Problem Solving Heuristic #1128: How Interesting


Have you ever reacted to something you noticed by saying “Bizarre!” or “Weird!” or “How strange”? Example: “Hey, Michael’s post is tiny this week. Weird!”

Have you ever investigated to learn why what you noticed occurred? Or did you make an assumption about its provenance? Or did you drop it and move on?

The next time you notice yourself reacting in this way, reframe your response and say “How interesting that <what you observed>. I wonder why <that happens>.” “How interesting that Michael posted a minute blog entry this week. I wonder why he didn’t write something longer.”

Now think of five explanations for what you noticed. Then think of five more. And five more. And five more. When you can’t think of any more, come up with five more. He didn’t have anything interesting to say this week. He self-censored everything he *really* wanted to say. He was pressed for time and didn’t have time to write more. He didn’t really have time to write anything this week yet didn’t want to disappoint his loyal readers. He paid someone to write his blog entry this week and they didn’t do a very good job. Michael usually ghostwrites for someone else, and that person is on vacation, and so he had to do it all himself this week. . . .

Once you have really and truly hit the bottom of your imagination barrel (hint: the first three times you think you’ve hit it, you haven’t yet), review your list and pick the explanation you believe is most likely to be correct. Then talk with the person whose action engendered all this activity and Check It Out!


*** Want a fun job on a great team? I need a tester! Interested? Let’s talk: Michael dot J dot Hunter at microsoft dot com. Great testing and coding skills required.

Comments (2)

  1. m_i_m says:

    Hi there!

    Thanks for the the informative postings as per usual :).

    Just to apply the concept/idea that is mentioned in this and the linked blog entry. Firstly, is it a suggestion, like a piece of advice or is/are the question(s) posed at the reader? Or could it mean something else?

    My understanding is that it is a piece of advise although i must admit when i read it the 1st time i wasn’t sure whether you were asking me to come up with answers to your statement of this blog entry being really short!

    Yes, i have realized that it is important to understand what the next person is telling us and as you suggest we should clarify our understanding by asking them if it is what they meant.

    I would like to expand on this idea, without hopefully taking it out of context.

    If i may, i think we shouldn’t forget that we should try also to convey a message in a way that it is not too ambiguous and difficult to understand. By so doing we would hopefully make it easier for the next person to understand.

    However, i believe there are other parameters which might affect the communication and understanding. One of them i believe is the cultural and social differences between people which do often cause people to understand things differently when someone outside there cultural or social "circle" mentions it to them.

    So yes indeed, obtaining excellent clarity and understanding from communication ranges from not too easy to a being a real "mission".

    Thanks.

    Regards,

  2. micahel says:

    m_i_m: Yes, it is a suggestion, a way to get unstuck on a problem.