Problems With Problem Solving

In business, as in life, we have to solve problems every day. Managers in particular are expected to demonstrate effective problem solving skills, as this is what they are employed to do. Yet many managers have problems when it comes to problem solving.

There are a number of reasons why people get into difficulties when problem solving.

Often people faced with a complex issue cannot come to terms with the ambiguity of the complexity they face. They think that every problem should be easy to define and solve. Of course, this is not always the case. Some problems require a great deal of investigation before the real issues can be clearly defined.

Another barrier to effective problem solving is approaching the issue with your mind already made up as to how to solve the problem. This results in you bending any conflicting facts so that they will fit into the image you have in your mind of what the problem is.

Some people hesitate to ask questions because they are afraid of appearing ignorant, particularly when they have to ask questions of their boss or of their colleagues. Left unanswered these questions can mean that the solution selected is not the best one.

Some people allow themselves to be consumed by an exaggerated fear of failure. This can lead to procrastination and the opportunity to resolve the issue early is missed. Whilst there is no 100% guarantee of success, thinking what you should do if the worst came to the worst allows you to plan for the possible risks.

Some people tackle the problem in too logical a manner and so completely fail to use their creativity. Whilst a logical analysis is required, problem solving also requires the development of new approaches and ideas – which requires creativity.

Some people make rash considerations rather than spending time analysing the problem more fundamentally so as to understand the root causes. This tends to happen when a quick solution is desired, but this “sticking plaster” approach often leads to the same problem re-emerging at a later date.

Sometimes we need to solve a problem not because something has gone wrong, but because something could be better. In this case good problem solvers need to learn how to question why something is done the way it is. Those that don’t only consider tried and tested solutions. They keep things going but never innovate or improve.

In business we need to find practical solutions. Some people become set on thoretical solutions and so do not use their own common (practical) sense.

There are many techniques that can be used to help to overcome these common difficulties, such as the six thinking hats approach of Edward DeBono. Learning a number of these problem solving skills can help managers become more effective in finding effective solutions and making better decisions.