Problem solving, as the name suggests, is the overall method of solving a problem that has been presented before you.
1. Defining and understanding the problem presented before
2. Finding the root cause
3. Identifying possible solutions
4. Figuring out the feasibility, shortlisting and prioritising said solutions
5. The actual execution of the solution
While problem solving seems like a skill that you will only use when it is brought up in a professional setting or institutional workshops on the same, it is actually a really important ability to possess. Even in our day to day lives, even for the smallest of things- for when you have a bunch of keys and are trying to memorise which one opens which lock in your house, or for when you’re trying to quit biting your nails; knowingly, or unknowingly so, we use problem solving.
Problem solving is a skill that can be strengthened over time. Some problem solving strategies that might prove to be useful for you in the future are-
1. Trial and error- Trial and Error is considered to be one of, if not the most fundamental ways of problem-solving is trial and error. It mainly consists of frequent attempts that are continued with some variations, over and over until the one practising it succeeds in solving the problem at hand or gives up and stops attempting.
2. Root cause analysis- Root cause analysis, or RCA is a problem solving method mainly used in industries like IT operations, healthcare and medicine, industrial process control, etc. The Root Cause Analysis method consists of four steps. These steps are-
● Recognizing and unfolding the problem
● Establishing a time from normalcy to the point when the problem came up
● Categorising the correlations into causes and other factors
● Create a graph that shows the relationship between the root cause and the problem.
3. Research- “Creative and systematic activity undertaken to enhance the reservoir of knowledge” is what research is defined as. It entails gathering, organising, and analysing data in order to gain a better knowledge of a topic or issue. A research project could be a continuation of previous work in the topic. Research may repeat portions of previous projects or the entire project to assess the validity of instruments, processes, or experiments.
4. Proof- Demonstrate that the problem is unsolvable. When you eventually find yourself failing to prove that the problem is unsolvable, that is the point where you start solving your problem for.
5. Means-End Analysis- The Means-End Analysis technique is a problem solving strategy for controlling search. Given a present state and a desired state, an action is chosen to narrow the gap between the two. The action is performed on the present state to create a new state, and the procedure is then applied to this new state as well as the goal state. It is worth noting that for Means-End Analysis to work, the goal-seeking system needs to be able to link any kind of measurable difference to the behaviours that are crucial to minimising that difference. It must also be able to track its progress (the changes in the disparities between the current and target states), as certain action sequences that you attempt may fail.
6. Lateral thinking is a method of problem-solving that takes an indirect and innovative approach to problem-solving by employing non-obvious reasoning. It involves concepts that might not be possible to achieve by typical step-by-step logic. Consider King Solomon’s lateral thinking in The Judgment of Solomon, in which he settles a dispute over a child’s parentage by ordering the kid to be sliced in half and basing his decision on the reactions to this order. In hindsight, lateral thinking frequently produces solutions that appear to be “obvious.”
7. Six thinking hats technique- The six thinking hats approach is a highly suggested way for decision making, especially when it incorporates some level of problem solving. It entails sorting components of the problem in front of you into six broad categories, each of which is allocated to a different coloured hat. White, Red, Yellow, Green, Black, and Blue are the six colours in question. Some people also consider wearing a seventh ‘Royal’ hat. The ‘white hat’ symbolises cold, neutral, and objective truths. The ‘black hat’ depicts all of the potential for things to go wrong, as well as judgement of probable scenarios and retaining a level of caution when dealing with them. The ‘green hat’ indicates new ideas and alternate pathways to explore, as well as different perspectives on the subject at hand. The ‘red hat’ signifies your instincts and your gut feeling about where the solutions you’re following will lead you. The ‘yellow hat’ is a symbol of hope and optimism. The ‘blue hat’ indicates your capacity to organise your time and information in the most efficient way possible. It also refers to your capacity to manage your options in terms of which path you’ll take to tackle the problem, as well as how you manage your time. The ‘royal hat’ represents your passion and interest in addressing your problem, as well as your desire and ability to visualise your task in a larger context—in other words, your willingness to look ‘beyond the box.’
8. Hypothesis testing- Hypothesis testing is the process of assuming a plausible solution to the problem at hand and attempting to prove (or disprove, in some cases) that assumption.
9. Divide and conquer- Try to split your problem into smaller problems, that seem easier to solve. Taking your problems up part by part, or one day at a time, which is a more commonly used phrase, makes it easier to handle.
10. Brainstorming- Brainstorming is the process of problem solving by coming up with a huge number of options or ideas and merging and developing them until the best one is discovered. This works even better when ideas are thrown around in a group setting.
When you implement these tips, you can work on your problem solving skills, and hence be more adept to grow your decision making skills and your creativity too.