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Creative Problem Solving and Decision Making

Creative problem solving and decision making

Creative problem solving and decision making

Have you got problems?

Of course! We all have problems. And we all want to know how to solve them.

How can you solve your problems?

Here are some notes on problem solving.

What is "a problem"?

A problem is the difference between your "current state" and your "desired state".
A problem is the difference between "what you have got" and "what you want to have".
A problem is the difference between "what it IS" and "what it should be", (according to your standard of value).

What is your goal?

Your goal is to change the current situation and make it the way you want it: "the way it should be".

The act of doing that is problem solving.

How do you solve problems?

Step one. Define the problem. You must know clearly:

  • What is the current situation and
  • What is the desired situation?

The gap between the two states is "the problem". It must be formulated as a precise statement, or question, and then written down and agreed.
Identifying and defining the problem-question-is the first step to solving it.

The problem solving method.

1. State the problem

See above notes.

2. Gather the facts

Identify all the relevant facts that pertain to the problem.
Classify and organise the facts into similar sets and seek to find the "cause and effect" patterns that will suggest a possible solution to the problem.

3. Formulate a hypothesis

When you have the facts at hand, then you can formulate a hypothesis: A hypothesis is a statement that is intended to be an explanation of an occurrence. A hypothesis may be a provisional conjecture or a theory that suggests a possible solution in the light of established facts.

4. Formulate a plan of action

Based upon the facts and the hypothesis then a plan of action is developed. A plan of action is a list of actions that if taken in the proper sequence and implemented properly, will yield the desired result and thus solve the problem.

5. Implement the plan

A plan of action is only a piece of paper. It must be enacted for it to be of any use.

The moment the plan is enacted, you will experience feedback results.

6. Observe the feedback results

Careful observation and recording of the feedback results is a critical step. You must measure what happens.

If you do X, then Y happens.
All feedback is useful.
Not all feedback is pleasant.

7. Identify the positive feedback

Positive feedback means that your plan is working and you are getting what you wanted or better than what you wanted.

8. Identify the negative feedback

Part of the plan is not working.
Negative feedback means that your solution is NOT working and you are NOT getting what you wanted, or something you did not want.

9. Ponder the meaning of the negative feedback

In relation to the negative feedback ask yourself, "What is wrong with our solution? Why is it not working?" And return to step 1

Three thinking tools

You have three fundamental thinking tools:

  1. The faculty of Analysis.
  2. The faculty of Synthesis.
  3. The faculty of Intuition.

1. Analysis

Analysis is the act of mentally, breaking a thing down into its component parts, in order to more fully understand them.
In order to understand, all things should be analysed; "mentally dis-mantled",.
A problem can, and should be, analysed, broken down into its subsets, in order to better understand its nature.
You need to develop your skills of analysis.
And then, you'll need synthesis.

2. Synthesis

Synthesis is the opposite of analysis.
Synthesis is the amalgamation and combination of subset units and systems into a larger whole.
You need to develop your skills of how to integrate knowledge.
Example of Logical integration:


Either the meeting is in room 302, or it is in room 306.
It is not in room 302. Therefore, it is in room 306.


Determine whether the following disjunctive syllogism is valid or invalid.
Either the next Olympics will be held in Atlanta, Georgia or in Athens, Greece.

It won't be held in Athens, Greece.
It will be held in Atlanta, Georgia.
a) It is valid
b) It is is invalid

3. Intuition

Intuition is the intellectual leap of insight that may be made by a human mind by means of the imagination.
This is the artistic and creative faculty working in harmony with the logical faculty to produce a leap of imagination.

Creative imagination exercise.

Creative leaps of imagination.

  • How would you reduce crime in your neighbourhood?
  • How could you improve your memory?
  • How could you gain the ideal weight and enjoy doing it?
  • How can you unify Quantum mechanics and Einstein's general theory of relativity?

Ask "Problem solving questions"

If you want to find new solutions, ask new questions.
If you are facing problems, then how you think will determine how you spend your time.
Let us acknowledge that there are ways of thinking that are counterproductive.

There are ways of thinking that are hugely productive.

We need to know:

  • What are the correct questions to ask?
  • Good problem solving questions.
  • What are the questions that don't help very much?
  • Killer questions

Decision making

A decision is the act of choosing one option out of more than one option. A good decision can make you. A bad decision can break you.

The challenge is how to always pick the best option and/or how to avoid picking a bad option.

The most common cause of failure is the inability to make a good decision.

Basic rule for good decision making: Think on paper. We should think on paper more often because "standard normal thought processes" and "standard normal conversational technique" is too inefficient for a work context.

Normal conversation suffers from the following deficiencies:

Normal conversations often:

  • Go on for too long.
  • Drift off topic.
  • Get hung up on minor issues.
  • May be too easily dominated by the strong personality.
  • May not hear the contributions from the more introverted person who happens to be right.
  • Are remembered differently by each person who attended.
  • Can be entirely forgotten by some people who, when at the meeting, were feeling distracted or too tired.

Many key terms are not defined clearly and therefore people talk at cross purposes.
Sometimes, certain personalities fight for political or social dominance at the expense of the quality of the deliberations.
Therefore, normal conversation technique is too inefficient for your business context.

What is the answer? Think on paper and use decision matrices.

Types of Decisions

There are four types of decision and there are specific methods for each type of decision.

1. Prioritisation

Prioritisation is the decision relating to the correct order.
That may mean, of these items which is the most important?
Which is the most important thing on your list?

2. Prioritisation

Prioritisation is the decision relating to correct order.
That may mean, of these items, what is the logical sequence? (Which item must be loaded into the car last, because it is the first to come off?)
What is the correct logical sequence of the things on your list?

3. Yes or no?

Should you or should you not?
This is a fundamental decision.
Yes or no?
1 or 0?

4. Which one - what kind?

If the above decision results in a yes decision, then you often have to decide: If we are going to X , then: Which one what kind?

Joint decision making

Sometimes you need to make decisions with lots of other minds in the room. This is a joint decision.
This brings into play personalities and communication styles.
Therefore you must consider your personality and your communication style.
Not only what you say, but the way you say it.

Think carefully.

If you wish to attend a training course that covers these problem solving and decision making skills then please contact us or look at the personal development training course

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About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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Further Reading in Decision Making and Problem Solving

  • Unlocking the Power of First Principles
    When supporting our opinions, we often turn to facts or fundamental principles. However, one of these approaches emerges as significantly more impactful. We explore why this is important.
    Read Article >
  • Tips on How to be Innovative
    Your business needs to adapt and grow in today’s ever-changing economic climate. Being innovative is not just about inventing, it also means adapting your current business model and making changes to your working practices.
    Read Article >
  • Black and White Thinking
    Right or wrong? Real life problems are often too complex to apply black and white thinking to. Instead, try using another concept, the Law of Identity, on which to base your analysis and decision making.
    Read Article >
  • The Law of Diminishing Returns
    More is not necessarily better. There is a point which is optimum. After this point comes diminishing returns, where additional amounts of time, money and effort are ineffective and may even be dangerous.
    Read Article >
  • What is the Law of Cause and Effect?
    "Everything happens for a reason" is a commonly used expression, but not necessarily accurate. Everything that happens has a cause, or causes. "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."
    Read Article >

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