Do you have a difficult problem that you are trying to solve? A systematic approach to problem solving will make your task that much simpler. Below is a process to assist you, follow the steps in How to Read to Solve a Problem and record the information in the problem solver template. Read the blog posts How to Problem Solve and Reverse Problem Solving: When You Must Have a Certain Outcome for additional information. Information from this post was extracted from the Invisible Mentor Toolkit which I developed to assist you in acquiring information and knowledge from a distance.
How to Read to Solve a Problem
- Describe a problem that you are having in your organization simply, clearly and not too broadly or narrowly.
- Uncover the facts surrounding the problem
- What are the underlying causes of the problem?
- Are the underlying causes internal or external to the organization?
- Are the underlying causes solvable?
- Look at problems in many different ways, and find new perspectives that no one else has taken
- On a blank sheet of paper do a brain dump for 15 minutes, writing down as many answers and solutions to the problem. If necessary, go back to Step 1 and redefine the problem
- Compile a bibliography of books that could potentially help to resolve the problem?
- Spend half a day at the library inspecting the books listed in the compiled bibliography to:
- Whittle down the number of titles on the list
- Get a cursory understanding of the topic/situation
- Determine which books say anything important about the topic of interest
- With a cursory understanding of the subject:
- Develop questions you are trying to answer or issues to resolve
- Clarify the information that you are seeking. Distinguish between ‘must know’ and ‘nice to know’
- Write down the elements of what you require
- How will you know when you have found the answers?
- Inspect the books identified as relevant to solving the problem
- Find the most relevant passages and record page numbers
- Record the answers to the questions by authors (Refer to the Problem Solver Template)
- Read and analyze all the information gathered
- Distill the information germane to the problem
- Compare and contrast the answers to each question
- Reorganize the information in many ways. Combine, and recombine, ideas, and thoughts into different combinations no matter how incongruent or unusual
- Draw conclusions and identify possible solutions (Do not limit yourself to what has been done before but be open to new and better alternative solutions)
- Which option best serves the organization?
- Is the option consistent with the mission, goals and objectives of the organization
- Select the best option
- Implement the solution
- Evaluate the solution
- If the solution does not work, repeat Step 10 c through to 10 d
The Problem Solver Template
Title of Book/Name of Author
Why is Author Qualified to Answer?
Answer 1/Page Found
Answer 2/Page Found
Answer 3/Page Found
Answer 4/Page Found
Answer 5/Page Found
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