All problems have two features in common:
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All problems have two features in common:
If there were no barriers in the way of achieving a goal, then there would be no problem. Problem solving involves overcoming the barriers or obstacles that prevent the immediate achievement of goals.
Following our examples above, if you feel hungry then your goal is to eat. A barrier to this may be that you have no food available, you take a trip to the supermarket and buy some food, removing the barrier and thus solving the problem. Of course for the CEO wanting to increase profits there may be many more barriers preventing the goal from being reached. The CEO needs to attempt to recognize these barriers and remove them or find other ways to achieve the goals of the organisation.
Problems involve setting out to achieve some objective or desired state of affairs and can include avoiding a situation or event.
Goals can be anything that you wish to achieve, where you want to be. If you are hungry then your goal is probably to eat something, if you are a head of an organisation then your main goal may be to maximize profits. In the example of the CEO the main goal may need to be split into numerous sub-goals in order to fulfill the ultimate goal of increasing profits.
The concise defines a problem as:
☛ A doubtful or difficult matter requiring a solution.
☛ Something hard to understand or accomplish or deal with.
Looking at the problem in terms of goals and barriers can offer an effective way of defining many problems and splitting bigger problems into more manageable sub-problems.
At this stage, it is also important to ensure that you look at the issue from a variety of perspectives. If you commit yourself too early, you can end up with a problem statement that is really a solution instead.
It is very important in careers such as advertising, marketing, the media and art and design where you may get questions in the selection process along the lines of write down one hundred ways to use a brick/paperclip, but it can also be of value in the job hunting process itself.
Lateral thinking, is the ability to think creatively or outside the box as it is sometimes referred to in business, to use your inspiration and imagination to solve problems by looking at them from unexpected perspectives. Lateral thinking involves discarding the obvious, leaving behind traditional modes of thought and throwing away preconceptions.
Solving these problems involves both analytical and creative skills. Which particular skills are needed will vary, depending on the problem and your role in the organisation but the following skills are key to problem solving:
☛ Analytical Ability
☛ Lateral Thinking
☛ Logical Reasoning
You need to be able to:
☛ Problems can also be opportunities: they allow you to see things differently and to do things in a different way: perhaps to make a fresh start.
☛ Evaluate information or situations.
☛ Break them down into their key components.
☛ Consider various ways of approaching and resolving them.
☛ Decide on the most appropriate of these ways.
A fundamental part of every manager's role is finding ways to solve problems. So, being a confident problem solver is really important to your success. Much of that confidence comes from having a good process to use when approaching a problem. With one, you can solve problems quickly and effectively. Without one, your solutions may be ineffective or you will get stuck and do nothing, with sometimes painful consequences.
Having good strong problem solving skills can make a huge difference to your career. Problems are at the center of what many people do at work every day. Whether you are solving a problem for a client (internal or external), supporting those who are solving problems or discovering new problems to solve, the problems you face can be large or small, simple or complex and easy or difficult.
The last stage is about reviewing the outcomes of problem solving over a period of time, including seeking feedback as to the success of the outcomes of the chosen solution.
The final stage of problem solving is concerned with checking that the process was successful. This can be achieved by monitoring and gaining feedback from people affected by any changes that occurred. It is good practice to keep a record of outcomes and any additional problems that occurred.
Problem solving consists of using generic methods, in an orderly manner, for finding solutions to problems. Some of the problem-solving techniques developed and used in artificial intelligence, computer science, engineering, mathematics, medicine, etc are related to mental problem-solving techniques studied in psychology.
This stage involves accepting and carrying out the chosen course of action.
Implementation means acting on the chosen solution. During implementation more problems may arise especially if identification or structuring of the original problem was not carried out fully.
When your problem is simple, the solution is usually obvious and you do not need to follow the four steps we outlined earlier. So it follows that when you are taking this more formal approach, your problem is likely to be complex and difficult to understand because there is a web of interrelated issues.
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 goals and the barriers. This stage may not be necessary for very simple problems but is essential for problems of a more complex nature.
This stage involves in detecting and recognizing 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? this should be 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, this leads to the second phase.
The key to a good problem definition is ensuring that you deal with the real problem is not its symptoms. For example, if performance in your department is substandard, you might think the problem is with the individuals submitting work. However, if you look a bit deeper, the real issue might be a lack of training or an unreasonable workload.
Effective problem solving usually involves working through a number of stages, such as those outlined below:
☛ Problem identification
☛ Structuring the problem
☛ Looking for possible solutions
☛ Making a decision