Steps to Problem Solving like a Charismatic Engineer
A great communicator is a great problem solver.
Yes, what do you think the communicator is talking about?
The phrase ‘influencer’ gets thrown around a lot nowadays.
That phrase is immediately associated with communication skills.
‘Do you like that?’
Nah, I don’t.
I think it’s much better to view a great communicator as a:
- Charismatic Engineer.
This is a person who explores problems in the real world.
Analyzes the results.
Then communicates the results in a charming way.
View communication skills as a masterclass on learning steps to problem-solving.
However, problem-solving may be a foreign concept to you.
It may seem too scary.
So, let’s dumb it down.
Identifying the Problem
There is a phrase in engineering called ‘troubleshooting.’
This is when the engineer is trying to find out what the issue is.
‘Is this step really that important?’
Yes. Those who skip it will waste a lot of time.
Ironically, a lot of people do skip it!
They just being problem-solving on something that may or may not be a problem.
Troubleshooting comes down to asking questions.
I’m sure you’ve had a moment when your internet went down & you had to call the call center.
They’ll ask questions like:
- When did your internet go down?
- Does your internet routinely act up?
- Can you try resetting the router & tell me what happens?
This is a real-world look into them troubleshooting so they can identify the problem.
Articulating the Problem
‘Okay, I identified the problem, now what?’
‘Huh? I already found out what it is. Why articulate it?’
Because this adds clarity.
Another reason an engineer often fucks up is because they can’t control their emotions.
If you have ever seen what happens when your favorite sites like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are down…you’ll be shocked.
So many people panicking.
A bad problem becomes worse.
Engineers need emotional control.
Especially when they have stakeholders asking them, ‘WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED???’
Articulate the problem.
‘Okay, I articulated the problem in a sentence. Now what?’
Say another sentence to clarify it even more.
So, you can go from a general understanding to a clarified one.
Back to the call center rep who has troubleshooted the internet issue.
They will say:
‘This is the only user from the neighborhood who is experiencing internet issues.
Then they will say:
‘The internet issue has been happening as of late.’
This is where some people will stop.
But then, the smart rep will further articulate by saying:
‘They did mention they got a pet recently. I wonder if the pet has been chomping on the wires & causing damage?’
This insight is profound.
By gradually articulating the problem more, this call center rep has learned that the issue is hardware-related.
So, he will send a hardware engineer to the customer.
I obviously dumbed down this issue a lot.
But hopefully, you can see that it’s all about making connections.
Learn more about articulation skills in the Speak Easy book:
Understanding Basic Logic
What intimidates people about problem-solving is that they immediately think of something scary.
That’s false. Problem-solving is fun!
It’s like a story unfolding in real-time.
All we need is basic logic.
Logic comes down to, “because of this, this happened” connections.
Aka: Cause & effect.
“I saw that I was missing my keys.
I had my keys when I came home from work.
Therefore, I know my keys are at my place.
I know I put my keys on top of my wallet.
This time, I put the wallet at a new location because I got distracted.
Let me find the wallet & I’ll find my keys.”
This is a simple chain of going backward.
A lot of innovative problem solving is from looking forward.
Let’s say you are normally great with eye contact.
However, with some people, you struggle.
Articulate the problem & try to solve it.
Then keep collecting data, refining & experimenting until you reach a conclusion.
Avoid Hand Holding When Learning Steps to Problem Solving
Great problem solvers are killed because they lack courage.
It’s impossible to learn problem-solving without effort.
It’s a game of experimenting, failing, and continuing.
As cliche as it may seem, you don’t fail until you quit.
A lot of the ‘failing’ is you collecting data for the next rep.
This builds a holistic understanding of the field.
Before, you were looking at the dots. Now you see the picture.
- Identify the problem.
- Articulate the problem. Keep refining the articulation to get specific on the problem.
- Often, at this step, the problem solves itself.
- Use basic logic of cause and effect to gather a solution.
- Experiment, gather data, refine, and continue.
- Once you have a solution, articulate it.
Problem-solving is a cumulative process that adds up over time.
A lot of those engineers who managed Instagram when it went down have an RCA call the next week.
RCA stands for Root Cause Analysis.
This is when the engineer breaks down why the problem occurred, what the fix was & how they can ensure this issue will not happen again.
‘Whoa, there is a lot of communication skills that go into problem-solving.’
Problem-solving IS communication skills.
Anyone who separates the 2 is a fool.
Practice The Steps to Problem Solving on Your Own
There are so many problems around you.
‘How do you know?’
Because we live in a complex system.
A system is an interconnection of parts that leads to creation.
Whenever a system is involved, problems are a feature, not a bug.
Within systems, there are subsystems.
Your apartment is a system. It’s a collection of furniture, rooms, closets, etc.
Within your apartment, there is a restroom which is also a system.
Within the restroom, the place where you brush your teeth is a system.
The parts include a sink, toothbrush, floss, toothpaste, mirror, etc.
On this day, you notice you barely have enough toothpaste to get a squirt out.
If it is a problem, how are you going to brush your teeth?
A hurricane just hit & all the places around you are closed.
Therefore, you NEED to gather toothpaste from this tube.
You have a problem, my friend.
Use logic, experimentation & refining to reach a conclusion.
Report your findings.
That’s the charismatic engineer.
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