The 20-answers problem solving method

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Every now and then we get stuck with a really difficult problem and it seems like there is no easy way to solve it. I’m sure you experience such nasty tasks, may it be at work or in your personal life.

There are a lot of methods to get on top of the situation, like splitting the problem up in smaller tasks or asking somebody for help who had a similar issue.

However, there is a clever method I like to use to battle though problems, it’s called the 20-answers problem solving method.

I don’t really remember where I found this, so I kind of claim this method as my idea now ;) Anyways, here is how the 20-answers problem solving method works:

Step 1: Formulate your problem as a question

Formulate your problem as a clear question. Beginning the question with “How can I” or “What should I do to” are great ways to start.

What should I do to get a promotion in the next 3 months?
How can I improve my marketing to get more customers for my business?
How can I improve my relationship with my wife?

Step 2: Find as many different answers to your problem

Find as many different answers to your problem. The first 1-10 ideas will probably come easy. It’s important that you search for a variety of answers from different areas. Be creative and think outside the box.

Sometimes it’s really hard to find answers, but that’s good, because it forces you to dig deep and really get to the bottom of your problem. Find at least 20 good answers and write them all down.

Step 3: Sort your 20 answers by importance

Time to sort your 20 answers by importance. Prioritize the list and put the ideas with the best effect/effort ratio (high impact tasks, quick wins, etc.) to the top of the list.

Assign the highest priority to the 3 best answers which you think will have the biggest impact on your problem. If some answers are bad in retrospective, kick them out and keep your list clean this way.

You should have a prioritized list of 20 answers as a result of this step.

Step 4: Implement your ideas

Implement your ideas! This is the most important step, you have to take action. Don’t let the problem slide, you have an excellent action list now, use it.

As soon as you start working on your answers, you will hopefully find even more new ideas on how to solve your problem. It is important to collect these ideas and prioritize them in your list. You want to work on the most effective tasks, so prioritize and don’t waste time.

Go from answer to answer and your problem will be solved

The 20-answers method helped me with a lot of problems. Most of the time you don’t have to implement all 20 ideas from your list, because the problem is sometimes sufficiently solved after the first 3-10 ideas.

So, what’s your experience with this problem solving method? If you have tried this method after reading this article, please share your results.