SOLVING PROBLEMS



EVERYONE HAS TO MAKE DECISIONS

 AND SOLVE PROBLEMS.


Businessmen especially are constantly faced with a problem to solve or a decision to make because they are dependent upon wise decisions and practical solutions for the survival, operation, and growth of their companies Some problems are very important ones, others are minor. Some decisions are made unconsciously, following a pattern established through having made many similar decisions. At other times, however one has to gather and analyze factual information and reach conclusions which serve as a basis for his decisions.


A problem is a situation which calls for a definite decision or action to be taken to reach a desired outcome. Problem- solving thus evolves clear thinking and sound judgment. Although thinking begins when a problem large or small, is examined and defined, thinking clearly involves in the early stages of problem-solving- a search for a set of facts or some principles that will explain a problem. Thinking through a problem to its solution then consists of defining a problem devising principles or hypotheses which might offer a solution setting up criteria to test whether or not hypotheses or principles are satisfactory finding workable solutions and deciding which is best, and putting solution into action. These steps are discussed in this material. A creative person becomes sensitive to problems as they arise and skilled in methods of attack and solution He maintains an open mind and is always on the lookout for a better way to do things.


Although there is no one prescribed method of attacking all problems different problems do have common elements and a method that will prove useful in many situations can be formulated, The careful thinker will work step by step through several stages before he decides upon the best solution and takes action to put it into effect. First he will seek a full understanding of the problem and the situation in which it has occurred. , Secondly, he will plan an investigation of its causes and results; he will determine what is already known and what he will need to find out; he will also decide how to obtain the necessary data. His third step will be to gather all data both facts and ideas by appropriate research methods. Part of the material he obtains will lead him to other material and he will create ideas of his own. His fourth step will be to organize and interpret his material: here he will create further ideas and reach conclusions Next, fifth step, he will propose and consider all possible solutions. Sixth he will decide which solution is best and as seventh and a final step, he will determine action for putting his solution into effect.


Much creative and logical thinking enters into each step in problem-solving. Thinking creatively is the ability to generate new ideas and thinking logically involves reasoning inductively and deductively. Both kinds of thinking involve evaluative judgment and the making of resultant decisions. At this point., however, we may note that the steps in the creattve process follow rather closely the basic steps of problem-solving and that they may be appropriately applied during any one step of problem-solving.


1.       Orientation -- Pointing up the pioblern

2.       Preparation -- Gather ng pertinent data

3.       Analysis -- Breaking down relevant mater al

4.       Hypothesis -- Piling up alternat2ves by way of ideas

5.       Incubation -- Letting up. to invite rllum~naüon

6.       Synthesis -- Putting the pieces together

7.       Verification - Judging the resultant ideas



DEFINING THAI PROBIIM


At first there is not a particular problem. merely a situation. When the situation is examined and a source of difficulty found, the problem can be defined. Thus, a first concern of problem-solving is learntx g how to recognize problem situations.


SET GOALS. Once a goal is established you can look fo barr’ers that stand in the way. You can work toward achieving the goal and ekrnnating action detrimental to its accomplishment.


IMAGINE AN IDEAL SITUATION. By setting up a crLterron of what conditions SHOULD be like you can compare and evaluate circumstances that prevail and get at signs of trouble or underlying causes,


OBSERVE WHAT 15 TAKING PLACE By observing operations you can discover areas in which problems might arise.


LISTEN TO OTHERS. You may pck up complaints or grievances which will indicate something is wrong or you may hear suggestions for improvement,


ASK QUESTIONS A;king questions about all phases of operation may yield clues.


It will also give other people a chance to communicate with you.


READ, You can profit from the recorded experience of others and gain knowledge it would take you wars to amass through your own experience. Guidance in professional reading for gathering facts and ideas in solving problems is provided in Chapter 5.


Setting goals, imagining an ideal situation, observing, listening, asking questions, and reading are all desirable methods for developing ability to recognize that something is at fault or needs improving -- that a problem exists.


