7 Steps to Easier Problem Solving
“I'm not afraid of problem-solving. There is always a way.”- Hanneli Mustaparta
Everyone experiences problems in their lives.
As creatives, our days are usually centered around solving problems. Whether its designing a product or character, developing a rig, animating a scene or any number of tasks we face as digital artists, problem solving is at the core of what we do. It’s also what I love most about the work I do.
As we grow, we become better problem solvers. I’d like to share seven simple steps to aid you in your journey of becoming a better problem solver and in turn a better artist.
Step 1: Define the problem.
Try and find the clearest description of the problem and define what your ultimate goal is. While this might seem like an obvious part of the process, many will skip this step. If you don’t have a clear picture of what the problem is, you may end up with a solution for the wrong problem, or no solution at all.
Step 2: Accept that there is a solution.
This might be the most important step in the process and can be a tough one for individuals new to problem solving. It’s easy to fall into negative thinking which will only slow you down. Stay positive knowing there is always a solution.
Some solutions will show themselves earlier than others, but stay positive, keep an open mind and steer clear of negative thoughts.
Step 3: Break down the problem into smaller components.
Sometimes the easiest way to tackle an issue is to focus on the individual parts that make up the overall problem. Chip away at the smaller components of the problem, and before you know it you’ll have worked your way through to the end. How do you run a marathon? One step at a time.
Step 4: Describe the problem to someone else.
This step may help you to redefine what the problem is and to better understand what you are trying to accomplish. I can’t tell you how many times I have solved a problem before I even finish describing the issue to another person. In most cases the other person isn’t familiar with the subject matter, but simply verbalizing the problem can lead to an answer without the other person saying a word.
Step 5: Step away from problem.
While it may seem like stepping away from the problem will only slow you down, often it will speed up the problem solving process. Go for a walk, take a snack break or even a power nap. I have solved more problems on my daily runs then I have sitting at my desk.
Stepping away may give you a whole new perspective and can help reboot the problem solving process upon your return. Your subconscious can perform some amazing feats while you break away from the problem. The longer you have been trying to tackle a problem the more likely you are to needing a break.
Step 6: Try everything.
Don’t assume a possible solution won’t work until you’ve tried it. I’ve had artists describe problems to me that they haven’t been able to solve, and when I ask them what they think a possible solution could be they already have the answer. They simply didn’t try their solution, thinking it wouldn’t work.
Use past experiences and see if you’ve already solved a similar problem. What strategies worked for you on previous problems? Try and attack the problem from all angles, using any and all tools and techniques in your toolkit. Keep track of your attempts at solving the problem and what you learn along the way.
Step 7: Reach out to others.
Someone else has probably experienced a similar problem and come up with a solution. While this doesn’t have to be your last step, this shouldn’t be your first course of action. If every problem you encounter is solved by others you will fail to increase your problem solving skills and always find yourself in need of external solutions. That said, use the resources around you and learn from their experiences. It’s extremely important that you understand how they solved the problem and fully understand the solution.
Following these simple steps will have you on your way to easier problem solving and further development as a problem solver. Best of luck with your current task at hand!
“We should not give up and we should not allow the problem to defeat us.” A. P. J. Abdul Kalam