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Published on February 2, 2018

Razor-Sharp Thinking: the What-Why Method

Razor-Sharp Thinking: the What-Why Method

Charles Mingus once said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” As a society, we typically make the complicated commonplace. This is particularly true in regards to problem-solving as we add to the puzzle of complexity daily. My proposal is to introduce a new method combining elements from two simple (yet powerful) techniques to create an awesomely simple, yet effective problem-solving and explanation method.

First, Terry Borton’s Development Framework (What – So What – Now What) as the logical explanation tool. Second, the 5-Why technique used in root-cause analysis (RCA) as the simple problem-solving tool. Using Occam’s razor as my underlying principle, I propose a new method called the What–Why Method.

Crazy Simple!

    Using the military as an example, we find that numerous problem-solving methods exist within the U.S. military. In the U.S. Army alone, we have a smorgasbord of options to select from. From the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP) to the Army Design Methodology (ADM) to Lean Six Sigma (LSS), we are not short on options. However, if we follow the philosophy of Occam’s razor, we will find that we can slice through the clutter and identify one simple method.

    Suppose you have two possible explanations for a problem, Occam’s razor demonstrates that the simplest option is typically the best option.[1] Occam’s razor has two parts which serve as the underlying principle of my What-Why Method.

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    1. The Principle of Plurality. Plurality should not be assumed as a fact without necessity.
    2. The Principle of Parsimony. The scientific principle that things are typically connected or behave in the simplest way.

    What – So What – Now What

      Developed in 1970 by Terry Borton, Borton’s Development Framework provides us a straightforward and easy to understand approach to anything.[2] This simple framework involves only three questions, which can easily explain any concept. The questions follow the concept of Reflective Practice, which is the ability to reflect on your actions to engage in the process of learning.[3] Reflective Practice holds three components: Experiences (what happened to you?), Reflective Process (what enables you to learn from the experience?), and Action (what new perspective do you now possess as a result of your reflection?). Borton’s Development Framework possesses the following three questions:

      1. What? The experience.
      2. So What? Analysis of reflection or process of reflection.
      3. Now What? Synthesis and new perspectives from reflection. This is where you determine what to do next and what your next action will be.

      5-Why Technique

        Metaphorically speaking, if we want to kill a weed, we must first find the root. A root-cause is a factor causing nonconformance and should be permanently eliminated. The root-cause is essentially “the evil at the bottom” that sets things in motion causing the problem.[4] Let’s quickly look at the structure of a problem and break down the definition of root-cause via Asq.org.

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          Root-Cause Defined

          • A factor that caused a nonconformance and should be permanently eliminated.
          • A factor that influences a result or outcome.
          • Must be completely eliminated or removed.

          Let’s now turn our attention to root-cause analysis (RCA). RCA is a collective term describing a wide range of approaches and techniques utilized to discover root-causes of problems. The 5-Why technique is one in which we were all experts at when we were children. Essentially, the 5-Why technique is an iterative interrogative technique used to determine the root-cause of a problem by repeatedly asking the question “Why?” The technique was formally developed by Taiichi Ohno and was highly utilized at Toyota. Furthermore, the “5” in the name comes from an anecdotal observation on the number of iterations needed to resolve a problem.

          Simple Approach for Thinking

            By using my What-Why Method, we also find that we are able to move through Blooms Classification of Thought Process (otherwise known as Blooms Taxonomy), where we can quickly understand and describe a problem or topic. Additionally, my method takes us through the Hierarchy of Learning along with Blooms Taxonomy.

            When we bring it all together, we find that we now have a way to quickly solve a problem and quickly present or brief information. It also offers us a way to logically and easily categorize and present information, especially if we are posed with a difficult and impromptu question.

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            Easily Explain Anything

              Let’s see how my method works using an example from the foster care system (visit my website for more information on the foster care system). By moving through the questions in the image above (What-Why Method), let’s see what we uncover.

              What?

                So What?

                  Now What?

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                    Lastly, John Driscoll matched Borton’s three questions to the stages of the experiential learning cycle and added trigger questions.[5] By linking trigger questions to Borton’s framework, we are able to produce a clear description of the event, an analysis of the event (critical thinking), and synthesis of the event (creative thinking). Combining the What – So What – Now What framework with the 5-Why technique essentially creates the simplest form of problem-solving in existence. As Wilfred A. Peterson said,

                    See it big and keep it simple.

