Problem Solving Is A Contact Sport

Posted on May 9, 2013 in Problem Solving

San Francisco is a little different as far as shopping bags go. You either bring your own bag or you pay .10c per paper bag, and receive condescending looks of scorn from your fellow shoppers. At the grocery store the other day, I figured that I had enough room in my backpack for the Four Pack of Charmin I was there for (Our house was at mission-critical toilet paper level.) and some of that Apollo Shampoo, since I’m a sucker for aviation and space. I had been embezzling shampoo from my roommate and was beginning to feel guilty.

Progress Begets Problems

One of the best metrics for progress is the number of problems you’re facing. Startups frequently deal with this in the form of growing pains. They’ve got a product people like, they’re acquiring users on top of users, and different pieces of their infrastructure will keep exploding on them as they scramble to keep solving problems. It happened to popular image sharing service Imgur and internet phenome Reddit.

Without progress, there will be no problems. At the grocery store, I wasn’t facing the challenge of serving 65 terabytes of data in a month, I was facing the problem of the cleverly designed Axe bottle that pops open when it hits anything. The last thing I needed was to be dripping a trail of shampoo behind me as I sailed (or potentially snailed) my way through San Francisco’s mission neighborhood.

Sometimes The Solution Has To Find You

Shampoo Hack
I don’t subscribe to notions like Dream Boards or “The Secret” but I do think that the best problem solvers are very perceptive and unabashedly repurpose things. Staying open and perceptive is the best way to accumulate a backlog of solutions to problems you may not have yet. While picking up some Vietnamese for dinner the other night I noticed that they used masking tape to keep the lid on the Pho. It was a good idea.

As I was checking out at the grocery store, I asked if they had any of those “PAID” stickers. Luckily enough, they did. Problem solving is a full contact sport.