How I Solve Problems : Abstraction Stacks

In advising a friend today that is getting into a new segment of his industry that he knows nothing about and feels overwhelmed, I had an epiphany of sorts. In the articulation of my advice, I came to the understanding that tackling something new and different is all about getting the abstraction right.

If you can slide up and down on an imaginary scale of details to abstractions, then you can structure your approach to tackling really any new endeavor that you are not familiar with. The more differences there are from your previous domain of experience and knowledge, then the higher up you need to go on the Abstraction Stack.

Keep going until you feel comfortable with the entire abstraction. This is most likely going to be a level where you can clearly and easily enumerate things that require investigation and research to obtain enough knowledge to move down a layer in Abstraction Stack.

Just getting to the point where you have a list of topics that you can list on a piece of paper (or some other digital form of a list) -- yes, get it out of your head and recorded somewhere you trust -- is very liberating. From here you can decide to delegate certain topics to others (if the research is intense and you only need summary level information as a result of the research) or tackle them yourself.

This is how I have approached transitions to different industries and technologies. Maybe it's just how my brain works. Maybe this is nothing knew at all and complete common sense and it has just taking me this long to have the self-realization. But just maybe, it might be of some help and thus I risk posting something that could be remanded to the "Master of the Obvious" pile.