Problem Solving & Taking Action

We’ve all been there. A mountain of uncertainty or a pile of roadblocks that aren’t doing anything to help the creative process. If we are’t careful we can become paralyzed with the sheer size of the problem.

This blog discusses how to deconstruct the problem or problems and create a plan of action. Remember, every problem has a solution and sometimes it just takes a deep breath and a new perspective to solve.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

– Albert Einstein

The first step necessary is to make the decision to act. It’s easy to sit and think about what you want to do or how things might be different, but that won’t help you actually make it happen.

There is a certain amount of thinking that will need to be done, but don’t get stuck in that loop of the process. Eventually you need to step out into the unknown and start making mistakes. Yes, mistakes! These are signs that you’re outside your normal comfort zone and in a position of growth.

Take Action

If you haven’t already, check out my first podcast on Dreams, turning them into goals and then taking action. Although it’s specific to chasing dreams and aspirations, there are a lot of take aways that can be referenced for problem solving.

If you do decide to listen, take notes! When you’re done you can finish this blog and you should have what you need to start problem solving and executing.

“If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying?”

– Shantideva

For purposes of this article, I’m going to assume the problem is something to do with a life decision. This is more applicable than a math problem or how to fit a square peg in a round hole. These types of problems are a bit more difficult to put a date of completion on.

Think figuring out how to get more from your career, develop better as a leader, explore new creative endeavors, develop relationships or other aspects of lifestyle that don’t necessarily have basic solutions.

Plan of Action

Now that you’ve decided to take action, give yourself a date. A date as to when you’d like to have some resemblance of a solution. This gives you something to aim for and monitor against. It’ll be a way to hold yourself accountable to whether you’re putting in the effort to achieve what you are seeking.

Core steps to solving any problem.

  1. Identify the Problem
  2. Define the Problem
  3. Develop a Strategy
  4. Organize Information
  5. Allocate Resource
  6. Monitor Progress
  7. Evaluate the Result

“Don’t bother people for help without first trying to solve the problem yourself.”

– Colin Powell

You’re doing the research to figure something out yourself, that’s a big step. By taking this initial step you’re showing a commitment to finding the answers you’re looking for.

I’ll briefly discuss each of the steps and what they’ve looked like for me in the past. Everyone will have their own unique problem and way of strategizing, but the process will typically look the same.

Tools for the task

Here are some tools for you to use that will help get answers for step one and two of the core principles of problem solving. One method of asking questions to get the answers you’re seeking is called the Kipling Method.

It’s named after the author Rudyard Kipling who wrote the poem:

I have six honest serving men
They taught me all I knew
I call them What and Where and When
And How and Why and Who

Some refer to this as 5W1H, but it’s the same thing. The process of questioning goes like this.

  • What is the problem?
  • Why is it important to fix the problem?
  • When did it become a problem and/or when does it need to be solved?
  • How did the problem happen?
  • Where is the problem occurring?
  • Who does the problem affect?

You’re on track to find a solution to the problem if you can create a succinct paragraph, sentence by sentence, identifying each of these aspects. Take for example the following, something I had to figure out a few years back.

“I (who) need to find an alternate source of income doing something I enjoy (what) so I can can leave my current career (where) by spring of 2017 (When). I pursued a career I thought I wanted (How), but have learned I need more artistic and creative outlets in my daily routine. Because of this I’ve found myself in a rapidly deteriorating state of mind/mood and am craving more opportunities for artistic creativity (Why).”

Try creating your own sentence based on the Kipling Method. Don’t over think it and use the list above as reference. Step through the problem and draw out your outline as I just did with my own problem.

Option two in your tool set is the Ohno Method, developed by Taiichi Ohno. He’s who many consider to be the father of the Toyota Production System. His method is simple and elegant at the same time. Just keep asking why until you get to the root of the problem and answer it.

I’ll give a generic example of how the Ohno method could be applied in a general capacity. The following would be a vary literal representation of the questioning in a sequences of responses someone could give.

Initial thought, “I don’t make enough money.”

-Why?

“Because my boss doesn’t pay me enough.”

-Why?

“Because I don’t have the experience or knowledge required for a more prestigious position.”

-Why?

“Because I haven’t applied myself to gain higher education or technical training.”

-Why?

“Because I don’t have time or money to pay for classes.”

-Why?

“Because I like buying nice things and going out on the weekends with friends.”

“No legacy is so rich as honesty.”

-William Shakespeare

You get the idea. If you’re true to yourself and just keep digging, you’ll get down to the grit of why it is you have a problem. Obviously this is a bit of a generic example, but it illustrates the process.

This method helped to create a very efficient production operation for Toyota. It should be able to help you get to the bottom of your problem.

Strategy

Now that you have the information needed try to deconstruct it further by identifying what can be done to fix the problem. Develop a few different approaches and rank them according to which you believe would fix the problem in the long term.

When you’re creating the strategy be sure to identify what it will look like when you solve the problem. Doing this will give you something to gauge your progress against. It’ll also give you something specific to aim for achieving rather than a blurry ambiguous objective.

Organize and Act

Now you have a better understanding of the problem and have a few approaches or strategies to act on. With all this information organize it as well as what resources you have available.

With all this information you have a much more clear and defined understanding of what the problem is then when you started. You also have a great idea of what a realistic approach is based on what you have available to solve it.

Feedback Loop

Another basic tool you can use is a feedback loop. This is sometimes referred to as the scientific method or the scientific process and depending where you’re researching will have slight variations to the loop itself.

Execute on your planned strategy now that you have everything you need along with a defined problem and target for improvement. Use the feedback loop to help identify areas of improvement and measure your progress.

The first attempt at solving your problem may not work as anticipated, use this loop to make continued improvements if it fits.

I’ve used all of these processes and methods at one time or another in the past. Some I still use regularly and find it a natural part of my decision making. It would be great to hear if anyone has their own methods not mentioned here.

Contact me with any questions you have or with ideas for content you’d like to see. Be sure to check out Tasty Dangerous on social media for regular updates and insights to mindset development and lifestyle design. I can be found on FaceBookInstagram and Twitter @TastyDangerous.

Cheers to new beginnings!

Share your thoughts with the Tasty Dangerous Crew!