The 5 Eyed Method of Problem Solving

It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It’s that they can’t see the problem -G. K. Chesterton 

There are a number of systematic ways of solving problems. Some are useful in very specific situations, while others are powerful but very complicated. One of the ways we teach people to solve problems at Totem is using the 5 eyed method.

IDENTIFY what success looks like

You can only really solve a problem when you know exactly what outcome you are after.  When the problem is solved, what situation will you be in. Step one is to sort out what it is you are trying to achieve.

ISOLATE the real problem

If you have ‘flu which has given you a headache, you can stop the headache with an aspirin but while it might make you feel better, you will still have the ‘flu. You have tackled the symptom not the cause. The key to problem solving is to be able to look at all the symptoms and decide what the underlying problem that is causing them is.

INNOVATE multiple solutions to the problem

Once you have isolated the problem, you should come up with multiple solutions to the problem. It is unlikely that your first idea will be the best so produce as many as you feel necessary before committing to one course of action. This is known as ‘divergent thinking

IMPLEMENT the chosen solution

You then must chose a solution from the many that you came up with. Consider the merits of each and the drawbacks, eliminate one at a time if you need to until you have your chosen path of action. This process is known as ‘convergent thinking‘.

Once you have chosen a solution you must implement it to the best of your abilities.

INVESTIGATE whether the solution solves the problem

Finally, it’s important not to assume that because you chose the best solution from the ones you thought up, it will automatically work. Put a system in place for investigating whether your problem has really been solved. Make sure that all of the symptoms have gone away and the underlying issue has really been resolved.


“Here’s to the crazy ones” – Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

We are a Mac based workplace here at Totem. I could bore you with why we made that decision, ease of use, low support costs, etc, but you probably don’t care. We like them and we like the customer focus that Apple has.

It was for that reason that we were very sad to hear of the the death of Steve Jobs. Aside from the human tragedy of someone dying so young,  the world has lost a maverick, a visionary and an incredible business man. He probably wasn’t easy to work with but people wanted to work with him. He stood on the shoulder of giants, in the form of his team of engineers and designers, but he assembled that team in the first place. He gave them their goal and ensured they stayed focused. He defined one clear model of leadership in the tech industry.

Fuller obituaries are elsewhere, everywhere really, a measure of the impact he and his team had. If we can have 1/100 of the impact on the world that they have, we’ll be a pretty happy team.

Hidden in one of Apple’s core products is something that I think sums him, and Apple, up well.

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Music changes everything

We frequently make use of music on our courses, to inspire, to calm, to motivate, to represent, to tell stories. It’s one of the tools for what the NLP community call state change.

Music can also change our perceptions of what we are looking at. Here is a great example of that, YouTube user Mscharosch has edited some BBC Life footage to Lux Æterna from Requiem For a Dream and the result is, well…..epic. It is worth putting on full screen and turning your sound up.

Epic Frog

Innovation using the Peapod

When we have to create something new, we need to be creative, we need to innovate. Our thought processes can work in one or two ways, either they can be divergent, generating new ideas out of the ones we already have or convergent, refining the ideas we have into a conclusion.

Divergent Thinking

This is the production of new ideas, building on existing ideas or going in new directions. It should quickly develop a list, many of which will be useless but amongst them should be some gems.
Also known as: brain-storming, imagining, bouncing ideas around.

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Quotation: Erica Amelia Smith

“”It is too constricting to say that you must always think outside the box; whether you are thinking inside or outside the box, you are still letting the box dictate your thoughts, are you not? What you are not acknowledging is the honest fact that ‘the box’ itself is figmentary, illusory. And as long as one continues to act in reaction to this perceived set of dictates, one cannot be truly original in thought.”

Erica Amelia Smith,
An Address as to the Nature of the “Proper” Uses of Technology