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Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  2,634 ratings  ·  371 reviews
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
Hardcover, 111 pages
Published March 5th 2009 by Portfolio (first published June 28th 2007)
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Rizky Januar
Apr 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is about how to solve problems in our daily lives. The contents are quite simple, short, and well presented.
You'll find this book interesting because we always face problems everyday and we have to overcome them. After reading it, you'll think that you are already using the methods presented in the book. But, you may be using them unconsciously and in unstructured ways. This book explains these problem solving methods with three interesting case studies. In each case study, you'll fin
Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: teens, parents, teachers
No wonder Japan is such a leading country in many fields! A wise investment in school kids would guarantee them with a bright future, and that's exactly what this book is aiming at. The strategies offered by Watanabe may seem quite simple and familiar and one may not consider them as fruitful, yet one should put them into practice to realize their effectiveness. Through three case studies presented in order to illuminate the decision-making process, the Eisenhower matrix is utilized which is a r ...more
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
Did I attend too many of those youth leadership seminars as a teenager? Because this book didn't seem to contain any information I hadn't heard before. They're all good ideas, just nothing new to me, and new is what I was hoping for.
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ken Watanabe originally wrote Problem Solving 101 for Japanese schoolchildren .

I can imagine Izuku Midoriya's notebooks are like this. So determined and simple.

I mean, can you really teach children Indonesian at that to write something down and DO THE MATH to achieve their goals?? I just can't imagine that. The adults barely make this kind of problem solving. I am probably just projecting since I administrate my office's management risk and the higher ups basically don't care about all thos
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, 2017
What a remarkably clever book! Quite simply this book promotes the learning of problem solving skills through detailed examples and easy to follow instructions. This has diagrams to help emphasize the techniques Ken is trying to teach. It's a fun book. I love how it completely thorough it is. It takes the steps that normal common sense has and expands it to a system that gets much better results.
Dakshesh Thacker
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
As a teacher, I undertook a lot of research to try and build critical thinking and problem solving, two essential 21st century skills, in the students whom I taught Mathematics for two years. As a consultant I have been seeking a 101 on problem solving which strips some of the common tools to the bare fundamentals and brings in an almost expository perspective to the tools.
Reading this book has proved to be the marriage of both the requirements. Watanbe is a former McKinsey consultant who has p
Aug 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Amazing Amazing Amazing Amazing Amazing Amazing Amazing Amazing Amazing Amazing Amazing Amazing Amazing Amazing Amazing Amazing AMAZING !

Simply an utter brilliance !

Problem-Solving 101 is a must-read book written by a Japanese author. Ken Watanabe used to work as a business consultant at Mckinsey & Company, but then he shifted to the education field, specifically that of children. The book was written for kids but it turned to be an international bestseller especially for business!

The book is p
Ye Yao
Dec 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
It's a case book for children ! Simply, good, not dry and practical. Think let children read it is better
Santiago Ortiz
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
First book I ever tag with as [business] and [kids]! (…and [data]) It's actually a sort of pre-introduction to data science.
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
It's quite entertaining and fit well into my current mental model. It takes some hours to read and reflect on the book. Good ROI.

The structure of the book is not cleared and the content is suitable for adult, not kid.
Ahmad Munjin
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Playful yet insightful book. It introduces a systematic framework of thinking for problem solving through stories and simulations that are very close to our daily lives. Despite its entertaining impression, later I found out that the book explains a fundamental method of thinking that's even used to solve complex problems by big corporations.
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: great-courses
The book was written for schoolchildren, to solve everyday problems. But I think that the techniques are more for solving problems that are not ordinary and not everyday. And I cannot envision kids being sufficiently intellectually mature and disciplined to sit down and apply these techniques.

For example, the methods all involve charting techniques, such as flowcharts and decision trees, and asking precise questions inside those charts. These are excellent techniques. But do you see pre-high sch
Carol Littlejohn
Oct 10, 2009 rated it liked it
First published in Japan in 2007, the author provides practical tips for problem solving. He introduces the Mushroom Lovers, a band that needs to find an audience; John the Octopus wants to become a famous animator and director; Kiwi wants to improve her soccer game. The illustrations by Alan Sanders are a bit childlike, but the approach is fun and useful for all ages.
Huy Pham
Jan 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
If you ever think about consulting/problem-solving in life, this book provides basic tools and frameworks to structure your thinking process effectively.

Written in a simple, illustrative style, the book is handy in daily life.
Ami Iida
May 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: framework
You need not read it .
Andy Wijaya
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is exceptionally brilliant. We (our country) is indeed need to develop not only competency-based but also problem-solving based curriculum for our education, for delivering a set of fundamental problem-solving skills for children (for adults as well).

