Posted by: Don Linnen | 30 November 2010

Problem Solving 101

What’s the toughest part about solving a problem? Usually it’s the first step: defining the problem. Here’s the infographic describing the problem of stability and counterinsurgency dynamics in Afghanistan.


My head hurts at the complexity – at the overwhelming number of choices. Very often, people give up before they start – before they understand the problem. It is just too daunting.

At a fundraising dinner last week for The College of Saint Thomas More, the speaker mentioned that the hardest part of his preparation was done for him when he was told what his subject would be.  His problem was defined for him.

The week prior to that dinner I was in class to learn how to raise funds through planned giving. That’s the art and science of nonprofit development through wills and estate plans. Each day was spent in the world of taxes.

Talk about daunting. I’ve tried to avoid this world for decades. Now I’m knee deep in it. If you haven’t taken a deep dive into the pages of our tax code – even just a few of the 71,684 pages – you have no idea how numb your brain can become.

Most people don’t want to discuss estate plans. It forces them to deal with mortality. More significantly, it forces them to look at a daunting number of choices that keep changing – either proclaimed by law or driven by personal circumstance.

Problems can be solved. Afghanistan, domestic spending, estate planning, immigration, men and women agreeing on a movie.

Okay. Four out of five problems can be solved.  But first, define the problem. Nothing can happen until that’s done.

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