Last Updated on 24 September 2023

I’m always looking for techniques to help be a better problem solver – specifically, ensuring I’m solving the right problem. (The last thing you want to do is spend time fixing the wrong thing).

One method is to examine your problem from both narrower and broader perspectives…

Is your problem a wall? Or is this problem really about smaller, contributing factors – the bricks? Or is it a symptom of a larger issue – a cathedral?


To determine what may be contributing to this problem – the bricks – ask these questions…

  • What is stopping us from solving this?
  • What else is stopping us? (repeat)

If you have a list of answers, your actual problem will be found in these underlying issues. Spend energy solving these issues, and your original problem should be solved.


The wall is the perspective most of us start with when we begin to work on a problem.
Use the brick and cathedral questions to try to narrow or broaden the nature of your problem. If you can’t, then you have your problem identified. Nice work. Now, fix that wall.


To determine if your problem may be part of a larger issue – a cathedral – ask these questions…

  • Why do we want to solve this problem?
  • Why else? (repeat)

With this question, if you end up with a list of answers, your problem is more than likely a symptom of some larger issue. Focus on the larger, big-picture challenge.

Next time you’re faced with a challenge, use these questions and be sure to solve the right problem.