A gnat’s attention span – most in voc. ed. & training are better than that

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 Good problem solving skills are fundamentally important if you’re going to be successful in your career.

The best strategy for solving a problem depends largely on the unique situation. In some cases, people are better off learning everything they can about the issue and then using factual knowledge to come up with a solution. In other instances, creativity and insight are the best options.

Real-world problems are usually not clearly defined and have vague specifications, uncertain goals and no set method of proceeding. Problem solving involves error and uncertainty … it is likely you will feel uncomfortable, or at risk, as you come to terms with the problem solving processes you will encounter in the workplace.

Every day you’ll be faced with at least one problem to solve. But it gets easier when you realise that problems are simply choices. There’s nothing ‘scary’ about them other than having to make a decision.

by Kendra Cherry, Psychology Expert, What Is Problem-Solving?  http://abt.cm/1jI3PGe

Part one – introduction

Problem-solving is a mental process that involves discovering, analyzing and solving problems. The ultimate goal of problem-solving is to overcome obstacles and find a solution that best resolves the issue.

The best strategy for solving a problem depends largely on the unique situation. In some cases, people are better off learning everything they can about the issue and then using factual knowledge to come up with a solution.

In other instances, creativity and insight are the best options.

The Steps in Problem-Solving

In order to correctly solve a problem, it is important to follow a series of steps. Many researchers refer to this as the problem-solving cycle, which includes developing strategies and organizing knowledge.

While this cycle is portrayed sequentially, people rarely follow a rigid series of steps to find a solution. Instead, we often skip steps or even go back through steps multiple times until the desired solution is reached.

  1. Identifying the Problem: While it may seem like an obvious step, identifying the problem is not always as simple as it sounds. In some cases, people might mistakenly identify the wrong source of a problem, which will make attempts to solve it inefficient or even useless.
  2. Defining the Problem: After the problem has been identified, it is important to fully define the problem so that it can be solved.
  3. Forming a Strategy: The next step is to develop a strategy to solve the problem. The approach used will vary depending upon the situation and the individual’s unique preferences.
  4. Organizing Information: Before coming up with a solution, we need to first organize the available information. What do we know about the problem? What do we not know? The more information that is available, the better prepared we will be to come up with an accurate solution.
  5. Allocating Resources: Of course, we don’t always have unlimited money, time, and other resources to solve a problem. Before you begin to solve a problem, you need to determine how high priority it is. If it is an important problem, it is probably worth allocating more resources to solving it. If, however, it is a fairly unimportant problem, then you do not want to spend too much of your available resources into coming up with a solution.
  6. Monitoring Progress: Effective problem-solvers tend to monitor their progress as they work towards a solution. If they are not making good progress toward reaching their goal, they will reevaluate their approach or look for new strategies.
  7. Evaluating the Results: After a solution has been reached, it is important to evaluate the results to determine if it is the best possible solution to the problem. This evaluation might be immediate, such as checking the results of a math problem to ensure the answer is correct, or it can be delayed, such as evaluating the success of a therapy program after several months of treatment.

Part two – Problem solving in the real world

Defined problems have a clear structure, a clearly specified start and goal, and a set of steps by which to move through the problem. An example of a defined problem is an algebraic one, which has one unknown and only one right answer. Through the use of algorithms (step-by-step procedures), the problem can be solved correctly, or at least to the satisfaction of the discipline community.

By contrast, real-world problems are usually not clearly defined and have vague specifications, uncertain goals and no set method of proceeding. Problem solving involves error and uncertainty and even if your students are eventually successful, it is likely they will feel uncomfortable, or at risk, as they come to terms with the problem solving processes they will encounter in the workplace.

Adapted from: Ryan, G. (1996). Solving problems and developing plans. In Nightingale, P., Te Wiata, I., Toohey, S., Ryan, G., Hughes, C., & Magin, D. Assessing Learning in Universities. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, p. 40.

Part three – 6 ways to enhance your problem solving skills

by Zoe B, http://bit.ly/1GDmnBV

Have you ever thought of yourself as a problem solver? I’m guessing not. But in reality we are constantly solving problems. And the better we are at it, the easier our lives are.

