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Problem Solving 101 Summary

Emir Zecovic | Posted on May 23, 2019 |

11 min read ⌚ 

Quick Summary : “Problem Solving 101,” in essence, is a decision-making book; however, it is not (like other books on the subject) a theoretical examination of our decision-making biases, but a simple and highly practical step-by-step guide to use when you need to make a decision or tackle an everyday challenge: the problem-solving primer of your dreams.

Problem Solving 101 Summary

Who Should Read “Problem Solving 101”? And Why?

Everyone has problems; and everyone wants to solve them.

Consequently, everyone needs to learn techniques to solve his/her problems; especially if these are proven to work and are as neatly described and explained as in Ken Watanabe’s Problem Solving 101 .

A great book for both kids and adults, realists and dreamers, students and business owners, followers and leaders.

We all have to make decisions.

And that is true regardless of who you are: a kid, a student, a businessman or the President of the United States.

The only thing that varies is the type of the problem.

For some, it is how to pass a math class, for others a decision on where to live, and for yet a third person devising a plan on how to improve his/her company’s bottom line; or, maybe, simply you want to lose some weight or get better at golf.

Now, whether the issue is big or small, says Ken Watanabe in Problem Solving 101 , “there’s a fundamental approach to solving these real-life problems, one that can consistently lead you to effective and satisfying solutions.”

If you need that sentence rephrased, here it is: problem-solving is a skill, and just like riding a bike – can be learned.

And that’s exactly what this book is all about.

Originally written for Japanese schoolchildren, Problem Solving 101 quickly gained popularity far beyond its target group, becoming not only Japan’s number one business best-seller in 2007 but also an international hit.

Hence, the English edition and its subtitle: “a simple book for smart people.”

The Case Studies

Problem Solving 101 not only introduces its readers to the basics of the problem-solving approach, but it also offers “a full toolbox of proven problem-solving techniques, the same techniques used by successful problem-solving people and companies all over the world.”

To illustrate how the steps work in practice, Watanabe uses three case studies:

• The Mushroom Lovers, a new band trying to improve their concert attendance numbers; • John Octopus, a bright young man with aspirations of becoming a computer graphics animator who needs to buy his first computer; • Kiwi, an aspiring soccer player looking for the best training school in Brazil.

Now, we don’t have enough space in our summary to go over each of these case studies, so we genuinely advise you to buy the book as soon as possible and read them in their entirety. Coupled with some quirky illustrations and an abundance of graphics, Problem Solving 101 is really a joy to read, own and share.

But, back to our job.

The Four Steps of Problem Solving

In its essence, problem-solving is a process that can be broken down into four steps: (1) understand the current situation; (2) identify the root cause of the problem; (3) develop an effective action plan; and (4) execute until the problem is solved, making modifications as necessary.

“These steps come as a package,” warns Watanabe, before he goes on to clarify:

“Before you can solve anything, you first need to realize that there’s a problem. Once you do, identifying the root cause of the problem isn’t enough. You have to think through how you could fix the problem, and then actually take the actions required to fix it.”

“Problem solving is a combination of thinking and acting,” he concludes. “Just doing one or the other won’t get you anywhere.”

So, let’s have a look at each of the four steps of problem-solving in full.

Step #1: Understand the Current Situation

The first step of solving a problem is understanding it; though it sounds simple – and, in a way, it is simple – it is actually something most people do wrong (“The catch is that we often don’t do what seems simple and obvious,” writes Watanabe.)

So, let’s just say that you are a soccer player who wants to improve your soccer skills; you spend more and more time on the field to do that and, in the meantime, your math grades decline.

If you (like 99% of the people) simply say “I have to quit the soccer team, so I have more time to study math,” you haven’t really understood the situation.

As a consequence, there’s a good chance that even after this drastic action, your math grades would remain bad.

Because to understand the situation, you need to go much deeper than this.

Do other kids play soccer as well? Are their grades as bad as yours? If not – i.e., if there are at least a few kids who train with you and whose grades haven’t deteriorated – then is soccer really the problem?

Step #2: Identify the Root Cause of the Problem

Which brings us to step #2: identifying the root cause of the problem. Of course, to do that, you first need to list all the possible problems.

Let’s simplify the problem by eliminating soccer practice from the equation; or let’s just say that you don’t want to give up soccer or that your math grades have been bad from the start.

To identify the root cause of your problem, you need to break down the problem to its elementary parts. A good way to do this is by asking yourself the simple question: ““What types of math problems am I getting wrong?”

Now, it’s time to break the questions into categories – like algebra, fractions, and geometry – and compare the scores between categories.

Who knows what you’ll discover now?

It could be that your scores in fractions and algebra are flat, but it is your geometry scores that are giving the impression that math is not your cup of tea. In other words,

just looking at the average trend of the math grades as a whole won’t help you see what is really happening.

This will because you can break down the categories even further, going from geometry problems to problems with area and volume.

Do this until you reach the atomic parts of your problem.

And then move on to the next step.

Step #3: Develop an Effective Action Plan

The first two steps of the problem-solving approach will take you from “My math grades are going down, and I should quit soccer and study more math” to “My math grades are going down because I am not doing well in three topics: trapezoid area, cylinder volume, and Pythagorean theorem application.”

Needless to say, this latter formulation makes all the difference. Now, you are ready to develop an effective action plan, the result of which will be significantly different.

Because once you identify the root cause of the problem, the solution writes itself. “I need to study more math” is not an action plan; however, I need to revise the lessons about cylinder volume on Monday and solve a few Pythagorean theorem equations on Tuesday is.

As you can see, in this second-case scenario, you’ll know not only what to study, but how much time you’ll need to study it.

Suddenly, it becomes more than clear that soccer practice was never really the problem.

Step #4: Execute Until the Problem Is Solved

But the problem-solving process doesn’t end there; of course, once you devise an action plan, it’s only natural that you need to start executing it.

Would you just start waking up half an hour earlier or go to sleep half an hour later every day to practice the types of problems pointed above?

It’s up to you!

But once you start doing that, you’ll start seeing the results of your action plan as well.

