Spend More Time in the Problem Space

It's tempting to rush to an answer. As Christian Madsbjerg has argued, we seem to want as a culture to turn creativity into an assembly line: we input problems, we output answers, all through some standardized process. We want to move as quickly as we can away from uncertainty and toward some kind of resolution.

But it's often a more valuable use of time to dwell in the problem space, probably for longer than you think. Uncertainty is uncomfortable, but it's only when we learn to accept that this discomfort and that we don't know things that we are able to learn about the nuances of what we're considering. Even the knowledge we do possess may have a shelf life. Rushing into the solution space often means we gloss over evidence, or fail to recognize the gaps in our evidence. That's a problem, because when we encounter gaps in our knowledge, we tend to fill them with assumptions. We need instead to dwell longer in the unedited, messy version of things, so that we can productively apply different lenses and mental models to the situation to determine what is salient.

Only when we acknowledge uncertainty can we overcome uncertainty. As Erika Hall puts it, we can't learn unless we admit we don't know something.



Hall, Erika. “The 9 Rules of Design Research.” Medium (blog), October 24, 2019. https://medium.com/mule-design/the-9-rules-of-design-research-1a273fdd1d3b.

Madsbjerg, Christian. Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm. Hachette Books, 2017.

Martin, Roger L. The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking. 1st edition. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Review Press, 2007.

Spool, Jared M. “Customers Request Solutions. We Need to Understand Their Problems.” Medium (blog), August 16, 2019. https://medium.com/@jmspool/customers-request-solutions-we-need-to-understand-their-problems-41db3b5c6d4d.

Varol, Ozan. Think Like a Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life. New York: PublicAffairs, 2020.