It's Not About the Shark: How to Solve Unsolvable Problems

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Macmillan, 4 Nov 2014 - 240 halaman

It's Not About the Shark opens the door to the groundbreaking science of solutions by turning problems—and how we solve them—upside down. When we have a problem, most of us zero in, take it apart, and focus until we have it solved. David Niven shows us that focusing on the problem is exactly the wrong way to find an answer. Putting problems at the center of our thoughts shuts down our creative abilities, depletes stamina, and feeds insecurities. It's Not About the Shark shows us how to transform our daily lives, our work lives, and our family lives with a simple, but rock-solid principle: If you start by thinking about your problems, you'll never make it to a solution. If you start by thinking about a solution, you'll never worry about your problems again.

Through real-life examples and psychology research, David Niven shows us why:

*Focusing on the problem first makes us 17 times less likely to find an answer
*Being afraid of a problem is natural: we're biologically primed to be afraid
*Finding a problem creates power – which keeps you from finding a solution
*Working harder actually hides answers
*Absolute confidence makes you less likely to find the answer
*Looking away from a problem helps to see a solution
*Listening only to yourself is one of the best ways to find an answer

Combining hard facts, good sense, and a strong dose of encouragement, David Niven provides fresh and positive ways to think about problem solving.


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And that’s what this book is about: it’s not about the shark. Focusing on the problem never leads to a solution; it leads to obsession with the problem, worrying about the problem, desperate ways to ... Baca ulasan lengkap

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Tentang pengarang (2014)


Imaginary Philip and the Problem of Problems

WHAT IF THE bumblebee knew it couldn’t fly?

We all know what would happen: He’d sit around worrying about how fat he is, and he’d never get off the ground again.

But there’s another side to that story. In 1934, when entomologist August Magnan concluded that flying bumblebees defied the laws of physics, he never bothered to tell the bees. And they kept right on flying.

Problems infect our thinking in many ways—but the basic equation is simple. If we let problems define who we are, if we let problems serve as our guide, then our problems tell us what we can’t do. We can’t do this. We can’t do that. Our lives become negatives and absences.

A problem, no matter how important, no matter how significant to our well-being, doesn’t belong in the center of our thoughts.

A problem is a barrier. We thrive as thinkers, as doers, as people when we take barriers down. Think about any great advance in any field of endeavor: a great thing, a great idea, a great product, a great story, a great cure. That greatness came about because somebody brought down a barrier. A problem is a barrier. You have to bring it down, or it will bring you down. Just like the bees.

* * *

THE ODDSMAKERS LABELED him a 300-to-1 shot. Which is a polite way of saying he had no chance of winning the tournament. But the rookie golfer Ben Curtis was just glad to be there, having barely snuck into the field by qualifying two weeks earlier.

There were good reasons for the modest expectations. As he teed off at the 2003 British Open, Ben Curtis had never won a professional golf tournament. In fact, he had yet to finish among the top 25 at any event. Curtis even shared the oddsmakers’ views of his abilities. He was there for the experience, he explained, to have fun and to try to get better by playing against the best players on one of golf’s toughest and most famous courses.

Still, the joy of a small-town Ohioan incongruously standing on golf’s brightest stage delighted fans and commentators. Their delight was eclipsed only by their shock as Ben Curtis sank his 8-foot putt on the 72nd hole and hoisted the famous Claret Jug as the winner of the British Open.

How improbable was his victory? It had been ninety years since any golfer had won the first major tournament he had entered.

In the space of a weekend, everything changed for him. An anonymous golfer who had never won anything, Ben Curtis now stood beside the kings of the sport, living out what he admitted was a “fairy tale come true.” He had to clear time on his schedule to visit the White House, because the president wanted to congratulate him personally. And among the many prizes afforded the winner of a major championship in golf, he collected something of the sport’s golden ticket—a champion’s exemption that allowed him to pick exactly which tournaments he wanted to enter for years to come.

By 2011, that champion’s exemption had expired. Worse, it had been five years since Curtis’s last win on the PGA Tour, and he was playing just to hold on to the status of a full-time professional golfer.

Curtis was desperate to stay on the tour. And the desperation shaped his game.

“Every time I walked onto the course I thought to myself, ‘OK, how am I not going to have a disaster?’” he said.

His sole focus on each hole was avoiding mistakes. “Out there, I’m trying to do everything I can to not make bogeys and double bogeys,” he said. “That’s what my game has become.”

The effort to avoid mistakes clearly had an effect: He made more of them.

