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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 January 13, 2020

                    7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

                    7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

                    Throughout the ages, there have been many beliefs in various tricks to boosting brain power, yet when held up to scientific scrutiny, most of these beliefs don’t add up.

                    When I was a child, for example, my mother told me if I ate fish it would make me more intelligent. Of course, there’s no scientific proof this is true.

                    Today, there is a myriad of games you can download to your phone that claims to improve your brain’s cognitive skills. While we are still waiting for a conclusive scientific verdict on these, recent studies by neuroscientists at Western University in Ontario[1] and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia appear to contradict these claims.[2]

                    So, how can we really boost our brain power? Well, it turns out there are a number of simple things you can do that will improve the function of your brain. Here are seven to get you started.

                    1. Do Your Most Difficult Tasks in the Morning

                    Our brains work at their best when they are fresh and energized after a good night’s sleep.

                    If you have a task to do that requires a lot of thought and focus, the best time to do that task would be first thing in the morning when your brain is at its freshest.

                    This is one of the reasons why checking email first thing the morning is not a good idea. You are wasting your brain’s best hours on a simple task that can be done when your brain is not at its freshest

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                    Throughout the day, you will find the amount of time you can focus for will fall. Your decision-making abilities will also begin to weaken as the day progresses. This is called “decision fatigue” and that means the decisions you make later in the day will not be as good as the decisions you make earlier in the day.

                    It’s far better to do your most difficult, creative tasks early taking advantage of your brain’s higher energy levels.

                    Try to avoid meetings first thing in the morning and schedule work that needs higher creative energy and concentration.

                    2. Get Enough Breaks

                    Our brains are not very good at maintaining concentration and focus for much more than an hour. Once you go beyond a certain amount of time, doing focused work, you will find yourself making more and more mistakes. This is a sign your brain is tired and needs a break.

                    Taking the right kind of break is important. Switching from working on a complex spreadsheet to checking your social media feeds is not going to give your brain the right kind of break. Instead, get up from your desk and head outside. If that is not possible, go to the nearest window and look outside.

                    Your brain needs a break from the screen, not just the spreadsheet, so leave your phone behind so you are not tempted to look at it and just savour the view.

                    3. Read Books, not Social Media Feeds

                    There are no shortcuts to improved knowledge and you are certainly not going to improve your general knowledge about anything useful by reading social media feeds. Instead, make reading books a regular habit.

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                    When you read good quality books, you increase your ability to use the knowledge you learn to solve problems as your brain will apply the knowledge you learned to existing situations.

                    Learn about economic theory, history and psychology. All these topics have real practical applications for us all today.

                    4. Exercise Regularly

                    Humans did not evolve to be stationary animals. You need to move.

                    Had our ancestors spent their days sat around, they would not have survived very long. To survive and find food, our ancestors had to keep moving. Our brains have evolved to function at their best when we are exercised.

                    In his book, Brain Rules, Prof.John Medina explains when we exercise, we increase the amount of oxygen in our brains and this helps to sharpen our brain’s functions.

                    In studies, when a previously sedentary group of people began a light exercise programme, their cognitive skills improve as well as reaction times and quantitive skills.

                    This is why you are more likely to find the solution to a problem when you are walking somewhere or exercising rather than when you are sat at a desk in front of a screen.

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                    5. Get Enough of the Right Food

                    You probably have experienced the afternoon slump at some point in your life. This is when you feel tired and fatigued in the mid-afternoon. This is a result of the carbohydrates you ate at lunchtime, stimulating your body to produce insulin which then causes a drop in your blood sugar levels.

                    When you go into an afternoon slump, concentrating for long periods become almost impossible and you just want to curl up and go to sleep.

                    To prevent the afternoon slump, try to eat a protein-rich lunch such as a tuna or chicken salad without pasta, rice or bread. Keep some healthy snacks such as mixed nuts and dried bananas around your workspace and when you feel a little peckish, eat a few of these.

                    Not only will you avoid the afternoon slump, but you will also improve your overall general health and feel a lot more energetic.

                    6. Drink Enough Water

                    Your brain is made up of about 70% water, so without enough water, your brain will not function at its best.

                    When you are not drinking enough water, you will find your ability to concentrate, make decisions and stay alert will reduce. You will feel sleepy and lack energy. Your brain functions at its best when it is properly hydrated.

                    The solution is to keep a large bottle of water at your work station and sip regularly from it throughout the day. This will increase the number of trips you need to make to the bathroom which is a good thing. It will keep you moving and taking regular breaks from your screen.

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                    7. Don’t Deprive Yourself of Sleep

                    You probably don’t need a long scientific study to convince you that if you are not getting enough sleep, you are not going to function at your best.

                    You just need to go a couple of days without getting enough sleep and you feel your abilities reduce. Your decision-making skills become erratic, your energy levels drop and your ability to stay focused on your work diminishes.

                    If you want to improve your brain’s ability to function, then start with getting enough sleep. The number of hours you need will depend on your own circadian rhythms, so find what works best for you.

                    Six to eight hours is usually enough for most people so make sure you are hitting that number of hours per night as a minimum.

                    The Bottom Line

                    Improving our brain power is not difficult. All we need to do is develop a few simple habits such as exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and eating the right foods.

                    These seven tips will go a long way to helping you to become more alert, able to focus longer and make decisions. All simple common sense tricks anyone can use.

                    More to Boost Your Brain Power

                    Featured photo credit: Nicole Wolf via unsplash.com

                    Reference

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