Book Review: Problem Solving 101

A colleague of mine commented recently that one of his tests when presenting powerful ideas to business audiences was to see if his 5 year old daughter could understand it. If it passed that test, then the idea was probably simple and powerful enough to be communicated effectively in a keynote presentation or workshop for a business community.

Ken Watanabe, a former management consultant with McKinsey Consulting, has taken a similar approach with this book. In 2007, Japan’s Prime Minister made education the nation’s top agenda item, promoting the need to shift from a “memory focused education” to a “problem solving focused education.” As Ken recounts, he felt compelled to do his part. He left his job with McKinsey, and wrote a book on problem solving for Japan’s children. Then something surprising happened. The book took off and became a best seller – and not just for kids. It became a best seller for adults in Japan, and then internationally.
Problem Solving 101 does not just teach problem solving skills, it is a charming book that teaches a consulting way of thinking but in a simple, logical and fun way. For those with an interest in the larger context, in terms of content the book teaches essentially the McKinsey consulting thought process, including breaking the potential problem in to a logic tree (McKinsey call this process MECE or Mutually Exhaustive Collectively Exhaustive) and developing and testing hypotheses to surface and address the root issue underlying the problem. As Ken mentioned by email interview:

“Problem Solving 101’s basic approach is the approach Mckinsey uses.  At the end of the day, I wrote Problem Solving 101 because I thought we should all get a chance to learn McKinsey-type of thinking when we are young.”

Clearly, however, describing the McKinsey consulting process in specific detail (like Rasiel and Friga have done in their book The McKinsey Mind) would not be the most engaging way to teach school children. The genius of the book is the way it takes the essence of this thinking process and makes it accessible to children – and adults – in 4 short lessons in a small book, having fun along the way.

The book makes its ideas accessible to children through the use of characters and scenarios that children can relate to. For example, “problem solving kids” with a constructive and effective problem solving mindset are contrasted with “Miss sigh” who gives up before she gets started, “Mr Critic” who shoots down other people’s ideas but never does much himself, “miss dreamer” who never does anything about them, and “Mr Go-getter” who charges off with heroic action (possibly in the wrong direction) without thinking what the real issues or goals are.
I asked Ken Watanabe whether creating Logic Trees is more of an art or a science. Ken suggested:

‘Creating logic trees is both an “art” and “science.”  However, there are tips to make a logic tree.  You do not necessary have to create the logic tree from left to right.
What you can do is to…
  1) Use your intuition and list whatever comes to mind
  2) Group major topics on left, moving to more minor or limited topics to the right. Group similar topics together.
  3) Create more branches by asking 3 questions “What can I call this group to sum it up?” “Are their others?”  and “Specifically what or how?” ‘

I very much enjoyed this book and think it will be deservedly successful (as, indeed, it already has been). It will be useful not only to teach children from primary school through to high school pivotally important critical thinking skills, but can also be used as a problem solving tool for areas of our adult lives including our personal and professional growth. And, of course, we can learn McKinsey’s way of thinking in a fun, powerful and readily applicable manner.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

Book Review: Problem Solving 101

A colleague of mine commented recently that one of his tests when presenting powerful ideas to business audiences was to see if his 5 year old daughter could understand it. If it passed that test, then the idea was probably simple and powerful enough to be communicated effectively in a keynote presentation or workshop for a business community.

Ken Watanabe, a former management consultant with McKinsey Consulting, has taken a similar approach with this book. In 2007, Japan’s Prime Minister made education the nation’s top agenda item, promoting the need to shift from a “memory focused education” to a “problem solving focused education.” As Ken recounts, he felt compelled to do his part. He left his job with McKinsey, and wrote a book on problem solving for Japan’s children. Then something surprising happened. The book took off and became a best seller – and not just for kids. It became a best seller for adults in Japan, and then internationally.
Problem Solving 101 does not just teach problem solving skills, it is a charming book that teaches a consulting way of thinking but in a simple, logical and fun way. For those with an interest in the larger context, in terms of content the book teaches essentially the McKinsey consulting thought process, including breaking the potential problem in to a logic tree (McKinsey call this process MECE or Mutually Exhaustive Collectively Exhaustive) and developing and testing hypotheses to surface and address the root issue underlying the problem. As Ken mentioned by email interview:

“Problem Solving 101’s basic approach is the approach Mckinsey uses.  At the end of the day, I wrote Problem Solving 101 because I thought we should all get a chance to learn McKinsey-type of thinking when we are young.”

Clearly, however, describing the McKinsey consulting process in specific detail (like Rasiel and Friga have done in their book The McKinsey Mind) would not be the most engaging way to teach school children. The genius of the book is the way it takes the essence of this thinking process and makes it accessible to children – and adults – in 4 short lessons in a small book, having fun along the way.

The book makes its ideas accessible to children through the use of characters and scenarios that children can relate to. For example, “problem solving kids” with a constructive and effective problem solving mindset are contrasted with “Miss sigh” who gives up before she gets started, “Mr Critic” who shoots down other people’s ideas but never does much himself, “miss dreamer” who never does anything about them, and “Mr Go-getter” who charges off with heroic action (possibly in the wrong direction) without thinking what the real issues or goals are.
I asked Ken Watanabe whether creating Logic Trees is more of an art or a science. Ken suggested:

‘Creating logic trees is both an “art” and “science.”  However, there are tips to make a logic tree.  You do not necessary have to create the logic tree from left to right.
What you can do is to…
  1) Use your intuition and list whatever comes to mind
  2) Group major topics on left, moving to more minor or limited topics to the right. Group similar topics together.
  3) Create more branches by asking 3 questions “What can I call this group to sum it up?” “Are their others?”  and “Specifically what or how?” ‘

I very much enjoyed this book and think it will be deservedly successful (as, indeed, it already has been). It will be useful not only to teach children from primary school through to high school pivotally important critical thinking skills, but can also be used as a problem solving tool for areas of our adult lives including our personal and professional growth. And, of course, we can learn McKinsey’s way of thinking in a fun, powerful and readily applicable manner.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.