Problem / Solution Math

Let’s talk about math today. Specifically, we’ll explore division.

As you know, from grade school, you can divide one number into another. For example, if you divide 6 into groups of 3, you get two groups. Written mathematically it looks like:

You will also remember that if you divide a number and it doesn’t come out into a perfect number of whole groups, you have a remainder. If you divide 7 into groups of 3, you get two groups, but you have one leftover.

Problem / Solution Math

The same math applies when you have a problem. Let’s say you consider your problem to be an “8” on a scale of one to 10. There are a couple of ways that you can approach solving the problem.

Solve It Once

You can try to throw an “8” solution at the problem. This way, you take care fo the problem completely. Essentially your problem is solved with a result of one.

Break It Down Into Smaller Pieces

You can throw two “4” solutions at the problem. In this case, you have two smaller solutions that completely take care of the whole issue.

Smaller Pieces With A Remainder

You can throw a “3” solution at the problem. Here you solve most of the problem, but you still have a remainder problem. With the remainder problem, you can choose whether you will put another “3” of effort into it, leaving you to over-solve the challenge, or if you want to approach the remainder as a separate problem to itself.

Slightly Overbuild

You could also use a “3” solution three times to solve the problem. You might build solution that is a little larger than the problem, but delivering the solution in small pieces (eg. 3 x “3”) might be the most effective use of your time and energy. It might be worth it to solve over-solve the problem slightly in order to avoid customized or odd-fitting pieces.

Don’t Goldplate

Gold plating is providing more of a solution than anyone wants. If you are working on an “8” problem, but you give a “12” solution, you have gone much too far. You have used 150% of the energy needed to solve the problem. Given unlimited time and resources, gold-plating is not an issue, but if you are applying your solution to a specific problem, don’t ever solve the problem right now. There will always be more obstacles in the future that you can use your energy to fix.

Problem / Solution Math

The next time you have a problem, think about how much of a solution you need to provide to make this problem go away. Then spend only the time, energy, and resources that are required to solve the problem. Don’t use more, and don’t use less. Solve the issue at hand with the right amount of “solution.” If every solution fits the problem, you will find that you are spending your energy on the work that makes a biggest difference.