Money Advice

5 Problem Solving Steps – Process & Strategies for Success

Modern people are the best downside solvers the world has ever seen. While our predecessors developed primitive instruments to higher stay of their environments, people are the primary to develop the psychological acuity essential to rework their dwelling space. As a consequence, we thrive around the globe, altering hostile, barren desert lands and freezing climates into hospitable habitats with rising populations.

Of course, problem-solving skills range significantly from one particular person to a different – a few of us excel in resolving overarching dilemmas, whereas others are more proficient at making fundamental day-to-day choices. Researchers on the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching on the University of Michigan imagine that issue fixing issues tends to stem from the next two points:

  1. Inaccuracy in Reading. Incorrect interpretation of an issue can stem from perceiving it with out concentrating on its that means. It may end result from studying unfamiliar phrases, overlooking essential details, and beginning to handle it prematurely. Simply said, many individuals have issue framing an issue precisely at first and consequently develop insufficient or incorrect options.
  2. Inaccuracy in Thinking. Ancients Greeks known as the flexibility to correctly purpose “logic.” Today, we generally discuss with this potential as “pragmatism” – a system of pondering to find out that means, fact, or worth. Poor choices end result from an absence of readability in order that irrelevant data is taken into account within the problem-solving course of. We generally pursue options that don’t meet our supposed targets, or we fail to interrupt advanced issues into comprehensible elements when time constraints power us into untimely choices.

Each of us makes choices on daily basis that have an effect on our happiness, careers, and satisfaction with life. By studying and working towards the talents of confirmed downside solvers – and following the mandatory steps – you may enhance your vanity, scale back interpersonal conflicts, and reduce general stress.


1. Define a Problem

Fully understanding an issue earlier than growing attainable options is important. Some issues seem easy – deciding what to eat for breakfast, what to put on to work, whether or not to take mass transit or to drive – and their options not often have any actual impression on our lives. Other issues are extremely advanced and have long-term penalties: selection of careers, whom we select to marry, or whether or not to pursue a sophisticated instructional diploma.

Problems are additional sophisticated as a result of feelings, and whether or not we understand the implementation of an answer to be painful or pleasurable. The undeniable fact that lots of our choices have penalties far into the longer term results in procrastination and additional complexity.

The manner we take into consideration or outline an issue may end up in missed alternatives, insufficient or impermanent options, pointless prices, wasted time, and continued frustration and stress. An occasion of that is when we simplify issues by searching for single, either-or, or short-term options, whereas neglecting long-term penalties.

For instance, a rushed mother or father needing to serve dinner would possibly run to the shop for that night time’s meal, and would possibly repeat that conduct a number of occasions per week. In searching for the short-term resolution (purchase tonight’s dinner) and neglecting the long run resolution (make one giant, well-planned grocery journey prematurely), she or he wastes time, gasoline, and energy and offers with repeated frustration.

There is often a spread of selections and actions we are able to take to resolve an issue, every of which has completely different short- and long-term results that should be thought-about. Expanding the definition of an issue by offering extra particulars can stimulate vital pondering and end in a number of, usually revolutionary options. The higher downside solvers know that asking extra questions earlier than looking for an answer typically brings higher outcomes.

The Importance of an Accurate Description

Charles Kettering, head of General Motors analysis division from 1920 to 1947, claimed, “A problem well stated is a problem half-solved.” A 2012 article within the Harvard Business Review concurred, saying, “Well-defined problems lead to breakthrough solutions.” The authors believed that almost all of firms and people aren’t sufficiently rigorous in defining the issues they’re trying to resolve and articulating why the answer is essential.

For instance, the cleanup of the Alaskan coast following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill value tremendously greater than was anticipated and took greater than 20 years to finish, primarily as a result of a failure to think about that oil in subarctic waters turns into syrupy. The fluid’s low viscosity made pumping it to onshore assortment stations extraordinarily troublesome.

Once the issue was expanded from “oil cleanup” to incorporate “materials viscosity,” a chemist within the cement trade proposed an answer that will vibrate the frozen oil within the barges because it was pumped, maintaining it fluid. As a consequence, cleanup was sped up with a possible financial savings of thousands and thousands of {dollars}.

