At The Alliance Labs we are always learning. All of us, from the top down to the bottom up and side to side, we are always learning. We’ve found sometimes a framework is helpful to guide, and essentially limit, what we are trying to learn. For example, let’s say I am working on a style sheet for a web page and the padding instruction that I think should work isn’t working. What do I do then? Well, I am undisciplined, so I spend then next 2 hours trying to figure it out, and as happens so many times, still no solution.

This is a perfect time for something we call the Try Try then Ask Why framework. You start it once you notice you’re stuck on a problem. The next 45 minutes are going to save you 2-6 hours of frustration. Set a timer for 15 minutes and set yourself to solving the problem. If no solution appears in 15 minutes you jump on the Internet and start searching. You only get 15 minutes of this, and you must stop if you still can’t find the solution. The final step after two tries is to “ask why.”
For my web page example, I’m going to try to fix the padding all by myself for 15 minutes. If after only 15 minutes I am still stuck, I reset the timer for another 15 minutes and head to the Internet and search out various solutions. I read and try as many tricks and hacks as I can, but if nothing works when the timer dings, I stop. Now I take the remaining 15 minutes to formulate the problem into a question (“the padding is set to 10px but it won’t display! Why?!!!) I encourage the use of exclamation points as evidence of passion and frustration. My main task now is to stop and ask my mentor the question. This is the hardest part. It is the smarter step, but it takes discipline and humility.

It is difficult to stop and admit you don’t know something. It is far more rewarding, seemingly, to find the solution even if it takes all night. I agree. I’ve been there many times. It is rewarding, but it isn’t smarter. The smart thing to do is be more efficient with your learning. Remember, you are part of a team, a web of relationships, people who are not looking for a hero, they are looking for a disciplined collaborator who isn’t afraid to ask.

Pro tip: enter into the google search bar “timer 15 minutes” and a countdown will begin when you hit enter.