5 Stage Problem Solving

Fix it - Break it - Solve it

Knee-jerk reaction - or expert decision?

Problem solving is one of the fundamental skills of a business person. We're paid to solve the problems of our clients. So we need to hone this skill.

Simple problems can be solved with a quick fix or instant reaction. But complex problems need a structured approach. Knowing the difference between the two, and which approach to use, is crucial. Applying a quick fix to a complex problem can create more work and stress in the future.

"Do you and your team have a structured approach to solving problems?"

When solving problems, alone or in groups, the stages remain the same. The first stage is also the most common mistake - to fully understand and define the problem. When this gets missed the wrong problem gets solved. 

For example, at the start of the last century the race for sustained powered flight was on. Most inventors focused on increased engine power, thinking this the solution. The Wright Brothers saw a lack of aircraft control as the biggest obstacle. This required improving wing and flight control designs.

By correctly defining the problem, and following the remaining four stages, history proved them right!

5 stage problem solving:

1. Define the problem. Truly understand what needs to be solved.
2. Create options. As many as possible.
3. Make a decision. Use your best judgment to choose from your options.
4. Test, refine, prototype. Can your chosen option actually solve the problem?
  Stages 1-4 repeat until we have a solution we feel ready to apply.
5. Apply the solution. Once you're confident you've found the long-term fix.

Do you or your team consistently apply, or skip, any of these stages? And do you know when to take time to solve a complex problem properly?

When you have a conscious, shared approach, your ability to solve complex problems becomes far more effective.

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