What problems do you solve?

By June 19, 2014Planning
What problems do you solve?

Have you asked yourself “What problems do I solve?” This question is the essence of providing a service or products that people need. It is the question that unlocks the direction you want to move towards. It what your customer wants to know. “Can you solve my problem?” Educate prospective customers that you understand their problems, you can solve their problems and you are the best one for them to turn to for the solution they need.

What is problem solving?

Problem solving is defined as:

The process of working through details of a problem to reach a solution. Problem solving may include mathematical or systematic operations and can be a gauge of an individual’s critical thinking skills.

Stages of problem solving

1. Define it

Clear identification of a problem is the first step in problem solving. It may sound obvious but by defining the goal, you can then establish what you need to do to achieve it. Identify issues, obstacles and opportunities.

“The formulation of the problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill.” ― Albert Einstein

Consider these questions:

  • What is the problem?
  • Why is there a problem?
  • Why do I want to solve this problem?
  • Can I solve it?
  • Have I solved a problem like this before? Reflect on successes
  • What are the constraints or obstacles of the situation – what might prevent me from solving this problem?
  • Is there a time period on solving this problem? How much time will I need to implement the solution?
  • What conditions must the solution satisfy?

Scroll through the slides below for ideas on more problem solving questions.  

Have you asked the right questions so you best understand what is needed? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The right questions will help you determine the steps you need to take to tackle a major project. Clarifying the requirements helps you identify a solution.

Determine what criteria you will use to evaluate the ideas. Are there budget limitations, timeframe or other restrictions that will affect whether or not you can go ahead with an idea? What will you want to have accomplished with the ideas? What do you wish to avoid when you implement these ideas? What will the solution look like when the problem is solved?

“A problem well put is half solved.”  ― John Dewey

2. Devise a solution plan

Once you have asked the questions, you can determine which approach to innovation makes the most sense. What is the most efficient way to work through this problem? Always think critically about your business as there are always ways you can improve efficiencies.

Can you break the problem down into smaller chunks? Compartmentalising the process makes it easier to manage.

3. Research the problem

Research the problem in order to have a good understanding of it. What sources of information, types of research or tools will you use to help you find solutions? Research can come from a variety of sources: internet, libraries, research from experiments and studies, interviews of experts and trusted sources, observed events past and present.

4. Generate ideas

Look at a problem in many different ways. Be willing to take risks, to experiment and also to make mistakes. Try to see a different way to do something and generate new ideas. Come up with as many ideas as you can. Challenge yourself to explore, make associations and try new combinations then combine and improve ideas

Mentally break down the problem or idea into parts and analyse them. Is it something you can sort, classify and compare similarities and differences?

Reflect on the questions that arise from the problem. Consciously make connections between what is known and what is new. Reflection involves observation, asking questions and putting facts, ideas, and experiences together to add new meaning to them all.

Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What can I do differently?
  • What rules or procedures do I need to follow?
  • How many ideas can I come up with?
  • Are there still more solutions/variations I can think of?

5. Evaluate the alternatives

At this stage, look at what you have got and ask yourself:

  • What do I think of the ideas?
  • What are their advantages and disadvantages?
  • What problems do they leave unsolved?
  • If I choose one of the ideas, what would the consequences be?

6. Make a decision

Carefully analyse the different possible courses of action and then select the best solution for implementation.

7. Implement the solution or decision

Accept and carry out the chosen course of action. More problems may arise during this stage especially if identification and structuring of the problem wasn’t carried out fully.

8. Monitor/seek feedback

The final stage of problem solving is concerned with checking that the process was successful. This can be achieved by monitoring and gaining feedback from people affected by any changes that occurred.

Questions to ask are:

  • Was it a good solution?
  • Did is solve the problem?
  • Is everyone happy with the solution?
  • How effective was the solution?

Conclusion

A problem is just a problem if you don’t have a way to find a solutions. To get from point A to point B, you need a plan. The goal is to create steps that keep you moving. This will not make the problem easier to solve but by clarifying the unknown, you create a method of achieving a solution. Problem solving involves seeking to achieve goals and overcoming barriers. In business, it is crucial you know what the problem is that you are solving.

You might know what you are good at and what you are passionate about, but can you define what problem you solve? Do you bring solutions to life?

About Caroline

Caroline is a specialist in business creation, growth and change management. Her aim is to empower start-ups and small businesses to drive growth through the development of business ideas, product and service development, strategy and system planning as well as business branding and promotion.

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