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February 15, 2012 / mike54martin

50 Ways to….. Solve a Problem

There may be 50 ways to leave your lover but there are also at least 50 ways to solve a problem. Here’s Part 1. Watch this space for the rest.

Strategies to help you understand the problem

1. Clarify the problem.

It’s easier to solve a specific problem than a vague one. Ask questions, read information, be specific about the problem to find the right solution.

2. Identify key elements of the problem.

Ask the important questions. Who, what, when and where to help figure out why.

3. Visualize the problem.

Visualize the elements of the problem to help understand it.

 4. Draw a picture or diagram of the problem or a relevant process or situation. 

Take the picture out of your mind and put it on paper.

 5. Create a model of the problem or a relevant process.

The model can identify technical aspects of the problem or a model of causes.

 6. Imagine being the problem, a key process, or the solution.

This is another form of visualization that places you within the situation and not just watching it from the outside.

 7. Simulate or act out a key element of the problem.

Acting out the problem may help you understand both the cause and effects and the solution may become clearer.

 8. Consider a specific example.

Create a specific situation or find a similar example to research to find a solution.

 9. Consider extreme cases.

Develop a worse case scenario to see how the problem evolves and it may show you the solution, or scare you enough to try harder.

 10. Change perspective.

Look at the problem from another person’s point of view.

 11. Consider levels and systems.

Look at the big picture and then see the role that structures and systems play in creating or resolving the problem.

Strategies to help you simplify the task

12. Simplify the problem.

Try and simplify the problem so that you can deal with pieces of it at a time.

 13. Solve one part at a time.

Choose one aspect of the problem and solve that piece. Then choose another.

 14. Redefine the problem.

If you can’t solve the current problem then redefine it into one that you can.

 Strategies to help you determine the cause of the problem

15. Collect information about what happens before, during, and after the problem.

Have a look at the problem by collecting information about what happens before, during and, after a situation, not just considering the outcome.

16. Organize information into a table, chart, or list and look for patterns.

If you can develop a list it may be clearer to identify a pattern that can lead to both causes and solutions.

17. Try to make the problem worse.

This sounds crazy but sometimes it works. But watching the impact of making it worse may actually show you the cause of the problem.

18. Compare situations with and without the problem.

Imagine the situation with and without the problem and it will sometimes show you what causes the problem.

19. Consider multiple causes and interactions.

There may be more than one cause or variable at work in your situation. Investigate them all.

20. Consider non-linear effects.

Not all effects are bad in a problem situation so you need to consider all of the variables and their impact on the situation.

Thanks to John Malouff from the University of New England, in Armidale, Australia for the inspiration and research. And permission to use it.


Leave a Comment
  1. Kitty kilian / Feb 15 2012 7:24 am

    Useful! Especially making it worse.. That should show how much of the problem is caused by fear of imagined outcomes..

    • mike54martin / Feb 15 2012 4:06 pm

      Thanks Kitty. Meant to drop you a note when I saw your blog interview. Didn’t get a lot of the Dutch but you looked like you were having fun.

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