Using the Kipling Method to Define Problems

The first step in fixing any downside is a transparent, concise assertion – what advocates name a “problem statement.” The Kipling Method, named after Rudyard Kipling’s 1902 poem in his e book “Just So Stories,” is one of the extra widespread techniques for defining an issue. Sometimes known as the “Five Ws and One H” system, journalists usually use it to speak the details of a state of affairs.

The poem highlights the six elements essential to correctly body an issue:

  • What is the issue?
  • Why is fixing the issue essential?
  • When did the issue come up? When does it should be solved?
  • How did the issue occur?
  • Where is the issue occurring?
  • Who does the issue have an effect on?

An issue assertion needs to be as clear and full as attainable. For instance, a destitute scholar contemplating whether or not to attend school would possibly conclude that “I cannot go to college this coming semester.” This choice displays a defective downside assertion about an absence of funds, moderately than a framework to develop options that may enable for attendance.

A greater downside assertion could be: “I (who) lack the funds to pay the coming semester’s tuition and fees (what) at UCLA (where) by September 1st (when). I was laid off from my summer job and cannot save as much as I had hoped (how). As a result, my degree and the start of my career will be delayed at least six months (why).” An expanded downside assertion would possibly result in different options similar to searching for scholarships, borrowing funds, attending a special school for decrease tuition, working part-time whereas attending faculty, decreasing different expenditures to save lots of, or a mix of all.

Kipling Method Define Problem

2. Develop Alternative Solutions

A typical barrier to profitable downside fixing is our reliance on earlier experiences, particularly those who seem much like our present state of affairs. According to psychologist G. Stanley Hall, people are largely creatures of behavior, and our actions and choices are sometimes automated reflexes based mostly upon our personal biases, stereotypes, and historical past.

Many scientists imagine that behavior is the pure consequence of evolution, a trade-off between the brain’s huge requirement of power – brains account for lower than 2% of a human’s physique weight, however eat as much as 20% of our calorific consumption – and survival. Running from the growl of an unseen lion undoubtedly saved extra of our ancestors than ready to verify its presence.

Unfortunately, this tendency to use the identical expertise to each downside can result in poor choices. As American psychologist Abraham Maslow mentioned, “If you only have a hammer, you see every problem as a nail.”

Except for math or fact-based questions, few issues have a single resolution. The higher downside solvers make use of quite a lot of methods to develop a number of options earlier than coming to a call. Since the optimum resolution is often found by evaluating various outcomes, theorizing a number of selections and their outcomes is advantageous.

Techniques to Develop Multiple Solutions to a Single Problem

During this stage, the purpose is to generate as many potential options as attainable with out contemplating whether or not they’re reasonable, sensible, or efficient. Useful strategies to interrupt previous habits of pondering embrace the next:

  • Analogies. Consider comparable issues out of your previous and adapt their options to the present state of affairs. For instance, a company searching for to market a brand new software product would possibly contemplate widespread trade advertising and marketing techniques – movie star endorsements, low introductory costs, or nationwide promoting – to roll out the product.
  • Brainstorming. This approach requires that you simply flip off your inside censor and produce as many options to an issue as attainable, regardless of how far-fetched. Often known as “creative thinking” or “thinking out of the box,” distinctive options may end up from combining, increasing, and enhancing authentic ideas. IDEO, an award-winning design and growth agency in Silicon Valley credited with such merchandise as the unique Apple mouse, the Tempur-Pedic mattress, and the revolutionary PillPack, depends closely on brainstorming for new concepts.
  • Divide and Conquer. Break down a big, advanced downside into smaller, solvable issues. For instance, NASA’s purpose of placing a person on the moon within the Nineteen Sixties was achieved by concurrently fixing less complicated engineering issues starting from how one can stack two or extra rockets on prime of one another (multi-staging), to deciding on and coaching astronauts.
  • Means-Ends Analysis. Begin with the specified end result and work backward by means of the vital steps essential to succeed in your purpose. For instance, receiving a promotion often requires a optimistic advice from a superior. However, superiors often consider candidates by their report of earlier profitable assignments. Having the chance to work on an task relies upon staff’ constant attendance and work habits, and so forth and so forth, till arriving at the place to begin of your evaluation.
  • Root-Cause Analysis. Rather than specializing in the issue, deal with the reason for the issue. In the earlier oil spill instance, the issue was initially regarded as the prolonged time and value of the cleanup effort. However, the foundation trigger was the issue of shortly pumping thick oil to storage services.
  • Trial-and-Error. Where time isn’t a consideration and alter is comparatively easy to implement, contemplate attempting all the pieces till you attain the optimum technique. The classes discovered from our errors are sometimes extra worthwhile than these discovered from our successes. As Thomas Edison mentioned when speaking about his invention of the electrical gentle bulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.”