And you know what?

They may not mean better grades.

This calls for modifications: maybe half an hour is not enough; or maybe you need some help from your parents, your teacher, or your friends; modify as necessary until you have something to work with.

And when you don’t have that anymore – start the process once again from Step #1.

Maybe you didn’t understand the situation well enough; even more probably, you may have not guessed the root cause of your problems. Maybe it wasn’t a string of geometry problems, but your inability to understand abstract concepts; or maybe it was your outdated or complex textbook.

But you know what?

After you’ve gone through the problem-solving process once, the second time you’re less likely to make a mistake – both with your identification and, consequently, your action plan.

Problem-Solving Tool Box

To ease your way around the problem-solving process, Ken Watanabe offers a toolbox of problem-solving methods which can help you identify the root cause of your problems and/or devise an appropriate and efficient action plan to eliminate it.

Watanabe defines a logic tree as “a visual tool that helps when you are trying to identify all the potential root causes of a problem and generate a wide variety of solutions.”

And it is exactly what you think it is: a branched-out tree which helps you visualize the subclasses – all of them – of your main problem.

Why should you do that?

Because, as Ludwig Wittgenstein noticed a century ago , language is not precise enough; also, it prevents you from seeing the whole image.

You already know how a logic tree looks like, but just to remind you: the trunk of math is branched into algebra, fractions, and geometry, the branch of geometry further into the branches of area and volume, and the branch of volume into cylinder volume, etc. etc.

Now, go make one for your problem!

Yes/No Tree

A yes/no tree is basically a specific kind of a logic tree.

“A yes/no tree,” writes Watanabe, “groups people or objects into buckets based on the answers to yes/no questions. By assigning everyone and everything involved to a bucket, you can more clearly see what the core issue is.”

By creating a yes/no tree, you structure the problem into all of its possible outcomes and generate a complete overview.

And that makes things a lot easier.

Problem-Solving Design Plan

The logic tree and the yes/no tree should help you a lot to understand your situation and identify all of the probable causes for your problems.

However, in order to identify your root cause and devise an action plan, you need to use the third device in Ken Watanabe’s magical toolbox: problem-solving design plan.

It is basically a table with five columns.

In the first you list all of the possible issues; in the second one, your hypothesis as to why these issues exist; in the third column insert a rationale for each issue; the fourth column is reserved for analysis/activities; the fifth one is optional: here you can put an information source (like a survey or an interview).

With a problem-solving design plan, you’ll spend less time guessing , and more time doing things.

Hypothesis Pyramid

“The hypothesis pyramid is a great tool for structuring your argument,” writes Watanabe.

“Using it to clarify your conclusion and rationale before diving into data collection and analysis will improve your productivity dramatically. It’s also useful for communicating your hypothesis to others.”

 The basic structure of a hypothesis pyramid is simple.

It places the conclusion/main message at the top and lists all the supporting rationales below, like the supporting bricks of a pyramid.

It’s basically each of the rows in a problem-design solving plan broken down further.

Pros and Cons

There are two tools that are very helpful when you need to evaluate multiple options and select the best one.

The first one is the one Ross uses to choose between Julie and Rachel : the pros and cons list.

To make one, you just need to follow these four simple steps:

#1. List all the options. #2. List the pros and cons of each of the options. #3. Weight each of the positive and negative points you listed. (Put, say, three pluses if it is a very attractive pro, and three minuses if it is very unattractive; and distribute the pros and cons between these two extremes; you can use a five-star rating as well, or a grading system from 0 to 5). #4. Select the most attractive option.

Criteria and Evaluation

You can use the criteria and emulation tool “to clarify which criteria, or qualifications, you should use to evaluate your options, decide the importance of each set of criteria, and effectively evaluate your options.”

The steps are:

#1. List all the options. #2. List the evaluation criteria. (For example, if you’re a soccer player choosing a school: a) quality of education; b) strength of the soccer team; c) distance to school; d) friends, etc.) #3. Decide the degree of importance of each criterion. (Use three levels: from low to high). #4. Evaluate each option based on the weighted criteria. (See #3 above.) #5. Select the most attractive option.

Key Lessons from “Problem Solving 101”

1.      Problem Solving Is a Skill – and It Can Be Learned 2.      Problem Solving Is a 4-Step Process 3.      Use These Instruments from Watanabe’s Problem-Solving Tool Box!

Problem Solving Is a Skill – and It Can Be Learned

“Problem solving isn’t a talent limited to the lucky few,” writes Ken Watanabe at the beginning of the book’s first chapter. “It’s actually a skill and a habit that you can learn.”

If your question is “then why don’t we learn this skill at school” – well, congratulations: you’ve just discovered the reason why Watanabe wrote this book in the first place.

“Although Japanese business leaders, educators, and politicians have long talked about the need for Japan to shift from ‘memorization-focused education’ to ‘problem-solving-focused education,’ no one had figured out a concrete and effective way to make this happen.”

Problem Solving 101 is Watanabe’s attempt.

And based on the reaction (of both Japan and the world) – it works.

Problem Solving Is a 4-Step Process

To master problem-solving, you just need to master these four steps:

#1. Understand the current situation; #2. Identify the root cause of the problem; #3. Develop an effective action plan; and #4. Execute until the problem is solved, making modifications as necessary.

Use These Instruments from Watanabe’s Problem-Solving Tool Box!

And to master the four steps of Watanabe’s problem-solving approach, you need no more than these six problem-solving instruments:

#1. Logic tree; #2. Yes/No tree; #3. Problem-solving design plan; #4. Hypothesis pyramid; #5. Pros and cons list; #6. Criteria and evaluation table.

Use them, and any decision will seem easier in the future.

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Problem Solving 101 Quotes

problem solving 101 ken watanabe summary

Final Notes

For reasons stated in the introduction, Problem Solving 101 is written in a way that makes it easy for a child to understand it; and it’s only 100 pages long – illustrations included.

But make no mistake: this is exactly why it is such a gem of a book! It is our feeling that you’ll live a much happier life if, whenever you’re faced with a problem or a big decision, you use the knowledge packed in this book.

