Friday, September 1, 2017

Five Problem Solving Credos

Problem-solving has a very wide scope and takes the interdisciplinary approach.

Problem-solving is about understanding a problem and actually finding a solution to that problem, not just the band-aid approach to fixing the symptom. Fundamentally, every job is to deal with problems big or small both from the long term perspective or on the daily basis. We all develop reputations for being problem creators, problem definers or problem solvers. Here is a set of problem-solving credos.

Problem-solving has a very wide scope and takes the interdisciplinary approach: People are complex, business is complex, and society is complex today. Thus, more often than not, those existing or emergent problems are also complex. Solving complex business problems requires accelerated digital mindsets, leveraging multidisciplinary knowledge and insight, taking an end-to-end response and a structural and an iterative approach. Overall speaking, trans or interdisciplinary science can be applied to solving problems with integrating multidisciplinary methodologies. It involves applied Science (Engineering), Art (Design), principle (Philosophy), Cognition (Psychology), Social norms (Culture) and group behavior (Sociology). To solve problems creatively, digital leaders and professionals need to learn how to frame bigger thinking boxes, or work across multiple boxes, and approach problems technically, scientifically, philosophically, psychologically, and sociologically. For complex problem-solving, it takes collective thinking and collaborative mindset to brainstorm the solutions. The solutions will most probably cover standard aspects such as culture/behavior change, support resources for designing/building/ implementation of the change (what mix of internal/external resources /capabilities), planning and control etc., but also, with very specific technical/functional/system aspects.

Unless there is a problem there is no creativity: Any problem is the right problem if there is an attempt to find a fit solution. Having the brainstorm helps problem identification to avoid “worrying about the wrong thing” symptom. It becomes about addressing the correct need and perhaps the problem becomes how to identify the need at the right level, continue to ask 'Why is that a problem?' at each successive stage. Sometimes lack of creativity becomes the problem after many people refused to deal with it for various reasons, and ignored it until it becomes a problem and later, the bigger problem, and the harder problem; the even hard problem to avoid the problem, the business survival problem or the career breaker problem. Perhaps the underlying issue is one of understanding the application of creativity rather than the identification of a situation that demands a specific solution. A true problem-solver has the intellectual curiosity to dig into the root cause, enjoys understanding the complexity and guides people through it; finds common ground and initiatives dialogues, turns around the tough situations, and enjoys the challenges about complex problem-solving.

The super problem-solvers often have the intellectual curiosity to dig into the root cause and change mind to adapt to the digital dynamic: Diagnosing the root cause, not just the symptom is the first step to identify the real problem before solving it. If you only fix the symptom, not the root cause, then it perhaps causes more problems later. And that is why our world today, contains, in reality, more problems creators than true problems solvers because, trying to solve a problem, by nature will create others. And if you don’t have a sound solution to each newly created problem, you’ll have very little chances to successfully solving the main problem, and all is connected. The problem-solvers have to apply multidimensional intelligence ( creative thinking, critical thinking, strategic thinking and system thinking) that goes into problem identification as well as solution discovering! Businesses today need to recognize and develop creative problem-solvers, innovators and those who have the intellectual curiosity to dig into the root cause, and those who can connect the unusual dots, see through the issues, look around and beneath the corner, and work smarter. The success of any problem-solving at the organizational scope must include the welfare of the principals - employees. Involve talented people by giving them active roles in the business initiatives or real world problems, make them feel important, appreciate and reward them, and then, the challenges to solve difficult problems can be overcome.

It is difficult to encounter a 'real world' (physical/commercial) problem whose solution does not follow any logic at all: There are no illogical problems, however, there are many problems that seem irrational and there is a difference between the two. Often, the apparent 'illogical' nature of our original perception of the problem may be masking a rationale that we just cannot comprehend. Many people find it difficult for understanding that the irrational is very common and is often a fear response to change or preserved threat. Some problems seem irrational as they are caused by people’s emotional reaction to a set of circumstances or events. This can appear to be illogical. We all use our curiosity to identify the problem and our creativity to solve problems, for what is creativity about, an ability to seek solutions to problems. There is no guarantee of a correct answer, just an attempt to find one. It's how we learned to walk and talk. Perhaps the nature of how the "implementation of the idea has to follow a logical path for the solution" may include devices such as pattern recognition. We have a predisposition to seeking patterns (potentially in the pursuit of logic) when attempting to 'find' a solution whether the pattern-seeking follows more conventional structures (common qualities, correlates within each modality, self-evident relationships etc), or more divergent methods have a direct relationship to our creative potential. At the macro level, it does conform to a sequence, a focus or a goal, a motivation to explore proposals, a willingness to imaginatively explore, an ability to evaluate the imaginative proposals for 'appropriateness' and a capacity to translate those ideations into some form of unambiguous approach for problem-solving.

Both tangible and intangible variables are important to problem-solving: You have to think in terms of both 'tangible' and 'intangible' when identifying the complex business problem. Thinking creatively about a problem requires being close to the problem, it requires context and intangible variables. For problems that matter, it cannot be done asynchronously and uniformly. Beware of the need to consider the problems related to people, challenges of learning complex technology and complex systems. And in many cases, people in the different role perceive problems from different angles. The customers or users do not think the same way as the designer. One of the pitfalls for digital transformation, either for improvement or innovation is sometimes getting the 'right answer' to the 'wrong question. The underlying problem is whether or not the user understands the implication of the decision to proceed, not their willingness to commit to the action, and provide protection in case they don't understand the implication. The problems can be solved when different parties work collaboratively to identify tangible and intangible variables and take the interdisciplinary approach to solve them seamlessly.

To quote Russell Ackoff: 'The only problems that have simple solutions are simple problems." The only managers that have simple problems have simple minds. You can give most people skills easily when compared to trying to give/develop the ability, attitude, flexibility, intelligence, practicality, pragmatism for problem-solving.


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