What IS Problem-Solving?

When you don’t do this,  you might find yourself relying on guesswork in order to move forward and that often doesn’t go the way you hoped or expected, but when you Do this, you will find yourself clear on where you are now and where you are heading.  So what am I talking about?  I am talking about problem-solving.

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Now, what do I mean by problem-solving?

Problem-solving can be a number of different things – and not necessarily “a problem”.  It could be an issue that you’ve currently got, but it could also be a driver inside your organisation or possibly a goal that you’re trying to achieve and you are trying to work out what are the steps to get from where you are now to where you actually want to be.

Rather than actually going through a logical progression to understand the journey from ‘here’ to ‘here’ what I find many people do is just take a leap of faith.  They will work on assumptions and not really spend time upfront to define the problem.

So, where do you start?

Start by defining two things. What it is that you’re moving away from and what are you moving towards?

Having defined where you are moving to and where you want to move away from, you could take a leap of faith, cross your fingers and hope it works out or you could approach it methodically.

Now here’s the thing…I find that by spending most of my time upfront, taking the time to define what the problem actually is and by working out what the key questions are, it actually helps me to come to the solution. This is because during that definition period when I am investigating what it is that’s causing the problems, the solutions start to appear for themselves. And if you act on these solutions it really makes life work a lot easier for you.

And what you will also find is that by exploring the problem, you are bringing in a wider community to make these things work better for you. By bringing them in at an early stage, you’re actually making it easier for the organisation or for yourself or for your team to be able to adapt to the change that is coming.  And anything that makes life easier is going to be good right?

So, for me, when it comes to problem-solving, there are 9 key steps to go through.

It’s a bit like the recipe for a cake. If you wanted to bake a cake you wouldn’t assume that it is going to be very similar to cooking, for example, a gammon joint. I mean there are some similarities – they both go into the oven and they are in there for a period of time and when they are cooked you know you’re going to eat them.  So they are are very similar right?  Wrong!

The ingredients and the actual method that you use to bake a cake is completely different and if you try using the same recipe to bake a cake as you would do a gammon joint the probability is you would either end up with a very sloppy mess or a very burnt offering.  Either way nobody’s going to want to eat it at the end.

That’s the same with problem-solving. If you don’t approach it in the right way, you’ll end up being in a position where you don’t actually solve the problem you don’t move your organisation forwards.  People won’t want to make a big effort to get no reward that they can see and so what you’ll find is that most people put in the effort, and the change won’t happen or won’t be successful.

At the end of the day time is money. So, I’m going to challenge you, are you going to go away and really understand what is the problem that it is that you’re trying to solve? Are you going to take those questions and ask them to as many people as possible, so you can get a really good definition around it before you jump to a solution? Or are you going to be the one that creates the burnt cake?

Einstein very famously said if he had an hour to save the world he would spend 55 minutes of that defining the problem and at only five minutes finding the solution.