Dec 24, 2010

Is it a Puzzle or a Mystery?

Dave says that if you want to be rich, you have to do rich people stuff. If you want to be skinny, you have to do skinny people stuff. So I've been reading smart people stuff, hoping to become a smart person. (Side note... It doesn't appear to be working. I'm still pretty stupid...)

My current read is "What the Dog Saw" by Malcolm Gladwell. It's a collection of 19 essays he had previously released. So it's smart stuff broken up into little bite size stories. The only way it could be better is if he threw in some Archie comics.

So, onto the point of this whole thing. When looking at questions, problems, or hashing out life's issues; you have to be able to discern between puzzles & mysteries. If it's a puzzle, then it means you are still missing pieces of information that you must track down before you can make a decision. If it's a mystery, then you have all the information you need; you just need to do a correct analysis of it.

When investigating the Watergate Scandal, journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward were looking for missing pieces of information in their investigation. They found that information in the details provided by "Deep Throat." They were dealing with a puzzle.

When it came to the Enron Scandal, all the information was there in Enron's financial statements. Nothing was hidden. It just took someone to correctly analyze the data to realize the energy giant was in serious trouble. They were dealing with a mystery.

It's important to know what you are dealing with. If you treat a puzzle like it's a mystery, then you'll make a decision based on incomplete information. If you treat a mystery like it's a puzzle, then you'll fail to make a decision because you are still looking for answers that are not there. Misreading the situation will either lead to a bad decision, or being frozen.

So the first step will always be to decide if you are dealing with a puzzle and you need more data OR if you are dealing with a mystery and you need to analyze the data you've collected.

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