Team Working. Many problems are best defined and solved with the input of other people. Team working may sound like a 'work thing' but it is just as important at home and school as well as in the workplace. See our Team-Working page for more. Emotional Intelligence. Emotional intelligence, the ability to recognise the emotions of yourself and others, will help guide you to an appropriate solution.
See our Emotional Intelligence pages for more. Risk Management. Solving a problem involves a certain amount of risk - this risk needs to be weighed up against not solving the problem. You may find our Risk Management page useful. Decision Making. Problem solving and decision making are closely related skills, and making a decision is an important part of the problem solving process as you will often be faced with various options and alternatives.
See Decision Making for more. The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year. What is a Problem? We are constantly exposed to opportunities in life, at work, at school and at home. However many opportunities are missed or not taken full advantage of. Often we are unsure how to take advantage of an opportunity and create barriers - reasons why we can't take advantage. These barriers can turn a potentially positive situation into a negative one, a problem.
Are we missing the 'big problem'? It is human nature to notice and focus on small, easy to solve problems but much harder to work on the big problems that may be causing some of the smaller ones. It's useful to consider the following questions when faced with a problem. Is the problem real or perceived? Look at potential causes for the problem It's amazing how much you don't know about what you don't know.
Therefore, in this phase, it's critical to get input from other people who notice the problem and who are effected by it. It's often useful to collect input from other individuals one at a time at least at first. Otherwise, people tend to be inhibited about offering their impressions of the real causes of problems.
Write down what your opinions and what you've heard from others. Regarding what you think might be performance problems associated with an employee, it's often useful to seek advice from a peer or your supervisor in order to verify your impression of the problem. Write down a description of the cause of the problem and in terms of what is happening, where, when, how, with whom and why.
Brainstorm for solutions to the problem. Very simply put, brainstorming is collecting as many ideas as possible, then screening them to find the best idea. It's critical when collecting the ideas to not pass any judgment on the ideas -- just write them down as you hear them. A wonderful set of skills used to identify the underlying cause of issues is Systems Thinking. Select an approach to resolve the problem When selecting the best approach, consider: Which approach is the most likely to solve the problem for the long term?
Which approach is the most realistic to accomplish for now? Do you have the resources? Are they affordable? Do you have enough time to implement the approach?
What is the extent of risk associated with each alternative? The nature of this step, in particular, in the problem solving process is why problem solving and decision making are highly integrated. Plan the implementation of the best alternative this is your action plan Carefully consider "What will the situation look like when the problem is solved? What systems or processes should be changed in your organization, for example, a new policy or procedure?
Don't resort to solutions where someone is "just going to try harder". How will you know if the steps are being followed or not? How much time will you need to implement the solution? Write a schedule that includes the start and stop times, and when you expect to see certain indicators of success. The group may use tools, such as a Gantt chart, timeline or log frame. Step Six: Evaluate the Outcome The project implementation now needs to be monitored by the group to ensure their recommendations are followed.
Monitoring includes checking: Milestones are met Costs are contained Necessary work is completed Many working groups skip Step Six as they believe that the project itself will cover the issues above, but this often results in the desired outcome not being achieved.
Effective groups designate feedback mechanisms to detect if the project is going off course. They also ensure the project is not introducing new problems.
This step relies on: The collection of data Regular updates from the Project Manager Challenging progress and actions when necessary In Step Six, as the results of the project emerge, evaluation helps the group decide if they need to return to a previous step or continue with the implementation. Once the solution goes live, the PS group should continue to monitor the solutions progress, and be prepared to re-initiate the Six Step process when it is required.
Overall, the Six Step method is a simple and reliable way to solve a problem. Using a creative, analytical approach to problem solving is an intuitive and reliable process. It helps keep groups on track, and enables a thorough investigation of the problem and solution search. It involves implementers and users, and finds a justifiable, monitorable solution based on data.
Each step must be completed before moving on to the next step. However, the steps are repeatable. Functional fixedness is very closely related to this as previously mentioned. This can be done intentionally and or unintentionally, but for the most part it seems as if this process to problem solving is done in an unintentional way.
Functional fixedness can affect problem solvers in at least two particular ways. The first is with regards to time, as functional fixedness causes people to use more time than necessary to solve any given problem. Secondly, functional fixedness often causes solvers to make more attempts to solve a problem than they would have made if they were not experiencing this cognitive barrier.
In the worst case, functional fixedness can completely prevent a person from realizing a solution to a problem. Functional fixedness is a commonplace occurrence, which affects the lives of many people. Unnecessary constraints[ edit ] Unnecessary constraints are another very common barrier that people face while attempting to problem-solve. This particular phenomenon occurs when the subject, trying to solve the problem subconsciously, places boundaries on the task at hand, which in turn forces him or her to strain to be more innovative in their thinking.
The solver hits a barrier when they become fixated on only one way to solve their problem, and it becomes increasingly difficult to see anything but the method they have chosen. Typically, the solver experiences this when attempting to use a method they have already experienced success from, and they can not help but try to make it work in the present circumstances as well, even if they see that it is counterproductive.
This is very common, but the most well-known example of this barrier making itself present is in the famous example of the dot problem. In this example, there are nine dots lying on a grid three dots across and three dots running up and down. The solver is then asked to draw no more than four lines, without lifting their pen or pencil from the paper.
This series of lines should connect all of the dots on the paper. Then, what typically happens is the subject creates an assumption in their mind that they must connect the dots without letting his or her pen or pencil go outside of the square of dots.
It is from this phenomenon that the expression "think outside the box" is derived. A few minutes of struggling over a problem can bring these sudden insights, where the solver quickly sees the solution clearly.
Problems such as this are most typically solved via insight and can be very difficult for the subject depending on either how they have structured the problem in their minds, how they draw on their past experiences, and how much they juggle this information in their working memories  In the case of the nine-dot example, the solver has already been structured incorrectly in their minds because of the constraint that they have placed upon the solution.
In addition to this, people experience struggles when they try to compare the problem to their prior knowledge, and they think they must keep their lines within the dots and not go beyond. They do this because trying to envision the dots connected outside of the basic square puts a strain on their working memory.
These tiny movements happen without the solver knowing. Then when the insight is realized fully, the "aha" moment happens for the subject. Irrelevant information[ edit ] Irrelevant information is information presented within a problem that is unrelated or unimportant to the specific problem. Often irrelevant information is detrimental to the problem solving process.
It is a common barrier that many people have trouble getting through, especially if they are not aware of it. Irrelevant information makes solving otherwise relatively simple problems much harder. You select names at random from the Topeka phone book. How many of these people have unlisted phone numbers? They see that there is information present and they immediately think that it needs to be used.
It may be helpful at this point to use a variety of research methods.
More research into the state of the art is generally useful at this stage.
Researcher Michael Allen found evidence for confirmation bias with motivation in school children who worked to manipulate their science experiments in such a way that would produce favorable results. Write a schedule that includes the start and stop times, and when you expect to see certain indicators of success. Evaluate and Select an Alternative Skilled problem solvers use a series of considerations when selecting the best alternative.
This of course is not true. Which solution is favoured by those who will implement and use it?