George C. Marshall said “Don't fight the problem, decide it.” Having strong problem solving skills will make a huge difference in your self-development, family and career.
Problems are at the center of what many people do every day. Whether you're solving a health or personal problem, a family issue, solving for a client, supporting those who are solving problems, or discovering new problems to solve, the challenges you face can be large or small. A plan goes a long way to help you define, prioritize, and overcome your obstacles.
John Foster Dulles, former US Secretary of State, said “The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.”
A basic element of humans is to solve problems. So, being a confident problem solver is really important to your success. Much of that confidence comes from having a good process to use when approaching a problem. With one, you can solve problems quickly and effectively. Without one, your solutions may be ineffective or delayed.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” Albert Einstein
Mytools.com gives us an easy four step process to solving problems:
Define the problem
Evaluate and select alternatives
When your issue is simple, the solution is usually obvious, and you don't need to follow the four steps outlined above. So it follows that when you're taking this more formal approach, your problem is likely to be complex and difficult to understand, because there is always many interrelated issues.
“Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.” Henry Kaiser
Sometimes, when problem-solving, it’s so easy to fall into the rut of uncertainty and uncreative thinking. We all have a tendency to focus so much on answers and solutions that we lose sight of the question. If we are asking the wrong questions, many times we will end up with the wrong answers.
When faced with a problem, do you immediately turn to the tried-and-true solutions that you’ve always used in the past? Do you try to open your mind to new ideas? A good way to do that is to start thinking of better questions.
Here are examples of better question: • What is the root problem? • What are the underlying issues? • Have I seen this previously? • What was the solution at that time? o Why must it be done this way? • Why is it important? • What’s the hardest and/or most expensive way to do it? • What metaphor or symbol helps to explain it? • Who has a different perspective on this? • What happens if we don’t do it at all?
There are many more questions you can create for each issue. Physicist Tom Hirschfield explains, “If you don’t ask, ‘Why this?’ often enough, somebody will ask, ‘Why you?’” If you want to think creatively, you must challenge the process.