                    Using the What-Why Method allows us to just that… See it big, yet keep it very simple!

                    Reference

                    [1]Harold Lambert: How Occam’s Razor Works
                    [2]Physio-Pedia: Borton’s Development Framework
                    [3]Skills You Need: Reflective Practice
                    [4]ASQ: What is Root Cause Analysis
                    [5]Driscoll: Critical Reflection

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                    Dr. Jamie Schwandt

                    Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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                    Last Updated on October 17, 2018

                    7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

                    7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

                    How is your memory? Is your cognitive function as strong as you’d like it to be?

                    If not, then you’re definitely going to be interested in the memory improvement tips I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

                    Despite what you might think – or have been told – improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it. (Don’t worry, as you won’t need to make any significant lifestyle changes.)

                    So how to improve memory? Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve your memory significantly.

                    1. Meditate

                    We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts and figures into our conscious minds.

                    Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

                    Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. And research suggests that the more information and distractions, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory.[1]

                    Fortunately, meditation can help you out.

                    Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

                    If you need help in shifting into a meditative state, I recommend trying an app like Headspace – which can assist you to achieve this in a convenient and structured way.

                    And don’t forget, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

                    2. Get plenty of sleep

                    If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then I’m guessing you’re not remembering well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

                    If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities – including your memory.

                    How much sleep should you be getting?

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                    Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things.

                    Now, I’ll be honest with you, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!). But if you care about improving your short-term and long-term ability to remember things, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

                    Are there ways to hack the sleep cycle?

                    Yes, there are.

                    Try these three things:

                    • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
                    • Don’t eat too late
                    • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

                    Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

                    However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory…

                    3. Challenge your brain

                    When was the last time you challenged your brain?

                    I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or undersleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and memory games.

                    To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

                    Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself, has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-thinking ability and memory.

                    There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

                    • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
                    • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
                    • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

                    If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live – while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

                    Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

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                    4. Take more breaks

                    When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctively remember working all the hours under the sun – and many under the moon too!

                    At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat and tears.

                    However, I was wrong.

                    Taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

                    Let me explain.

                    Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it – in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

                    Namely, extended study sessions are rarely a good thing, as your ability to retain information naturally declines after a certain period of time.

                    It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

                    It’s the same with your brain. If you overload it with information, you’ll suffer from mental fatigue.

                    What’s the answer?

                    Make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

                    If you don’t want to be as regimented as that, then take breaks as soon as you find yourself losing the ability to focus on the new material. Your brain will thank you – and your learning aptitude will move up a level.

                    5. Learn a new skill

                    I love this quote, as it’s 100% true – but frequently overlooked:

                    “Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

                    From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

                    Let me give you an example of this:

                    Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day – many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

                    Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

                    The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you – rather than letting you work in your own way.

                    Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like, and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction in to learning a new skill (computer coding). It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career – and the ongoing learning made the call centre job much more bearable.

                    Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking our new information. And when learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly, becomes a habit too.

                    6. Start working out

                    If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

                    Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory.

                    Regular exercise increases blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. And a well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

                    “But I just don’t have the time?,” I hear you say.

                    Not a problem.

                    A research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines.[2] So, if you’re short on time – now you know what to do.

                    Interested in getting started?

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                    Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

                    • Join a gym
                    • Join a sports team
                    • Buy a bike
                    • Take up hiking
                    • Dance to your favorite music

                    7. Eat healthier foods

                    I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

                    This applies to your brain too.

                    The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health too.

                    Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery and dark chocolate. But anything high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory.

                    Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain – leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

                    Want to be mentally healthy? Then eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

                    • Turmeric – helps new brain cells grown
                    • Broccoli – protects the brain against damage
                    • Nuts – improves memory
                    • Green tea – enhances brain performance, memory and focus[3]
                    • Fish oilfish oil supplements can increase your brain power

                    Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

                    Final thoughts

                    I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be of help to you.

                    You don’t need to implement them all. I suggest just trying the ones that appeal to you.

                    But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested. I’m confident you won’t regret it.

                    Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

                    Reference

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