What I learned week 16 2023: cashing in on the byproduct of solving problems

We spend our energy solving a lot of problems. Daily life is basically a series of logistical problems leading us to situations where we can get paid to solve larger problems. But in each problem there is a massive missed opportunity that many of us are not aware of. At least I wasn’t.

Say you’re solving a problem at work. Let’s use the example: setting up an ad for a direct to consumer brand.

You probably start with an existing strategy, or by trying something new. This part of problem solving is quite widely explored, and you probably have a bunch of good heuristics about it already.

Then eventually there’s a result. You “solve” the problem when some ads perform better than others and you reallocate money to the working ads. This is also a widely explored area, and there’s a ton of writing about it.

After that, most of us simply move on to the next problem… And here we’re missing a huge return on investment. The solution you just came up with can almost always be turned into a general pattern that can be reused.

Next time you solve a problem spend a few minutes thinking about how your solution could be phrased as a general rule of thumb: can you say that audience X prefers a ad of the type Y? Or message Z?

Not only will you be able to remember this general rule much better than the details of the problem and solution, but it will also be much easier to apply it to similar problems.

It sounds easy, because it is. I was shocked by just how quickly I started to reap the rewards. The same day I learned this I generalised two other insights, and one of them could be applied to another problem the very next morning!

This blog post is one of my general learnings so far. I discovered this simple rule in Edward de Bono’s Five-Day Course in Thinking. Which I recommend. But more than the book, I recommend you try this next time you solve a problem!