Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Problem Solving

Problem solving is an important skill.We face problems on daily basis and we need to solve them consistently. You solve one problem and other problem usually appears on the horizon. I am not using the term problem in a negative sense. There is a problem at hand to solve when we desire to change the existing state of situation to a new state. A problem is a gap between what is currently there to what we desire it should be. Solving is the process or action that helps in changing the state from current to desired. 

At a given point of time, everyone usually deals with multiple kinds of  problems. Before we can venture into problem solving, it's important to define the problem and understand the exact nature of
problem. A well defined problem is half battle won whereas an ill defined problem can lead to rat holes. One might spend his life in trying to insert a square peg in a circular hole. 

How to define the problem? Definition of problem has two important ingredients.
  • Current state which also is the input of the problem. When we are defining the current state, it's not just about defining the symptoms but we need to identify the cause of symptoms. Understanding causal elements is important for good problem definition. For example you are not feeling good, than you need to understand the cause of dullness. Is it because of illness or heavy work load or relationship issues or something else. Understanding the true nature of causal elements requires dispassionate thinking and introspection. In this case, one need to evaluate the thoughts and feelings of self and look into things which trigger them.
  • Desired state which becomes the output of the problem. This is what you want to achieve when the problem is solved. For example the desired outcome could be that you want to feel good and want to carry a sense of satisfaction. 
Once the problem is well defined, the next question one need to ask is that if there is a need to solve the problem. One may not want to solve all the problems? Problem solving may takes time, resources and money. One has to be very judicious about the kind of problems one want to solve. The other aspect is the sequence in which you want to solve the current set of problems. Some problems are urgent and others are not us. Also don't cultivate a habit of solving problem only when they become urgent.

The other important question is, can you solve the problem? Do you have enough capability and resources to solve it. You want to solve the problem of pollution of the world. You know the inputs and outputs. You really want to solve it but can you solve it? I am not discouraging you to not to make an effort to solve the problem of pollution, but you need to be careful that if you work on this problem you will have to dedicate yourself on this and withdraw yourself from many other things. Remember we have twenty four hours in a day and we need to sleep also.

If you still are reaching to a conclusion that the problem needs to be solved, than comes the solving part. The process of finding solution and taking from current state to desired state. The important action in this step is to find all the possible alternatives to solve the problem which are possible in terms of resources you have got. You can solve the problem of reaching to office late by hiring a helicopter but do you have that kind of money. The alternatives needs to be grounded on reality. The alternatives need to be evaluated on the basis of cost they incur and how near they take to the desired outcome. Some alternative may just get 80-90% result but they are cheap to execute.

Once the alternative is identified, it's all about executing that alternative and which requires discipline and dedication. If you reach office late because you start late and because you wake up late and because you sleep late and because you watch too much TV. One need the discipline and dedication to stop or shorten the TV watching and go to bed early.

Problem solving becomes easy if we follow the above steps and work on them at a realistic plane. What kind of problems you are solving in your life?

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