The time taken to develop a number of options needs to be proportional to the dimensions of the issue and its impression. At the identical time, attempting to develop options for the sake of extra selections is never worthwhile, particularly after an prolonged interval of effort. When you’re snug that you’ve got exhausted the probabilities, it’s time to consider potential options.

3. Select an Optimum Solution

Critical pondering is the method of conceptualizing, making use of, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating data to information perception and motion, based on the Foundation for Critical Thinking. It is a discovered course of supposed to keep away from bias, distortion, prejudice, and inconsistency, and is important to efficient downside fixing. Critical pondering is required to judge potential options to an issue and decide which might be probably to supply the perfect general end result.

Eliminate Obvious Ineffective Solutions Early

Some, if not many, of the choice options developed beforehand are impractical or can’t be carried out as a result of they’re too costly, take an excessive amount of time, require unavailable resources, or produce unsure outcomes. Evaluating such clearly inappropriate selections is a waste of time and power and needs to be averted if attainable.

Conversely, your preliminary scan of attainable options might produce further perception and result in an indeniable most suitable option, eliminating the necessity for additional evaluation. Jeff Bezos, the founding father of Amazon.com, claims that there’s all the time a component of serendipity – success or luck – in vital discoveries or leaps past typical pondering.

Develop a Decision Matrix for Evaluation

When fixing most advanced issues, there may be not often a single resolution that meets the entire standards – the perfect ones meet crucial standards with minimal unfavorable consequence or impression on different components. According to Mind Tools, a call matrix is a superb instrument to visually perceive the variations between various options when there may be not a transparent or single selection. Potential selections will be ranked by the diploma that they meet the standards for the only option.

Here are some components that could be thought-about in your evaluation of attainable options:

  • Efficacy. To what diploma does the answer resolve the issue?
  • Practicality. Is the answer reasonable by way of out there resources and capabilities?
  • Timeliness. Will the answer meet vital deadlines or time frames?
  • Expense. What will the answer value in resources and energy?
  • Risk. What are the implications – good and unhealthy?
  • Manageability. Can the outcomes be measured?

Each issue needs to be weighted on a scale of 0 to 10 for significance within the remaining resolution, with 10 being the perfect rating and 0 the worst rating. For instance, one resolution would possibly fully resolve the issue (a “10” on efficacy) whereas one other solves many of the downside (a “7”). Similarly, one resolution would possibly contain little or no value or require excessive bills (a “0”).

The remaining step in creating the matrix is to determine the relative significance of every issue within the remaining resolution utilizing percentages so the overall weightings equal 100%. For instance, efficacy may need a ranking of fifty% whereas timeliness is 10%. In such circumstances, the finished choice matrix would possibly look much like the next illustration:

Pick the Best Solution Using the Available Information

If the best rated resolution intuitively doesn’t appear to be the perfect, rethink your preliminary weighting and rankings. The discomfort you are feeling could also be a sign that some components are extra essential to you than you initially thought. In that case, re-rank and reweigh them. Be conscious {that a} low rating in a single issue could also be sufficient to discard it as an answer. For instance, excessive prices could also be sufficient to make an answer unacceptable.

4. Implement the Optimum Solution

Once you may have made the choice about the perfect resolution to your downside, it’s time to take motion. Recognize that implementation might not go easily, particularly if the answer is dependent upon the cooperation of different folks. Virtually each choice requires a change in the established order and, as Niccolo Machiavelli wrote in 1532, there may be “nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” The tendency of individuals to withstand change is so prevalent that change administration consultants commonly earn six- and seven-figure annual incomes.

