Problem solving helps weigh the pros and cons of a situation.
And problem solving is an art in itself, if we train our minds to deal with it whenever we are faced with such and find appropriate solutions.
However, solving problems is a very vast topic altogether.
Human problem solving is used in finding answers to math equations, engineering, medicine, solving puzzles or quizzes, and in computer science and artificial intelligence.
Even in an examination, a multiple-choice question is a form of problem solving through the use of deduction in logic reasoning.
It is a field of psychology that deals with mental processing. The list of problems we go about solving is endless.
The simplest definition of problem solving is the process or act of finding solutions to problems.
Involved is the thought processes in solving a problem.
And the area of cognitive psychology that studies these processes involved.
A most famous quote on problem solving is by Albert Einstein who said:
“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”
And E.A. Bucchianeri said:
“Well, if it can be thought, it can be done, a problem can be overcome.”
When we look at the term problem solving, other related words come to mind, such as:
Resolution of problems, addressing challenges, resolving issues, dealing with a problem situation, troubleshooting, problem analysis, task solution, handling a problem, and sorting out a problem.
They all, by and large mean the same thing to us. To get a solution to what is facing us.
Having said that, there is a vocabulary that can aid us in our quest for understanding, reasoning and solving problems.
Besides solution and resolution, we can think of:
a compromise, an answer, a remedy, a cure, an antidote, a fix, a prescription, a way out or around the problem, damage control, an arrangement, a formula, heuristics, a quick fix, a magic bullet, a stopgap, a process of elimination, a panacea, a concession, crisis management, reconciliation, settlement, the line or path of least resistance, arbitration.
Using our initiative and lateral thinking, we can navigate one of the above, choosing one over the other, if all else fails. If it is in the area of conflicts in crisis management, then what corrective measures are we going to agree on together to bring peace and harmony to proceedings. So life can continue until the next obstacles. Then we can use our reasoning again to sort out any impediments on our path. The final goal is a peaceful pact.
Problem Solving In Other Species
Different species use problem solving. It was observed that chimpanzees have solved problems by the use of tool-making.
It was Dr. Jane Goodall, a world-renowned anthropologist and primatologist, who studied and observed chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania in 1960.
Jane noticed that one chimpanzee she named David Greybeard was ‘fishing’ termites by inserting sticks or twigs into a mound and then eating the termites off these tools he made.
In addition, other chimpanzees developed the ability to do likewise in order to fetch food for themselves.
Other ‘tools’ consisted of using leaves as sponges to soak up water from a stream to drink. And they would crack open fruits with rocks to get at the fruit inside to eat. They also made use of rocks and sticks as weapons.
Even honey bees in their nest site selection have been noticed to use their own unique system to find themselves a new home.
This is all part of problem solving.
Human Problem Solving
In our personal problems we are often faced with barriers, division and challenges. And problems can occur every where we are – at home, at play and in the workplace.
Questions arise, questions for us adults, and even questions for children. And before we can get answers, we seek help. Where do we turn to in times of difficulty? Or what tools or resources do we have at our disposal to effect a remedy?
The steps or process involved in problem solving are:
- Defining the problem
- Observation, analysis of the facts
- What are the alternatives?
- Evaluation and choosing from the alternatives
- Implementing the appropriate solution
Defining the problem
For us humans, solving problems can be done better if we can define what it is, to understand the situation with which we are dealing.
“A problem well stated is a problem half solved.” John Dewey
Only when we identify the source or nature of the predicament we face, can a meaningful remedy be attempted.
Finding the root of the trouble, not just the result that causes the difficulty, is the beginning of the process in solving issues.
And getting all the information or data surrounding the dilemma will more than likely arrive at a better starting point to begin proceedings.
This is the fact-finding phase of the operation. Gaining a very clear picture of the situation makes the other phases of the problem-solving process more achievable.
This is the first skill as a problem solver.
Simple quandaries can be handled personally. While more complex issues would necessitate team involvement or teamwork with collaborative participation.
Observation, analysis of the facts
After the facts surrounding the problematic situation is thoroughly researched and the reason for the issue is identified, then analysis of this data is necessary for arriving at solutions.
