Problem Solving

What is Problem Solving?

The process of finding a solution to a problem.

The ability to understand what the end goal of the problem is, and what rules could be applied represents the key to solving the problem. Sometimes the problem requires abstract thinking or coming up with a creative solution.

Snippet from Wikipedia: Problem solving

Problem solving is the way by which solutions are developed to remove an obstacle from achieving an ultimate goal. Problems in need of solutions range from basic personal issues of "how do I turn on this appliance?' to more complex topics in the business and academic fields. The former scenario falls into the category of simple problem solving (SPS), whereas the latter is known as complex problem solving (CPS). Simple problems have one issue, while complex problems have multiple obstacles that simultaneously need solutions. Obstacles are not easily removed when there is a lack of necessary resources or knowledge to attain the goal. Micro and macro problems arise constantly and therefore, problem solving is a vital part of life. Not everyone can solve a problem on their own. Lawyers, doctors, and consultants are examples of those that take on the role of being problem solvers. Many businesses have been extremely successful by recognizing a problem and creating a solution. The more people that are inconvenienced by a problem, the greater the opportunity to develop a solution.

There are many problem-solving techniques and methods. They are used daily in philosophy, medicine, societies, mathematics, engineering, business, computer science, and artificial intelligence. The mental techniques that individuals use to identify, analyze, and solve problems are studied in psychology and cognitive sciences. Additionally, the mental obstacles preventing people from finding solutions is a widely researched topic. Some examples of problem solving impediments include confirmation bias, mental set, and functional fixedness.

IDEAL - Problem Solving Process

IDEAL

  • I - Identify | Identify the problem
  • D - Define | Define the cause
  • E - Explore | Explore possible strategies
  • A - Action | Act
  • L - Look Back | Look and learn

There are four basic steps in solving a problem:

  1. Conceptualization | Defining the problem | Identify the issue | Analyze contributing factors | Understanding the problem
  2. Ideation | Generating alternatives | Generate Interventions | Researching the available options | Identify different aspects
  3. Evaluation | Evaluating and selecting alternatives | Evaluate Solutions | Select an option or options
  4. Implementation | Implementing solutions | Implement a Plan | Taking actions

1. Conceptualization

  • Differentiate fact from opinion
  • Specify underlying causes
  • Consult each faction involved for information
  • State the problem specifically
  • Identify what standard or expectation is violated
  • Determine in which process the problem lies
  • Avoid trying to solve the problem without data
  • Data gathering
  • Data analysis
  • Be clear about what the problem is
  • Different people might have different views of what the issues are
  • Fact-finding
  • Historical analysis

2. Ideation

  • Brainstorming
  • Creative thinking
  • Postpone evaluating alternatives initially
  • Include all involved individuals in the generating of alternatives
  • Specify alternatives consistent with organizational goals
  • Specify short- and long-term alternatives
  • Brainstorm on others' ideas
  • Seek alternatives that may solve the problem
  • Prediction
  • Forecasting
  • Project design
  • Project planning

3. Evaluation

  • Analysis
  • Discussion
  • Evaluate alternatives relative to a target standard
  • What are the pluses and minuses?
  • Evaluate all alternatives without bias
  • Evaluate alternatives relative to established goals
  • What's the best option, in the balance?
  • Evaluate both proven and possible outcomes
  • State the selected alternative explicitly
  • Corroboration
  • Teamwork
  • Test development
  • Mediation
  • Prioritizing

4. Implementation

  • Project management
  • Project implementation
  • Collaboration
  • Time management
  • Plan and implement a pilot test of the chosen alternative
  • Gather feedback from all affected parties
  • Seek acceptance or consensus by all those affected
  • Establish ongoing measures and monitoring
  • Evaluate long-term results based on final solution
  • Benchmark development

Problem Solving Skills

Problem solving skills help you solve issues quickly and effectively.