Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Five Elements (AISDE) in Digital Problem-Solving Framework

Building a comprehensive problem-solving framework is about leveraging a structured methodology that allows you to frame problems systematically and solve problems creatively. 

Running a business is fundamentally an iterative problem-solving continuum. Due to fast-paced change, the exponential growth of information and continuous digital disruptions, the problems facing business also turn to be over-complex and difficult to solve. You need to have deep insight, take a holistic approach to complex problem-solving and build a comprehensive framework for both defining the right problems and solving them effectively. Otherwise, the temporary fix will cause you to reconsider the problem statement soon after. Here, we introduce a comprehensive digital problem-solving framework with "AISDE" components.

Diagnose the problem Systematically: Look out of problems before look into the problems in order to make an objective assessment of the problem. The business management should determine why problems happened, how problems escalated, which areas of the organization were affected, and when the problems started. To framing the right problem, you need to step back, or get out of the box, and do not become overwhelmed with trivial details, in order to look at the problem from the different angle or understand the issues holistically via multi-disciplinary lenses. Often, the problem of problem-solving seems to be that a lot of the time the problem definition process is not implemented. Or there are several, even many processes suggested for defining problems. Assessing and defining the problems is usually more important than solving the problem, otherwise, trying to fix the wrong problems will cause more problems later on. Behind every problem is a relationship dynamic out of alignment, thus, understanding human dynamics, systems, and relationships do help to assess the problem systematically, actually understand the problem, and truly understanding a problem is the most critical step in solving it.

Identify qualified problem solvers: Identify the problem - what is exactly wrong, out of balance, unjust, etc., the exact description of the problem. When the problem is well-defined, it is also important to spot the right person (people) with the right mindset and skills to solve it. One of the most important management disciplines today is to put the right people with the right capabilities in the right position to solve the right problem timely. High IQ and EQ are both important for effective problem-solving. Problem-solving is a mindset with curiosity, self-inclusiveness, creativity, and progression, which directly impacts the intellectual sophistication of problem-solving capability. There is as much creative thinking, critical thinking, strategic thinking and system thinking that go into problem identification as well as solution discovery. People who can solve problems in a new way are innovators. Emotional intelligence is also critical for problem-solving because it is the ability to harness positive emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problems solving, dispassionately analyze the situation objectively in order to make the sound judgment. Be cautious of those "problem-creating" mindsets, such as silo thinking, polar thinking (we are right, they are wrong); non-critical thinking (reflexive, not reflective), stereotypical thinking (based on outdated perception), small thinking (locally right, globally wrong) or static thinking (we always do things this way), have difficult time to solve tough problems, and continue to argue “it’s impossible.” Therefore, identify qualified problem-solvers are imperative because misfit minds and skills will cause more problems.

Select Problem-Solving Tools, Methods, and Practices:
The business or societal progress is made via a healthy cycle of problem framing and problem-solving continuum. Problems that arise in organizations are almost always the product of interactions of parts, never the action of a single part. Thus, Systems Thinking is an important problem-solving tool. Complex problems often do not have simple solutions, some may look simple, but there is a lot of collective effort need to put in. It is important to select a set of tools, develop the tailored methodologies and practices for problem-solving. For example, Systems thinking provides the tools and methodologies to define the problem under uncertainty because it helps you actually understand the problem, and understanding a problem is the most critical step in solving it. So, the goal is to take multidisciplinary approaches, select tailored tools, methods, and practices to pursue an optimal solution. The main emphasis is in doing better pre-work, such as defining the situation and the "success criteria," take consideration of the range of options, rather than the traditional "jump to solution" problem-solving method. Healthy process for problem-solving goes between flexibility and hard processes, with the ultimate goal for effective problem-solving.

Discover or design Creative Solutions: Out-of-the-box problem solving is about how to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective for either defining or solving existing or emergent problems. Being creative is about how to solve a problem in an intelligent manner. Creative minds have the ability to reframe the circumstances or conditions around a problem and solve it creatively. “Out-of-the-box” problem-solvers usually can think both creatively and critically, ask open questions such as “What If,” or “Why Not,” to stimulate deep brainstorming, embrace broad perspectives, and collect relevant information, in order to think about alternative solutions. Also, it is important to apply creativity in a recursive way to the creative process for both problem identification and problem-solving. Designing a creative solution is about how to establish the framework to apply creativity for problem-solving in an intelligent manner, to push the envelope, to go beyond what is expected, with the goal to deliver the excellent solution.

Evaluate outcomes: The evaluation of problem-solving is to ensure the real problems have been fixed and cause the least side effect as possible. It is important to keep track of the outcome of problem-solving: Has the problem been fixed permanently? Does the solution cause any side effect, or cause more serious issues later on? Who are the real problem-solvers? Find the factors involved in the final "incorrect" outcome. See if you can measure or weigh each factor's contribution to the result, or the description of the unit of measure. Build a hypothetical equation that describes your "incorrect" outcome. See how changing any of these gets better or worsens that outcome. Taking a systematic approach to measurement can avoid blind-spots in problem-solving management. The organization that didn't have a systematic approach to measurement and analysis at both the strategic level and operational level has a giant blind spot that is impairing their performance or problem-solving effectiveness. Having the appropriate performance indicators is very important. But acting on what those indicators are telling you is vital to sustaining and improving problem-solving capability at the business level.

Building a comprehensive problem-solving framework is about leveraging a structured methodology that allows you to frame problems systematically and solve problems creatively. In most cases, you don't understand your business environment because you have never looked outside the boundary of the problem. It is important to discover the containing system has social, ecological, economic and political elements and you must advance the development of all of these factors in order to solve the problems in a holistic way.


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