After a problem situation is recognized, then it can be analyzed for determining the difficulty, it is well to begin by examining all the known facts of the situation. Then the unknown facts can be discovered, to be included if found irrelevant or explored for further data if pertinent. The problem-solver also searches for the details that explain why something has happened. To discover the relation between effect and cause is to find symptoms of trouble. Such details will provide clues. Sometimes an interpretation of all the facts in a situation will lead to a definition of the problem. Sometimes the problem can be sensed in a general way and pulled apart for analysis. The process of research, as is often stated, is to pull the problem apart into its different elements. This enables the researcher to examine closely each one for analysis and relationship to other elements and to the whole again. Usually then a broad perspective is gained, and the problem is seen in its entirety and its parts,


Another important technique in defining a problem is to isolate it from the problem situation. This may sometimes be difficult, but or~ce isolated, the problem can be expressed as a question, an infinitive phrase, or as a statement of need or purpose.


For example:


The United Supply Company, a coffee packer in Miami, Florida, at present owns a fleet of trucks which they use for distributing their products. Costs have been increasing in the last few years, and several of the trucks now need to be replaced. Some of the coffee companies in other parts of the country are renting trucks to reduce costs.


In this situation the facts point to the problem, but the problem needs to be stated separately from the facts. As a question it could be phrased: Should the United Supply Company rent trucks?


As a statement of purpose it might be expressed: To decide whether or not the United Supply Company should rent or own trucks an examination of comparative costs needs to be made.


The final step in understanding a problem is to devise principles or hypotheses which might help in arriving at workable solutions. The solution to a problem has to meet certain requirements, These principles help determine the direction in which effort is made. They do not tell HOW a problem is to be solved, but they do INDICATE objectives that the solution must accomplish if it is to be put into action The problem—solver at this point must visualize a new situation in which these criteria exist, and he can apply them in thinking up alternative solutions.


FINDING SOLUTIONS


Data collected to solve a problem help the mind in turning out solutions. Searching and analyzing lead to new insights from relationships of facts and ideas and may yield several possible solutions to a problem. The problem-solver will re-think the problem after he has collected all his data and will direct his thoughts to devising solutions, It is here that he will utilize all his thinking faculties. He will find out what others have done under similar circumstances; he will scrutinize all angles; he will speculate on what might happen; he will give himself free rein to think and explore all possibilities. Then--after he has several solution~-- he will evaluate and decide which one is best. The criteria arrived at in defining the problem can be applied here for determining which solution meets them, For evaluating solutions standard procedure is to test for effectiveness, practicality, and pertinence,


          For effectiveness ask:


                    Will it solve the problem?

                    Does it meet the established criteria?

                    To what extent will it contribute to a solution?


          For practicality ask:


                    Can it be put into practice easn~y?

                    Are necessary personnel and material available?

                    Is there enough tine?

                    Does it create new problems?


                    For pertinence ask?

                              Has every factor been considered?

                              Is the solution an answer to the specific situation?



PUTTING THE SOLUTION INTO ACTION


The problem-solver has to decide what is to be done. by whom, at what time, and at what place for putting his solution to into action. These decisions are naturally dependent upon the lines of responsibility and authority of the people affected by the solution and responsible for it and upon the relationship of the problem—solver to the person for whom he has found a solution. Visualizing the solution in effect and the results will give the solver insight. Into what to do.


There are times when the solution. is put to work for a test run. In a number of instances the problem-solver will need to hold conferences with all those people who will be involved and brief them on what to be done. He may even have group discussion to persuade others that the plan really is workable or to get ideas on further adjustments to be made. Often the solution and its discussion will be presented in a written report to others.


CASE STUDY APPROACH


The case study method of teaching and learning is a well-established approach to problem-solving. The student learns by doing. After he has studied a number of cases, he will have established a pattern of approach to problems. This approach includes the three fundamental stages of problem~-solving: defining the problem, piling up alternative solutions or principles involved, and deciding on the best possible solution. Although no one solution is the only correct one, the student goes through the thinking process of problem-solving and thus develops a sensitivity to problems, evolves a method of attack and gains experience in arriving at solutions.



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