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Countering Mind Traps

Mind traps can seriously derail the problem-solving process, but fortunately, you can use a variety of strategies to counteract their effects.

To counteract the trap of initial ideas, you should explore different sources and perspectives. By broadening your horizons, you’re more likely to find the real roots of a problem and to generate a wider range of possible solutions.

You should follow this guideline whenever you problem solve, but it’s especially important during the earliest steps of the problem-solving model.

To minimize the trap of defending prior choices, you should:
give your goals priority — focus on achieving a particular goal rather than becoming attached to a particular decision or process.

  • get a neutral opinion — consult someone who does not have a vested interest in your prior decisions, and
  • accept your mistakes, remembering that everybody makes mistakes sometimes and that it’s better to move on than to hold onto past decisions.

To avoid selecting supporting information, you should ask yourself and others open questions such as “What are your thoughts on this solution?” — rather than asking leading questions such as “Why should I be keen about this solution?”

Another good strategy is to examine counterarguments and information that conflicts with your own views.

One way to fight the trap of assumptions is to identify what your assumptions are and check their validity. Take the position of an outsider and ask basic questions to challenge your assumptions, like “Why do I think this way?” or “Why do we do things like this?”

Another strategy is to focus on data. Investigate hard data, rather than relying on mental simplifications or falling victim to personal bias. You can also change the way you view the problem — restate the problem in new terms or break it down into its simplest components.

To protect yourself from the trap of conformity, shield yourself from social influence and persuasion. Remember that the popular opinion is not always correct. You should also be willing to defend well-founded viewpoints, even if they are unpopular.