Understand the Basics of Problem Solving in this Beginner’s Guide
Initial Thoughts on Complex Problem Solving Skills
How serious are you about learning the 10 key skills needed for future jobs? For months now, I’ve been talking about the 10 skills the World Economic Forum identified that professionals need to thrive in 2020.
This curated blog post, If You Read One Article About Complex Problem Solving Skills Read This One, is the second in a series of curated posts to learn the 10 key skills needed for future jobs. I want to emphasize that you shouldn’t use these blog posts as a replacement to reading the relevant books. The information in the posts should complement the books you read.
For this post, you will need to spend about 4 ½ hours reading the articles and watching the videos on problem solving skills. The academic article in the Journal of Problem Solving will take some time for you to read and digest. It seems like a lot of time to invest in this curated post, but ask yourself, “How would my life change, if I was more effective at problem solving?”
I have written quite a few posts on problem solving and creativity. And I have touted the Graham Wallas Problem Solving and Creativity Model. However, the day you stop learning is the day you die. When I learned about the 10 key skills needed for future jobs, I decided that I would learn the skills along with my readers. You don’t know what you don’t know.
I have read a few books now, and they are different from the books that I previously read on problem solving. And that is exactly the point, I need to step outside my Zone of Comfort, into my Zone of Discomfort.
To find the best content for this post, I used two content curation software programs – CurationSoft and TrafficFresh – as well as do a search on BuzzSumo. I searched for problem solving, complex problem solving and creative problem solving. Problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and decision making are related skills.
I do not think it is a bad thing to combine them when learning the key skills. Based on what I read in Curate This, I selected content from across various media, and I am using many of the other tips that I found in the book to bring you the best information that I can find right now. Some people will prefer to read an article, while others will opt to watch a video, or a SlideShare presentation.
Despite your medium of choice, think about digesting all of the curated posts, even if you do it over a certain period of time. I think you will learn the most that way. I think it would be interesting to take notes while viewing each piece of content, extracting what you think are the big ideas. By doing this, you may be able to create a structure for problem solving, which will help you in learning and mastering the skill. Find a way to apply your problem solving skills, whether you decide to teach what you know to another, or find a project to work on that will allow you to use your newfound skill.
What is Problem Solving? Beginner’s Guide to Complex Problem Solving Skills
What Is Problem Solving? This website, Mind Tools, is fantastic because it provides some critical information on several of the key skills. And it enables you to determine the structure of the skills. In this article, it introduces the reader to the basic steps in the problem solving process. For each step in the process, you will learn exactly what to do.
- Defining the problem.
- Generating alternatives.
- Evaluating and selecting alternatives.
- Implementing solutions.
Creative Problem Solving: This article is also from Mind Tools, but this time, the focus is on Creative Problem Solving. It talks about why you should use creative problem solving. Creative Problem Solving has four core principles:
- Divergent and convergent thinking must be balanced.
- Ask problems as questions.
- Defer or suspend judgment.
- Focus on “Yes, and,” rather than “No, but.”
The Creative Problem Solving Model has four stages:
The article walks you through the principles and the stages in the model.
Idea Generation: What is Creative Problem Solving? Creative Problem Solving (CPS) is a key idea generation technique. I love the definition in this article for creative problem solving.
“Creative Problem Solving may be defined as a problem solving technique that addresses a challenge or problem in a creative manner. The solution is creative because it is not obvious. To meet the criteria for solving a problem in a creative manner, the solution should resolve the declared problem in an original manner with the solution being reached independently.”
I love this article because it mentions several problem solving methods, techniques, and the stages in the models. This article is a goldmine since it introduces me to a lot of information that is new to me. When learning the key skills, it is important to get a diversity of thoughts. For example, the article mentions Osborn-Parnes (CPS) process of creatively solving problems. There are several models that fall under this process – Linear, Bubble, and Systemic. And the stages of these models include:
- Object finding
- Fact finding
- Problem finding
- Idea finding
- Solution finding
- Acceptance finding
How familiar are you with any of the above? This is completely new territory for me. I can see myself having fun with all this new information. Are you ready to step into your Discomfort Zone with me?
Creative Problem Solving
So that you are not surprised, because it is so unexpected, the video starts off with a prayer. If you are not a Christian, please do not disregard the information. Ignore the God reference, and pay attention to the information on creativity and problem solving.
This 40-minute video explains the creative problem solving process and presents some tools and techniques used to improve personal creativity. It also shows you how to use the tools. One of the things I like about the video, is that it gives several definitions of creativity. After watching this video, you will be able to answer, “What is creativity? and What is Creative Problem Solving” which is a good thing because you are getting a jump start on the series on creativity. Imagine if you are able to solve problems more creatively.
Advise from Avil: Speed up the video 1.5 times. It was too slow for me, and speeding it up worked just fine.
This is a short presentation that defines problem solving, presents problem solving techniques, explains the creative problem solving approach and introduces the reader to the problem solving process. Essentially, it shows creative problem solving techniques/strategies and steps in the creative problem solving process.
