Eight Problem Solving Traps
The process of problem solving can at first blush appear relatively simple: the difficulty is defined, facts and evidence are collected and analyzed, and a solution agreed to. However, because imperfect people make decisions, the entire process is fraught with traps that can lead to serious errors in judgment.
Problem solving is not to be taken lightly: it is a step-by-step process that when properly sequenced and followed should produce solid results. Unskilled problem solvers will often misinterpret the issues, attempting to solve symptoms rather than root causes, and makes the situation more confusing than it has to be.
It is important for individuals to understand that effective problem solving often consumes more time than most people are willing to invest. Rather than go about it properly, many just want to react and deal with the problem quickly. However, the time invested to thoroughly investigate and solve a problem more often than not produces a more successful solution—and happier employees and customers.
Individuals can easily fall into a number of common problem solving traps. The resulting consequences are often faulty decisions based on poorly framed questions, inadequate analysis and a host of other factors. Rather than solve anything, these traps often complicate the problem, making it more difficult to resolve.
In this case, individuals begin to gather facts, data and information and form conclusions without thoroughly exploring the problem. They are in a reactive mode and desire to quickly dismiss the problem, which leads to faulty decisions based upon unsubstantiated assumptions. Such hastiness can worsen the situation and make the solution more elusive.
Individuals set out to resolve the wrong problem because they have established a mental framework for their decision with little or no forethought: they incorrectly frame the problem or use the wrong boundaries and reference points, causing them to overlook the best options or to lose focus on the issue.
Lack of Definition
Individuals fail to consciously define the problem in more than one way. In other instances, their definition is biased or unduly influenced by others.
Problems must be viewed and framed from a variety of perspectives to adequately define and resolve the problem. When definitions are limited, so are the available solutions.
Individuals are too sure of their assumptions and opinions and they become overconfident, failing to collect key facts, data and information. They trust their intuition and the most readily available information or convenient facts without taking the time to fully investigate the problem.
Lack of Adequate Analysis
Rather than taking a systematic approach to problem solving, many individuals instead believe they can keep the facts straight in their heads. Consequently, they believe they are making intuitive judgments based upon the information available and don’t engage in careful analysis. Here, one often overlooks key evidence that can impact the ultimate solution.
Groups that fail to use good problem solving skills and processes can also fail to make sound decisions, or they fall into a groupthink mode where everyone agrees with one another without using critical thinking skills.
There are instances when people refuse to properly interpret the results of their analysis because it runs counter to their beliefs or does not fit their own set of assumptions. In other cases, pride gets in the way of arriving at an appropriate decision.
Failure to Keep Track
Many individuals assume they will automatically remember their past experiences. Research has demonstrated that when individuals maintain systematic records that they periodically review, they can distill valuable lessons that could be applied to later situations.
Failure to Have a Formal Process
People who fail to develop a formal problem solving process that they can use fairly and consistently will often repeatedly fall into the problem solving traps detailed in this lesson.
Excerpt: Problem Solving: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)
For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:
Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
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