“This book made me angry,” wrote Seth Godin in his review of Watanabe’s book. “It made me angry because there are so many people in this country who need to read it, who should read it, who will benefit enormously from reading it . . . and won’t. They’ll watch a reality show on TV instead. If everyone made decisions like Ken Watanabe, the world would be a better place.”

Well, it’s your turn now: buy this book, use its techniques, and make the world a better place.

Emir Zecovic

Emir is the Head of Marketing  at 12min . In his spare time, he loves to meditate and play soccer.

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Problem Solving 101 Summary

1-Sentence-Summary:   Problem Solving 101  is a universal, four-step template for overcoming challenges in life, based on a traditional method Japanese school children learn early on.

Favorite quote from the author:

Problem Solving 101 Summary

Audio Summary

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I recently co-authored a piece gathering 303 life lessons we all eventually learn, but often forget. The list reminded me of all the important subjects we never study in school: human behavior, work habits, creativity, relationships, communication, love, and personal finance, for example. The skill Ken Watanabe explains in this book ranks highly on that list: problem solving.

Having a methodical approach to how you deal with problems, as opposed to just going by gut and feelings, can make a big difference in how successful you are in overcoming your obstacles. What’s interesting is where Watanabe found this approach: in school.

The Japanese education system has long had a leg up on its Western counterpart , and they also have a much better concept of retirement, called “ ikigai .” When it comes to problem-solving, Japanese children learn a very basic, universal template in their first years of school. Those are some smart schools !

After growing up in Japan, then studying in the US, it is exactly this template that Ken Watanabe decided to share in  Problem Solving 101 . Here are the 3 underlying activities you need to use it:

  • Instead jumping straight from finding a problem to attempting to solve it, break it down first.
  • Gather data to analyze all potential root causes and solutions.
  • Formulate hypotheses and methodically test them to find what works.

If you often find yourself jumping head first into solutions that don’t really fix your problems, this one’s for you! Welcome to Problem Solving 101!

If you want to save this summary for later, download the free PDF and read it whenever you want.

Lesson 1: The first step of properly tackling any problem is to break it down.

Let’s say you and your partner want to move in together and start a family. You’ve both entered the working world a couple years ago and are now looking to buy a home. However, once you look at your salaries and expenses, you realize you can’t afford the kind of home you want your future kids to grow up in. What could you do?

In this situation, most people would either resign to waiting for their next promotion or force themselves to randomly cut back on a big spending point. However, the trick to solving such a seemingly complex problem elegantly is to not jump at the above question in the first place. Instead, break down the problem into various aspects . In this example, “not enough money to pay mortgage for desired house” can be divided into “too little income,” “too high expenses,” and “expectations of future house.”

Once you have categories, it’s very easy to continue digging. Watanabe recommends decision trees . For example, you could now list causes for the “too little income” category, like “my company pays less than the industry average,” or “I didn’t get the promotion.” When going along these sub branches, you can mark each one with yes or no, to determine whether it’s actually part of the problem.

With a proper breakdown in hand, it’s much easier to analyze the causes and potential solutions of your problem.

Lesson 2: Make sure you analyze all potential root problems and solutions by gathering data and reflecting.

Of course it’s impossible to be 100% objective when judging what lead to your problem, but that’s where analysis comes in. For each root cause that you marked with a yes in your decision tree, ask what data you need to verify your answer. For example, to see if your salary is below industry average, you can use Google to compare it to several statistics. And to figure out why you didn’t get promoted, ask coworkers when they were last promoted and come up with your own, company-internal data.

The point of analysis is to never accept statements at face value, including your own . It gets you to pause and reflect before moving on, which is what makes it so valuable.

That’s why it also applies to all potential solutions you subsequently brainstorm. If you want to confront your boss with the below average salary claim, you better bring lots of data from good sources to back it up. At the same time, if you find it’s easier to collect data for other solutions, like cutting your expenses on monthly subscriptions, because you still have all your receipts, analysis also helps you determine which solutions have the best cost-to-benefit ratio .

Lesson 3: When trying to find a solution, formulate multiple hypotheses, then test them one by one.

Analysis helps you separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to the sources of your problem, as well as your options to get rid of it. However, the pool of choices you’re left with is still just a set of ideas. There are no guarantees that you’ve identified the correct causes or that executing a chosen solution will actually bring relief.

That’s why you should think of your selection as hypotheses. A hypothesis is defined as a currently accepted statement that could be proven wrong later . What’s great about approaching your plans this way is that you’ll stay flexible. Maybe confronting your boss won’t work. If it doesn’t, what matters is that you can quickly switch to a different path of action, rather than circling back to your initial hopelessness.

Whenever you feel lost or don’t know what to do, take an intermediary step of analysis. Get more data, reflect on new information, then change course. With an approach like this, you’ll never really get stuck. Even if problems won’t disappear over night, you’ll always have some sense of what to do next.

Problem Solving 101 Review

Breakdown, analysis, hypothesis, execution . What Watanabe has described here is the scientific method , except he did it in a way everyone can understand. Teaching children this from a young age helps them think on their feet decades later. When they enter the working world, they’ll find real-world problems less complex and confusing. If I ever do come up with a school of life, there’ll definitely be a class called Problem Solving 101 .

Who would I recommend the Problem Solving 101 summary to?

The 9 year old third grader, who has a chance to learn proper problem solving right from the start, the 30 year old young professional, who could use a reset on how she tackles problems after college, and anyone who tends to jump to conclusions.

Last Updated on August 15, 2022

problem solving 101 ken watanabe summary

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Problem Solving 101

Problem Solving 101

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Book Summary: Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe

Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe Book Cover

Problem Solving 101 is a comprehensive guide to mastering the art of problem solving. Written by renowned author and problem-solving expert Ken Watanabe, this book provides readers with a step-by-step approach to identifying, analyzing, and solving problems in all areas of life. Whether you’re facing a personal challenge or a professional obstacle, this book will equip you with the tools and techniques you need to overcome any hurdle.

