How to solve problems



As of 2023-01-02, this page works better as an outline (list of lists), than a proper article. So I don’t recommend reading this page as an article.

So, what’s a good way to read it, then? Just read the source!

Here’s the source:


Philosophical foundation

Modernism: Objective truth is obtainable

Nietzche & Taleb: Truth is subordinated utility

Deutsch: utility and truth must be interpreted through theory

Defining “solve” and “problem”

Recipe: How to solve problems

Human relationships


Shared sense of quality

Shared intent

The problem space

“solving” a “problem”

A bimodal strategy opens the space between ideal and utility

Contextual utility is wide, specific

Balancing specific contextual utility and long term vision

An initiative can improve one or more cases of contextual utility

Problem space, contextual utility, solution space

Solutions are options

Growing problems, collecting contextual utility, building knowledge

Solutions are options to address contextual utility

Tension between contextual utility and solutions

Product as a collection contextual utility

Product as abstraction general tools from contextual utility

  1. Product design

How to grow problem options

How to grow solution options

Obvious problems: person struggles to achieve goal in specific context

Wicked problems: it’s hard to pinpoint what’s wrong

Problem: lack of trust



Problem: lack of shared intent



Problem: lack of shared sense of quality



How to build trust, shared sense of quality and shared intent

Trust, shared sense of quality and shared intent are all connected. If I’m not willing to help you (trust), I will not care about your goals (shared intent). If I don’t care about your goals (shared intent), I won’t get up close to your sense of quality. If you don’t trust me, you won’t tell me your goals or your taste.

Is it confusing? Make it explicit.

Confusing contextual utility? Enumerate it.

Contextual utility is specific. In contrast to an abstract sense of quality, contextual utility is bound to time, place, people and goals. Use that. Don’t reduce situations before you understand them. Collect each context.

Each case of contextual utility is an option you may choose to address. How valuable is it? For whom? Is it hard to solve? Does it align with your vision and the problem space you care about long term?

How can you solve it?

Product discovery: trust, quality, intent, contextual utility, problems space, solution space


OGGPOW: One Good Goal Plus Options and Wip

One good goal keeps you moving

A bucket of options is latitude for action

Manage work in progress, don’t get stuck

Good product discovery is to work effectively with options

Good Project management is to limit WIP to reach goals.

Modeling knowledge

In “Strong opinions loosely held” is an excuse for sloppy thinking, I proposed a taxonomy of knowledge:

Seeing these categories at 2022-12-31, I feel myself hesitating. Where’s the quality? Is it unnamed? Let’s see where it fits.

observing quality
You can observe your own reactions to quality in real time. To signify an observation of quality in time, put a timestamp on it! Then you’ve bound that judgment to a place and a time. That will come in handy later. You’ll wonder what you were thinking. What you meant. Why. And you might want to change your mind.
implied quality?
I don’t really see implication and quality as being connected.
quality encoded as aphorism
Perhaps you can formulate what you really think is good as an aphorism. People have done that before. There’s a list in Aphorisms, scroll down to the bottom.
contextual utility — the meat
This is the easy one! If quality as observation and quality as aphorism is hard, just focus on contextual utility. It tends to be easy to talk about. Good for someone somewhere at some point in time tends to be good. At least that’s a worthwhile contribution to the discussion.

And perhaps quality doesn’t fit into a box. At least some part of it. Silent, nameless.



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