“There’s no use talking about the problem unless you talk about the solution.” Betty Williams
Although analyzing the facts would give the source of the trouble to begin with, the ongoing analysis and inspection will increase understanding and lead to a more informed ongoing process.
To arrive at any answer, fix, or prescription, exhaustive investigation must be done. With all of the facts at hand, and scrutinized, interpreted and studied, these observations are now considered for prescribing a remedy of choice.
What are the alternatives?
“For an objective approach to a problem, you need to have an overview rather than involvement.” Haresh Sippy
From our brainstorming phase, possible fixes may present itself. It may be wise to take note of all of them. Later on, it will be determined which one will be best to apply to this particular situation.
For now, it it is to examine all options unearthed.
From here we can discover, obtain and determine solutions that are possible. This is the uncovering stage of the process. Detecting and establishing viable options are all considered for more stringent further evaluation after.
When we focus on the solution, we have the mindset that naturally helps us to visualize creative ideas. We can devise, conceptualize, and formulate strategies. By figuring out workable solutions, we can then enter into a more refining cognitive operation.
All methods and techniques to apply is thought off and regarded.
A list of all these possible solutions are finally collated for further assessment.
Evaluation and choosing from the alternatives
What strategies, methods or methodology do we embark upon on further evaluation? These steps will form a framework under which we will perform. We are in the process of organizing our solution to our problem.
And after careful consideration and evaluation we can therefore chose an appropriate one to implement.
We can start using logical reasoning, even critical thinking to troubleshoot our problems before making decisions.
From such a reasoning we use our abilities to form objectives to benefit ourselves. Activities oriented around policies that enhance our situation in the form of a supposedly dream theory.
This in essence is a form of therapy which involves process steps of reasoning that is ultimately put into practice.
If there is a situation in dealing with other parties involved in the crisis we employ negotiation strategies.
Diplomacy is the hallmark of solving problems.
Implementing the appropriate solution
When a suitable course of action is agreed and decided upon, carry out this solution. Put it into practice.
Take note of the situation now. And observe feedback. See things from this adaptive perspective and how is it working. Does it need to be tweaked? The process may need refining.
So, until the solution fits or fixes the problem, more polishing or improvements will be called for to attain optimum satisfaction of a working solution.
This is all part of solving problems.
Problem Solving Is Life
“Problem solving is an everyday occurrence in life.” Asa Don Brown
In every facet of our lives, there exist areas of issues or challenges to solve. Call it by any other name. Whether it be constraints, dilemmas, concerns, complications, glitches, drawbacks, breakdowns, conflicts, or hurdles. There are myriads of situations we can name here.
At the heart of the matter, something needs to be remedied.
Examples can be as simple as deciding what to cook. What ingredients with which to make the meal? Where to source these ingredients? What route to take to get to the supermarket? And if there is a roadblock on my path, what detour do I take?
These are simple, mundane and everyday things we may wrestle with to see through our day.
“Tackle the small problem before it becomes a big problem.” Izey Victoria Odiase
Then comes more complex situations like – relationship problems, conflicts in the workplace, children misbehaving and how do you go about bringing family harmony.
At school, how do we solve problems in math or how to complete other assignments given to us in training and educational institutions.
These are all instances of matters to be resolved in one way or another.
And it does not matter how simple or how complicated the inconveniences are, they all need to be rectified for our lives to run smoothly again.
And mastering this area of our lives is a developed art in itself.
“Think logically, and you have a chance to solve a problem. Reacting emotionally to it prolongs and worsens your dilemma.” Stewart Stafford
To get any way near to fixing our dilemmas we should develop problem solving skills. By educating ourselves by learning life skills, and competency in hard skills.
Whatever methods of teaching are available to us, we can train ourselves. Whether it be in workshops, doing lessons, courses, exercises in theory, modeling situations so we can adapt to our circumstances and persevere.
Skills for adults as well as for children where one can learn to deal with life problematic situations.
“Too often we give our children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.” Roger Lewin
We can also learn leadership skills in arbitration. Work with teams in solving problems and therefore learning in a group setting.
Education In Problem Solving
And after an education in problem solving, the question may arise: What careers are there to pursue?
