If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.
Abraham Maslow, Eating Problems for Breakfast by Tim Hansel,
Word Publishing, 1988, p. 54.
Experimental psychologists have long been studying the thinking process in solving
problems. Here are some approaches you can use to improve your score as a problem solver:
1. Consider the elements of the problem several times, until a pattern emerges that
encompasses them all. This helps you get the total picture before you become lost in
2. Don't make a hasty judgment. Avoid succumbing to the first interpretation that comes
3. Try rearranging the elements of your problem. This may help uncover a familiar
pattern previously masked by an unfamiliar arrangement.
4. Attempt a different approach. A proficient problem solver has learned not to persist
in one approach if it's obviously not working. He or she will jump from one approach to
another until a solution is found.
5. Take "time out" when you're stuck. This will permit you to get away from
the problem and perhaps to be able to come back to it with a new perspective.
6. Discuss your problem with others. This will cause you to consider aspects you might
otherwise ignore. A listener can serve as a useful feedback source to reveal inconsistency
in your reasoning if it exists.
You cannot force a solution to a problem to come to mind. But you can keep your mind
open so you can recognize possible paths to solutions when they present themselves.
Bits & Pieces, June 24, 1993, pp. 9-11.
For more than 20 years Professor Edwin R. Keedy of the University of Pennsylvania Law School used to start his first
class by putting two figures on the blackboard 4 2.
Then he would ask, "What's the solution?"
One student would call out, "Six." Another would say
"Two." Then several would shout out "Eight!" But the teacher
would shake his head in the negative. Then Keedy would point out their collective
error. "All of you failed to ask the key question: What is the problem? Gentlemen, unless you know what
the problem is, you cannot possibly find the answer."
This teacher knew that in law as in everyday life, too much time is spent trying to solve the wrong problem -- like
polishing brass on a sinking ship.
The problem is SIN-- The solution is JESUS!
The Visitor, April 1984.
When St. Petersburg, one of the most splendid and harmonious cities in Europe, was being laid out early in the
eighteenth century, many large boulders brought by a glacier from Finland had to be
removed. One particularly large rock was in the path of one of the principal avenues that had been planned, and bids were solicited
for its removal. The bids submitted were very high. This was understandable, because at that time modern equipment did not
exist and there were no high-powered explosives. As officials pondered what to do, a peasant presented himself and offered to
get rid of the boulder for a much lower price than those submitted by other bidders. Since they had nothing to lose,
officials gave the job to the peasant.
The next morning he showed up with a crowd of other peasants carrying shovels. They began digging a huge hole next
to the rock. The rock was propped up with timbers to prevent it from rolling into the
hole. When the hole was deep enough, the timber props were removed and the rock dropped
into the hole below the street level. It was then covered with dirt, and the excess dirt
was carted away.
It's an early example of what creative thinking can do to solve a problem. The unsuccessful bidders only thought about
moving the rock from one place to another on the city's surface. The peasant looked at the problem from another angle. He
considered another dimension -- up and down. He couldn't lift it up, so he put it underground.
Bits & Pieces, October 15, 1992, pp. 9-10.
The way we generally strive for rights is by getting our fighting blood up; and I
venture to say that is the long way and not the short way. If you come at me with your
fists doubled, I think I can promise you that mine will double as fast as yours; but if
you come to me and say, "Let us sit down and take counsel together, and, if we differ
from one another, understand why it is that we differ from one another, just what the
points at issue are," we will presently find that we are not so far apart after all,
that the points on which we differ are few and the points on which we agree are many, and
that if we only have the patience and the candor and the desire to get together, we will
Bits & Pieces, September 17, 1992, pp. 14-15.