From the dawn of the age of the Man, solutions to a number of problems were sought after for generations, everywhere under the blue sky and above great heavens. But have we really looked into that one place where we truly can find them; the Human Mind?
From the moment you were born, you encountered a number of problems of which, survival was of utmost importance. You may not recall, but there came a moment when you could no longer stay within the safety of your mother’s womb. So after being propelled through a birth canal, you encountered the need to fill your lungs with sufficient amounts of air keep the oxygen supply to the streaming blood. By instinct you made your first cry and took your very first breath; the mysterious problem of need to breath was solved. After a number of years, here you are, trying to understand why you need to learn how to solve problems.
So what’s there to learn about solving problems? What makes it important to learn about solving problems? Is this going to be a waste of time? All these questions will be answered by the end of this paper. But, just so that we know where exactly we are heading, I would like to bring your attention to the following statement.
“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”
-Albert Einstein- (1879 -1955)
Therefore we are going to take a journey towards understanding what a problem is, how to understand the details of a problem properly, how to approach in solving a problem and finally how do we proceed beyond that. By the end of this tutorial, you will have gained the following skills.
Understanding what a problem is.
Approaching a problem with an investigative narrative.
Using various techniques to address a problem and come to an agreeable solution.
Leading up on a solution to a given problem.
What is a problem?
In the simplest terms, a problem is a challenge that is posed on an individual or a group of people with the intention of overcoming it. Such a challenge creates a state in the environment that requires resolution. So when you come across a problem, always think in terms that this is a state that needs be resolved. Never ever think of it in terms of being a hazard that needs to be tackled and thrown off of your head as soon as possible.
Problems and Confidence:
Any problem can be addressed in a number of ways and some of them may fail while others would bring agreeable results. There could be situations where the only way to reach to an agreeable solution is to make some compromises. Never the less, taking a positive attitude towards problems covers the most important factor needed in solving a problem; confidence. But you must also understand that just like under confidence gets in the way of solving a problem successfully, so would over confidence. It is by striking a balance you will reach a state of mind best suited to addressing a problem.
When you wish to solve a problem, having faith on yourself itself will not take you anywhere. Instead, you should strengthen yourself with a number of techniques and tools that will help you build that confidence. The purpose of teaching you this particular module is to give you a starting point on such techniques, tricks and tools. Then you may use these tools at your disposal and become a successful problem solver.
Problem Investigation Techniques:
Just like any complex endeavor, problem solving itself consists of a number of interrelated tasks that must be addressed in a gradual, step-by-step manner. This approach makes understanding, planning and understanding a problem better, allowing you to come to a solution that is agreeable enough.
In the simplest terms, we are trying to understand a problem so that we can plan ahead and face it well. This is what we are trying to achieve by analyzing a problem. Given below are a set of steps you may take in getting a better grasp at the root of a problem.
State the problem you are about to solve in a well detailed manner: Try to be precise as well as detailed. Even though you already know the problem well enough, by making sure that you actually note it down, you will have the advantage of your visuals sensory system coupled with part of your brain trying to come to a better interpretation of the problem. In preparing a problem statement, you may ask the following questions from yourself.
Is it a question you must answer?
Is it an obstacle you must overcome?
Is it a person you must persuade?
Is it a decision you must make?
Is it an opponent you must defeat?
Is it a goal you must achieve?
Is it a goal you must set?
Is it a problem you must define?
Has the problem being defined for you?
State the parts of the problem that can be addressed separately: The great emperor Julies Caesar is attributed to the saying “Divide et Impera” in Latin which translates to “Divide and Conquer” in English. We will be taking the same approach in dividing a relatively complex problem into a smaller and comparatively less complex set of problems that can each be addressed individually. During this step, you may ask following questions from yourself.
Is the problem really a collection of many problems?
Can you divide the problem by defining terms?
Are there any implicit terms to define?
Can abstract terms be restated in concrete terms?
Can the problem be solved in steps?
Are half-way solutions possible?
Can the problem be substantially solved?
