I graduated from an experimental school of architecture called SCI-Arc. It is led by practicing architects, many of which are in the “Starchitect” category. There were no grades, no traditional classrooms and at the end of the week we had “Fridays at 5” where a different studio would host happy hour for the students and professors. The curriculum did not teach you how to draw, how to design buildings or how to budget a project. The school taught us how to solve problems and drilled into us the micro-processes needed to eat away at any issue, small bite after small bite.  In each design studio, we were faced with monumental tasks to solve and then had to present our solutions to world-renowned architects with little-to-no sleep. What better way to learn problem solving and resolution skills, right? Here are a few of my takeaways from a Masters degree in Architecture with regards to problem solving:

1. There is a solution, it’s just not right under your nose.

If Google doesn’t find you the answer, don’t panic. You are a professional and your typical work function is (fundamentally) to solve problems. You got this…isolate the issues, write down options and filter out the nonsense. If you absolute value the real issue, you will gain clarity to see there are probably only a few options to go with.

2. Be cool under pressure. 

Worrying won’t solve the problem. Understanding that there is a solution and you have the wherewithal to solve it is half of the battle. Relax, you got this.

3. Write it down. 

I always used to carry a sketchbook. Now I carry an iPad. Putting something in writing makes it real. If you are like me, it also helps you to remember what you thought of. You are not as smart as you think when it comes to remembering everything….write it down.

4. Your problem is not unique and singular. 

No matter what, there has been your same problem somewhere in time and space. Not that you have to follow the same path to resolution, but knowing that you are not universally unique with your problems will help you research the options for an answer.

5. Several hands make a light load. 

Working with a team to come to resolution can accomplish one of two things. It can reinforce that you came up with the right answer or it can make your solution better. Doesn’t sound like there is a downside, does there? Because there is not!

Consider these lessons a savings of over $100,000 and 2.5 years of graduate school!

Good luck and keep your hard hat tight.