I like two Georges’ ways of thinking, so I’ve taken note of them here.

From George Pólya’s method for mathematical problem solving:

1 Understand the problem

What is the unknown?

What are the data?

What is the condition?

Can the problem be solved?

2 Assumptions

What can you or need you assume?

What shouldn’t you assume?

Have you made subconscious assumptions?

3 Devising a plan of attack

Have you seen this or a related problem before?

Have you seen a similar unknown before?

Can you restate the problem?

If you can’t solve this problem, can you solve a similar or simpler problem?

4 Aftermath

Are you sure of the solution? Can you see it at a glance?

Did you use all the data? the whole condition?

Can you get the same solution another way?

Are there other valid solutions?

Can you apply the solution or method to another problem?

Was this a satisfying problem to solve?

I was lucky to have a different George, George Heilmeier, as my boss’ boss back when I worked at TI’s Artificial Intelligence Lab in the 80s, but I had no idea how famous or important he really was. I just knew he was cool.

From George Heilmeier’s method for solving research challenges:

What are you trying to do? Articulate your objectives using absolutely no jargon.

How is it done today, and what are the limits of current practice?

What is new in your approach and why do you think it will be successful?

Who cares? If you are successful, what difference will it make?

What are the risks?

How much will it cost?

How long will it take?

What are the mid-term and final “exams” to check for success?

Curious about how to keep a vision while staying focused on metrics?Me too. Watch a 3-minute video on notes I took while hanging out with Laura Martini.