For these, see our sections on Creativity for step 2 generating alternatives ; Decision Making for step 3 evaluating and selecting alternatives ; and Project Management for step 4 implementing solutions. The articles in this section of Mind Tools therefore focus on helping you make a success of the first of these steps — defining the problem.
A very significant part of this involves making sense of the complex situation in which the problem occurs, so that you can pinpoint exactly what the problem is. Many of the tools in this section help you do just that. We look at these, and then review some useful, well-established problem-solving frameworks.
Trying to solve a complex problem alone however can be a mistake. The old adage "A problem shared is a problem halved" is sound advice. Talking to others about problems is not only therapeutic but can help you see things from a different point of view, opening up more potential solutions. Stages of Problem Solving Effective problem solving usually involves working through a number of steps or stages, such as those outlined below. Problem Identification: This stage involves: detecting and recognising that there is a problem; identifying the nature of the problem; defining the problem.
The first phase of problem solving may sound obvious but often requires more thought and analysis. Identifying a problem can be a difficult task in itself. Is there a problem at all?
What is the nature of the problem, are there in fact numerous problems? How can the problem be best defined? By spending some time defining the problem you will not only understand it more clearly yourself but be able to communicate its nature to others, which leads to the second phase. Structuring the Problem: This stage involves: a period of observation, careful inspection, fact-finding and developing a clear picture of the problem.
Following on from problem identification, structuring the problem is all about gaining more information about the problem and increasing understanding. This phase is all about fact finding and analysis, building a more comprehensive picture of both the goal s and the barrier s.
This stage may not be necessary for very simple problems but is essential for problems of a more complex nature. Looking for Possible Solutions: During this stage you will generate a range of possible courses of action, but with little attempt to evaluate them at this stage. From the information gathered in the first two phases of the problem solving framework it is now time to start thinking about possible solutions to the identified problem. In a group situation this stage is often carried out as a brain-storming session, letting each person in the group express their views on possible solutions or part solutions.
In organisations different people will have different expertise in different areas and it is useful, therefore, to hear the views of each concerned party. Making a Decision: This stage involves careful analysis of the different possible courses of action and then selecting the best solution for implementation. This is perhaps the most complex part of the problem solving process.
Following on from the previous step it is now time to look at each potential solution and carefully analyse it. Some solutions may not be possible, due to other problems like time constraints or budgets. The faster you move in the direction of your clearly defined goals, the more creative you will be.
The more energy you will have. The more you will learn. And the faster you will develop your capacity to achieve even more in the future. You can solve any problem, overcome any obstacle or achieve any goal that you can set for yourself by using your wonderful creative mind and then taking action consistently and persistently until you attain your objective.
Success is a mark of a creative thinker, and when you use your ability to think creatively, your success can be unlimited. Click Here! Solve Problems and Make Decisions More Effectively in Discussions With Other People Perhaps the most important thing you do in business is to solve problems and make decisions, both by yourself and with other people. A major reason for meetings in the business organization is problem solving and decision making. The key to effective problem solving and decision making discussions, is for you to all go through the process systematically.
The effective executive uses this type of communication to focus on where the company and the individuals are going, and what can happen in the future — the only part of the equation over which anyone has any control. Focus On the Solution A second element in effective problem solving communications, is for you to talk about the solutions instead of talking about the problems. How much time and effort does this solution involve?
You can expect that any solution will require some time and effort but the amount involved needs to be related to your needs. How will I feel if I pick this solution? If you think that a solution will make you feel bad, guilty or too anxious, it might not be the best solution. What are the costs and benefits of this solution to myself and others, right now and in the long-term?
The best solution will have the most benefits and the fewest costs possible. The costs of this solution seem to outweigh the benefits. You are looking for a solution that BEST meets the criteria, not perfectly. STEP 6: Carrying out the solution This is often the most difficult step because you now have to actually start carrying out the solution you chose.
Most people are afraid that they might have picked the wrong solution, or that perhaps there is a better solution if they just think about the problem more. This is not helpful thinking: it is better to act than to do nothing at all. To help you carry out your solution, you can make an action plan. If you know how you are going to carry out your solution, you are more likely to follow through.
Your plan should include all the steps that you will need to take to carry out the solution, and it should be as specific and concrete as possible. For example, with the work problem, you might use your workload as a marker for tracking your solution. If you notice that your workload is going down, then your solution is probably working. The best thing to do is to recycle through the different steps and ask yourself the following questions: Did I define the problem properly?
Were my goals realistic? Are there other possible solutions? Is there a better solution that I could have picked? Did I carry it out as planned?
Carroll AKA the mother of pop star Jewel talks about a question-and-answer technique for getting out of a problem. Common barriers[ edit ] Common barriers to problem solving are mental constructs that impede our ability to correctly solve problems. Focus On the Solution A second element in effective problem solving communications, is for you to talk about the solutions instead of talking about the problems. As I walked down the hall, I began to count the paintings: one, two, three, four, five. Take this newfound knowledge, return to the beginning steps, and try again!
They never realize that, in the end, all problems are the same — just packaged differently. Nothing stops the flow of creative ideas faster than judging them on the spot. You will discover, as you read through our pages on problem solving, that the subject is complex.
Have a variety of solutions: Make sure that your solutions are different from each other. Not exactly. For every and any option, determine its advantages and its risks. This is often very difficult to do especially with all the irrelevant information involved in the question. 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. The Buddhist monk problem is a classic example of irrelevant information and how it can be represented in different ways: A Buddhist monk begins at dawn one day walking up a mountain, reaches the top at sunset, meditates at the top for several days until one dawn when he begins to walk back to the foot of the mountain, which he reaches at sunset.
During implementation more problems may arise especially if identification or structuring of the original problem was not carried out fully. Structuring the Problem: This stage involves: a period of observation, careful inspection, fact-finding and developing a clear picture of the problem. Define the parameters clearly. However, it is important to remember that not solving a problem can lead to more anxiety than trying to solve it, no matter how anxious you feel. What's the easiest option?
The general then sends small forces of men down different streets so the army can converge at the fortress at the same time and can capture it at full force. All problems have two features in common: goals and barriers. They maybe said something along the lines of "Why did I listen to you?
Intuition is used when no new knowledge is needed - you know enough to be able to make a quick decision and solve the problem, or you use common sense or experience to solve the problem.
Which is a perfect way to say, "This problem smells fishy. They see well-beyond the obvious. Emotional Intelligence. Finally, make a decision on which course of action to take - decision making is an important skill in itself and we recommend that you see our pages on decision making.
What is the nature of the problem, are there in fact numerous problems? Give some thought to what an ideal decision or solution would accomplish.
Is there a problem at all? Instead of focusing on the situation as it is, talk about the situation as you would like it to be. However many opportunities are missed or not taken full advantage of.