“What I was doing, the way I was thinking, was adding more pressure on myself,” Curtis said. “More pressure you don’t need.”

Worse, he was carrying his mistakes from one hole to the next. “In my head I would see replays of a bad tee shot two holes later. I would think about a missed par putt on the next green,” he said. “Even when I had opportunities to put up a good score on a hole, I would think of ways I might make a mistake.”

Staring at the problem left Ben Curtis stuck—exactly where Steven Spielberg would have been if he had kept his focus on his rotting mechanical shark. Fortunately for Curtis, he finally hit bottom.

At the end of the 2011 season, having failed to win or even contend for a title, Curtis’s standing on the PGA Tour was reduced to conditional status. He would, in effect, need to ask for special permission from the sponsors of golf tournaments to let him play anywhere in 2012.

Each week he sat by the phone, hoping to hear that the tournament director had picked him from among the 50 or 100 players asking for one of about eight late-entry slots into the tournament. Most weeks, the phone didn’t ring.

But something happened to him on those weeks when he did get into a tournament. Suddenly, the pressure was gone. Because he had no status to protect, the prospect of a bad round didn’t scare him so much. He began to just play golf again.

Four months into the 2012 season, playing in just his fourth tournament of the year, Curtis ended a winless streak that had stretched out over more than 2,000 days. His win in the Texas Open restored his full-time professional status and, more importantly, reminded him of what he was capable of doing.

“Golf is that way,” he said. “It will come up and surprise you if you let it.”

* * *

YOU ARE AN advanced engineering student. Your class is about to be given what amounts to a pop quiz. In a moment, you’ll be asked to sketch out designs for a product.

You rub your hands together in anticipation. Whatever the task, there’s no doubt you’ll come up with something great.

You smooth out your paper and keep your drafting pencil close at hand.

You’re asked to come up with a bicycle rack to mount bicycles on a car. You are given various requirements, but the most important objective is to make a rack that is easy to attach to the car and easy to mount bicycles on.

You are shown an example of an existing but inefficient roof-mounted bicycle rack. It has metal tubes running across the car’s roof. Into the tubes, a bicycle’s tires are secured. It is, you are told explicitly, very difficult for users to secure the tubes to the roof of the car. Meanwhile, the center tube is nearly impossible for all but the tallest and strongest users to access.

You are asked to come up with as many designs as you can that meet the requirements. You have an hour. Now get to work.

You think about bicycles and cars, their shapes and sizes. You think about people having to lift their bicycles and secure them.

You didn’t become an engineer to be mediocre. You’re not trying for a merely acceptable design. You are there to be the best. So you put pencil to paper and get started.

You can do anything within the parameters of the task in terms of materials or shapes or approaches. So you spin the paper around to get a look at things from a different angle. Your pencil starts flying.

But one image keeps coming to mind. That roof-mounted rack with the tubes. The one with the flaws.

Your first sketch looks just like it. So does your second. Try as you might, your designs keep coming back to roof-mounted tube racks—ideal if your customer base is comprised of NBA centers.

What you didn’t know is that at the same time you were creating variations of that failed design, another group of engineers in the next room was also drawing up plans for bicycle racks.

The only difference is that they were never shown the picture of the bad design. And they were never told to try to avoid putting bikes in the middle of the car’s roof. They were just told to come up with the best design they could.

When researchers David Jansson and Steven Smith lined up all the designs from your group, and all the designs from the other group, the differences were enormous. The group that saw the bad example came up with fewer total designs, far fewer original approaches, and was much more likely to wind up with bikes mounted where no one could reach.1

It wasn’t that the second group was any more talented than the first. They weren’t. It wasn’t that the second group knew anything more about bicycles or bike racks. They didn’t.

The difference between the two groups was just this—the first group was asked to solve a common problem with bike racks, and they flailed against the challenge. The second group was asked to design the best bike rack they could, and they did. In the process, they solved a problem they didn’t even know existed.

Jansson and Smith repeated their experiment with other challenges and other engineers, and each time the same thing happened. When asked to design a measuring cup for the blind, the majority of engineers shown a design problem couldn’t solve it. More than 80 percent of the group that wasn’t shown the problem solved it without even knowing what they were up against. When asked to design a spill-proof coffee mug, those shown the design problem with the mug were seventeen times more likely to fail than those who weren’t shown the problem.

These were all very talented engineers. All knowledgeable, capable, skilled, and driven. Yet their likelihood of succeeding varied tremendously based on what they were trying to do. The group that ha

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