Solve for X
So, you've done your root cause analysis and know where your problem starts. That doesn't necessarily get you to a solution. Take our example of Bob, who can't afford his house but loves the school district for his kids (from the linked post, go read it if you haven't).
Knowing where his problem stems from doesn't get him immediately to a fix. In fact, there are a bunch of things he could potentially do to solve his problem, some more complex than others.
|One of the most amusing things about writing these pseudo-business-related posts|
is the copious amount of cheesy clipart available
- Go for quantity
- Write everything down, no matter how wild
- Build on ideas you've already listed
- Don't judge, debate, or criticize
- Don't be too neat
- Figure out who needs to be involved. Maybe it's just you. But maybe you want to include other people who are involved or have perspective. Bob is certainly going to involve his entire family (including kids) in his brainstorming session.
- Identify and state the problem clearly and succinctly: "Our house is too expensive because of our school district."
- Take one idea at a time and write it down as a quick headline "Sell house and move." "Get second job." "I'll just quit school!" Don't judge or debate and never criticize -- this applies even if it's just you (we are often our own worst critics).
- Don't be too neat. This is a great exercise to do on a giant sheet of paper. This isn't a formal organized list, it's a wild tangle of ideas.
- Reach out for additional input.
- Ask other people:
- Role models -- what do people you admire advise?
- Anti-role models -- what do people you don't admire advise?
- Reinventing the wheel -- what have other people done in a similar situation?
- Wisdom of crowds -- what do the members of your forum or email list say?
- Approach the problem from a different angle:
- Anti-solution -- what if you had to solve the opposite problem?
- Parallel solutions -- what problems have similar parameters and how were they solved?
- Failure -- if someone blew it and the solution didn't work, what did they do?
- Be someone else -- what if money were no object? What if you had the opportunity to live out a dream? What if you were an entrepreneur? What if it were the 18th century? What if you lived in Europe?
- Dig deep:
- Connections -- draw connections to other parts of your life and see if it expands the solution set (your mother can't live alone any more, maybe you need to move to be near her anyway, thereby presenting the solution to your problem)
- Automatic writing -- Preferably while in an altered state
- Augury -- Look for omens related to possible solutions
- Dreamwork -- If this is your thing
Let's say you're down to a few likely options, but you can't tell which one is best. This is usually caused by a lack of information about the proposed solutions. And it's also usually when people start trying to create pros and cons lists for the solutions. But those kinds of lists never worked well for me. It's always too messy and I tend to emotionalize the comparisons of the pros and cons. And when you add in several different pro and con lists for different solutions, it can be particularly difficult to decide what looks better.
This is where it's time to reach into the problem solving toolbag. The following tools are for vetting the individual ideas in order to compare them more accurately. Note: these methods are great for any kind of analysis, not just problem solving. We'll be touching on them again in the as we get deeper into PMPM.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This is a well-known business analysis technique that can be easily adjusted for our personal and magical use.
These are laid out in four quadrants:
- Strengths: internal characteristics that give it an advantage over others.
- Weaknesses: internal characteristics that are a disadvantage relative to others.
- Opportunities: external things that the solution could exploit for an advantage.
- Threats: external things that could cause trouble for the solution.
It goes without saying that you can lay a couple of Tarot cards out over the top of this list in order to expand your understanding of the solution. You might find that while you've found only a few weaknesses and threats for a particular solution, the cards are much more negative.
WEAF divination is based on an existing analysis tool called PEST (political, economic, social, and technological) which is supposed to allow you to define the wider environment that your solution will have to operate in. WEAF is based on this analysis, but stands for (water, earth, air, and fire).
When I first ran across PEST, I was intrigued at how the four areas of concern seemed to relate neatly to the four classical elements. So I adjusted the tool for magical and personal use. The goal is to understand the wider environment based on the four elements:
- Social / Water: what are the emotional characteristics of the solution? Is is a least worst option? Will it make you happy? How will your relationships be affected by this solution?
- Economic / Earth: what are the material characteristics of the solution? Is there a fiscal impact? Will it require a major change in your environment or career?
- Technological / Air: what are the intellectual and technological characteristics of the solution? Do you need to learn more? Does the solution require some technology (whether mundane or magical)?
- Political / Fire: what are the political characteristics of the solution? What's needed to force this solution into being? Will there be power ramifications, either with your own power or others'?
|Using the classical direction / element correspondences... your mileage will vary of course|
- Straight divination -- just let that cards tell you (if they do, I've had a number of times where the cards seem to say "make up your own mind").
- Decision / emotion -- make a decision and take a small, but concrete action toward it. Now, how do you feel? Got that sinking feeling? Maybe it wasn't the right choice.
- Pendulum work -- if this is your thing go ahead and give it a try. I have a hard time not letting my subconscious interfere with pendulum work, but in this case that might actually be an advantage. Maybe my subconscious knows something I don't.
- Visualization -- picture the solution being implemented. How do you feel?
- Coin toss -- sometimes the reason you can't make up your mind is because there's really not much practical difference between the options. In the grand scheme of things, many of our decisions don't mean that much (even seemingly big ones like college major or job choice). Maybe you're sweating something you shouldn't sweat. Leap in where angels fear to tread and just chose one and go.