Problems arise in many shapes and forms. They can be mundane, everyday problems:

  • What to have for dinner tonight?
  • Which route to take to work?
  • or they can be larger more complex problems;
  • How to fix a project that’s running behind schedule?
  • How to change from an uninspiring job to a career you’re really passionate about?

Every day you’ll be faced with at least one problem to solve. But it gets easier when you realise that problems are simply choices. There’s nothing ‘scary’ about them other than having to make a decision.

No matter what job you’re in, where you live, who you’re partner is, how many friends you have; you will be judged on your ability to solve problems. Because problems equal hassles for everyone concerned. And people don’t like hassle. So the more problems you can solve, the less hassle all-round, the happier people are with you. Everyone wins.

So what can you do to enhance your problem solving skills?

1. Focus on the solution – not the problem

Neuroscientists have proven that your brain cannot find solutions if you focus on the problem. This is because when you focus on the problem you’re effectively feeding ‘negativity’ which in turn activates negative emotions in the brain. These emotions block potential solutions. I’m not saying you should ‘ignore the problem’ – instead try and remain calm. It helps to first acknowledge the problem and then move your focus to a solution-oriented mindset where you keep fixed on what the ‘answer’ could be instead of lingering on ‘what went wrong’ and ‘who’s fault it is’.

2. Have an open mind

Try and entertain ‘ALL POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS’ – even if they seem ridiculous at first. It’s important you keep an open mind to boost creative thinking, which can trigger potential solutions. Coming from 10 years in the corporate advertising industry it is drummed into you that ‘No idea is a bad idea’ and this aids creative thinking in brainstorms and other problem-solving techniques. Whatever you do – do not ridicule yourself for coming up with ‘stupid solutions’ as it’s often the crazy ideas that trigger other more viable solutions.

3. View problems neutrally

Try not to view problems as ‘scary’ things! If you think about it what is a problem? It’s really just feedback on your current situation. All a problem is telling you is that something is not currently working and that you need to find a new way around it. So try and approach problems neutrally – without any judgment. If you get caught up in the label ‘problem’ this may trigger a bought of negative thoughts and block any potential solutions from popping up!

4. Think laterally

Change the ‘direction’ of your thoughts by thinking laterally. Pay attention to the saying, ‘You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging it deeper”. Try to change your approach and look at things in a new way. You can try flipping your objective around and looking for a solution that is the polar opposite!  Even if it feels silly, a fresh & unique approach usually stimulates a fresh solution.

5. Use language that creates possibility

Lead your thinking with phrases like ‘what if…’ and ‘imagine if…’ These terms open up our brains to think creatively and encourage solutions. Avoid closed, negative language such as ‘I don’t think…’ or ‘This is not right but…’.

6. Simplify things

As human beings we have a tendency to make things more complicated than they need to be! Try simplifying your problem by generalizing it. Remove all the detail and go back to the basics. Try looking for a really easy, obvious solution – you might be surprised at the results! And we all know that it’s often the simple things that are the most productive.

Part four – How good is your problem solving?

Source: MindTools, http://bit.ly/1kPvSAX

Good problem solving skills are fundamentally important if you’re going to be successful in your career.

But problems are something that we don’t particularly like.

They’re time-consuming.

They muscle their way into already packed schedules.

They force us to think about an uncertain future.

And they never seem to go away!

That’s why, when faced with problems, most of us try to eliminate them as quickly as possible. But have you ever chosen the easiest or most obvious solution – and then realized that you have entirely missed a much better solution? Or have you found yourself fixing just the symptoms of a problem, only for the situation to get much worse?

To be an effective problem-solver, you need to be systematic and logical in your approach. This quiz helps you assess your current approach to problem solving. By improving this, you’ll make better overall decisions. And as you increase your confidence with solving problems, you’ll be less likely to rush to the first solution – which may not necessarily be the best one.

Once you’ve completed the quiz, we’ll direct you to tools and resources that can help you make the most of your problem-solving skills.

Test and learning advice: http://bit.ly/1kPvSAX

 

 

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