Are You Solving Problems MacGyver-Style?

I saw this post and video last week: I’ve fallen. Now how do I get up? Scroll down to the video where the therapist discusses all the ways you can get up from the floor. I have to admit, I had no idea I should leave my head down when I got up from the floor. If you don’t know about MacGyver, because you missed that TV series, here’s the link to all things MacGyver.

What I really liked about this video was her approach to using everyday objects and not just stopping at the rule of three. The therapist had a total of 10 alternatives, plus a couple of sub-alternatives for getting up after a fall.

When we solve problems at work, do we think of 10 alternatives? Do we need to? We might not need 10 alternatives, but considering what we can do to solve problems that is:

  • Simple
  • Uses everyday objects
  • Allows us freedom of movement
  • Allows us independence from commercial frameworks
  • Allows us to rescue ourselves

regardless of the problem might be a valuable skill.

As a dizzy broad (vertigo sufferer), I have a tendency to land on the floor. I try to prevent falls with my gym workouts to build strength, and with gait training to stand and walk correctly. However, I have been known to land on the floor wondering, “How the heck did I get here?” I wait for the neurons to settle down, and then I get back up.  I now have many ways to get back up.

We can apply MacGyver-style problem solving to debugging, to project management, to testing, to anything that requires managing risk and solving problems.

If you want to apply it to debugging, you might want to pair first, rather than instrument your code. Or, talk to the duck. (If you have not read that entire post, you should. If you are like me, you will laugh out loud.) Once you’ve talked to the duck or paired, you can ask your question on one of the stack exchanges. But, I bet just by talking to the duck, you will have solved your problem. It’s the articulation of the problem that helps.

If you want to apply MacGyver-style problem solving to design, you can do what I did a long time ago with a team. We animated a potential design. We had people literally walk through the design. We estimated the timing of what we thought the design would be, and asked people to step forward in sequence and synchronization to see if the design would work. Yes, I was the one with the clipboard and the whistle. No surprise there. (This was way before agile.) We determined in about 15 minutes that the design would not work as originally planned, but because everyone was involved, we had about 15 more great ideas about what to do instead to improve the design.  And, we had fun.

Problem solving does not have to be formal. It does not have to be inside of a framework. It can be simple and fun. You can show your sense of humor. MacGyver got into scrapes, but he always got out, and he had fun doing it. Well, it seemed to me that he had fun doing it. I certainly had fun watching.

Dear adaptable problem solvers, this is your question of the week: Are you solving problems MacGyver-style?

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