The Puzzle of Problem Solving

First off, can I ask you all to go and take my new User Types test? I really want to test it out. Let me know if you think to results are fair or way off. Ping me on twitter (@daverage) and thanks!

This week I wanted to outline my process of problem solving. This may sound strange and it may be utter rubbish, but many have commented on how I go about it!

Problems are like puzzles that need to be solved. You know what the desired outcome is, you just have to figure out how to get there with the information you have available.

Let us examine the following client comment. “We want need a better application screening process”.

Define the problem

The first step is to define the problem – seems obvious, but so many try to find a solution before they understand the problem, so take the time to step back and analyse it. In this case it seems obvious that the client wants a new application screening process. So the problem is “How do you make a better application screening process?”

Ask questions

The next step would be to try and discover the cause of the problem. Ask questions such as Why?, What?, Where?, How? and so on.

In this case asking the question “Why do you feel you need a better application screening process?”, could lead to more information. “We need a better application screening process because so few applications are accepted”.

So now the problem has shifted. It is now that not enough applications are accepted.

Define the root cause

You keep up this cycle until you feel you have got to the root cause of the problem. In this case, repeatedly asking why might lead to the actual problem. It may turn out to be that people filling in the application do not understand it, thus they answer incorrectly and do not get through the initial screening phase.

Re-frame the problem


We can now Re-frame the problem. It no longer “How do you make a better application screening process”, instead it is “How do we make the application itself easier to get right”.

Come up with a solution!

Now that you know what the actual problem is, you just have to solve it 😉

Problem solving The Puzzle of Problem Solving

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