Chapter 1: The Importance of Problem Solving

In the first chapter, Watanabe introduces the concept of problem solving and its importance in our daily lives. He explains that problem solving is not just a skill that can be used in the workplace, but a necessary tool for navigating life’s challenges. Watanabe also emphasizes the importance of developing a problem-solving mindset, which involves approaching problems with curiosity, creativity, and persistence.

Chapter 2: The Problem Solving Process

In this chapter, Watanabe outlines the steps involved in the problem-solving process. He explains that problem solving involves several stages, including identifying the problem, gathering information, analyzing the data, generating solutions, evaluating the options, and implementing the best solution. Watanabe also provides readers with practical tips for each stage of the process, including how to gather information effectively, how to evaluate potential solutions, and how to implement the best option.

Chapter 3: Common Problem Solving Techniques

In this chapter, Watanabe introduces several common problem-solving techniques, including brainstorming, decision trees, and root cause analysis. He explains how each technique can be used to solve different types of problems and provides readers with step-by-step instructions for implementing each technique. Watanabe also emphasizes the importance of selecting the right technique for the problem at hand and provides guidance on how to choose the best approach.

Chapter 4: Overcoming Obstacles to Problem Solving

In this chapter, Watanabe addresses some of the common obstacles to effective problem solving. He explains that many people struggle with problem solving because they lack the necessary skills, knowledge, or motivation. Watanabe provides readers with strategies for overcoming these obstacles, including how to develop problem-solving skills, how to gather information effectively, and how to stay motivated throughout the process.

Chapter 5: Applying Problem Solving to Real-Life Situations

In this chapter, Watanabe provides readers with real-life examples of how problem solving can be applied to a variety of situations. He explains how problem solving can be used to solve personal problems, such as managing time or overcoming procrastination, as well as professional problems, such as managing projects or resolving conflicts with colleagues. Watanabe also provides readers with tips for applying problem-solving techniques to their own lives and situations.

Overall, Problem Solving 101 is a comprehensive and practical guide to mastering the art of problem solving. Watanabe’s step-by-step approach, practical tips, and real-life examples make this book an invaluable resource for anyone looking to improve their problem-solving skills. Whether you’re facing a personal challenge or a professional obstacle, this book will provide you with the tools and techniques you need to overcome any hurdle.

Interested in reading the whole book?

Buy the book “Problem Solving 101” on Amazon

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Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe, a Review

Want to understand problem solving problem solving 101 is here to the rescue, problem solving 101: a simple book for smart people problem solving is an excellent and practical skill to have. you solve problems every day, some more complex than others. where to live which university to attend how to get senior managers to notice me and my work how to improve the company’s bottom line complex solving is also one of the 10 skills the world economic forum says you need to thrive in 2025..

problem solving 101 ken watanabe summary

What I liked most about this problem solving book is the author’s practical approach. Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe has many examples that you can relate to. It’s worth the read. He includes images and diagrams to bring the information to life. It’s a pricier e-book but it’s worth every penny. The good news is that it’s now $5 cheaper that when I bought it a couple of years ago.

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Summary: The MacGyver Secret by Lee David Zlotoff

Why Ken Watanabe Wrote Problem Solving 101

A former consultant for McKinsey & Company, Ken Watanabe used tools to solve his clients’ problem. In many countries, in schools, the focus is on memorization techniques, but how effective is that? Do students understand what they are learning? Are they able to apply the new concepts in other situations?

Ken Watanabe wanted to do his part in the shift from “memorization-focused education” to “problem-solving-focused education” in Japan. He wrote this book to help kids become better problem solvers. Additionally, he wanted Japanese kids to think like problem solvers. And he also wanted children to take a proactive approach in their education. In Problem Solving 101, Ken Watanabe included the tools he used while working at McKinsey.

Exploring Problem Solving and Other Key Skills

The author, Ken Watanabe, says something in the beginning of the book that caught my attention. He wanted kids to think like problem solvers. That may not sound like something profound, but hear me out, because it really is. Every subject has a certain structure with foundational ideas. If you want to master a subject, you must start with the foundational ideas on which the subject is built. People who successfully master the subject think in a way that the subject demands.

So, if you want to master writing, think like a writer. If you want to master negotiation, think like a negotiator. And if you want to master problem solving, think like a problem solver. This is a secret I learned when I read How to Study & Learn a Discipline. I don’t think this is easy to do. Invest the time learning the structure of the skills you need. That’s what I’m doing.

It’s not just me who thinks this way. In a short video I recently watched, Bill Gates talks about reading and learning. He remembers most of what he learns from books. How does he do it? Essentially, in the video, Gates is saying you cannot read in a vacuum. Work with a broader framework to put the information you’re learning.

The light bulb suddenly went on for me. To make sure that I learn and truly master the 10 skills needed for future jobs, I need to understand how a subject works. And how knowledge works. Learning how to learn is a critical skill you need today to succeed at work and in life.

Master how to learn and know how knowledge works. I read Learning How to Learn , which is based on the popular MOOC course of the same name. Next I devoured How We Learn , which is based on brain science. I plan to read What Is the History of Knowledge by Peter Burke and A History of Knowledge: Past, Present, and Future by Charles Van Doren. And I re-read How to Study & Learn a Discipline, with a fresh set of lenses.

What is Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe About?

Many books on problem solving present a model. This is the case with Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe. The models tend to be similar and related. Think about the last problem that you solved, how did you go about it? You probably tried to understand what caused the problem; gathered information; analyzed the information and find solutions; then tested the solutions. If none of the solutions worked, you would start the process again.

One of the business leaders I interviewed for my first book Tales of People Who Get It emphasized the importance of finding a balance between thinking and acting. And he felt that he spent too much time thinking about things. Watanabe mentioned finding the right balance between thinking and acting.

Problem Solving 101 4-Step Model

  • Understand the current situation (What is going on?).
  • Identify the root cause of the problem (What is causing the problem?).
  • Develop an effective action plan (How can I fix this problem?).
  • Execute until the problem is solved. Make changes as necessary.

