Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Creative Problem Solving - A Skill

I don't know were you are on life's journey, but I  have hit middle age and while my fitness goal for 2014 was to pound the pavement until I could jog 10 km's in 1 hour, I have found the mind is willing, but not the body. Despite all  my good intentions, my knees and feet have decided that this is not such a good idea, They have ached mercilessly following extended treadmill jogging sessions. As I've been jogging about 6 kms about 3 times a week this means numerous sleepless nights.    Decision time then. Do I ignore my bodies signals that its all too much and stick to the original exercise plan, quit altogether or remain flexible and consider other options of obtaining the same goal?  Are these the only choices available to me? How do I go about finding the best solution to this problem? My initial response was to jump in, dare I say it, feet first, and rush into possible solutions. I resisted long enough to see sense.  Now I am gathering as much information as possible about the situation. This includes visiting the podiatrist to have my feet checked, investigating my running gait/style, and shoe choice and options.  So, I am still in the problem identification mode, at the moment, but hopefully will find a solution before too much longer. I am using the following Creative Problem Solving Process to assist me in finding the best solution possible.  Have a read and see what you think.

What is problem solving?

Problem solving is a key skill, and it's one that can make a huge difference to your successful goal attainment, life and career. Note that it is not an innate ability but a skill and all skills can be learnt.  The capacity to develop creative solutions proactively and with confidence comes from having a good problem solving process. Usually, it involves several different steps or stages. These generic skills and processes contribute to the development of successful solutions for any kind of 'problem', big or small, simple and complex. For example writing an assignment or report, undertaking projects at work, or taking on something in your personal life. And might I add finding a solution to running and sore feet.  

When to use problem solving

You can problem solve anytime you experience a challenge or have a goal to achieve. You can use the problem solving model to look for solutions to concerns connected with any aspects of your life. You can take the problem solving steps by yourself, with a friend or others. Problem solving with others is often very effective because you have access to a wide variety of viewpoints and potential solutions. 

What is the creative problem solving process? 

“When you’re eating an elephant, take one bite at a time”
Step 1: State what appears to be the problem.
The real problem may not surface until facts have been gathered and analyzed. Therefore, start with what you assume to be the problem, that can later be confirmed or corrected. Tools like 5 Whys  Appreciation   and Root CauseAnalysis  can  help you ask the right questions, and work through the layers of a problem to uncover what's really going on. Mind Tools is a great site to find all sorts of personal development information and tools .for those who want to self-coach.

Research shows that people who spend more time at the beginning working out exactly what is involved have a better chance of success. Therefore, it is worth investing time reflecting on what kind of problem it is, how it is like other problems you have encountered, and what different options there might be for approaching the task. A less successful approach is to rush in without undertaking the initial reflection and preparation leading to an ineffective solution, or getting stuck and do nothing, with sometimes painful consequences

Step 2: Gather facts, feelings and opinions.
  • What happened?
  • Where, when and how did it occur?
  •  What is its. size, scope and severity?
  •  Who and what is affected?
  •  Is it likely to happen again?
  •  Does it need to be corrected?
  •  Time and expense may require problem solvers to think through what they need, and assign priorities to the more critical elements.
Step 3: Restate the problem.
The facts help make this possible and provide supporting data. The actual problem may, or may not, be the same as stated in Step 1. Use facts and supporting data to confirm or restate your goal.

Step 4: Identify alternative solutions.

  • Generate ideas. 
  • Brainstorm and write down as many ideas as you can that might help solve the problem, no matter how silly they seem.  Some of the best solutions arise from creative thinking during brain-storming. 
  • Seek ideas about possible solutions by talking to others. The aim is to collect as many alternative solutions as possible.
  • Research the problem
  • Who has successfully managed a similar problem - How?  this could be someone you know personally or  know of through books/media.
Step 5: Evaluate  and Selecting Alternatives
Step 6:  Implement Solution
  • Who must be involved, consulted or informed?
  • What is the first step?
  •  To what extent?
  •  How, when and where?
  •  Who will the decision impact?
  •  What might go wrong?
  •  How will results be reported and verified?
  • Carry out the Plan. -     You will need to have energy and motivation to do this because implementing the solution may take some time and effort. Tools to use include To do Lists and prioritisation. 
Step 7: Review Effectiveness
  •  Was it helpful?
  •   Did you achieve what you set out to achieve?
  •  If not, how could you have done it differently? Did you achieve any progress, however small, towards your goal?
  •   What have you learned?


10 Questions to Encourage Further Exploration

As a self -coach you might like to ask yourself:
1. Who might be of help that I have not consulted yet?
2. Can I think of 4 different ways of tackling this situation? 
3. How will others benefit?
4. Am I forgetting anything?
5. What’s the wildest option I can think of for dealing with this situation?
6. What can I do better?
7. What would someone I admire do in this situation?
8. What should I add?
9. What should I eliminate?
10. What in me is standing in the way of resolving this situation?

A Word of Caution
  • focusing on solutions prematurely before the problem has been thoroughly identified, defined and discussed;
  • adopting a ‘quick fix’ approach that seeks to eliminate the problem as quickly as possible – it is better to tolerate uncertainty, ambiguity and doubt;
  • not adopting an open mind and being willing to consider new ideas;we are creatures of habit and like to do things the same way if we can.
  • not taking into account individual biases when evaluating the facts of a case; and 
  • misinterpreting others’ disagreement for dislike – different opinions are a positive consequence of the group’s diversity

Tell Me - I'd love to hear your experiences:
  1. What are the current problems you are facing in trying to achieve your goals?
  2. Do you use a problem solving process and if so what are the steps?
  3. Do you use any other tools to generate solutions?