Career opportunities are for those who wish to develop skills in resolving issues and engineering solutions.
There exist a multitude of online courses from accredited colleges and universities around the world offering training in problem solving skills.
Course curriculum comprise the ability to make good decisions and to make effective strategic decisions. So that one can eventually rely on one’s own critical thinking ability as well as one’s strategic decision-making ability.
One can learn the difference between ‘ill-defined’ and ‘well-defined’ problems, and the different approaches to problem solving and decision making of each.
The well-defined problem is structured with particular objectives in mind and anticipated solutions. Preliminary planning is done more in well-defined problems than ill-defined problems.
Ingenuity or creativity methodology to solve problems is often needed, whereby one uses a comprehensive as well as a logical reasoning approach to solve problems.
Well-defined problems consist of defining the problematic situation. Reviewing all the reasons for this problem. Then looking at all the alternatives for solving the issues. Then one can choose an appropriate selection from all the alternatives presented.
Then comes the implementation of the best choice of the alternatives. Feedback data is collected to see how effective that decision has been. And the question is asked if the remedy did actually fix the problem or if there is need for further refinement of the process
The thinking about this approach is that it can be sometimes a lengthy process.
The ill-defined approach is about handling situations as they come up. Thereby one can employ heuristics methods for short-term measures. It is any approach to solve a problem. And it does not ensure that it will be the best intelligent reasoning, but at least it is adequate enough for the time being.
This accelerates the process to find an acceptable solution. Especially where finding the ideal remedy may be a far cry or somewhat inconceivable it is thought.
It is the trail and error way of doing things until a cure is finally produced.
It is worth noting in the study of psychology, those of us with well-adjusted emotional control may be equipped better to handle problems and find ways to solve them, than those of us with less satisfactory emotional control.
An intervention called cognitive-behavioral, in problem-solving therapy, is designed to increase those of us with less satisfactory emotional control, to better manage and deal with life situations, that are trying, difficult, distressing, and nerve-racking.
Problem-solving therapy assist us to better understand the function of emotions more properly. Whereby we can come to terms more effectively with whatever is worrying us. And have a positive mindset to develop action plans to meet any crisis and so enjoy a richer life experience.
The tools or techniques provided in problem-solving therapy helps us to pin point arising problems and how to go about solving them.
Our everyday life situations as well as major life crises can be solved with problem-solving therapy treatment.
Whether it be our average mental health challenges where we cope and manage stressful situations, anxiety, minor illnesses, and abnormal worry patterns and pressures.
Therapy for problem-solving can also help us if we are dealing with major life setbacks such as losing love ones, divorce or separation, family disputes, relationship troubles.
Also, financial hardships, job disappointments, major health dilemmas as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer diagnosis – the psychological or mental stresses can be helped and addressed with problem-solving therapy.
The way problem-solving therapy works is that we see our problems as opportunities to grow, and impediments or adversities to overcome and solve.
Challenges are a natural part of life. It is how we develop character and face life with resolute and steadfast conviction.
Educating us how to deal with life’s hurdles is how problem-solving therapy works. We are active participants in the process.
We are empowered to deal with anything that comes our way. We become braver to face life.
We take full responsibility, and everything is in our own hands to address with a clear head.
Professional training in problem-solving therapy is given with real-life scenarios and exercises, and skills are developed.
We are taught to be more level-headed, to develop increased patience, handle things smoothly, let things unfold, and look at things as if you are witnessing an event. That way we sort of take ourselves out of the picture directly to manage the situation with deeper resolve.
Such therapeutic techniques are used the world over in coaching, performance, personal development, leadership, business, and sales as examples. It is a tool in communication.
Other Problem-solving Support Systems
It is significant to note that the prevalent use of prayer universally, is a form of self-therapy to gain inner peace and positive-mindedness.
Praying to heal situations and calm tempers to create peace, love and harmony is even taught in churches, homes and schools at a very early age in our social development.
We can also draw close to beloved friends and family for emotional support when we are struck by major life crises. It is a smoothing balm and springboard to help us adjust and tackle tragedies, emergencies, disasters and pains.
