December 14, 2008

Solve Problems Like A Magician: Four Steps from Dai Vernon via David Ben

Magic has universal appeal. I don’t believe in magic in the way that I describe in my books, but I’d love it to be real.
--- J.K. Rowling

How can you make seemingly impossible problems disappear? By solving them. Like a magician.

At a recent conference, David Ben performed some magic --- mainly with cards. He even revealed how he did some of the tricks (what he called "effects"). More importantly, he shared a simple, classic process you can use to solve your problems.

The Four Steps
Dai Vernon, an influential Canadian magician (1894 - 1992), identified four steps for solving problems
  1. define the objective
  2. generate solutions
  3. evaluate the solutions
  4. implement the solution
These "obvious" steps are useful for many purposes. And somewhat dull. Until seen from the perspective of a magician. Let's assume that you are looking at a financial product or service with the help of an advisor.

Define The Objective
In magic, you start by defining the effect you want to create. Your objective may change during this process because you may not know what you really want. You may start with a vague goal and then refine it by digging deeper.

For example, maybe you want to be "wealthy". Drilling down, that may mean "financial independence". That may mean retiring at a specific age. That may mean a specific financial goal. That may lead to plans to reach the target dollar amount.

Generate Solutions
You might call this "brainstorming". Quantity counts. You want lots of ideas. Suspend your negative thinking and open your mind to new ideas. Our preconceived ideas affect the outcomes.
David asked this question: How would you put 36 cubes of sugar into three cups of coffee so there's an odd amount of sugar in each cup?
Think about this. Share your answer in a Comment. I'll post the answer on Monday morning.

Evaluate The Solutions
As a former tax lawyer, David reminded us that pigs get fat but hogs get slaughtered. This means that ideas that technically follow the law must still pass the "smell test". Charitable giving provides a great example. If you get a tax receipt several times larger than your donation, be on your guard.

What is too-good-to-be-true? Sometimes you can't tell. Your advisor helps by screening out flaky ideas. Generally, the simplest solutions work best. Easier to understand. Easier to explain.
The simpler the solution, the more that it will mean.
--- The Strawbs, Lemon Pie
Your experience is your greatest advantage. The same applies for your advisor. Experience isn't always valued, though (see Your Car Mechanic: Paying For Effort or Results?). That's too bad.

Implement The Solution
Detail makes for perfection, but perfection is no detail.
--- Leonardo da Vinci
Like talk, ideas are cheap because supply surpasses demand. Proper implementation is key. Simple ideas are often difficult to implement properly. You wouldn't generally know (or care) what takes place in the background.

David defined magic as the summation of hundreds of apparently inconsequential details. You can probably say the same for craft. This is certainly true for sales, especially for intangibles like financial products or services.

Different Perspectives
You will sweat. David Ben pointed out that you can perspire in front of your audience or in private. Naturally, the best place is while you're practicing in private.

How interesting to get perspectives from a tax lawyer turned magician. The magic behind the magic is a process we can also choose to use.


1 comment:

Promod said...

How would you put 36 cubes of sugar into three cups of coffee so there's an odd amount of sugar in each cup?

Here's the answer: 1 / 1 / 34

The first two numbers are odd in the numerical sense (not evenly divisible by 2). What about 34? You'll agree that's an odd (as in unusual) amount of sugar for a cup of coffee.

By expanding our definitions, we can get different answers.