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A Way to Solve All Problems? January 30, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in experiments, problem-solving.

A Problem
Today, some coworkers called me in to help them with a sticky problem. They’d been working for weeks trying to figure out how to design a rather complicated simulation. They had finally finished one part of it, but they knew they couldn’t continue at the same pace. “Help us figure out how to speed up this process!” they said.

A Way to Solve Problems
For about 4 years now, I’ve used a very simple process to figure out learning designs. We call it Rapid Design. But basically, it involves jotting ideas on pieces of paper and then taping them up on the wall and moving them around like jigsaw puzzle pieces until the relationships and structure are clear. The power behind this approach is that it’s visual. You don’t have to try to remember all the relationships. You can see them. With this process, we’ve been able to compress into a day or two what could take weeks with a less visual process.

“I’m Beginning to Think There’s No Problem That Can’t Be Solved if You Make It Visual”
The progress today was phenomenal. The team started by telling me what had happened. I didn’t really need to know, but I knew they needed to tell me. Then I asked them to describe their current process, and as they talked I drew it on the whiteboard. As soon as they saw it, they suggested two fairly easy changes that will cut weeks off their development time. Within about 4 hours, we had defined a process that everyone thought would work both effectively and quickly. As we walked to our cars, I said to my colleague, “You know, I’m beginning to think that there’s no problem that can’t be solved if you make it visual.”

Potential Problems to Solve
It’s a hypothesis worth testing. I can think of a number of applications:

  • If my daughter comes home from school with a problem, I could ask her questions and put her answers up on the wall to consider
  • My husband and I could draw our finances out so we can see better where we can cut
  • If I have a problem with a relationship, I can draw it out to see why we’re in conflict.  If nothing else, I think the visual would give me the objectivity to stop defending myself and to start trying to understand the other person’s perspective.

A New Experiment
So, I now have another experiment to add to the list: Use the “Rapid Design” approach to solve any problem. I’ll keep you posted on what problems can be solved this way and which ones can’t.



1. Dan - January 30, 2008

I was trying to internalize your argument that anything can be solved visually. On a personal level, I don’t look at the pictures. I create meaning from the linguistic intelligence which can be print or audible. Visuals really mean very little to me. I think your argument is valid for a large percentage of the population, but …. LOL there is always a but in the psychology of learning.

Where I would really like to see this concept explored is in the realm of Emotional Intelligence. A Rapid Design approach to solving emotional problems – the thought make my brain hurt :).

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