps us grow both as a person and as a professional.
Problem solving only becomes better with practice (lots and lots of it). The more experience you gain, the faster you recognize patterns. That in turn results in quicker assessments and decisions on what path to follow in order to correct the situation. Practice also engrains the process so that the steps you follow become more instinctual and natural. Patience and persistence thereby become built-in traits rather than ones that are forced.
So try out your hand at problem solving. Take the mystery out of the (Rubik’s) Cube. Start small, say with a 2X2, and then progress to the 3X3. The lessons you learn in that process will most definitely provide you with insight into other aspects of life!
Written By: Aruna Krishnan (Originally published on LinkedIn here).