I loved reading Gerald Weinberg’s Becoming a technical leader, so when trying to select a new book, I looked at his bibliography. I came across this very short (129 pages) book on problem solving. I picked it up because it was so small, but I did not expect much from it. I was wrong. It is a very funny, well written book with excellent advice for anyone dealing with solving problems regularly. It also has some very nice heuristics to ask yourself when you are talking to the business and trying to understand them!
Chapter 1. A Problem
The fledgling problem solver invariably rushes in with solutions before taking time to define the problem being solved. (Location 101)
without some common understanding of the problem, a solution will almost invariably be to the wrong problem. (Location 107)
Chapter 3. What’s Your Problem?
A PROBLEM IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THINGS AS DESIRED AND THINGS AS PERCEIVED. (Location 191)
a phantom problem — a discomfort primarily attributable to perceptions. (Location 207)
the problem could be solved either by changing desires or changing perceptions (Location 223)
Chapter 4. Billy Brighteyes bests the bidders.
DON’T TAKE THEIR SOLUTION METHOD FOR A PROBLEM DEFINITION (Location 370)
IF YOU SOLVE THEIR PROBLEM TOO READILY, THEY’LL NEVER BELIEVE YOU’VE SOLVED THEIR REAL PROBLEM. (Location 372)
Chapter 6. Billy Back to the Bidders
DON’T LEAP TO CONCLUSIONS, BUT DON’T IGNORE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION. (Location 448)
You can never be sure you have a correct definition, but don’t ever stop trying to get one. (Location 461)
Chapter 7. The endless chain
EACH SOLUTION IS THE SOURCE OF THE NEXT PROBLEM (Location 502)
We never get rid of problems. Problems, solutions, and new problems weave an endless chain. (Location 504)
The best we can hope for is that the problems we substitute are less troublesome than the ones we " solve. " (Location 504)
putting them in someone else’s back yard — or back end. This technique is called problem displacement, and is often very useful when consciously and conscientiously done. (Location 506)
new problems — more often than not — are created unconsciously. (Location 507)
THE TRICKIEST PART OF CERTAIN PROBLEMS IS JUST RECOGNIZING THEIR EXISTENCE. (Location 509)
failed to see that it could be a problem for someone else — another case of problem displacement. (Location 515)
IF YOU CAN’T THINK OF AT LEAST THREE THINGS THAT MIGHT BE WRONG WITH YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE PROBLEM, YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM. (Location 520)
Chapter 8. Missing the misfit
we’re inclined to blame the person who gets his bottom punched, rather than the person who made the tool. (Location 528)
The problem of displacement is compounded by the existence of designers — special people whose job it is to solve problems, in advance, for other people. Designers, like landlords, seldom if ever experience the consequences of their actions. In consequence, designers continually produce misfits. A misfit is a solution that produces a mismatch with the human beings who have to live with the solution. (Location 533)
DON’T LEAP TO CONCLUSIONS, BUT DON’T IGNORE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION. (Location 568)
TEST YOUR DEFINITION ON A FOREIGNER, SOMEONE BLIND, OR A CHILD, OR MAKE YOURSELF FOREIGN, BLIND, OR CHILDLIKE. (Location 592)
EACH NEW POINT OF VIEW WILL PRODUCE A NEW MISFIT. (Location 615)
Chapter 9. Landing on the level
HOW COULD WE CHANGE THE PROBLEM STATEMENT TO MAKE THE SOLUTION DIFFERENT? (Location 627)
AS YOU WANDER ALONG THE WEARY PATH OF PROBLEM DEFINITION, CHECK BACK HOME ONCE IN A WHILE TO SEE IF YOU HAVEN’T LOST YOUR WAY. (Location 677)
Chapter 10. Mind your meaning
ONCE YOU HAVE A PROBLEM STATEMENT IN WORDS, PLAY WITH THE WORDS UNTIL THE STATEMENT IS IN EVERYONE’S HEAD. (Location 708)
Chapter 11. Smoke gets in your eyes
DON’T SOLVE OTHER PEOPLE’S PROBLEMS WHEN THEY CAN SOLVE THEM PERFECTLY WELL THEMSELVES. (Location 819)
IF IT’S THEIR PROBLEM, MAKE IT THEIR PROBLEM. (Location 828)
Chapter 12. The campus that was all spaced out
IF A PERSON IS IN A POSITION TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT A PROBLEM, BUT DOESN’T HAVE THE PROBLEM, THEN DO SOMETHING SO HE DOES. (Location 856)
TRY BLAMING YOURSELF FOR A CHANGE — EVEN FOR A MOMENT. (Location 905)
Chapter 14. Janet Jaworski joggles a jerk.
WHERE DOES THIS PROBLEM COME FROM? (Location 1011)
Chapter 17. Examinations and other puzzles.
How amusing that students complain that school doesn’t prepare them for the " real world " — whatever that is — and fail to notice that it doesn’t even prepare them for the world of final examinations! (Location 1184)
Chapter 19. Patience plays politics.
NOT TOO MANY PEOPLE. IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS, REALLY WANT THEIR PROBLEMS SOLVED. (Location 1365)
Chapter 20. A priority assignment.
WE NEVER HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO DO IT RIGHT, BUT WE ALWAYS HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO DO IT OVER. (Location 1406)
WE NEVER HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO CONSIDER WHETHER WE WANT IT, BUT WE ALWAYS HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO REGRET IT. (Location 1409)
Fascinated with the problem - solving aspects, you may neglect to consider whether you would morally approve of a solution. (Location 1436)
Version of the book
Weinberg, Gerald M. Are Your Lights On?. Weinberg & Weinberg. Kindle Edition.