Ken Watanabe expands on his problem solving model, so the reader knows what to do. He recommends that when you face problems, take a step back, so you can discover the root cause and how to resolve it. One of the ways to do that is to do research. Collect information to find the root cause of the problem. Watanabe uses an analogy that most people can relate to. The symptom is a headache, the root cause is a fever, and the prescription – the solution – is to take cold medicine.

When you understand the symptoms and identify the root cause, you’re able to generate better solutions.

Step 1: Diagnose the Situation and Identify the Root Cause of the Problem

  • List all the possible root causes of the problem.
  • Develop a hypothesis for the likely root cause.
  • Determine the analyses and information required to test the hypothesis.
  • Analyze and identify the root cause.  

Step 2: Develop the Solution

  • Develop a wide variety of solutions to solve the problem.
  • Prioritize actions.
  • Develop an implementation plan.

In the book, the author mentions that you can use a yes/no tree to figure out a problem's root cause or decide how to solve a problem. If you do not know how to use a yes/no tree he walks you through the process.

If the problem you have is how to achieve a certain goal, he offers steps that you can follow.

Steps to Achieve an Important Goal

  •  Set a clear goal.
  • Determine the gap between the goal and the current situation.
  • List as many options and ideas as possible.
  • Select the best ideas as the hypothesis.
  • Analyze and develop action plan.

Criteria to Test Solution and Evaluate It

  • List all the options
  • List evaluation criteria
  • Decide on the importance of each criteria
  • Evaluate each based on the weighted criteria
  • Select most attractive option

Final Thoughts: Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe

problem solving 101 ken watanabe summary

The most accomplished people use books as problem solving tools. They carve out the time in their schedule to find solutions in the pages of a book. Let me help you to solve your own problems. Additionally, this program helps you to learn valuable career skills. Click the link MoreReads Individual Leadership Development Program to buy.

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Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe

Last updated: Aug 7, 2023

Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe is a comprehensive guide that teaches readers how to approach and solve problems effectively. The book is divided into three sections, each focusing on a different aspect of problem-solving.

In the first section, Watanabe introduces the concept of problem-solving and emphasizes the importance of having a structured approach. He explains that many people struggle with problem-solving because they lack a clear process. Watanabe presents a four-step method called the "Problem Solving 101" framework, which consists of understanding the problem, devising a plan, carrying out the plan, and looking back to evaluate the results. He provides practical examples and exercises to help readers apply this framework to real-life situations.

The second section of the book delves deeper into each step of the problem-solving process. Watanabe explains how to effectively understand a problem by breaking it down into smaller components and identifying the root cause. He emphasizes the importance of asking the right questions and gathering relevant information. Watanabe also discusses the importance of brainstorming and generating multiple solutions during the planning phase. He provides techniques for evaluating and selecting the best solution, including the use of decision matrices and cost-benefit analysis.

In the third section, Watanabe explores common obstacles and challenges that arise during problem-solving. He addresses issues such as fear of failure, lack of creativity, and group dynamics. Watanabe provides strategies for overcoming these obstacles, such as reframing problems, fostering a positive mindset, and promoting effective communication within teams. He also emphasizes the importance of continuous improvement and learning from past experiences.

Throughout the book, Watanabe uses clear and concise language to explain complex concepts. He provides numerous real-life examples and case studies to illustrate his points. Watanabe's approach is practical and action-oriented, encouraging readers to apply the problem-solving techniques in their own lives and work environments.

In conclusion, Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe is a comprehensive guide that equips readers with the necessary tools and strategies to solve problems effectively. Whether you are a student, professional, or simply looking to improve your problem-solving skills, this book offers valuable insights and practical advice.

1. Understand the problem before seeking a solution

In Problem Solving 101, Ken Watanabe emphasizes the importance of fully understanding the problem before attempting to find a solution. Often, people rush into solving a problem without taking the time to analyze and comprehend its root causes. Watanabe suggests breaking down the problem into smaller components and asking questions to gain a deeper understanding. By doing so, you can identify the underlying issues and develop a more effective solution.

For example, if you're facing a problem at work where productivity is low, instead of immediately implementing new strategies, take the time to investigate the reasons behind the low productivity. Is it due to a lack of motivation, inefficient processes, or inadequate resources? By understanding the problem thoroughly, you can address the specific areas that need improvement and devise a more targeted solution.

2. Use the "5 Whys" technique to uncover the root cause

The "5 Whys" technique is a powerful tool introduced by Watanabe to dig deeper into the root cause of a problem. It involves repeatedly asking "why" to uncover the underlying reasons behind a particular issue. By asking "why" five times, you can often reach the core problem.

For instance, if you're facing a problem of consistently missing project deadlines, you might ask, "Why did we miss the deadline?" The answer could be, "Because we didn't have enough resources." Then, ask "Why didn't we have enough resources?" The answer might be, "Because the budget was cut." Continue asking "why" until you reach the root cause, such as a lack of communication between departments or poor project planning. By using the "5 Whys" technique, you can address the fundamental issue and prevent similar problems from occurring in the future.

3. Break down complex problems into smaller, manageable parts

Complex problems can often feel overwhelming and difficult to tackle. Watanabe suggests breaking them down into smaller, more manageable parts. By dividing a problem into smaller components, you can focus on solving each part individually, making the overall problem more approachable.

For example, if you're faced with the challenge of improving customer satisfaction, break it down into specific areas such as product quality, customer service, and delivery speed. By addressing each component separately, you can develop targeted solutions that contribute to the overall goal of improving customer satisfaction. Breaking down complex problems into smaller parts also allows for better delegation and collaboration, as different team members can focus on specific areas of expertise.

4. Embrace failure as a learning opportunity

Failure is often seen as something negative, but Watanabe encourages readers to view it as a valuable learning opportunity. He emphasizes that failure is an essential part of the problem-solving process and should be embraced rather than feared.

When faced with a setback or failure, take the time to analyze what went wrong and why. By understanding the reasons behind the failure, you can learn from your mistakes and make improvements for future problem-solving endeavors. Watanabe suggests keeping a record of failures and lessons learned to refer back to in the future.

5. Seek diverse perspectives and collaborate

Collaboration and seeking diverse perspectives are crucial for effective problem-solving. Watanabe highlights the importance of involving different stakeholders and considering various viewpoints when tackling a problem.

