"To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks the real advance in science." — Albert Einstein
Fundamentally, every job is to deal with problems big or small both from long term perspective or on the daily basis. We all develop reputations - for being problem creators, problem definers or problem solvers. Sometimes, even you intend to solve problems but perhaps causes more serious problems later on. So it's important to observe the problem-solving scenarios and ask yourself the sets of questions such as, how do you discover the part you played in the problem/challenge? Which thought processes shall you leverage to diagnose problems and solve them? What is the best way to handle a problem that seems to have no solution?" How to build a good reputation on problem-solving?
Fixing the wrong cause of a problem is wasting time and energy: Perhaps traditional education methodologies train students for being answer-driven, rather than problem-focus, they get used to following the teacher's command to hunt for answers -the HOW, instead of criticizing the problem itself -to ask the big WHY questions. Often times, people have a tendency to try to fix a symptom which results from the actual cause of the problem. When they do this, they throw good money after bad. They allow problems to grow under the surface, out of sight, out of mind, until it’s too late. Until the underlying problem is addressed, the symptom or result will continue to return. So trying to fix the wrong cause of a problem will waste time and resources, increase anxiety, and leave industries full of opportunists who see rewards by offering solutions that address symptoms & results rather than problems. Therefore, it’s important to first frame the problems. We need to listen and understand before acting, and constantly learn, educate, and share, and the challenge for leaders is to motivate others to be real problem solvers by first understanding what is the real problem, and then solve it smoothly.
Leveraging Critical Thinking for digging into root causes, and Systems Thinking (ST) for problem framing: Critical Thinkers are always chasing root cause via asking the big 'WHY' questions without too rushing up into HOW. "decide" - to take the identification of the facts and root cause, and mold into a solution based on the objectives and other extenuating circumstances. Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than isolated things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static “snapshots.” For solving complex problems, leveraging ST for problem framing helps to see a larger system with interactive pieces and “conflict” goals. Rather than considering a single goal, you need to consider a larger system with multiple and conflicting goals. A simple variable can be both cause and effect. Reality will not be still. And it cannot be taken apart! You cannot understand a cell, a living thing, a brain structure, an organization, or a culture if you isolate it from its context. Systems thinking is about reaching a shared understanding through studying, knowledge, and experimenting. It is a method of development that works with certain conditions being met/ prepared. The better solution to many problems that crosses all industries is to keep peeling back the layers to find the root cause via leveraging critical thinking to asking five WHYs, or taking other systematic approaches - to discover the real cause and address it. And dilemmas do exist, they seem do not have obvious solutions, but they can be managed, and best managed by recognizing the tensions between presenting polarities and understanding the cause and effect for clarity.
Solving tough problems or old thorny issues creatively: A problem is a difference between an expectation ( intention, vision) and the actual situation (current reality) coupled with a negative feeling. When you encounter a tough problem, you need to use a creative way. Both creative and critical thinkers live out of the box, ask open questions to collect relevant information, and think alternatives. You seek for inventions, new designs, creative problem solving. It drives innovation. In the business world, at least, you can't always wait for the "best" decision to emerge. Creative problem-solving starts with creative communication, sets alternative choices, and then you have to make best decisions you can, based on connecting unusual dots, identify and prioritize alternative solutions, also take a structural way to make inquiries, a sound process to make a better choice, and have the gut to admit when a mid-course correction is in order. Collective wisdom is often the secret source for creative problem solving. Co-create alternative visions and dream into existence of new solutions, these are the capacities of humans who are not trapped in 'the same level of thinking' as others or even former personification of 'selves.'
Problem solving is about seeing a problem and actually finding a solution to that problem, no just the band-aid approach to fixing the symptom. No one person or entity is always the source of problems, likewise, no one person will be the panacea to problems, but with teamwork, amicable solutions can be achieved. Keep sharpening your problem-solving skills, always dig under the surface, and build a good reputation as a real problem-framer or problem-solver.