While you will need to implement an answer to vital issues as shortly as attainable, it’s also prudent to acknowledge the obstacles which might be prone to seem and develop a corresponding technique to beat resistance. Here are some widespread obstructions to vary in a business setting:

  • Moving Too Fast. Rather than resisting instantly, persons are extra prone to search delay by asking for extra data, contemplating different options, or pleading an absence of resources.
  • Implementation Takes Too Long. The resolution is simply too little, too late.
  • Unaffordable. Cost is simply too excessive or will detract from different essential investments.
  • Understaffed. Your persons are too busy or lack the coaching to implement the answer.
  • Customers Will Not Like It. You will lose market share to opponents, buyer complaints will rise, or customer support will endure.
  • Negative Consequences Are Unknown. What if the answer doesn’t work or causes us to lose business?
  • The Solution Will Not Work. The evaluation of the issue is defective, was too hasty, or failed to think about essential components.

Do not be afraid to confront objections from others, or your self. With others, reply to questions factually, politely, and with as a lot data as attainable. Keep the deal with fixing the issue, not the personalities of these concerned.

If a legit objection or resolution is raised that has not been thought-about beforehand, be ready to postpone implementation till it may be investigated. If you do rethink your choice based mostly upon objections obtained, examine shortly and report your findings again to everybody concerned. Do not have satisfaction within the authorship of an answer, however within the course of to find out the perfect resolution.

5. Trust Your Analysis

If you may have diligently adopted the steps to higher downside fixing thus far, have faith that your work is full and you’ve got arrived at the perfect resolution. Much of the resistance you encounter is probably going as a result of worry and lack of expertise, moderately than a real objection to the proposed resolution.

By speaking your course of, you may convert the naysayers and fence-sitters to your mind-set. Be clear and non-defensive, recognizing that their fears and objections are pure and are prone to come up in most conditions involving change.

If a gaggle has been concerned within the course of to reach on the optimum resolution, determine key allies who might help persuade others that the answer is sound, based mostly upon all the data out there. Having sponsors or “champions” to help in convincing others is all the time a superb technique when implementing a troublesome or controversial change.

Monitoring Results – The Feedback Loop

Despite your greatest effort, some options don’t work out as deliberate. There are many causes for this: a failure to think about all components, lack of obtainable data, unintended biases or misperceptions, or a change within the underlying circumstances affecting the issue or the answer. We stay in an unsure world, so there may be not often an answer assured to be true or efficient always.

Trust Your Analysis

Great merchandise and corporations develop by means of the method of integration and fixed innovation. By regularly monitoring outcomes, evaluating them with expectations, and subsequently adjusting one’s actions to higher obtain the supposed end result – in any other case referred to as a “feedback loop” – we will be assured that options will stay legitimate and produce the specified outcomes.

According to Wired, suggestions loops are how we study, whether or not we name them trial-and-error or course correction. They have been completely researched and validated in psychology, epidemiology, navy technique, environmental research, and economics, and are a standard instrument in athletic coaching plans, government teaching methods, and a mess of self-improvement packages. Elon Musk, inventor, entrepreneur, and CEO of Tesla Motors, claims that you will need to have a suggestions loop the place you’re consistently desirous about what you may have carried out and the way you would be doing it higher.

As outcomes seem from the carried out resolution, you will need to gather knowledge and decide whether or not the implications are as initially supposed. When there may be an surprising unfavorable end result or an end result that doesn’t meet the anticipated parameters, the higher downside solvers repeat the issue fixing steps, making changes as wanted.

In many circumstances, the changes are minor and will be shortly carried out. However, in some circumstances, a brand new technique or resolution is critical, and which means restating the issue with the data gained from the implementation.

Final Word

Problem-solving isn’t an innate potential, however an acquired ability. Ken Watanbe, former McKinsey consultant and author of “Problem Solving 101,” teaches that working towards good problem-solving expertise develops a mindset that drives folks to deliver out the perfect in themselves and to form the world in a optimistic manner. Learning and utilizing the correct expertise can grow to be a behavior, making problem-solving simple and empowering every of us to make our lives and worlds higher.

Remember, everyone faces issues, giant and small, on a regular basis that want fixing. Following these steps can result in higher choices and a happier life. In many circumstances, it’s not the issue that creates essentially the most stress, however the penalties of a poor resolution.

How do you go about downside fixing?


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