Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. I truly admire that quote, and have seen the result of applying some effective problem-solving techniques myself…
I recall a 2-day workshop I attended years ago (before the current lockdown period, at the time of updating this blog post), which was on creative problem-solving techniques. While it was formal training, it included a lot of interesting and interactive activities. At the end of it, I applied much of what I learnt, using structured processes to a complex personal issue I was facing at that time. I’m very relieved now that I was able to define the problem, examine it, find possible solutions and finally apply what I chose as my action plan!
I’d love to share some ideas with you, as the purpose of my blog is ‘practical tips to make your daily life easier!’. You may apply the tips that I’ll give, to your professional or personal life. I’ll highlight 7 steps to problem-solving, while applying them to a simple story, for the sake of illustration…
A (simple) story to illustrate
Eric has been working at company X for 5 years, as a Sales Executive. He started as a young, fresh graduate with a degree in sales and marketing, full of enthusiasm and energy, and with great long-term plans. Today, he no longer looks forward to going to work.
Using the Osborn-Parnes creative problem-solving process, he explores the following for further understanding of his situation, and to find a solution:
Step 1: Identify the issue of concern
His morale has decreased, and this in turn may affect his sales performance, if he doesn’t remedy the situation.
Step 2: Gather relevant information
Eric meditates to clear his mind and then makes a list of the things that has been bothering him since he started feeling bad about his job. He also talks to his best buddy at work.
Step 3: Define the problem
He finds that among various things on his list, the focus and main concern for the situation is that he has been feeling unhappy since a new process has been introduced at work. This process requires him to go through new tasks, before receiving approval from his manager. While Eric is a hard worker, he also feels that the new process is time-consuming and even a waste of time!
Step 4: Generate ideas that can potentially solve the problem
As a professional in his field, Eric generates possible ideas on how to work with the new process, to achieve or even exceed his set sales targets.
Step 5: Evaluate potential solutions, based on set criteria
Out of a list of potential solutions, Eric finds that there’s a missing link between his existing skills in software applications and the execution of the tasks in the new process. He identifies that a ‘skills gap’ is at the root of his frustration!
Eric’s Manager tells him that time spent on formal training during office hours will hurt the set quarterly sales target, given the company’s current situation.
Step 6: Prepare an action plan, considering possible sources of assistance/resistance
Eric decides to start an online course by himself, which he can follow at home (within a time frame) since the company won’t offer any additional training.
Step 7: Evaluate the results
Eric completes his online course, adds a new skill to his curriculum vitae, and can execute his work as expected, and in due time! He has been told by his delighted Manager that his work has improved!
While issues of concern vary vastly in nature, and also in complexity, the above scenario is simple enough to briefly illustrate how a problem-solving process may be used in a real-life situation.
I’m pleased to keep such techniques at hand, so that I may apply them again and again in future! How do you deal with problem-solving? Would you like to share anything? Please do so. Thank you!
Editor’s Note: This blog post has been edited and updated for better accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Photo courtesy: Canva