Problem Solving

Problem Solving

From Latin problema-ătis “set question”, from the Greek pro “forward” and dance, “throw”, “put forward”.

The ability to solve problems is at the heart of human progress. It is by solving problems that new inventions are discovered and society, culture and the economy have evolved. It is the basis for continuous improvement, communication and learning. Everyone and at every level – from pupil to teacher, from executives to the most operational levels at a company – are called upon every day to identify and solve problems, which implies the ability to understand what the underlying causes really are, not the symptoms.

Being a good problem solver means finding solutions that are not just the result of common sense or past experiences. First of all, it is necessary to be able to identify the problem (problem finding), define it (problem setting), understand its causes, identify priorities and what needs to be changed and select possible solutions (brainstorming) and only then decide on the best solution (decision making) and adopt a solution(s) to generate the desired or expected outcome (decision taking).

A good problem solving process needs to also include a monitoring and collecting feedback step. A problem solver therefore needs to emphasise both positive feedback but above all exploit information that may derive from any errors and failures in order to be able to intervene promptly, thus avoiding incidents or repetition of the error itself.

The problem-solving process is therefore linked to the metacognitive skills of understanding, the task, forecasting, planning and executive control, but also monitoring and evaluating choices made and results obtained. For this reason, to solve problems, it is necessary to develop other skills: the ability to judge, to criticise and to make decisions; imaginative, creative and strategic capacity; ability to listen, empathise and pay attention.

Each step of the problem-solving process employs skills and methods that contribute to the overall effectiveness of the change being implemented and determine the level of complexity of the problem that may be addressed. The whole process may take place through a process of experimentation or trial and error. In this case, the error may be intentional in order to test possible solutions and validate the solution identified.
Or the error may be the source of an epiphany moment, a sort of insight that suddenly reveals the right solution.