Perceive your problem from different levels of abstraction.
Abstraction is one of the basic principles used for restructuring problems. By perceiving your problem from different levels of abstraction you may change the implications of the problem itself.
Working “up” the hierarchy to a more general point-of-view allows you expand out into new areas not included in your problem. You then move “down” and focus on interesting parts within these new areas.
Use any level of abstraction as an entry point into your hierarchy to start this process (see Drill Down). Then repeat the process until all of the levels of abstraction have been explored.
The goal here is to understand the global hierarchical relationships between the more general problems and the more specific problems that are related to, or are in close proximity to, your problem.
To perform Hierarchical Abstraction:
Step 1: Write your Problem Statement in the middle of a blank piece of paper.
Step 2: Write the categories of larger or more general problems, that your problem is a member of, in the lines above your problem statement.
Step 3: Write the sub-sets of your problem (or sub-problems) below your problem statement.
Step 4: Sequence the items so that the lower items are all sub-sets of the ones higher up.
Step 5: Now, see if you can begin developing a “branching” type structure.
Step 6: Take one of the more general problems (that your problem is a member of) and let yourself expand out into new areas.
Focus on the specific parts of these new areas (i.e. the parts that are included in the larger problem but NOT included in your problem). Look for changes in the implications of your problem.
Would any extra benefits flow from solving the higher level problem?
Step 7: Now, do the same process for one of the sub-problems. “Move up” to a more general problem, that the sub-problem is a member of (but that your problem is NOT a part of). Allow yourself expand out into new areas.
Focus on the specific new parts of these new areas (i.e. the parts that are included in the more general problem but NOT included in the sub-problem).
Step 8: Repeat this process for all the levels of abstraction in your problem.