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Problem Solving Method

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Posted 21 February 2011 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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We offer both:
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These can be tailored to your specific needs.
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You may find the following will help your own personal development skills.

Problem solving method

If you are to make progress towards your goals, then you must solve the problems that stand in your way.
In order to solve problems you need to understand them. In order to understand them you need to analyse them.


Analysis is the act of dividing a thing into its components and identifying:

  1. The nature of each component and
  2. How each component relates to the whole


That each separate component can, itself, be analysed again, down to its own sub-components and the process is repeated.
Theoretically this process is unending as you can continually break substances, or ideas, or problems down and down for as long as your brain can stand it.

Analysis of problems takes this form of categorisation and subdivision.

Good quote from: Carolus Linnaeus 1707 - 1778
The first step in wisdom is to know the things themselves; this notion consists in having a true idea of the objects; objects are distinguished and known by classifying them methodically and giving them appropriate names.

Therefore, classification and name-giving will be the foundation of science.

There is a second factor to bear in mind: That of TIME

Let us divide time into three parts

  1. The past,
  2. The present, and
  3. The future

Note this:

  1. Your problem exists in the present
  2. It's causes originate in the past.
  3. The solutions to the problem lay in the future

So we need a method that will allow for the following:

  1. Full analysis of the present situation
  2. An accurate appreciation of the past causes, and their corrections
  3. A perspective of the possible future consequences and their countermeasures

Please note that finding out why something happened does NOT necessarily tell you what you should do to solve it.

For example: Gulf of Mexico BP Oil Spill 2010

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico flowed for three months in 2010. The impact of the spill continued even after the well was capped. 53,000 barrels per day escaped from the well. It is the largest man made oil spill in history.

Knowing how the spillage was caused, did not inform the engineers how to stop the flow, or how to manage the political fallout, or how to manage the press, or how to manage the share market investors.

So a major part of our analysis must be future orientated.

Six Part Problem solving analysis method

Break the problem into subsets

The present

Take a giant sheet of paper (or your computer) and write out all the known and relevant facts that describe the current situation.
Include a list of what you don't know but need to find out.

Remember Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld quote:

There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.

We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say; we know there are some things we do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know that we don't know."

Get it??

The past

Ask and answer this question:

What were the historical causes of this problem?
Take a sheet of paper and make a list of at least five causes (or if the problem is a large scale problem- then list at least five categories of causes).

Then for each cause, write out two or three corrections that will prevent the same cause from recreating the same problem again in the future.
Also: if you know, write the name of the person who will be in charge of that and delegate the task.

The future bad

Ask and answer this question:
What are the likely implications of the problem?

Take a separate sheet of paper (or a new page) and list at least five likely negative implications to your future that the existence of this problem may create.

For each implication list two COUNTER measures that would mitigate or elevate the impact of the problem.

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