I want to know if I’m right or wrong, it’s as simple as that.
When I’m asked to solve a problem, I’ll attempt it no doubt. There’s cogs whirling in my brain, and this lasts for about 3 minutes, maybe 4 if I’m lucky. I’ll try to persevere, think laterally, but impatience will often get the better of me.
After critical thinking time is up, I’m frustrated…but relieved.
Because now I can check the answer.
Back to school
Back in school, every question posed was already solved. We’d find ‘x’ in a complicated quadratic equation, the concentration of a solution in a chemistry experiment, or the symbolism of an object in a piece of text.
Whatever the case, there was always an answer, waiting for us to be checked.
Interestingly, the idea that there was a provided answer made me try a little less. I didn’t persevere when the going got tough…
…because I knew the answer would come save the day.
It's hard to be a thinker
To be a successful leader and thinker, I’ve noticed the trend of ‘answering’ unanswered questions.
They battle with the unknown, and try to make sense of new problems with past experiences and a flexible mind.
They have the grit and confidence to attempt what hasn’t been done before.
This is the backbone behind new scientific inventions, revolutionary businesses and unique works of art.
But for most of us (including me), not knowing how something will turn out is utter torture. It’s easy to answer something, if there’s the reassurance that we can check if we’re wrong shortly after.
Essentially, we don’t want to spend/waste time figuring out a difficult problem, we just want someone to give us the answer.
For example, one of my many reasons for not pursuing a career in research is “It’ll kill me to work towards something I don’t know will work”.
I’ve realised that this is a very ineffective, and dangerous way to approach life. I used to fear and avoid the unknown, sticking close to the paths treaded before me.
While not creating my own trails just yet, I am hopping from here to there, making shoe marks, and dabbling in the world of not knowing.
So what if we gave students Q’s with no A’s?
What if it was just ‘here, try and find solutions to this problem. There’s no right or wrong.’
There’s ways that this has been implemented. For example a university ‘global hackathon’ I was recently part of.
Similar to the Model UN, participants are given a made up scenario (drawn from real-life situations), who in teams need to find solutions, and present to an audience.
Ours was to help a tiny island nation to increase tourism, having recently experienced poisoning in their waters. We were assisting from the perspective of a 1st world country, and needed to consider social, cultural and economic factors to actually assist this island.
Most importantly, there was no right or wrong method.
It was challenging, but so SO invigorating. With your team, you are considering all the options to ‘fix’ a situation, with no clue that it’ll actually work. You’ll chuck in some ideas, evaluate their impact, and modify to share the best suggestions for the presentation.
We really could improve our relationship with problem solving through these activities. To not depend on a neatly paved path, but instead get grotty and work it out ourselves.
Life is for experimenting.
Pose Q’s, create our own A’s.