People deal with problems all the time. And because it is something that we are constantly faced with, the ability to resolve problems is considered as a core skill; a basic necessity for people to live life to their fullest capacity.
Defining Problem Solving
Generally, there are two types of problems. The first one comprises of problems that are well-defined, with clear objectives, methods, and information provided. The second one is the ill-defined, the exact opposite of the first type; it does not have any concrete information, paths to solution, and other information needed to resolve it.
There is a five-step problem solving cycle, and this includes:
Step 1: Problem identification. This involves getting sufficient understanding of the problem at hand; setting of goals; and stating of scope.
Step 2: Problem representation. This involves mental familiarization of the problem, thereby allowing the mind to create a mental map and analogy of the problem.
Step 3: Developing possible solutions or strategies. This involves the use of cognitive abilities in order to draw out solutions or strategies that will appropriately address the issue.
Step 4: Weighing the solutions and strategies. Each solution or strategy will be carefully analyzed, in order to determine the best possible outcome that will allow the problem solver to reach his goals and objectives.
Step 5: Evaluating the solution. The solution will then be evaluated for accuracy, applicability, and correctness.
Importance of Problem Solving
People from all walks of life are dealing with problems every single day; these may be big or small, complex or simple. In the business aspect, problem solving is perceived to be very important especially when dealing with novel issues. When the problem is of the ill-defined type, it is difficult to find solutions because mainly it has not been tried and tested yet. In your job, issues often arise and it is your responsibility to find solutions to these. In relationships, there are problems to be dealt with, too. If a person does not know how to deal with these problems, if he does not know the right approaches to fix these problems successfully, this could largely affect cognitive and behavior-based performance. More often than not, people are dealing with mental and emotional problems and inability to resolve these would manifest in the person’s performance.
How to Enhance Problem Solving
One of mankind’s greatest gifts is the ability to solve problems by himself. Animals do not have this gift and this is why they depend mostly on people and the environment for survival. Although for the most part we are all equipped with certain abilities that allow us to resolve problems on our own, there are undoubtedly individuals who do a better job at it than others. This goes to show that this potential can still be enhanced. How can we do this? Several approaches can help to improve our problem solving skills and the most effective ones are:
1. SWOT analysis
2. Risk analysis
3. Cause-effect tables
4. Brainstorming technique
SWOT, which stands for Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Strengths analysis is used largely for businesses. When identifying the target market and how best to reach out to them, SWOT will be an invaluable tool for any company that aims to profit from their endeavor. On the other hand, there is also what one would refer to as a personal SWOT analysis. It follows the same concept except that the whole thing is a lot simpler. Being able to identify these key areas can help individuals and organizations formulate good solutions and strategies in their quest to solve problems.
Risk analysis is another approach that gets people to determine the pros and cons before solving a problem. This helps to identify the threats for each possible risk and manage them accordingly.
Cause-effect tables are excellent because these are visual tools that allow people to easily spot risks and possible problem areas, thereby allowing you and everyone else involved to prepare for possible setbacks, if any.
Lastly, brainstorming is helpful in coming up with lots of possible ideas; two or more heads working together to find solutions to problems is always recommended. With more ideas, there will be higher chances of drawing out the best and most ideal solutions to problems at hand.