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Figure Out What Problem You’re Trying to Solve

It’s one of the questions that makes a parent’s blood run cold:

”Dad, where do we keep the scissors?”

Even if your kids are teenagers your brain goes into overdrive trying to figure out why your child needs access to sharp objects. What nefarious purpose are they on about? That’s usually enough to make you start asking all kinds of questions about what they need scissors for and what their ultimate goal really is.

Sometimes we skip past the important parts of problem solving like the kid above. Such as figuring out exactly what problem it is we’re trying to solve. It’s so easy for us to see the “solution” and know that we need to get there somehow. But we often forget that sometimes the problem we’re actually trying to solve isn’t affected by our supposed solution anyway. We know we need scissors but we haven’t explained why.

Ivan Pepelnjak is no stranger to these kinds of challenges. In fact, it seems that people come to him to solve them more often than not. When you get those kinds of crazy questions on a regular basis you get very good and trying to help people figure out where their actual problem is instead of just shoving a solution in place to make things look good.

He’s so good at that particular part of sanity checking that I’m going to steal this quote from him about the “correct” answer to most of these problems:

In most cases, the right answer is “WE DON’T DO THAT, and this is how you should do things the right way”, potentially accompanied with a document documenting the risks and the technical debt that would be created to solve the stupidity… sent to the CIO for personal approval.

Read more in this awesome blog post from Ivan here: Figure Out What Problem You’re Trying To Solve

About the author

Tom Hollingsworth

Tom Hollingsworth is a networking professional, blogger, and speaker on advanced technology topics. He is also an organizer for networking and wireless for Tech Field Day.  His blog can be found at

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