PROBLEMS & PROBLEM-SOLVING
By Izunwa Manuela
My thoughts on problems and problem-solving.
Life, as we all have come to see is just a set of problems packaged in different ways. The difficulties, troubles, issues, obstacles, hurdles, and complications (call them what you may) in life are inevitable. Overcoming them is what makes for growth. I marvelled—each time I was a nursing mother—at how difficult it was for my babies to reach various milestones: sitting up, crawling, standing then walking were enormous tasks. But as they accomplished one, they were faced with another, and so it shall be forever. It is the way of human existence.
Anyone who is constantly defeated by problems is not well equipped to face life. Problems are a constant in life and they confront us every day. The problems you face can be huge or small, simple or complex, and easy or difficult. Problems can also pop up anywhere and at any time, in school, at home, at work and even at church. The problem with problems is the problematic way we view them.
What is a problem? A problem is a perceived gap between the existing state and the desired state of any circumstance or thing. It naturally follows that problem solving would be the process of working through elements and aspects of the problem to reach a solution. I believe there is a solution to every problem, and if there is no solution, then it is not really a problem! This mindset has helped me adapt to life, thus I am able to either make changes where necessary or accept the status quo, and move on.
How can you improve your own problem-solving proficiency? Please take a few minutes to read through 5Ds of problem-solving.
1. DETERMINE THE PROBLEM
The most crucial step in problem-solving is to diagnose the problem correctly. Without an accurate diagnosis, you may end up treating an ailment that does not exist, and miss the one that does. So, ask; “What is really going on here?” Be sure that your focus is on the problem itself and not on symptoms. This way your target will be the bull’s eye and not the peripheral white and black rims.
2. DECIPHER THE CAUSE(S)
It is wise to seek the source of the problem. If you don’t you would be missing your target in attempting a solution. You should ask questions like: “Why is this happening?” “Where is it stemming from?” Thus, if you see a problem as a gap between where you are now and where you want to be, as posited in my earlier definition, then it means that the causes of the problem are those barriers that are hindering you from narrowing that gap immediately.
3. DEVELOP SOLUTIONS
This is involves brainstorming; this where you begin to harvest ideas. I must add this caveat here: consider everything! Most times, we miss viable solutions because many of us suffer from “functional fixedness” we are unable to “see” them. The most simple and mundane ideas could work out to be the best solutions you will get. Not every solution must be as complex as the problem.
4. DECIDE ON YOUR BEST OPTION
You will have to settle on one solution after successfully bringing several up. However, often, you may need a combination of solutions to effectually fix your problem. Remember to be open and try other solutions if your first option does not give your desired outcome. Note that, every new solution also carries with it the propensity for its own problems too. So, do not fret when you seem to be going around circles.
5. DO IT
Many get to this point and drawback. Do what needs to be done. Take action! Implement the solution! If modifications are necessary to be made, make them. Just do it!
In conclusion, identify your problems but give your attention and effort to solutions. An African Proverb says: “If you’re not apart of the solution, you’re apart of the problem.”