The Process of Solving Complex Problems: This article is from the Journal of Problem Solving and is 24 pages in length. It’s an academic paper, so it will take some time for you to read and digest it. Their definition of complex problem solving looks at complexity, a problem, and problem solving, so it’s not a straightforward definition. This paper will give you a solid foundation of complex problem solving skills.
The article discuss the following, which is critical to complex problem solving:
- Information generation
- Information reduction
- Model building
- Dynamic decision making
Ways to Improve Your Problem Skills: Beginner’s Guide to Problem Solving Skills
Solving complex problems with innovative concepts and robotic solutions: This article introduces automation to complex problem solving.
“The best automation solutions are smart, simple, innovative, and fully leverage technology to create significant business efficiencies and provide great benefits to employees and customers.”
I include this article in the curated post because it is unexpected. It is like a jolt of lightning, which immediately takes you to your Zone of Discomfort. When thinking about complex problem solving, I would like you combine the ideas from the pieces of content in unique ways.
The best robotic automation solutions are smart, simple, innovative, and fully leverage technology to create significant business efficiencies and great benefit
Three Tools for Teaching Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills: How do you teach complex problem solving skills? To learn problem solving and critical thinking skills require a dose of integrative thinking. In this article, you will learn about the model, Ladder of Inference, which is a model for decision making (another key skill to learn). Pro/Pro shows you how to think flexibly. Another integative thinking method you will be introduced to is Provoking Self Reflection.
I love this article because it is rounding out your learning on complex problem solving. It’s important to have many tools in your problem solving toolkit.
Problem Solving: This article is an easy read, and will reinforce what you already know about problem solving. It defines problem solving, and it provides a simple problem solving model.
“Problem solving is the act of defining a problem; determining the cause of the problem; identifying, prioritizing and selecting alternatives for a solution; and implementing a solution.”
- Define the problem.
- Generate alternative solutions.
- Evaluate and select a solution.
- Implement and follow up on the solution.
Problem Solving and Analytical Skills: This article is by Kent University, a UK educational institution. It offers the simple fundamental steps when solving problem:
- Identify the problem
- Define the problem
- Examine the options
- Act on a plan
- Look at the consequences
And the article also introduces you to a problem solving model, how to develop your analytical and problem solving skills. Since it is an educational institution, the article addresses using problem solving on the job.
Seven Steps for Effective Problem Solving in the Workplace: This article is a twist to what you have been introduced to so far. The seven steps to problem solving include:
- Identify the issues.
- Understand everyone’s interests.
- List the possible solutions (options)
- Evaluate the options.
- Select an option or options.
- Document the agreement(s).
- Agree on contingencies, monitoring, and evaluation.
I like this article because it is about problem solving, but you are alsp introduced to negotiation and decision making.
How to solve problems in different countries: This is a fun article in the form of an infographic. I include it here because you should try to add an element of fun to your problem solving.
The Simplex Problem-Solving Process: A Technique for Solving Complex Problems
This video is only a couple minutes long, and introduces you to the Simplex Problem Solving Process. After watching the short video, if the information sounds like something you would be interested in learning more, then read the article, that goes with the video, “The Simplex Process: A Creative problem Solving Process.”
Adapt: Problem solving in a complex world
This video by Tim Harford is based on his, book, Adapt: Why All Success Always Starts With Failure. He mentions that everyone wants to do interesting things – solve interesting problems. When you work on a project, you need feedback loops to let you know if your experiment is a success.
But to do that, you have to risk failure. What prevents you from taking risks? What are the barriers to taking risk? Would you risk not comforming, voicing what you really think is true? Harford recommends that you take the risk because you give others permission to do so as well.
The video is filled with funny case studies about failed projects. It is worth watching because it makes you think. I watched it at 1.7x speed using Enounce MySpeed software.
“What do Successful Problem Solvers do when Solving Complex Problems?” – Dr. Wendy Adams
According to Dr Wendy Adams, problem solving is the most important skill for physicists. But it is difficult to teach it. What makes an effective problem solver? The video has a definition of problem solving. The video is fascinating, based on research, and you will learn quite a bit about effective problem solvers.
Seven Step Problem Solving
In this 4-minute video, you are instructed not to use the same tools you use to solve simple problems to solve complex problem, else you will be trapped in a problem loop. There is a seven-step process use to solve complex problems.
- Data collection
- Cause analysis
- Solution planning and implementation
- Evaluation of effects
- Evaluation of process
It is a short video packed with a lot of information.
Final Thoughts on Beginner’s Guide to Problem Solving Skills
The range of curated content in this post about problem solving skills is far more diverse than the one on negotiation skills. I’m quite please with the results. If you read all the articles, watch all the videos and presentations, at the end, you will have more than the foundation of problem solving skills.
I invite you to use this curated post on problem solving skills as a resource that you refer to. For your homework, take notes, and create a table where you compare and contrast the various problem solving processes. Additionally, I have created a handy guide to walk you through the process of learning the 10 key employability skills, as well as other skills I think you’ll need to succeed at work in the future. This will give you what you need to thrive in 2020.