Sunday, October 29, 2017

Synthesizing Problem-Solving

Keep sharpening problem-solving skills, always dig under the surface, and build a good reputation as an insightful problem-framer or real problem-solver.

Fundamentally, every job is to deal with problems big or small both from long-term perspectives or on a daily basis. Fixing the wrong cause of a problem is wasting time and energy. There are many thought processes behind problem identification and there are many step-wise approaches to solve problems seamlessly. There is analytical problem-solving - break down the larger problems into small pieces and solve them separately. There is synthesizing problems solving which focuses on understanding the interconnectivity of problems & solutions via a holistic lens. The terms analysis and synthesis come from classical Greek and mean literally "to loosen up" and "to put together" respectively.  Here are three aspects of synthetic problem-solving:


The synthesizing problem-solving is more future-oriented, perceives “what could be”: While analytics describes “what is.” Analytical problem-solving is the breaking down of a complex system into pieces that are small enough to be understood, in such a way that you can reassemble them, as you broke them down to gain a deeper understanding of "what is," you solve them pieces by pieces. However, every solution could bring some side effect for other pieces of problems if you only think about them individually with the current state. Therefore, Synthesizing problem becomes important, especially in today’s “VUCA” digital business environment. Synthesis is the process of assembling those individual pieces in a different way to give you a sense of “what can be,” and based on that select “what should be.”  The analysis is largely about partitioning, the synthesis process should be pulling the analysis process, just as the analysis process is feeding the synthesis process. Synthesizing problem-solving is more future driven, understand the problem as well as potential solutions from the future lens, to mix perception, knowledge, and imagination toward more comprehensive ways to frame problems and alternative ways to solve them. From a leadership perspective, it's about practicing strategic thinking and synthesis skill, envisioning the larger picture is a critical aspect to understand the best next moves and solve both existing problems or emergent problems effortlessly.   


Synthesis is more on the lines of problem-solving by taking a longer-term approach: Problem-solving is about seeing a problem and actually finding a solution to that problem, not just the band-aid approach to fixing the symptom. Sometimes, even you intend to solve problems but perhaps cause more serious problems later on. Thus, synthesis is natural digital thinking for hyperconnectivity, to put things together to imagine “the art of possible,” and make the combination of components or elements to form a connected whole. Synthesizing problem-solving looks at the context in which it has happened, and then expanding into being a larger picture to solve larger problems, making it part of a whole wider world. From the leadership perspective, when lack of synthesizing lens, many think they are problem-solvers, in fact, they do solve certain pieces of problems. However, when understanding the larger problem via synthesizing lens, sometimes, they are actually creating the problem in other situations and even cause larger problems for the longer term. Thus, today’s digital leaders should self-aware of their role in problems and show professional maturity to understand their intention, capability, and capacity for the problems they intend to solve. Otherwise, they perhaps have good intention to solve the problem, but they, unfortunately, become the large part of the problem if lack of profound insight, right problem-solving mentality, and skills.


The synthesizing mind tends to look at the complex problem as a whole, not just the sum of pieces: It is about leveraging systems thinking in problem framing and solving. Running a business is a journey to solve large or small problems on a daily basis. System lens 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. Reality will not be still. And it cannot be taken apart! A simple variable can be both cause and effect. For solving complex problems, leveraging Systems Thinking for problem framing helps to take on a broad open perspective and solve them via “putting them together” seamlessly without creating too many new problems. It takes hyperconnected understanding and highly integral approach. From a leadership and management perspective, digital leaders and professionals today should have a learning attitude to think about alternative solutions and focus on effective problem-solving, not finger-pointing. Build transparent problem-solving processes help to dig through the root cause of failures, and have a better controlling system for preventing or diagnosing problems as well.


We all play a role in problem creating or problem-solving. Being a quiet observer and become self-aware of how our own actions/thoughts/ feelings contributed to problems/challenges that we all face at our surrounding and around the world. With the advent of modern technology and multiple communication-learning channels, more people can build their professional capabilities with greater ease. Superior problem-solvers are in demand. Keep sharpening problem-solving skills, always dig under the surface, and build a good reputation as an insightful problem-framer or real problem-solver.


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