Is a partial solution better than none?
State the problem in the broadest terms: There is an inherent deficiency in most forms of human communication in delivering sub-textual messages via common communication methods. Same could have happened with the problem you are trying to solve when it was introduced to you. Therefore, instead of looking at the problem’s face value, you may take an effort to take a look at the big picture. In doing so you may ask following questions from yourself.
Is the problem part of a larger one?
Is it geographically broader?
Is it an effect of a larger problem?
Is it only a sign or symptom?
Can concrete terms be restated in abstract terms?
Is a general solution possible?
Is a political solution possible?
Is a group solution possible?
State your role in solving the problem: Identifying what your role in solving a given problem is very important. Some problems are posed on an individual, and some are on a group. Just like one must know how to play his role in a group so that an agreeable solution can be reached, the same is true with an individual trying to solve a problem. One must understand what type of a role he will be playing (i.e. evasive, neutral, hasty, etc.) to better position himself in the contextual environment of a problem that needs to be solved. You may ask following question from yourself in undertaking this step.
Was the problem presented to you?
Do you accept the challenge?
Should you volunteer yourself to solve the problem?
Are your emotions dependency factors in reaching a particular solution?
Will you be assuming a certain role in solving a problem?
State the names and interests of others who are involved: Knowing what role you will be playing in solving is never complete without knowing what other parties are taking an interest in the same problem, problem solving process, or the outcomes of the final solution. Close attention must be paid to observing their interests and roles they play in any given problem, let it be friendly or hostile. Ask yourself the following questions in completing this task.
Has this problem being presented to others?
Can you delegate the problem?
Can you delegate selected parts of the problem or the problem solving process?
Who else is interested in the problem itself or the solution to the problem?
Who else is directly affected by the solution?
Who else is indirectly affected by the solution?
State solutions to a similar problem found in the past: There is a very popular term not only in the academia, but also in various other fields, that one should never reinvent the wheel. It is in fact figurative speech used in order to say that one should never waste resources in perfecting an entity that is already perfect for a given purpose. In the same manner, it would be a waste to solve a problem that has already been solved before in an agreeable manner. You may simply use such solutions as references and either apply them directly or adapt them to the specifics of a given problem. Take some time and ask yourself the following questions.
Were you able to identify any problems from the past that are already of the same nature?
What similarities were you able to identify?
What dissimilarities were you able to identify?
Can solutions to such problems be applied to the problem at hand?
Has your research provided with any agreeable enough solutions to your problem?
State the affects of time factor over the problem and the solution: Even though a number of factors are needed to be managed precisely, none of them precede the importance of managing time in most of the situations. In time-critical problems late solutions are the same as no solutions at all. Therefore in solving a problem, ask yourself the following questions and try to understand how exactly the time factor affects the end solution.
How will the problem evolve over time?
Is there a deadline for the problem to be solved?
What are the possibilities of postponing the solving process for a given problem?
State your proposed solution to a given problem: It is not enough that you understand the problem itself and previous solutions; you must also come to the point of proposing a solution that is agreeable enough as well. First step to clarifying the problem is listing down the solution clearly enough that no part of it is misunderstood, leading to further unexpected problems. During this stage, ask yourself the following questions.
What actions must be taken?
Who must take each and every action?
When must each action be taken exactly?
What steps must be taken in the case of a failure or setback?
State if the proposed solution is feasible enough to be used in the context: Once a problem is properly analyzed, understood and solution provided, the flow is not completed until you take initiation in doing a figurative postmortem of your own solution. Here you will try to understand how feasible a solution actually is compared to the stakes of the problem itself.
What are the dependencies the provided solution has?
Is the solution resource conserving?
Does the solution meet various budgetary constraints?
Is the solution legally acceptable?
Is the solution morally acceptable?
Now that you have completed a tiresome set of tasks that will actually help you understand a problem properly, address various steps in solving a problem, now you are ready to actually solve the problem. Pat yourself in the back and repeat the following words after meaˆ¦