By seeking input from individuals with different backgrounds, experiences, and expertise, you can gain fresh insights and alternative solutions that you may not have considered on your own. Collaborating with others also fosters a sense of ownership and collective responsibility, leading to more effective problem-solving outcomes.

6. Test and iterate solutions

Watanabe emphasizes the importance of testing and iterating solutions to ensure their effectiveness. Rather than implementing a solution without any validation, he suggests conducting small-scale experiments or pilot projects to gather data and feedback.

By testing solutions in a controlled environment, you can identify potential flaws or areas for improvement before fully implementing them. This iterative approach allows for continuous learning and refinement, leading to more successful problem-solving outcomes.

7. Prioritize and focus on the most critical problems

Not all problems are equally important or urgent. Watanabe advises prioritizing and focusing on the most critical problems first. By identifying the problems that have the most significant impact or pose the highest risks, you can allocate your time and resources more effectively.

By addressing the most critical problems first, you can prevent them from escalating or causing further issues. This approach also helps in managing overwhelm and ensures that you are dedicating your efforts to the problems that truly matter.

8. Continuously improve problem-solving skills

Problem-solving is a skill that can be developed and improved over time. Watanabe encourages readers to continuously work on enhancing their problem-solving abilities.

One way to improve problem-solving skills is through deliberate practice. This involves actively seeking out challenging problems, analyzing different approaches, and reflecting on the outcomes. By consistently engaging in problem-solving activities and seeking feedback, you can refine your skills and become more effective at finding innovative solutions.

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problem solving 101 ken watanabe summary

Problem Solving 101: Summary Review

problem solving 101 ken watanabe summary

This is a summary review of Problem Solving 101 containing key details about the book.

What is Problem Solving 101 About?

"Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People" is a book by Ken Watanabe that explores the principles and methods of effective problem-solving. Problem Solving 101 is a guide to help people develop a structured and systematic approach to problem-solving.

problem solving 101 ken watanabe summary

Problem Solving 101 started out as a simple guide to teach Japanese schoolchildren critical thinking skills. But it quickly became an international bestseller for readers of all ages, thanks to the powerful effectiveness of Ken Watanabe's unique methods. Full of useful diagrams and quirky drawings, Problem Solving 101 is packed with practical tools and brain training techniques that will improve your problem-solving and decision-making ability, and enable you to find better solutions faster.

Summary Points & Takeaways from Problem Solving 101

Some key summary points and takeaways from the book include:

* "Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People" is a book by Ken Watanabe that explores the principles and methods of effective problem-solving.

* The book provides a comprehensive overview of the problem-solving process, including the steps of defining the problem, gathering information, generating solutions, and implementing solutions.

* The author argues that problem-solving is a critical skill that can be learned and improved, and provides advice on how individuals can effectively solve problems.

* Problem Solving 101 covers the basics of critical thinking, including the importance of creativity, logic, and perspective.

* The author also provides insights into the role of teamwork in problem-solving, and provides advice on how individuals can effectively collaborate with others to solve problems.

* The book provides a comprehensive overview of the various tools and techniques used in problem-solving, including brainstorming, mind-mapping, and root cause analysis.

* Problem Solving 101 provides case studies and examples of individuals and organizations that have successfully solved complex problems, and provides insights into the challenges and opportunities associated with problem-solving.

* The author also provides advice on how individuals can overcome common obstacles to problem-solving, such as fear, bias, and lack of resources, and provides insights into the role of continuous improvement in solving problems.

* In conclusion, Problem Solving 101 is a comprehensive guide to the principles and methods of effective problem-solving, and provides a roadmap for individuals and organizations to effectively solve problems.

Who is the author of Problem Solving 101?

Ken Watanabe grew up bilingual in Japan and studied in the United States at Yale and Harvard Business School. He was a management consultant at McKinsey & Company for six years.

problem solving 101 ken watanabe summary

Book Details

  • Print length: 111 pages
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Self Help, Business

What is a good quote from Problem Solving 101?

Top Quote: "Every result is an opportunity to reflect and learn valuable lessons. Even if what you take away from your assessment seems to be of small consequence, all of these small improvements taken together make a huge difference in the long term.” ( Meaning ) - Problem Solving 101 Quotes, Ken Watanabe

What do critics say?

Here's what one of the prominent reviewers had to say about the book: "This book made me angry. It made me angry because there are so many people in this country who need to read it, who should read it, who will benefit enormously from reading it . . . and won't. They'll watch a reality show on TV instead. If everyone made decisions like Ken Watanabe, the world would be a better place." — SETH GODIN, author of Tribes

* The editor of this summary review made every effort to maintain information accuracy, including any published quotes, chapters, or takeaways. If you're interested in furthering your personal growth, you may want to explore my list of favorite self-improvement books . These books, which have had a significant impact on my life, are carefully curated and come with summaries and key lessons.

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Ken Watanabe’s problem-solving primer for kids became an international bestseller due to its wide-ranging, effective strategies for tackling problems.

Former McKinsey & Company management consultant Ken Watanabe is CEO of Delta Studio, an education, entertainment and media company. His 2007 book on problem-solving for children became a Japanese bestseller, and then an international hit. Businesspeople worldwide found it to be a useful, succinct primer.

Watanabe demonstrates that problem-solving isn’t mysterious. Establish a definite goal, he says, determine the best way to reach it, and implement your plan. Monitor your progress and make any necessary changes. This process will become a valuable, sustaining habit and, with it, you will become an effective problem solver.

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Penguin Random House

Problem Solving 101

A Simple Book for Smart People

By Ken Watanabe

Category: business | psychology.

