As an engineer, I know all too well the burning desire to solve a problem the second the problem statement is made. Most of us love to help solve problems, so we jump right in with possible solutions and often the loudest voice in the room wins the problem solving contest. However there is a second critical step to take before jumping into action.

After identifying the problem, try asking what the required objectives, or outcomes, are of the solution. You may be surprised how quickly this helps eliminate some of the proposed solutions.

Think of it this way, your team is handed a car that won’t start and is in need of repair, the mechanically inclined in the group grab the nearest booster cables and begin checking under the hood.  BUT what if the car is being sent for scrap metal or to the local auto museum and doesn’t need to be in running condition?? How much effort and resources were put into the wrong, although certainly viable, solution?

Next time you are presented with a problem, ensure you clearly understand the problem first and then ask what the final solution should look like. This way you will save time and energy for the next challenge that comes your way.