How 2 Solve Problems Better


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How 2 Solve Problems Better

  1. 1. How2 SOLVE If you think about it, you are confronted with Sometimes the approach to the problem is over problems and challenges each and every day, complicated or unnecessary. Sometimes the and so is everybody else. Whether it is how to method to evaluate the best options and create make money, find a way to solve world hunger, action plans as a result is simply ineffective. place blocks and shapes on a table or make a Problem solving does not have to be hard or recipe in the kitchen - everything is a problem or complicated. In fact, using effective (objective, challenge to be solved. Isn’t it interesting that logical, rational and holistic) thinking problem solving (being the key skill that it is) is is all it takes to address the key not even taught in schools? One of the key skills issues that face and taunt us. What in life does not even appear in most school curric- would your effectiveness (and that of ulums. I find that extremely odd if not silly. As a the people around you) be if you result, most people have a haphazard way of knew how to solve problems bet- solving their problems. Sometimes things are ter? Most people would agree that made more complicated than necessary. Some- better problem solving skills would times the problems are not even clearly defined greatly improve effectiveness and or understood but already acted upon. efficiency in life. 1 © Copyright CEXINO Consulting 2008
  2. 2. Vision Inspiring facilitating & creating remarkability Mission Customer experience innovation and problem solving through Workshops, facilitation, training, coaching, consulting, custom solutions and customer value propositions design & development... Values Professionalism, reliability, innovation, collaboration, flexibility, creativity, quality, relationship Networks, active thinking and fun... “I formed this company because I want to help professionals become more successful at attracting and retaining customers, becoming more creative, innovative, collaborative, customer centric and able to solve problems better. To learn to solve problems better is a fundamental skill for, not only, people in business but also in life. In this article I explore the different areas that are critical to address if you want to learn to solve problems better. Enjoy it and please feel free to contact me.
  3. 3. Should... Let’s first clarify what a problem actually is. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a prob- lem as, “a difficult situation that needs to be resolved or something that is hard to under- Define the problem (Be specific) stand or accomplish”. To this point, the first Summarize the problem into a sentence step to resolving any problem is to clearly Make sure you are rational and objective define what it is in the first place. Too many people jump to actions and conclusions with- Make sure you have all the information out having effectively and clearly defined the Look at all the different parts of it problem in the first place. We seem to live in Determine if this is really a problem a society that likes to make quick assump- Do others agree with you on the scope tions, snap judgements and jump to conclu- Is the problem ‘out there’ or ‘within you’ sions. Problems that are poorly defined (not Have you considered all the questions surprisingly) result in unsatisfactory out- Define your critical success factors (CSF) comes. The old adage “Garbage In, Garbage Ask: Is this a new or existing problem Out”, holds true here. Albert Einstein, one Define the problem from many angles of the worlds most famous scientists, puts it a problem simply well defined is a problem half solved! So what’s your problem? Have you thoroughly defined it? Have you asked all the necessary questions? Have you considered all the factors that contribute to your problem? Have you effectively diagnosed the situation? Asking questions is (as you can see) an essential component, not only in defining problems but in solving them in general. As children we were used to asking questions. But while growing up we were (through parenting and education) discouraged to ask them too much. Generally, in schools, children asking ques- tions (...”stupid ones”...) were laughed at and also scolded by teachers and peers. 2 © Copyright CEXINO Consulting 2008
  4. 4. Causing... You have now clearly defined your problem. You may have already (subconsciously) started doing the next step. The second step in problem solving is to understand what all Identify all the causes of the problem the factors that contribute to the problem are. Make a list of all the causes A simple, yet powerful technique in identify- Ask: What is causing this and Why ing causes is the fishbone diagram. The basic concept in the Fishbone Diagram is that the List the causes of the causes name of the problem is entered at the right of Look at all factors involved the diagram at the end of the main quot;bonequot;. Clearly understand the current reality The main possible causes of the problem are Understand the environment you’re in drawn as bones off of the main backbone. Sub Look at the elements holding you back causes branch off the main causes. Remember Be aware of your own assumptions to keep on asking ‘Why’ to identify all the List all the forces for and against you causes of the particular problem. Once you Remember to keep asking WHY have identified all the possible causes of the problem you can choose to start addressing solutions. Sometimes when dealing with problems and challenges that are routine, the answers may be so obvious that creative thinking is not always necessary because the answer is star- ing you right in the face. However, sometimes we must be cautious when identifying the causes of our problems. We must be aware of our own individual biases and the assump- tions we make. When identifying causes we need to be rational and objective. Sometimes you won’t know all the causes and in this case it is useful to conduct tests to verify the causes. 3 © Copyright CEXINO Consulting 2008