Mar 05, 2009 | ISBN 9781591842422 | 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 --> | ISBN 9781591842422 --> Buy

Mar 05, 2009 | ISBN 9781101029183 | ISBN 9781101029183 --> Buy

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Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe

Mar 05, 2009 | ISBN 9781591842422

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About Problem Solving 101

The fun and simple problem-solving guide that took Japan by storm Ken Watanabe originally wrote Problem Solving 101 for Japanese schoolchildren. His goal was to help shift the focus in Japanese education from memorization to critical thinking, by adapting some of the techniques he had learned as an elite McKinsey consultant. He was amazed to discover that adults were hungry for his fun and easy guide to problem solving and decision making. The book became a surprise Japanese bestseller, with more than 370,000 in print after six months. Now American businesspeople can also use it to master some powerful skills. Watanabe uses sample scenarios to illustrate his techniques, which include logic trees and matrixes. A rock band figures out how to drive up concert attendance. An aspiring animator budgets for a new computer purchase. Students decide which high school they will attend. Illustrated with diagrams and quirky drawings, the book is simple enough for a middleschooler to understand but sophisticated enough for business leaders to apply to their most challenging problems.

About Ken Watanabe

Ken Watanabe grew up bilingual in Japan and studied in the United States at Yale and Harvard Business School. He was a management consultant at McKinsey & Company for six years. He is now the founder and CEO of his… More about Ken Watanabe

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“ Problem Solving 101  teaches us to recognize the common elements in the decisions we face every day and how to think carefully about them. It offers tricks and tips for every age. If I may offer one more suggestion: when you don’t know which of two options to choose, toss a coin, and when it is up there in the air think about how you want it to fall, and you have your answer.” –DAN ARIELY, author of the New York Times bestseller Predictably Irrational “This book made me angry. It made me angry because there are so many people in this country who need to read it, who should read it, who will benefit enormously from reading it . . . and won’t. They’ll watch a reality show on TV instead. If everyone made decisions like Ken Watanabe, the world would be a better place.” –SETH GODIN, author of Tribes “This is an excellent primer on problem solving.” –LOWELL BRYAN, author of Mobilizing Minds

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Problem Solving 101 Summary

A simple book for smart people, ken watanabe, factfulness, hans rosling, ola rosling, anna rosling rönnlund, designing your life, bill burnett, dave evans, barbarians at the gate, bryan burrough, leaders eat last, simon sinek, sources of power.

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Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People Kindle Edition

  • Print length 128 pages
  • Language English
  • Sticky notes On Kindle Scribe
  • Publisher Portfolio
  • Publication date March 3, 2009
  • Reading age 18 years and up
  • File size 14788 KB
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  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B001UFP61C
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Portfolio; 1st edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ March 3, 2009
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 14788 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Sticky notes ‏ : ‎ On Kindle Scribe
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 128 pages
  • #231 in Cognitive Psychology (Kindle Store)
  • #243 in Business Systems & Planning
  • #324 in Business Decision-Making

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Problem Solving 101 Book Summary, by Ken Watanabe

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1-Page Summary of Problem Solving 101

To solve a problem, take a systematic, logical approach..

Everyone has to figure things out, make decisions and solve problems. Although most people don’t know about it, there is a proven system that can be used for these three purposes. The solutions are elegant, effective and satisfying. Sometimes they change the world for the better.

The tools that accompany this problem-solving system are easy to understand and apply. Having a specific thinking and planning approach helps you organize your thoughts logically and effectively, broaden your thinking to consider a variety of solutions, and manage life’s various challenges. It helps you build capabilities that anyone can learn over time through repetition.

Avoid adopting an attitude that hinders problem solving.

Some people are not good at solving problems. Some of them: * Miss Sigh – She gives up when things get difficult or complicated. Her default attitude is that she can’t do things well and that she’s not talented enough to succeed. * Mr. Critic – He thinks everyone else’s ideas are stupid, he never tries to solve any problems, and his default attitude is “I told you so” whenever someone makes a mistake.

Miss Dreamer – She’s got a million great ideas but never does anything to make them happen. She prefers to think about how she can change the world with her creativity, instead of doing what’s necessary to implement those ideas. Miss Dreamer doesn’t like to be bothered by details.

Mr. Go-Getter – Mr. Go-Getter is a problem solver, but he doesn’t always think his way through problems before acting on them. He jumps into action and never stops to plan ahead or diagnose the situation at hand. His motto is “Ready, Fire, Aim”—he believes in just getting started without thinking about what comes next or how to do it properly.

Problem solving requires determining its root cause, developing a sound plan and implementing it.

On the other hand, Kiwi is a soccer player who has learned to focus on what’s in front of him. He doesn’t dwell on mistakes or past events. Instead, he focuses tightly and develops action plans that are efficient and effective. If something goes wrong, he adjusts his plan accordingly and learns from it as well so that next time he can do better.

People who solve problems look for root causes before they act. Doctors do that when treating their patients. They ask questions, investigate the patient’s medical history, take temperatures and run tests to find out what caused a problem in the first place. Problem-solving people use similar techniques; they try to scope out root causes as well as set definite goals regardless of setbacks or obstacles.

To identify the root cause of a problem, you need to target the symptoms. You can do that by taking these steps: 1) Identify all possible causes of a problem and 2) analyze which one is most likely. To find out more about it, 3) gather information and 4) confirm your hypothesis.

  • The first step is to come up with a solution. To do this, you should think of many possible solutions and decide which one will work best. Next, you need to plan your actions to implement that solution and put it into action. Finally, you need to determine an implementation plan for the idea so that it can be successfully implemented in real life situations.

To solve a problem, think and act in four components.

To solve a problem you must first figure out exactly what the problem is. You then need to determine its root cause, come up with an action plan, and execute that plan until the problem is solved. This method works for any size of problem.

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COMMENTS

  1. Problem Solving 101 Summary

    Consequently, everyone needs to learn techniques to solve his/her problems; especially if these are proven to work and are as neatly described and explained as in Ken Watanabe's Problem Solving 101. A great book for both kids and adults, realists and dreamers, students and business owners, followers and leaders. Problem Solving 101 Summary

  2. Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe: Book Summary & Review

    When it comes to problem-solving, Japanese children learn a very basic, universal template in their first years of school. Those are some smart schools! After growing up in Japan, then studying in the US, it is exactly this template that Ken Watanabe decided to share in Problem Solving 101. Here are the 3 underlying activities you need to use it:

  3. Summary of Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe

    Problem Solving 101. A guide so simple and snappy, it was originally marketed for kids, Problem Solving 101 is your one-stop guide to strategizing creative solutions. Written by Academy Award winning actor Ken Watanabe, Problem Solving 101 is a kid-friendly handbook for critical thinking which became an international bestseller overnight.

