Understand the Problem

This is the single greatest insight can you have about problem solving. Too often in our quests for an answer, we come up empty handed or with the wrong solution in hand because we failed to fully understand the problem.

Left AND Right Brain Together

The most effective problem solving uses both sides of the brain in a partnership. The "left brain", with its logical toolbox, can structure a large problem into solvable components or at least isolate the issues. When properly channeled, the creativity of the "right brain" can then be most productively put to work. Once a creative insight has been made, the left brain can go back to work developing it or confirming it. (Of course, brain lateralization is much more subtle and complex, but the popular terminology serves a useful purpose for thinking about problem solving.)


Humans have an amazing ability to rationalize. You need to recognize and resist this with all your might. If there is a conflict between two ideas or two sets of data, there's often something worth investigating. A great example of this is told in The Cuckoo's Egg where an accounting discrepancy of less than a dollar in Berkeley resulted in the capture of spies in Germany.