Problem Solving

Problem Solving

Dan Markovitz shares a short but insightful post and an introduction to a workshop on the importance of word choice when problem framing to ensure a positive outcome. 

In 1971, President Nixon declared a “war on drugs.”

In 2017, President Trump declared a “public health emergency” to battle the opioid crisis.

These two declarations were essentially about the same thing: dealing with the financial, emotional, and social scourge of drug abuse that was destroying individuals and communities. But the framing of the problem—a “war” versus a “health emergency” makes a huge difference in the countermeasures that citizens, politicians, and communities are ready to consider. 

If you’re fighting a war, you’re thinking about military action. You’re going to mobilize soldiers, deploy aircraft and other weaponry, and erect barbed wire barriers. If you’re responding to a health emergency, you’re thinking about hospitals, counselors and social workers, treatment centers, and medical interventions. The countermeasures are radically different. 

This is one of the exercises I’ve used with a corporate client that’s enrolled my Conclusion Trap workshop. Based on my latest book, this workshop helps participants become better problem solvers by improving their ability to frame problems. 

To the extent that anyone outside of General Motors remembers Charles Kettering, he’s most famous for saying, “A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.” Which sounds great—except that he never defined what a well-stated problem is. As my students discovered (and you can see from the example above), the phrasing of the problem has enormous consequences for the kind of countermeasures you develop. This kind of exercise helped them move from weak problem statements such as, “The problem is that we’re too busy to meet the milestones set by the project manager,” or “The problem is that we don’t have enough time to write and test the necessary code.

Key points include:

  • The Conclusion Trap workshop 
  • Consideration of countermeasures
  • Defining a well-stated problem

Read the full article, PROBLEM FRAMING IS MORE CONSEQUENTIAL THAN YOU MIGHT THINK, on MarkovitzConsulting.com.

 

Robyn Bolton reflects on lessons learned as a child that she brings into her field to help problems solve and drive innovation. 

Innovation is all about embracing the AND.

Creativity AND Analysis

Imagination AND Practicality

Envisioned Future AND Lived Reality

Looking back, I realize that much of my childhood was also about embracing the AND.

Mom AND Dad

Nursery School Teacher AND Computer Engineer

Finger paint AND Calculus

A few years ago, I wrote about my mom, the OG (Original Gangster) of Innovation.  She was what most people imagine of an “innovator” – creative, curious, deeply empathetic, and more focused on what could be than what actually is.

With Father’s Day approaching, I’ve also been thinking about my dad, and how he is the essential other-side of innovation – analytical, practical, thoughtful, and more focused on what should be than what actually is.

In the spirit of Father’s Day, here are three of the biggest lessons I learned from Dad, the unexpected innovator

Managers would rather live with a problem they understand than a solution they don’t.

When Dad dropped this truth bomb one night during dinner a few years ago, my head nearly exploded.  Like him, I always believed that if you can fix a problem, you should.  And, if you can fix a problem and you don’t, then you’re either lazy, not very smart, or something far worse.  Not the most charitable view of things but perhaps the most logical.

But this changed things.

If you’ve lived with a problem long enough, you’re used to it.  You’ve developed workarounds, and you know what to expect.  In a world of uncertainty, it is something that is known.  It’s comfortable

Fixing a problem requires change and change is not comfortable.  Very few people are willing to sacrifice comfort and certainty for the promise of something better.

 

Key points include:

  • Keeping things in perspective
  • The importance of letting go
  • Standing up when others are sitting down

 

Read the full post, Dad: The Unexpected Innovator, on MileZero.com. 

 

 

Rahul Bhargava provides a post designed to help you think critically and develop better problem-solving skills, a skill that is crucially important in today’s daily deluge of news from a diverse range of sources. 

Now and then, every individual comes face to face with some challenge or a problem, which requires them to make a decision. For an entrepreneur, it could be something as simple as deciding a name for their venture or something as crucial as choosing a location for the office. If you’re an employee working for an organization, you could be tasked with something as uncomplicated as picking out your workspace or something as critical as hiring recruits or choosing your team. For a student, some decisive tasks at hand would be, picking the correct career path, which subjects to study, which college to go to, and so on.

Life is full of such severities. Some problems may be complicated, and some may not be so difficult. Some issues may arise on the professional front, some on a personal front. Whatever it is, every decision you make, will have a crucial impact on your life. Hence, you must possess the problem solving ability and skills to think critically to tackle any situation better. Not only would it help you narrow down upon the best suitable option, but also facilitate its effective implementation.

A real-life situation where the skills of critical thinking would come in handy is in filtering out information. We live in a world of the internet and social media, where a truckload of information is available in a single click. Some of this information could be correct and accurate, whilst the majority of it is found to be untrue, commonly referred to as “fake news”.

 

Key points include:

  • Benefits of critical thinking
  • How to develop critical thinking
  • How critical thinking can help problem solving

 

Read the full article, How to Develop Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills, on purplecrest.co. 

 

 

From Jared Simmons’  company blog, a post on why motherhood is a leadership development boot camp.

Motherhood builds skills that are competitive advantages in the workplace. 

“Motherhood and apple pie” are meant to evoke an image of something universally good – something everyone can agree on. But, like most things about moms, this phrase has morphed into patronizing passive aggressiveness, at its best. 

When someone at work says, “That’s just motherhood and apple pie,” what they are really saying is “That is a bunch of hot air and baloney. Where’s the real substance?” 

I don’t like idioms, but I particularly dislike this one. Motherhood is a lot of things, but it’s usually not sugary fruit melting into a flaky pastry crust. 

Motherhood is simultaneously sweet and gross. It is both life-giving and soul-crushing. It requires you to have vision, be resilient, and communicate with empathy. Motherhood is… basically, the most effective leadership training program available.  

While these skills are recognized by colleagues, they are not appropriately rewarded by leaders in the workplace. The 2019 Modern Family Index study showed that:

  • 91% of working Americans agree that working moms bring unique leadership skills (i.e., diplomacy, collaboration, calm in crisis situations, and active listening) and 
  • 89% of working Americans believe that working moms bring out the best in employees. 

 Despite this awareness, working mothers are denied advancement opportunities simply because someone at home calls them “Mom.”

 

Key points include:

  • Motherhood skills
  • Battle-tested experience
  • Creative problem solving

 

Read the full post, More than apple pie: Motherhood is a leadership development bootcamp, on outlastllc.com.

 

 

Davide Gronchi provides two simple tools that can help collect answers to powerful questions.

Advanced analytics and machine learning are some of the ready-to-use technologies that help discover correlations and drive conclusions out of complex data sets that often describe our business and production processes. This is very helpful to take decisions aiming to prevent something unwanted to happen e.g., set process parameter to X in order to obtain product spec within tolerance.

There are many other opportunities to eliminate “waste” out of business processes that don’t require complex tools and data scientist skills but “just” common sense and good leadership. Solving problems should always start with a clear definition of “what is the problem?” Often we mix up the symptoms with the root causes, by doing so we look for solutions to the symptoms but don’t eliminate the root cause. Guess what? The problem will be back very soon…

Following a structured problem-solving approach is not difficult but requires discipline and asking the right questions, what we call “powerful questions“. These are questions that make people thinking, typically open questions that require an articulated answer, not just a binary yes/no.

Asking powerful questions should be one of the core skills of good leaders: not solving problems themselves but helping their teams to do so. I believe many have forgotten this and risk to lead teams in endless problem solving rounds without sustainable and substantial results.

 

Included in this article:

  • Fishbone diagram
  • Pareto chart

 

Read the full article, The Simple Art of Problem Solving, on the Growing Operations Advisors website.