Recently, I was asked to review Problem Solving 101, a book by management consultant Ken Watabee that was written for children--but became the bestselling business book in Japan that year.
A really good example in the book showed how a young soccer player realized that choosing to go to the 2nd best soccer school would actually benefit her much more than going to the best soccer school.
This wasn't a conclusion that was obvious from the beginning--as the best soccer school was in a "better" location and seemed to have more benefits. But, when the young girl thought more about the decision, she realized that she would actually have more opportunities to do what she really wanted (play elite soccer and learn Spanish) if she went to the 2nd best school instead.
With the same example, I also liked how the young girl realized that she had overlooked a lot of possibilities when she had first thought about funding her tuition for the school. Originally, she had thought that she had to pay it all herself... which turned out not to be true (she was able to get scholarships and a sponsor).
That to me was a really powerful example of how people can make things happen even if it seems impossible at first. One of my deepest beliefs is that is everything is possible... if you only look hard enough for a way to make it happen.
Problem Solving 101's biggest strengths come from the well thought-out examples and demonstrations of problem solving. The diagrams do an excellent job showing how to shape your thought process!
What didn't really impress me about the book is actually what made is so successful in Japan: that this book is written in such a simple fashion.
But I think it is a little too simple for a business audience in the US. Most Americans learn problem-solving in school or in college... and this isn't anything mind-bogglingly new. Plus, the examples and illustrations are a little too childish and cute. They convey the point well, but are more suited to a younger audience.
This doesn't mean the book is bad. In fact, I think it's quite charming. It's just not what I personally would look for in a business book.
The good thing about the simplicity of Problem Solving 101 is that the book is very upfront that it was originally written for children. As such, I have a lot of respect for how well it's done and how it's managed to charm business people of all ages.
I'm just not sure it will take off so wildly here in the US because we've seen this sort of thing before. However, I think it will resonate with people who are just learning about problem solving.
My evaluation: A cute book that has some charming examples--but a little elementary for anyone who has done work with problem solving before. Get it as an intro for yourself, or for a younger person who needs to learn how to improve their thinking. They'll definitely like it.
Want the book? I have one to give away! Comment below with a sticky problem you need to solve!