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What’s the Problem?

Living in a time of this world's history with lots of tough problems, people are looking for someone who can solve those problems. What is becoming increasingly clear is that the people on whom we're counting to provide answers don't even recognize what the real problems are. It's maddening to listen to people discuss ways to solve various problems when it's obvious that their solutions show their total lack of understanding of the root problems. They offer Band-aids for one part of the body when major surgery on another part of the body is what's actually needed.

Today's iv is several jokes that illustrate different aspects of not fully understanding the problem at hand.

When a customer left his cell phone in my store, I scrolled through his saved numbers, stopped at "Mom," and pushed send. When his mother answered, I explained to her what happened.

"Thank you, young man. Don't worry," she said, "I'll take care of it."

A few minutes later, the cell phone rang. It was "Mom."

"Martin," she said, "you left your cell phone at the convenience store."


I tell you, women drivers are a hazard to traffic. Driving along at 65 mph on the interstate on my way to work this morning, I look over to my left and there's this woman passing me in a Mustang, with her face up next to her rear view mirror putting on her eye liner!

I look away for a couple seconds and when I look back she's halfway over into my lane. It scared me so bad, first I dropped my phone, and then my electric shaver almost ended up in my coffee."


A software engineer, a hardware engineer, and a departmental manager were on their way to a meeting in Switzerland. They were driving down a steep mountain road when suddenly the brakes on their car failed. The car careened almost out of control down the road, bouncing off the crash barriers, until it miraculously ground to a halt, scraping along the mountainside.

The car's occupants, shaken but unhurt, now had a problem: they were stuck halfway down a mountain in a car with no brakes. What were they to do?

"I know", said the departmental manager, "Let's have a meeting, propose a vision, formulate a mission statement, define some goals, and by a process of continuous improvement find a solution to the critical problems, and we can be on our way!"

"No, no", said the hardware engineer, "That will take far too long, and besides, that method has never worked before. I've got my Swiss Army knife with me, and in no time at all I can strip down the car's braking system, isolate the fault, fix it, and we can be on our way."

"Well", said the software engineer, "Before we do anything, I think we should push the car back up the road and see if it happens again."


John was on duty as an emergency room technician, when a father brought in his son who had poked a tire from one of his toy trucks up his nose. The man was embarrassed, but he assured him this was something kids often do. John quickly removed the tire and they were on their way.

A few minutes later, the father was back in the ER, asking to talk to John in private. Mystified, he led him to an examining room.

"While we were on our way home," he began, "I was looking at that little tire and wondering how on earth did my son get this thing stuck up his nose and...."

It took just a few seconds to get the tire out of the dad's nose.


Now that we've laughed at some other people's problem solving skills, let's test your powers of observation in solving the puzzle below. Don't cheat! Try to figure this out before you scroll down to below the asterisks.

You're driving a bus that is leaving from Pennsylvania and ending up in New York.

To start off with, there were 32 passengers on the bus.

At the next bus stop, 11 people get off and 9 people get on.

At the next bus stop, 2 people get off and 2 people get on.

At the next bus stop, 12 people get on and 16 people get off.

At the next bus stop, 5 people get on and 3 people get off.

OK, now that you've worked your way through the problem, below is the question to which we need an answer. No looking back to the beginning of the problem or looking ahead at the solution — don't cheat!




What color are the bus driver's eyes?






The key to understanding a problem is focusing on the right information.

If we assume it is critical to keep track of the number of people getting on and off the bus, we focus on information that turns out to be unessential. It distracts us from the important information.

The answer to the problem is found in the first sentence. You are driving the bus so the color is of course the color of your eyes.

If you didn't get it right, don't worry. The majority of people don't answer correctly. If you got it right, you have some exceptional problem solving skills ... or your cheated. 🙂


Well, how did you do? Did you come up with the right eye color on that driver? Do you agree with what I say about today's "problem solvers," especially as the 2012 election season is ramping up?


"People will accept your ideas much more readily if you tell them that Benjamin Franklin said it first." — Anonymous

"You can't believe most of the quotes you read on the Internet." — Abraham Lincoln

=^..^= =^..^=

When the only tool you own is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail.

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6 Comments on “What’s the Problem?”

  1. #1 Michael
    on Jul 25th, 2012 at 10:26 am

    I did get the question right but it just so happened that I did. When I began to see that people were getting on and off the bus I noticed that it was describing “passengers” yet the bus driver may not be considered a passenger so I looked at the first line again and saw that I was the driver so I was keeping the driver in mind while doing the calculations.

  2. #2 ray
    on Jul 28th, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    I got it wrong – maybe because I am not in Pennsylvania.

  3. #3 Vikki
    on Jul 30th, 2012 at 11:39 am

    As I was going to St. Ives I met a man with seven wives,
    Each wife had seven sacks, each sack had seven cats,
    Each cat had seven kits: kits, cats, sacks and wives,
    How many were going to St. Ives?

  4. #4 Laura
    on Jul 31st, 2012 at 11:56 am

    To Vicki~

    2401 kits, 343 cats, 49 sacks, 7 wives, that foolish man . . . and me.

    But tell me–how do they expect all those cats to stay put? I hope they’re all declawed, or those poor women are in for it!

    On second thought . . . it says he *had* 7 wives, but not that he brought them along. Maybe just two are going to St. Ives? This story makes a good riddle!

    To IVman~

    I enjoyed this post (especially the Mustang story . . . Daniel is learning to drive!). Hope you have a great school year!

  5. #5 Vikki
    on Aug 1st, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Laura, read it again. While I was going to St. Ives, I being the key word…. The rest of the people, sacks and cats were going the other way :0)

  6. #6 Laura
    on Aug 2nd, 2012 at 10:37 am


    Thanks for the feedback . . . I had figured that I was walking quickly enough to catch up with the curious entourage!