Most of us are good at applying what we have seen and done in the past. A rarer skill is doing things for the first time. Analyzing problems in new contexts and in new ways. With the increasing pace of change, being quick to learn and apply first time solutions is becoming a crucial skill. It involves taking risks, being less than perfect, discarding the past, going against the grain, and cutting new paths. Begin by asking questions, keep asking why, see how many causes you can come up with, look for patterns, get others with different backgrounds to analyze and make sense with you. The bottom line is to reduce your insights to principles or rules of thumb you think might be repeatable. Asking more questions early helps you rethink the problem and come to more and different solutions.
Early solutions are not likely to be the best. Many studies show that the second or third try is when we really understand the underlying dynamics of problems. Set aside 50% of the time for questions and problem definition, and the last 50% for solutions don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis. Once you derive at multiple solutions evaluate and identify the most robust/appropriate solution that would directly address the key underlying principle of the problem. Remember that the most successful innovators are those who try lots of quick, inexpensive experiments to increase the chances of success. Do the easiest step you can to get you closer to the solution. Then the next easiest. Repeat until done.