Two Counterintuitive Strategies for Solving Problems

Intuition and common sense sometimes prevent you from using strategies that really work. In this article, we talk about two counterintuitive strategies that can often be useful in solving problems.
Two Counterintuitive Strategies for Solving Problems

Last update: 08 September, 2021

Counterintuitive strategies involve methods of problem-solving that conflict with what intuition tells you, but that ultimately work, against all odds. They’re borne out of the idea that what you might see as common sense thinking sometimes misleads you.

It’s generally thought that superficial logic is the key that opens all doors and solves all problems. It employs some reasonable steps, ranging from identifying the difficulty, going through the approach of possible solutions, weighing each one up, and then choosing the most appropriate.

However, sometimes this doesn’t work. Indeed, as much as you follow the sequence, you might often be unable to find a suitable solution. This is when counterintuitive strategies can go a long way toward unblocking your mind and solving the problem at hand.

Counterintuitive strategies

When you’re faced with problems, especially if they affect you emotionally, you tend to adopt defensive strategies. These tend to be focused on deficiencies or difficulties. The idea is that by thinking and rethinking about the problem, you’ll find a viable solution. However, more often than not, this makes you anxious.

Anxiety is never your best advisor. In fact, returning to the same problem again and again and still not finding reasonable solutions, will most likely increase your anguish. Then, what we call brain fog appears. In other words, your brain becomes saturated. Furthermore, sometimes, the lack of solutions leads to new problems.

Your brain frequently needs sufficient patience to keep coming up with new strategies you haven’t used before. Indeed, a new situation can often make existing strategies useless. It’s at this point that counterintuitive strategies can be useful. Here are two of them:

Woman thinking

1. Blurring instead of focusing

Generally, in order to solve something, you’re supposed to focus on it until you fully understand it and find a way out. However, this strategy involves doing the direct opposite. In fact, the idea is that you’ll actually find the solution to a problem by leaving it in the background. In effect you “blur’ your mind.

This strategy suggests that you move your focus away from the problem. In fact, you leave the unsolved problem where it is. Rather than trying to structure a solution, the idea is to disperse it. This is accomplished, firstly, by moving away from the problem.

Secondly, broaden your perspective. To do this, you can ask other people who might’ve faced a similar difficulty in the past. As a matter of fact, having someone who’s successfully used what’s effectively a new strategy for you will undoubtedly provide you with an extra dose of confidence, which is sometimes necessary.

On the other hand, sometimes, someone might propose a ridiculous and totally inappropriate solution. However, their vision might well ignite the flame of inspiration which could well end up providing you with some helpful ideas for solving the problem.

It’s extremely likely that by effectively blurring your mind, you’ll reduce your anxiety. Indeed, a calm mind is much more capable of seeing and finding viable ways for overcoming mental obstacles.

Woman drinking coffee

2. Exaggerate it to the fullest

The second counterintuitive strategy is to use hyperbole, or exaggeration, in a constructive way. The idea here is to exaggerate the problem. This means assuming that its effects and consequences will be as serious as they could possibly be. Once again, the goal is to adopt a new perspective in problem-solving.

The mental exercise of exaggerating a problem is something that, on its own, helps you to see it in greater detail. In fact,  you might find aspects that you hadn’t noticed before. In effect, by exaggerating the problem to the maximum, you better understand the situation and are able to be more precise in your way of addressing it.

This counterintuitive strategy increases pressure. However, in this case, it’s the kind of pressure that can help you. It helps you to frame your thoughts about the problem in a better way and doesn’t cause the same effects as anxiety does.

Both counterintuitive strategies are particularly useful when you’re faced with puzzling problems. Also, when, despite thinking and thinking, you still can’t find a solution.

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  • Codina, P. L. S. (2010). El pensamiento y las ciencias de” la complejidad” y la comunicación. Quórum Académico, 7(1), 120-140.