“A problem well put is half solved” ~ John Dewey

Seems logical, right? Kind of like “measure twice, cut once” – we can all get behind these statements.

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But that’s kind of the problem. Once we see a quote like that, we move on. We nod in agreement without getting all there is to get from these statements – before letting them inform and improve our behavior.

We need to go deeper. There’s so much more in it.

The first thing that jumps out at me is how most of us are so far from “a problem well put”. We “put” our problems in a way that prevents us from focusing on or considering solutions.

The reason that a problem well put is half solved is because the problem is framed from the perspective of how it might be solved.

A problem well put opens up the solvers to the solutions that will make a difference.

But that’s not how most of us frame our problems.

More often than not, when we are talking about or describing a problem, we’re justifying the problem. We’re arguing for the validity of it. We’re making a case for the severity & existence of the problem. We’re demonstrating our familiarity with it.

We’re arguing for the problem, not trying to solve it.

We’re making a case for the problem, not for the solution.

We’re justifying the validity of the problem instead of seeking valid solutions.

I read dozens of emails every day where people share their problems in such explicit detail, with paragraphs of justifications, barriers and challenges.

Very few of them even address possible solutions one time.

A problem well put is not defended, justified or validated.

A problem well put is objective, not emotional, and open to solutions.

How can you live this quote instead of simply reading it? How can you frame your problems more effectively? How can you focus more on the solution than the problem?

Argue for the solution, not for the problem.

Here are a few questions to consider when you’re thinking about your own problems & challenges:

  • How could I see this differently?
  • If this could be solved, how would I go about it?
  • What are 5 potential solutions?
  • What other options are there?
  • What actions can I take to move in a different direction?
  • Who might have solutions to this problem?
  • How can I focus more on the solution than the problem?

Quotes are not meant to inspire us, they’re meant to inform our actions. 

“A problem well put is half solved.”