  5. 5. Creatively... Let me first begin by saying that this is the fun part of problem solving. Thinking and creative thinking are the third step. The fa- mous SCAMPER technique is very useful at Use the SCAMPER technique helping bring out creativity. SCAMPER Reverse your problem stands for: SUBSTITUTE, COMBINE, Make a provocation and extract a principle ADAPT, MODIFY, PUT TO OTHER USE, Compare the problem to something unrelated ELIMINATE and REVERSE. Some people think that creativity is magical and mystical Make a forced connection but really all creativity (and creative think- Make lots of what if and why not statements ing) is about is MAKING NEW CONNEC- Create many new combinations TIONS. By definition creativity is defined as Look at unmet needs and customer concerns coming up (bringing into being) with some- Think unconventionally about the challenge thing new that has value. The reason for us- Have fun (use your right brain) ing creative thinking in problem solving is Don’t be reasonable at this stage that it helps identify those options that would Quantity of ideas is more important here not necessarily have come up when using conventional means. Not to mention that it is the fun way of solving problems. Even Einstein said that: imagination is more important than knowledge The critical challenge when doing creative problem solving is the management of two areas, FOCUS and ENERGY. Creativity without focus is useless, unless you are just shooting the breeze. Getting the right energy for creative thinking is especially challenging because it requires getting yourself (and oth- ers) to WANT to be part of the process and to enjoy it rather than just see it as business as usual. Using creative media, exercises, vid- eos, games, activities etc... Is highly recom- mended when doing creative thinking and work in order to inspire the mind. 4 © Copyright CEXINO Consulting 2008
  6. 6. Effectively... So now you have reached the stage where you have come up with all the possible options to your problem, now what. At this stage of the process you will need to sort all the ideas Sort and categorize all options into groups generated into similar groups. For example all Use the Plus, Minus & Interesting Technique ideas pertaining to generating more money on Use a scale & rank options from best to worst one side, all ideas for improving customer Consider all the risks and the consequences service on the other side and any ideas per- taining to saving costs are on this side etc... Use judgement and reason here Once you have sorted all your ideas the time Be critical but also respectful with other people comes to evaluate them. There are numerous Consider your critical success factors (CSF) techniques to do this. One way is to use the How well do the options meet the CSF PMI technique developed by Dr. Edward De Consider probability, timing and deadlines Bono. This technique simply requires you to Check your assumptions draw three columns on a page and for every Consider similar ideas and past successes idea. You need to identify the plusses (what Consider the cost versus the benefit you like) the minuses (What you don’t like) Ask: How would someone else evaluate this and what you find interesting for every idea and in that way identify which idea is most relevant to your cause. our age wrinkles the body, quitting wrinkles our soul Another way to evaluate ideas is to rank them from best to worst where 1 = worst and 5 = best. Then simply place a number on each idea as you see fit. When evaluating you should be aware of your critical success fac- tors that you have identified in the problem definition stage. By knowing what your suc- cess should be (CSF) you can objectively eval- uate how each idea or option suggested will meet your original success criteria. Be aware of the risks and consequences of the suggested ideas. Be aware of your assumptions when you are evaluating. Consider cost VS. Benefit. 5 © Copyright CEXINO Consulting 2008
  7. 7. Go forward and... Finally you have identified the best or most plausible action to take. The challenge now is to ACT. So many people and organizations fail to be successful because they don’t trans- Make a decision, plan and take action late ideas to actions. When solving problems Write out your primary goal(s) you need to actually do something about the Write out all the actions to be accomplished problem and if you are going to effectively Write the start & end dates for each actions deal with the problem you then need to actu- ally take the necessary action as a result. So Determine standards that need to be met the first step is to write out your goal(s) clear- List persons responsible & accountable ly. An example of writing an effective goal is List all the measurement criteria per action to write WHAT you are going to accomplish, Assign required costs for each action by WHEN, and HOW you are going to do it. Consider the order of all the actions Be very clear when you want to start and Consider which actions are dependant on which when you are going to finish. Be clear on what Also consider the independent actions and time the actions for each goal are going to be. It is Monitor your progress regularly on all actions also a good idea to have this written out in the Adjust your actions as necessary form of a project plan or chart so you can track Always learn before, during and after actions your progress as you are progressing through each goal. Overcome your fear of failure and ACT We are all failures at least all the best of us are... Be aware of the costs necessary to accomplish each action as well as the people that would be responsible for each action. And most of all don’t be afraid to make mistakes and fail. Remember that FAIL stands for: FIRST ACTION IN LEARNING. The challenge if we fail to achieve our goals is to learn and under- stand why and then take action to learn from those experiences. Too many people are afraid to take action because they are afraid to make mistakes and to fail. The result is that many people don’t learn and grow. 6 © Copyright CEXINO Consulting 2008
  8. 8. Summary and... Problem Solving Process Summary Define the problem, the ‘as is’ and your barriers Identify and define the root causes of the problem Generate alternative solutions ‘to be’ (Creatively) Evaluate the alternatives / solutions and test them Agree on the best solution Develop an action plan Implement & evaluate the solution 7 © Copyright CEXINO Consulting 2008
  9. 9. About CEXINO CEXINO consulting offers a wide range of products and services in the fields of: Customer Experience strategy, design & management Innovation leadership, management, strategy & enablement Creativity in business, strategy & enablement team Building, Coaching, Collaboration and transformation CEXINO offers: Workshops Facilitation Training Coaching Consulting Customized Toolkits & Value propositions Speaking interventions Please feel free to contact CEXINO consulting to help you improve your customer experience innovation. Contact Details Zwi Fainberg CEO 084 555 9581 Contact CEXINO1 on SKYPE About Zwi Born in Israel in 1980. Immigrated to South Africa in 1989. Studied at Rand Afrikaans University and graduated with Honors in Information Science with majors in Strategic Management, Knowledge Management, Information Management, Web and Intranet Management. Worked at First National Bank as an Innovation, Customer Experience, Strategy, Project and Change Manager and subsequently moved to Absa Barclays Bank where I worked in the fields of Business Intelligence and Innovation Management. During my experi- ences I attended many seminars, workshops and courses in the fields of innovation, creativity, coaching, leadership, facilitation, strategy, change, communications and project management. I am a qualified personal and life coach and love to work with people and help them solve problems and overcome challenges.