  4. Book Summary: Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe

    Problem Solving 101 is a comprehensive guide to mastering the art of problem solving. Written by renowned author and problem-solving expert Ken Watanabe, this book provides readers with a step-by-step approach to identifying, analyzing, and solving problems in all areas of life. Whether you're facing a personal challenge or a professional obstacle, this book will […]

  5. Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe, a Review

    Final Thoughts: Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe. Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People. by Ken Watanabe is an excellent book to learn problem solving. Reading one book will not allow you to master the skill, it takes reading and digesting at least five of the best books.

  6. Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People

    Ken Watanabe. The fun and simple problem-solving guide that took Japan by stormKen Watanabe originally wrote Problem Solving 101 for Japanese schoolchildren. His goal was to help shift the focus in Japanese education from memorization to critical thinking, by adapting some of the techniques he had learned as an elite McKinsey consultant.He was ...

  7. Problem Solving 101 Summary of Key Ideas and Review

    Brief summary. Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe is a practical guide to solve different types of problems in any situation. It explains the basics of problem-solving, including identifying the root cause, generating ideas, and evaluating solutions in an easy-to-understand way. Topics.

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  9. Problem Solving 101 : A simple book for smart people

    Problem Solving 101 started out as a simple guide to teach Japanese schoolchildren critical thinking skills. But it quickly became an international bestseller for readers of all ages, thanks to the powerful effectiveness of Ken Watanabe's unique methods. Full of useful diagrams and quirky drawings, Problem Solving 101 is packed with practical tools and brain training techniques that will ...

  10. Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe

    Summary of Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe. Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe is a comprehensive guide that teaches readers how to approach and solve problems effectively. The book is divided into three sections, each focusing on a different aspect of problem-solving.

  11. Problem Solving 101: Summary Review

    This is a summary review of Problem Solving 101 containing key details about the book. What is Problem Solving 101 About? "Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People" is a book by Ken Watanabe that explores the principles and methods of effective problem-solving. Problem Solving 101 is a guide to help people develop […]

  12. PDF Summary of Problem Solving

    Ken Watanabe, the author of "Problem Solving 101," is a highly esteemed business executive and management consultant with a remarkable ability to navigate complex challenges. Recognized for his exceptional problem-solving skills, Watanabe has honed his expertise through years of experience at the renowned Boston Consulting

  13. Problem Solving 101 Free Summary by Ken Watanabe

    This manual - his 2007 book on problem solving for children - became Japan's best-selling business book, popular with kids, educators, parents and businesspeople. Watanabe's work is educational, enlightening and easy to follow. His charming characters - Miss Mushroom, John Octopus, Eggplant, Kiwi the Soccer Girl, Miss Sigh and Tofu ...

  14. Problem Solving 101 : A Simple Book for Smart People

    Ken Watanabe. Penguin, Mar 5, 2009 - Business & Economics - 128 pages. The fun and simple problem-solving guide that took Japan by storm. Ken Watanabe originally wrote Problem Solving 101 for Japanese schoolchildren. His goal was to help shift the focus in Japanese education from memorization to critical thinking, by adapting some of the ...

  15. Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe: 9781591842422

    The fun and simple problem-solving guide that took Japan by storm. Ken Watanabe originally wrote Problem Solving 101 for Japanese schoolchildren. His goal was to help shift the focus in Japanese education from memorization to critical thinking, by adapting some of the techniques he had learned as an elite McKinsey consultant.

  16. Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe

    1984 by George Orwell - Summary. The Greatest Secret by Rhonda Byrne - Summary. Problem Solving 101 is a universal, four-step template for overcoming challenges in life, based on a traditional method Japanese school children learn early on.

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    The fun and simple problem-solving guide that took Japan by storm Ken Watanabe originally wrote Problem Solving 101 He was amazed to discover that adults were hungry for his fun and easy guide to problem solving and decision making. The book became a surprise Japanese bestseller, with more than 370,000 in print after six months. Now American businesspeople can also use it to master some ...

  18. PDF Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People

    Here's the approach: Step 1: Diagnose the situation and identify the root cause of the problem. 1A List all the potential root causes of the problem. 1B Develop a hypothesis for the likely root cause. 1C Determine the analyses and information required to test the hypothesis. 1D Analyze and identify the root cause.

  19. Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People: Watanabe, Ken

    The fun and simple problem-solving guide that took Japan by storm. Ken Watanabe originally wrote Problem Solving 101 for Japanese schoolchildren. His goal was to help shift the focus in Japanese education from memorization to critical thinking, by adapting some of the techniques he had learned as an elite McKinsey consultant.

  20. Summary of Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe

    Summary of Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe - Ebook written by QuickRead, Alyssa Burnette. Read this book using Google Play Books app on your PC, android, iOS devices. Download for offline reading, highlight, bookmark or take notes while you read Summary of Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe.

  21. Problem Solving 101 Summary PDF

    Ken Watanabe, the author of "Problem Solving 101," is a highly esteemed business executive and management consultant with a remarkable ability to navigate complex challenges. Recognized for his exceptional problem-solving skills, Watanabe has honed his expertise through years of experience at the renowned Boston Consulting Group and as an ...

  22. Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People Kindle Edition

    by Ken Watanabe (Author) Format: Kindle Edition. 4.5 910 ratings. See all formats and editions. The fun and simple problem-solving guide that took Japan by storm. Ken Watanabe originally wrote Problem Solving 101 for Japanese schoolchildren. His goal was to help shift the focus in Japanese education from memorization to critical thinking, by ...

  23. Problem Solving 101 Book Summary, by Ken Watanabe

    Read the world's #1 book summary of Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe here. Read a brief 1-Page Summary or watch video summaries curated by our expert team. Note: this book guide is not affiliated with or endorsed by the publisher or author, and we always encourage you to purchase and read the full book. Video Summaries of Problem Solving 101