In their book Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-lived, Joyful Life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans discuss making changes through a design perspective. One piece of advice from the design world is that the problem must be solvable.
It’s the gravity idea. For example, we might complain about gravity. It makes it harder for us to get uphill when we’re biking. It makes parts of our body fall as we get older. Gravity is the worst. But since we can’t do anything about gravity, other than complain about it, from a design perspective, it’s simply not useful to concentrate on it. Instead we should focus on the things we can do something about.
Now this may sound a little academic, but think about how often we fight ‘gravity.’ For example, over the years, friends have said to me, “I’d go into education if the pay were better. Why can’t the pay be better?”
We would all like the pay to be better for teachers. But while increased teacher pay is a noble cause and one that should be supported, it’s not very helpful as a design problem.
The better questions to ask might be something like these:
- How can I find a way to support a family and teach at the same time?
- Since I can’t afford to go into teaching right now, how can I incorporate it into my free time or hobbies?
- Would corporate training satisfy my need to teach as well as my need to make a certain salary?
- Do I even like teaching? Maybe I should volunteer somewhere first.
We have all been taught that the first step in problem solving is to define the problem. But we should also be make sure that the problem we’re defining is one we can actually solve. Because if not, then we’re probably just going to end up complaining.