We need more book like this, an easy-to-grasp nonfiction book but still it is applicable for daily life. Bravo Ken Watanabe.
Nguyễn Hùng  Tuấn
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A concise book with realistic, representative problems that gave me good understanding of the author's idea. It reminds me of how lazy I am with solving problems as seriously as the book mentions.

Despite its target for children, I think this is a great book for adults in general, giving you a baseline on how problem-solving works.
Naufal Muhammad
May 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Interesting stories to make the tools memorable and applicable. Can't wait to use these tools (and problem-solving mindset) in my daily life. Simple yet profound.

If someone master this from a young age, he/she will have a driven and meaningful life ahead.
Lina Afriana
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A great book with very practical example. Definitely a must read for all people as it covers a lot cases in daily life and how we could solve it better
Renata Kumala
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So good! Someone should translate it to all languages and send it to all schools in the universe omg!!! Wish I read this when I was still 8 yo!
Jul 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: how-to, non-fiction
This book is used as a textbook in Japanese grade schools to help children learn approaches to creative problem solving. The ideas start simply, then, step-by-step, become more challenging. The base it uses is the simple yes/no choice diagram. It builds on that to include logic trees, problem-solving design plan, hypothesis pyramid, and evaluation.
The examples are rock bands, an octopus who wants a computer, and other child-friendly examples.
Whenever I teach a difficult topic, I order books fo
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Its a cute little book that is a good size and minces no words. The writing seemed childish at first, but it really isn’t. The “case studies” do an excellent job in demonstrating the solutions proposed. There isn’t exactly new information in here, but it’s nice to read the author walk us through each step and explain the best way to proceed. Funny how much of what he wrote overlapped with the book Grit by Angela Duckworth.

Problem solving tools:
Logic tree
Yes/no tree
Problem-solving design plan
Adih Respati
Jul 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This Ken Watanabe (not the actor. This one is younger and has more hair on his head!) once worked for McKinsey Consultant, and decided to resign to venture on writing a book on basic problem solving guide for children as his contribution following the announcement of the Ministry of Education that Japan education was to shift from memorization-focused to problem-solving-focused. The result was a best-seller not only for children market, but all demographic reach (originally released in Japan two ...more
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
A short, clear, simple and to-the-point book about how to solve a problem with real-life examples.
3 examples present 3 problems most of us may face and how to break down and solve the problem:
1. Business problem: how to find the root cause and solve with quantity data support
2. How to achieve your dream: close the gap between reality and goal
3. How to make a good choice: Compare and collect data to have a big picture before jumping into a quick decision
Bar Franek
Oct 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone, your kids
Amazing little book. You can read it in an hour.

It's short, but the content is jam-packed with great strategies anyone can implement, even children. You'd think problem solving, especially some of the techniques outlined in this book, are "common sense" but when you think about it - they're really not. In fact, when do we actually learn "problem solving?" There's no class or course for during our education, so we go through life picking it up as we go along.

This book outlines a fairly simple g
Jock Mcclees
I have just joined Goodreads and it has been a while since I read the book so I am a bit fuzzy. It is a short book written in a simple straightforward way. The author is a business school grad and he worked for one of the top management consulting companies. He takes you through the main problem solving techniques that are taught at B schools and used at management consulting companies.

He breaks them down in a way that is easy to understand and will give you new powerful tools to help solve prob
Shawn Buckle
Dec 09, 2011 rated it liked it
I am glad this book exists. Many, especially the youthful cohort, could really benefit from it. Watanbe presents three basic problems or goals and shows how to rightfully solution them using thought-out, processed thinking. He shows how to use tools like logic trees, pro/con analysis, four quadrant matrix, hypothesis pyramids to diagnose problems in an easy-to-understand way (the book is written for kids, mind you). While the problems are geared towards those in which kids would face, it shows h ...more
Masatoshi Nishimura
Mar 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
Something to tell everyone. This book is meant to be practiced!

To be honest, I was bored or didn't feel they were all that new while reading it. But, I thought maybe I should try out one of his method, might as well. and WOW, it helps. I feel 10 times smarter. I think his short story telling approach helps me act upon. Thanks!
Arani Satgunaseelan
Apr 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A simple and fun book that actually makes you think after as you go about making decisions for work and life. Highly recommended especially if you're looking to just re-program your thinking a little.
Lani M
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
"If you never take action, you'll never get any feedback on your attempts and without feedback, you'll never grow as a problem solving kid. When you do take action, every result is an opportunity to reflect and learn valuable lessons."
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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 own education, entertainment, and media company, Delta Studio.


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“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.” 0 likes
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