Then there are group therapy in support groups, mastermind forums, organizations, associations, agencies, communities, teams, movements, clubs, congregations, hotlines, and circles, that we can seek out and turn to for encouragement, assistance and resources.
These support groups may have one or more available professional counselors, life coaches, mentors, advisors, therapists, psychologists, clinical psychologists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, pastors, chaplains, caregivers, nurses, and specialists to counsel and advise us.
We are not alone. Help is available. However, we must be proactive to some point. When we need help we must seek it out. That is a stage in problem-solving. Most of us search online to get information and answers to questions we inquire about on a frequent basis.
In order to learn how navigate life and its attendant difficulties, multiple resources exist for us. There are many from which we can choose.
There are multiple search engines from which to choose: Google, Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, AOL, Ask.com, Excite, DuckDuckGo, Yandex, Lycos and more.
In researching available tools, we can survey websites, Wikipedia, and YouTube videos.
So too are a plethora of books, reports, journals, notes, manuals, handbooks, guides, magazines, newspaper articles, blog articles, and other documents in archival materials or reference collections.
Skills in problem solving can also be sourced in encyclopedias, databases, library catalogs, and directories.
In the area of apps with algorithms and data structures for problem solving, technology is being used to help us in the digital world of games with role playing.
Innovation And Leadership in Problem-solving
At the heart of innovation is problem solving. Entrepreneurs and successful business people excel in solving problems. They see this as opportunities to create new products or services to benefit others. They scale up their enterprises to profit large section of the market, meaning customers. They add value, reap handsome rewards from their endeavors.
To be any where near being a top, dynamic, effective leader, problem solving abilities must be a priority resource in one’s arsenal. It is that, plain and simple. One must be able to lead with superhuman abilities of taking care of peoples’ troubles. The greater your strengths in this department, you can command legions.
So it is wise to develop and train your instincts to readily respond, address and alleviate others concerns in harmonious ways.
It is a trait worth acquiring and cultivating within oneself. And to use at a moment’s notice if the need be required.
Then what jobs should one apply for, and what are some of the job descriptions?
Examples of jobs in the problem solving arena:
Educational administrator for both elementary and secondary schools. Their job includes responsibility for ensuring discipline and policies for attendance.
Actuaries, who do analyzing of statistical data involving information on sickness, disability, accident, mortality and other findings.
Managers in community and social services and social workers. Their duties include directing and overseeing programs they have planned and coordinated in the community with organizations.
Other positions or occupations that consist of problem solving are counselors, coaches, teachers, detectives, investigators, lawyers, accountants, air traffic controllers, judges, magistrates, managers, computer systems analyst, entrepreneurs, leaders, executives.
Actually, in every facet of professions, problem solving is an integral part of the job.
Problem solving can be an art when we repeatedly and effectively find suitable solutions to our difficulties or challenges.
Here we have shared the definition and the language or vocabulary of problem solving, and also resources we can use to resolve our own situations.
The means we have provided may work well in lots of situations. Yours may be unique. And it is our hope we have supplied a framework under which you can operate and find pertinent answers to your debacles.
This is indeed a tough subject or topic under any circumstances. The thing is to get good at it, for the simple reason that one can avoid or navigate away from tough situations when we see them coming.
That is why we see it as an art, by developing tested and tried ways to deal with conflicting situations.
As we continue to find meaningful dialogue with others, we can also find ways to appreciate the differences we bring to the table in our discussions, without being disagreeable with one another.
And in simpler matter of life, we can learn to quickly size up situations even before we reach that point.
So proper planning and organizational skills play an important part in life overall.
The art of problem solving is a tool for my life. I keep developing my problem-solving artistry as I learn newfound lessons every day I live. It is empowerment of self.
So in closing, lots of tools exist for problem solving. Tools can be procured from lots of available resources. These abound in our online databases via search engines like Google. Help can also be found in support groups, counselors, coaches. As well in formal education such as courses, classes, workshops, even colleges and universities.
With our developed skills we can then apply our learning, training, techniques and strategies to help others. That is a wonderful way to ultimately utilize problem solving.
We can now turn around and be of help to others who can benefit from our training and experience. Whether we choose to make a career of it or just be a kind soul.
Our problem-solving acts can save lives literally!