Saturday, November 11, 2017

Holistic Problem-Solving

Being holistic suggests a genuine sense of exploration and innovation or simply creative problem-solving.

“Holistic thinking" refers to a big picture mentality, and understand that the whole is often greater than the sum of the parts. Holistic thinking is the type of thinking practice that appreciates how underlying complexity generates the features and phenomena of interest to practitioners so that they can work with them accordingly. From the problem-solving perspective, what are the characteristics of situations or problems in which we should adopt holistic thinking? When is the trade-off more beneficial in adopting holistic thinking versus mechanistic thinking or linear logical thinking for improving problem-solving effectiveness?

Holistic thinking enables understanding “patterns of change” which is important for dynamic problem-solving: Digital means flow, hyper-connectivity, and interdependence. Holistic thinking is important to understand, frame, and solve today’s multilayer, interdependent, and over-complex business problems. Holistic thinking has a correlation with systems thinking which is the thought process for seeing interrelationships rather than isolated things, from seeing patterns of change rather than static “snapshots.” We can drive 'mechanically' thinking about a problem in normal traffic and linear logic, however, if the situation is very natural and fluid, with a lot of inter-dependencies and uncertainty, it calls for holistic or systems thinking. Holistic thinking which requires interdisciplinary knowledge and systematic approach is in demand to deal with today’s over-complex business dynamic.

Holistic Problem-solving is important to fix real problems, rather than just symptoms: The opposite of holistic thinking is silo thinking which is the root causes of many business problems today. 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 will continue to return.  it is important to take a holistic approach to solve real problems. In terms of a holistic 'viewpoint,’ one does often need to integrate different stereotyped or 'mechanistic' viewpoints. The goal of holistic problem-solving is to ensure the real problems have been fixed and cause the least side effect as possible. It is the integration and searches for new viewpoints that are holistic. There needs to be a better appreciation to examine a situation and understand the problem from different angles and zoom out to see the larger system and their part in the mess, in order to come out the optimal solutions without too many side effects. At times, when you only want to see things from your own point of view, see what you want to see, or, hear what you want to hear, often you miss the point to understand the real problem holistically and how to solve it systematically.

Holistic problem-solving encourages divergent thinking, nonlinear logic, exploration, and innovation: A holistic perspective is a zoom out the view and works well when deploying, conceiving and redefining a problem more precisely and solve it more systematically and creatively. The holistic problem-solving methodology is about discussing the difference in approaching some issue, such as ideas, problems, space, phenomenon, experiences, visions, etc, in a systematic fashion. You need a more holistic approach for complex problem-solving when you suspect based on experience with similar problems that there is no solution, or that temporary fix will cause you to reconsider the problem statement soon after. A holistic view can either be used to refine or adjust the problem statement so that it can be approached reductively. Being holistic also suggests a genuine sense of exploration and innovation or simply creative problem-solving.

Problem-solving is both art and science. You could probably claim you are a digital master with 'holistic' in your ways of thinking and problems solving. Holistic Thinking is the skill which can be developed via continuous practice, either for decision making or problem-solving.


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Thank you for your insight into Holistic Problem-Solving. I am currently researching and writing a book on Stewardship, with Holistic Problem-Solving as a central concept. I would love to send some of the writing your way to get your opinion. It will be a while before I am ready, but I hope you will be receptive. Thank you. Tom Lawson

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