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Are Your Lights On?: How to Figure Out What the Problem Really is
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Are Your Lights On?: How to Figure Out What the Problem Really is

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  809 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Partial Contents

Part 1: What is The Problem?
1. A Problem
2. Peter Pigeonhole Prepared A Petition
3. What's Your Problem?

Part 2: What is The Problem?
4. Billy Brighteyes Bests The Bidders
5. Billy Bites His Tongue
6. Billy Back To The Bidders

Part 3: What is The Problem Really?
7. The Endless Chain
8. Missing The Misfit
9. Landing On The Level
10. Mind Your Meaning

Part 4: Whose Probl
Paperback, 156 pages
Published January 1st 1990 by Dorset House Publishing Company, Incorporated (first published 1982)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  809 ratings  ·  63 reviews

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Jon Mountjoy
Apr 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Written with obvious and playful humour, a short book on problem solving. "A problem is a difference between things as desired, and things as perceived" - and this book goes on to arm you with a number of problem solving techniques, from the venerable "ignore the problem" to understanding just what the problem is, whether the solution is desirable, whether people will believe you've solved the problem, who's problem it actually is, and defining problems well.

Some funny lines too: "Once the rumor
Henry Ho
Dec 06, 2016 rated it liked it
I like the point of the book, but it gets repetitive and most the examples are (purposely?) contrived.

It's been a while since I read it, but I think some of my takeaways were:
- who's problem is it (who cares)? that will usually give you a clue on how to get it solved
- should you be the one solving it?
- if you cannot solve it, then make it a problem for the person who can (make that person care)
- does it needs to be solved / is it a real problem?
- don't jump to a solution / blindly go along with
Vikrama Dhiman
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic start of the year. What a book!

I have read some chapters thrice already. The contrived examples draw chuckles at how real they are and how you have been solving problems without knowing you are solving one. There are 23 key lessons but I loved three specific takes:

Find out, whose problem is it.
1. We never have time to do it right, but we always have time to do it over
2. People seldom know what they want until you give them what the ask for
3. Find out, whose problem it is i.e. WHO has
John MacIntyre
This book is such an easy read it catches you off gaurd, then walks you through a series of fictional short stories, each teaching a certain lesson.
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An engineering classic delivers vignettes from the world of 1960's computers, academia, society, and business to model problems where the solution (and the problem) isn't what it first appeared to be.

Pleasure to read.
Dec 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Some nice tales, but not a great eye-opening book.
Andrew Strenn
Feb 16, 2016 rated it liked it
As a book on general problem solving, it was pretty entertaining. It was thought provoking, but I didn't learn anything too dramatic. ...more
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A nice way to re-frame your approaches to solving problems. Written in the style a book from 1982 could only produce.
Several anecdotes about solving problems.
It shows several more ways to think about the problems.
One of my favourite points in this book is - "EACH SOLUTION
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The book is about problem-solving.

There's a series of situations presented, in each of them the problem evolves in terms of complexity. In some of the situations presented certainty is peeled off from the problem statement and the solution. So in the end it turns out that neither the problem statement was correct, nor the solution was correct, even though the process starts with one "solution" and then iterates through more and more failed "solutions" (some of them borderline absurd), none of wh
Max Tang
Nov 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first half is pure genius; the second half is merely intelligent. Overall a rather fascinating read.

1) A problem is the gap between a perceived state and desired state.

2) The trickiest part of certain problems is just recognizing their existence.

3) If you can’t think of at least three things that might be wrong with your understanding of the problem, you don’t understand the problem.

4) Don't Solve other people’s problems when they can solve them perfectly well themselves.
Wanderson Ferreira
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very nice book. Often I ask some questions about what is the nature of the problem that I am solving with. I think this book sheds some light in this dilema by explicitly asking you: What the problem really is? Who the problem is affecting? This is a problem for everybody involved? All this questions are often not considered and many "solutions" only creates different problems (often harder than the original one). I am re-reading it in the next year for sure. ...more
Muhammad Ali
Jan 27, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Matt Malin
Dec 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Short and sweet - surprisingly entertaining and fun. Not quite what I was expecting (in a good way) and also does provide some thought provoking ideas, particularly on considering "who really has the problem". ...more
Giacomo Debidda
Oct 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
Some valuable insights, so-so delivery.
I found some good takeaways in this book, and I liked some of its chapters.
Unfortunately, most of the chapters were too verbose for my taste and I quickly skimmed through them.
Alex Fürstenau
Dec 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An interesting read. You don't often ask myself whose problem it really is but you should. Is it really your problem or is someone (your boss, spouse, kids) transferring their problem to your problem? ...more
Tales Chaves
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The problem is not always what you think. Keep thinking. Very good book.
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: on-the-shelf
Characterisation of the classic 'have you tried restarting your computer' use case. Good for high school freshmen. Disliked the narrative format. ...more
Feb 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: programming
Nothing too earth shattering
Jul 27, 2018 rated it liked it
An easy short read on a problem solving but compared to other works by the same author didn't get as much as I had hoped. ...more
David Fitzgibbon
Aug 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Provisional three star. Lots of mildly witty stories, but hard to mine the practical advice inside on the first attempt.

Will update if I try it again.
Could stand to be updated for sure. And some editing with a vision for the finished product. It *could* be really useful if it had some love. But I do not see that happening.
Marcus Autenrieth
Insightful, funny, inspiring. Lot's of stories from the trenches to learn from, garnished with some theoretical background. Co-authored by the brilliant Jerry Weinberg. ...more
Dec 18, 2019 added it
Easy, breezy, interesting.
Wojciech Borkowski
Aug 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'd you're trying to understand problem dillema then grab that book and rethink that.

It's in a nutshell, looks like a great place to start.
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
A book about what is your problem and is it really your problem and are you sure that you have a correct definition of the problem? And... of course, if you solve it too fast no one will actually believe you that it's solved - and tons of other stuff related to problem solving.

In the beginning I thought it's not gonna be useful to even finish reading it, but it was entertaining and now that I finished it, I have to admit it was also enlightening.

I can only recommend you to read it if you didn't
Adam Wiggins
Oct 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gave-up
Discusses problem-solving in the abstract, with various flippant/goofy parables and images. Seems somewhat intended for a business audience, but I found it way too general to be useful.

Some quotes I liked:

- “designers — special people whose job it is to solve problems, in advance, for other people”

- “to get a fresh point of view, we can call upon almost anybody as our ‘consultant’”

But overall just couldn't get into it. Gave up a little over halfway through.
Sep 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
One particular thing to keep in mind when solving a problem: If you can't think of at least two other problems that the solution will cause, then you probably do not understand the problem well enough. Sure, you create other problems with the solution, but hopefully they are smaller, more tolerable, or easier to solve. ...more
Mar 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: at-office
This is a book anyone who is ever asked to solve a problem should read. It's a quick read, entertaining, and disarmingly insightful. Too many people go about addressing the issues they are presented with and not actually solving core problems, and this book is a good start to thinking about how to change that.
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