We are faced with problems and challenges in our work and personal lives, daily. A problem occurs when a present state is unsatisfactory and we wish to change the present state to a more desirable state. The model of a problem is outlined below:
A number of different approaches and processes have been documented to solve problems. However, in addition to the process, the right mindset (attitude) is also required for successful problem solving. A simple problem solving process, involving a sequence of steps, was presented by Herbert Simon in 1978 and is outlined below:
The process begins with the realisation that an undesirable state (problem) exists which needs to be analyzed and defined. The next step, design, involves the development of potential solutions to solve the problem. This step is followed by selecting the most suitable solution to the problem and implementing the solution. Finally, a review activity is undertaken to ensure that the solution implemented was effective in solving the problem.
A more detailed Rational Problem Solving process was described by Kepner and Tregoe in 1981 and involved nine discrete steps, as outlined in the diagram below:
Although it became widely used as a rational and systematic approach to problem solving, it did not incorporate creative thinking tools or approaches to solve more complex problems. Having used a number of different problem solving processes, I developed a novel six step Creative Problem Solving process in 1996 that combines a number of creative and analytical tools with a rational approach to problem solving. The process is summarised in the table below:
I also developed a Problem Solving Worksheet that can be used with the above six step Creative Problem Solving process. By using the approach outlined above I have found that both simple and complex problems can be resolved with minimal effort, but at the same time achieve effective and long-term solutions.
Dr John Kapeleris