The I in Problem Solving

 Oct 10, 2017

The ‘I’ in Problem Solving


Anyone with children will have witnessed the problem-solving process that is a kin with early childhood. My daughter recently tackled the problem of climbing down off our bed. Largely working out this problem involved a process of developing possible solutions and trailing each to determine the most effective course of action. Her first solution was to fall flat on her face, oops!

The winning solution is an interpretive dance from bed to floor. She positions herself feet first, grabbing hold of the quilt cover and unsteadily shimming down to the bedroom floor. Her grin tells me she is satisfied with this solution.

What does this have to do with you? Well, the importance of problem solving in business can’t be overstated. It is the foundational skill for entrepreneurs in starting a business, operational skill for employees in managing day-to-day activities and is the basis of what we do as managers in coordinating the efforts and resources of our organisations.

Problem solving is a skill we have all practiced since our birth. In our early childhood, we test and develop our understanding of the world around us through problem solving. The process has remained largely unchanged:

  1. Identify the problem

  2. Develop and implement a solution

  3. Evaluate the solution for success

The way we use information has however evolved. We learn the use of information has power as we mature and expand upon or experiences, especially in the workplace. In early childhood, the way we develop solutions is based on trial, error and our limited information of the surrounding circumstance. As business professionals, we have deeper and broader resources to draw upon in adequately identifying problems, generating solutions and evaluating for success. Problem solving, as a discipline is something we can develop and master, particularly if we understand the role information plays in each of the three key phases.

Identifying the problem

The difference between effective and ineffective problem solving lies largely in the problem identification stage. Being too quick to act often results in only symptoms being addressed or temporary resolutions.

To adequately identify the problem, we must access and assess information that enables us to determine the root cause or causes. This process may involve:

  • Gathering feedback

  • Observing activities of employees and teams

  • Assessing and testing systems, procedures and work practices

  • Review written documentation

  • Evaluating resources

  • Speaking with stakeholders

  • Analysing data

  • Challenging opinions and assumptions

There are three types of information you’ll encounter:

  • Essential information – this is necessary to understand a situation.

  • Helpful information – this adds to your knowledge of a problem however is not critical for addressing the problem effectively.

  • Useless Information – this does not help you understand or address the problem.

We go deeper into this below, as well as in our Business Problem Solving 1 Day program.

Developing and implementing a solution

We next need to develop multiple solutions. Its here that the information we gathered is valuable. It guides the stakeholders we will involve in developing and evaluating the available alternatives.

The information gathered in the identification phase also aids in determining the likely success of each alternative developed. Information acts as our criteria for prioritising and evaluating each options success. Furthermore, it allows us to make the ultimate decision as to the solution we will put into action. If you're using a CRM to better understand your customers and gain insights into behaviours or trends, understanding the information you have cannot be left to chance.

Evaluating the solution for success

Once a solution has been established, we use a similar approach to the problem identification phase; we gather information to evaluate the success of our executed solution. In this phase we gather data, assess outputs and appraise the impact of the solution against the identified problem. If the information has been gathered and utilised effectively, the result is problem elimination.

In the absence of information problem solving is improbable!

If you would like to know more about Professional Development Courses we offer, contact us today to speak with one of our Learning Solutions Advisors or visit our website.

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