One of my mentors, Keith Cunningham, tells the story of how he discovered the power of a simple business problem solving method.

I’m forever grateful to Keith for sharing his insight, as it’s become a vital tool for me over the years. And, now I want to pass it along to you.

Keith Cunningham is the rich dad in the book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. He’s a world class businessman and just a really solid guy.

In 1982, Keith was putting together a multi-million dollar business deal and flew to New York to raise money from Michael Milken, whose firm was making a killing in the bond market.

After Keith made his pitch for the new company and capital requirements, Mr. Milken thought for a brief moment and then buzzed his secretary on the intercom, asking her to check his calendar for his next scheduled “Thinking” time.

She responded with the time block and then Milken told Keith that he would have his answer the following day.

business problem solving method


Keith had never heard of “Thinking” time before and asked Milken about it. Milken replied that he scheduled his most important decisions during a few blocks of time each week. This time was used to explore important decisions from multiple angles and make decisions about how he wanted to move forward.

You’ll see that the basis for a successful business problem solving method lies in asking the right questions.

Keith quickly adopted this practice in his own life and expanded it over the years by building a list of 700+ questions that he referenced depending on the type of thinking he was conducting.

The best business problem solving method is best thought of as intentional time set aside to analyze a specific business or personal challenge or opportunity and make a decision.

Now, this is very, very important. When sitting down to think, remember that…

The Power is in the Question…Not the Answer

As Keith would say, “Finding the answer is good. Finding the right question is gold.”


Because finding the right question unlocks the best answer. Remember, your mind stores enormous amounts of data from all the experiences you’ve had and it’s pretty good at analyzing all that experiential data to spot the patterns. Spotting patterns leads to making decisions that result in a higher probability of success.

I find that this business problem solving method helps me when I feel stuck or have a challenge and want direction.

You can use it for areas of business like trends, competition, the economy (current or where it’s headed), sustainability or stability, your brand/niche, cashflow, expenses/liabilities, single points of failure, your target customer, etc.

If you’re wanting to adopt this practice into your life right away, I would encourage you to spend some Thinking Time on the ONE business challenge that is most pressing for you right now.

A Simplified Business Problem Solving Method

business problem solving methodBelow are the steps I suggest you follow when building your own business problem solving method:

  • 1. Clarify the Issue:

    Think about the problem you’re experiencing and write it down. Look at it and ask yourself, “Is this the real problem or is there something else going on behind this?” Do this until you narrow down the problem to its source.

  • 2. Check the Facts:

    Assess the actual facts from the story that you may be telling yourself about the situation. In other words, are the facts real or are you building a story around the situation because of your beliefs, conditioning or because there is pain you don’t want to feel.

  • 3. Determine the Cost vs. Benefit:

    Write down what the problem is costing you and what benefit you will receive by solving this problem. This is especially helpful if you encounter a problem where there is some tension around solving it…meaning that part of you wants to resolve it and part of you doesn’t.

  • 4. Think:

    Spend time asking the questions that will give you the answers you need to move forward. It’s most helpful to ask and answer only ONE question at a time. You are done with this step when you have decided on ONE answer or have a ranked list of actions.

  • 5. Plan and Execute:

    Write down your plan moving forward. Who is doing what and when are they doing it? Are any resources needed? Lastly, schedule the execution of your plan.

The “Rules” for a Better Business Problem Solving Method

  • No Interruptions – Turn off your cell phone, no checking email or browsing on computer. Lock the door; no one comes in. This time is devoted to “thinking” only.
  • Laser Focused – You are only focused on brainstorming around ONE question at a time.
  • Generate Ideas – If brainstorming, write down every answer that comes to mind. No filtering ideas. No rating ideas.
  • One Third – Just know that about a third of your ideas will be garbage. A third might have been found without Business Problem Solving . The last third will be actionable, implementable, and frequently sometimes genius.

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

— Albert Einstein

5 Tips to Improve Your Better Business Problem Solving Method

For those of you that already have a process in place, here are some tips to move your from problem to idea generation more succinctly.

  1. Schedule regular Business Problem Solving on your calendar, like every Thursday at 4pm. Start with 10 to 30 minutes.
  2. Have a space where you write down the questions you want to think about and answer. You’ll get better results if you can carefully craft the question beforehand.
  3. Use a specific location, pen, and journal during this time. As you get better at it, look for more ways to “Ritualize” the process.
  4. When going into your Business Problem Solving Method, put yourself in State. With your eyes closed, spend 2 minutes relaxing and tapping into your most focused and alert self. Perhaps, there’s even another person (living or past) who you channel, because their energy matches the state you want in this moment.
  5. Remember that Thinking is like a muscle and you get stronger at it by training your brain and doing it!

Being able to solve problems is one of the most crucially needed skill sets in business today. You can make yourself indispensable by becoming THE person that people approach when they have a problem. If problem solving is slow for you or anything less than exhilarating, dive deeper into problem solving and get the results you want most in your life.