Sunday, January 6, 2019

How to Spot Your Problem-Solving Master

The problem-solving masters are artistic scientists who can use their logic and intuition fluently, discover patterns and put the misplaced puzzle pieces in the right place until the premium solutions emerge. 

A problem is a difference between an expectation (vision or intention) and the actual situation (current reality) coupled with a negative feeling. Generally speaking, there are three questions on what is a problem: Is there a deviation from the set expectation? Is the cause of the problem unknown? Do you need to know the cause to take meaningful action? The problem-solving thought process, methodologies, and practices will not be simple for many of today’s complex issues or vexing problems. Fundamentally, running a business is an iterative problem-solving continuum. All digital leaders and professionals develop their reputation as a problem creator or a problem-solver. Some or many solve certain problems in a certain area but create other problems in the other domains. There are small issues and large problems, there are tactical problem-solvers and strategic problem solvers. How to spot and develop problem-solving masters who can diagnose the root cause and solve problems creatively, flexibly, and holistically?

Problem-framing: Keep in mind, problem-solving is about seeing a problem, discovering the root cause, and actually finding a solution to that problem, not just the band-aid approach to fixing the 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. Problem-framing is a critical stage and it’s worthwhile considering why things are the way they are for, in doing so, you are challenging automatic assumptions that something needs 'fixing.' The problem seems to be that a lot of the time the problem definition process is not implemented. Technically, it’s important to leverage five “WHYs” or other critical thinking and analytics techniques to discover the real cause and address it. Cognitively, people are often at the center of the problem. Diagnosing the problem from the mindset level is the critical step for digging into the root causes of many problems today. Philosophically and methodologically, it’s important to leverage Systems Thinking to understand the “scope” of the problem, see a larger system with interactive pieces and “conflict” goals; understand the interdependent pieces, provide the insight into the emergent properties, gain an accurate understanding of the overall situation and hence better defining the real problem structurally.

Problem-solver assessment: 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. Understand the problem, and understanding what are the necessary skills and competency to solve the well-defined the problem needs both logic and intuition. High IQ and EQ are both important for effective problem-solving. The assessment should start at the mindset level. The right mindset is the utmost quality for being the right fit because the power of the mind is the force to problem-solving. Generally speaking, the people with differentiated competency to solve large or tough problems are the ones who possess the right mind with positive thinking, critical thinking, creative thinking, and systems thinking. There are still different sorts of outdated mindsets, such as silo thinking (refuse to have cross-functional collaboration); polar thinking (we are right, they are wrong); non-critical thinking (reflexive, not reflective), stereotypical (we always do things like that), small thinking (locally right, globally wrong) have difficult time to solve tough problems and digital complexities. The problem-solving masters show emotional intelligence to dispassionately analyze the situation objectively, flexibility to make the adjustment, creativity to think alternative solutions and system wisdom to leverage the framework approach to handle the problem in a structural way with less side effect.

Problem-solving processes, methodologies, and scenario: A healthy process for problem-solving goes between flexibility and hard process, to make a smooth transition from pursuing the perfect solution which perhaps does not exist to making continuous adjustment and improvement. For the tactical issues, you can drive mechanically thinking about a problem in normal traffic and linear logic. However, if the situation is fluid and dynamic, the large and complex problems have a lot of inter-dependencies and uncertainty, it calls for holistic and systems thinking. Look at the problem from as many perspectives as possible, leverage systems thinking to generate a variety of options for dealing with problems. Evaluating which alternatives might work better than others - that is the realm of logical analysis within systems understanding. In the business context, it takes commitment and discipline to stay focused on the real priorities of the business instead of being distracted by what seems to be more urgent on any given day, in order to solve the most critical problems to ensure the long-term business success.

Problem-solving is both art and science. The problem-solving masters are artistic scientists who can use their logic and intuition fluently, discover patterns and put the misplaced puzzle pieces in the right place until the premium solutions emerge. The ones who can solve the problems creatively are the innovators. The world needs more of those innovators to make a digital leap.


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