The inventor’s paradox

I’ve come across George Pólya recently who defines the ‘inventor’s paradox’ as the increased likelihood of finding a solution to a specific problem by finding a solution to a general problem, which tends to be easier to find and simpler to implement.

So in other words, finding a general solution to a general problem can be much more efficient than finding a specific solution to a specific solution. Two birds, one stone.

Initially concerned with mathematics and programming, this approach can be applied to most sorts of decision making – where applicable of course.

I sometimes see being overloaded with information and heavily relying on data, which essentially only displays a small portion to an issue, too costly with regards to time, money and resources. Weighing up the risk associated with taking the inventor’s paradox approach is the first step followed by an understanding that this isn’t cutting corners; it’s making efficient use of time relative and comparative to the desired solution.

Have you been thinking too much on a specific solution that solves a specific problem, when a more broad and general approach can solve this, and many other problems?