How to fix problems

Dec 03, 2017

A lesson from permaculture

We often hear about the silver bullet; a single all singing and dancing solution to a problem. I don’t think it works that way most of the time. Lets debug our thinking a bit and learn a lesson from permaculture.

Permaculture philosophy: A problem has at least N solutions, a solution fixes at least N problems. Sadly I can’t quite recall what N is; it might be 3 or 5. It actually doesn’t matter that much. Lets try to apply this to all problems.

While we’re at it, make sure you’re fixing the right problem. Ascend the why stack.

  • We have this problem when we do this.
  • Why are we doing this?
  • Because we need to achieve that.
  • Why do we need to achieve that?
  • Because…

You get the picture. Sometime this can reveal a better problem to solve further up the why stack. It also forces us to refactor what we’re doing based on first principles which can be very insightful and powerful. This may even make the problem go away.

There’s isn’t usually a single silver bullet; more like a cluster of silver arrows each hitting several targets, one of which was the one we were looking at.