Math Can Teach You Something

When I sat down to write, all the questions, thoughts and ideas seemed to be gone.

“What’s on your mind?” The sneaky Facebook question popped to my mind. What’s on my mind? What a brilliant question. I like questions. Something to think about. And I like thinking. Writing is a way of thinking. When I start to write I don’t know where it will bring me. We’ll find out in a few minutes.

I ask a lot of questions. I’m glad I got my curiosity and creativity back. Sometimes I wonder, what shall I do with all these questions and ideas? I’d like to make use of them. I often think that startups create lots of applications, although, do they solve real problems that people have? Maybe what, we, startup people, need is the better methods for problem solving? How do we know what people need?

Last month I met JC (I like using abbreviations instead of real names in my writings). We spoke about innovation and technology. And systematic problem solving. One of the problems we discussed was synthesis. When we go through a pile of ideas, how do you find an idea which is good enough?

I decided to look for answers in math. A smiley professor from an introductory video got me: “Thinking is hard, people want magic. Thinking creates magic.”. I spent quite a few hours going through the module 1. It was frustrating. An inner fight against my mind when trying to solve a quiz.

I learned a few things:

  1. Struggle leads to new ideas. You develop new concepts.
  2. Rule 1: Try something and see if it works.
  3. Draw a picture. Situation “Now “and Situation “Future”. Have concrete situations. Be specific and systematic. Take steps you can take. What do you need to know at each step?
  4. Cannot find a solution? Start from scratch.
  5. Try something what is not a smart idea and see consequences.
  6. Drawing helps to find a solution. List all the good and bad solutions and explain why they are good or bad.
  7. Be methodical. Explore all the possibilities. Keep track of all your learnings.
  8. Have a positive attitude. Learning (problem solving) is not a torture. “We don’t want pain.”
  9. Go and try things.

These might seem obvious but when you go through an actual struggle of trying to solve a puzzle, they mean so much more. What we hear in startups is “fail fast”. Solving a puzzle and having a math wizard showing how to do it simpler speaks to me so much more than “fail fast”. Well we never ask a question: “What’s the process of failure?”, right? It’s an important question to ask, I think. Maybe more people would try following their passions, setting up companies, failing and trying again.

And that’s how we innovate, right?

I’ll see how my math course goes in the next few weeks and what’s an impact on my thinking habits.

Stay tuned!

Ruta

P.S. “Being methodical embraces failure, and then failure leads to innovation.”

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