Generating solution ideas with MikaSolv

We apply abstract solution principles to our specific case.

An important component of the MikaSolv method is the set of 60 abstractly formulated solution principles. These principles represent insights into how other people have successfully solved different problems at different times. To make these insights applicable to our specific case, we use the abstract formulation, which focuses on the core essence of the matter.

Just as I had to translate concrete cases into abstract form during the research and collection of solution principles, we now need to translate the abstract form back into concrete form for each specific application case. So, together with the problem experts, we try to determine what the respective solution principle could mean for our specific case.

We filter the solution principles based on their expected usefulness.

For a given problem, some abstract principles are generally applicable, while others are unlikely to be useful. This depends on the nature of the specific problem. For example, if the problem revolves around a lack of communication, exchange, and visibility, solution principles such as creating barriers or using filters would likely lead us in the wrong direction.
To facilitate a quick sorting of potentially useful and likely irrelevant solution principles, each principle is assigned to one of the following groups:

  • Change the setting (S)
  • Increase, perform (I)
  • Decrease, prevent (D)
  • Problem level (P)

For a given problem, the method expert only needs to consider what they primarily want to achieve, what the goal is.

Is it about enhancement, increasing performance? Is it about calming down, seeking protection, or preventing something? Or, in both of the previously mentioned cases, is the aim to change the setup? The principles from the first three groups are directly applied to the individual players within the problem. The application process will be explained in the next point. The fourth group works slightly differently. It includes principles that are applied not to the players but to the problems themselves. These principles are generally suitable regardless of whether the goal is enhancement, reduction, or changing the setup.
Examples of these principles include
Disrupting the conditions that keep the problem alive.
Learning from references, which means gaining information from someone who currently has or previously had a similar problem.

We apply the solution principles to the players within the problem (or to the problems themselves).

Once we have discussed and examined a problem, we also know the players involved. A player can be an acting person, an object, or a process. In some cases, it could even be a state, a feeling, or an idea, although this would be the exception. We apply the principles from the first three groups to these players.
Here’s an example: The use of a helper is a principle that enhances performance rather than reducing it. It is applied to a specific player within the problem setup, either to a person being helped or to a process where assistance is provided. The solution principle “lower the aim,” which means aiming for less and thereby increasing the chances of success, is not applied to an individual player but to the problem itself.

We formulate coaching questions based on the principles.

As mentioned earlier, in this final step, it is necessary to translate the abstractly formulated principles into concrete form. This allows us to connect them with our specific problem case and ultimately generate concrete solution ideas. This translation into concrete form happens when we formulate coaching questions based on the principles. Ideally, these coaching questions should provoke numerous creative and directly applicable solution ideas.

Experience has shown that individuals who are new to this method tend to ask closed questions, such as “Is this service provider replaceable?” or “Can you obscure and hide this?” Resist this impulse and, in most cases, stick to asking open questions, as I will demonstrate in the following examples.

But before we get to the examples, one more thing: During the conversation with you, the problem expert will use their own wording. They will name things in a way that sounds good to them and expresses their intended meaning. My advice is not to consciously or unconsciously replace their formulations with your own, thinking they might be better. Instead, use the problem expert’s phrasing. In the end, the formulations need to work for them when it comes to generating the best solution ideas.

Examples of open questions
The following examples illustrate the nature of these questions and, in particular, how they begin. These questions are somewhat simplified.

  • Who comes to mind as a potential helper?
  • What could you use as a countermeasure?
  • What would it mean to perform this activity in a different location?
  • At what other time could you perform this activity?
  • How would it be beneficial to simulate the process first?
  • What would it look like if you simulate the process first?

Each of these questions assumes a specific context in which it is asked. For example, when asking the last question, it should be clear what the process is that should be simulated.

In this way, you go through each solution principle that you previously sorted as potentially applicable. Some solution principles may be discarded shortly after formulating the questions or even before if it becomes clear that they lead nowhere. Some solution principles may immediately lead to interesting ideas, while others you may want to set aside and formulate a similar or different coaching question in another 15 minutes.

In any case, it is important that either you or the problem expert take notes on the resulting solution ideas. Later on, you will refine, discard, prioritize, copy, and hopefully implement these ideas successfully.

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Get the book!

My book “Problem Solving for Professionals” has all the details. I launched it in Summer 2022, and you can order it from Amazon.