Monday, October 18, 2010

Solving a Problem

How do you solve a problem? A stupid question, huh? Not really. I am asking you to think of the process that you employ to solve any problem. Not necessarily a mathematical problem but any problem, could be as simple as your weight problem. One thing which I have noticed while solving problems is, no matter what type of problem you are solving and how difficult or easy a problem is or whether its a business problem or your personal life problem, all of them follow the same process. This process can vary from person to person but for a person its the same. Its the way the person is trained to think or the way the person's mind work. The way a person approaches any problem does not change with the nature of the problem or the complexity of the problem but its pre-defined for him/her.

The first and most important step of any problem solving is to acknowledge the problem. Half of the problems in the world exists because people refuse to acknowledge the problems! Indian government refused to acknowledge that there is problem in Kashmir and then the things went out of hands. Lehman Brothers refused to accept the problem with its portfolio and it went bankrupt. This is the first and the most crucial step because it initiates the process and make you think for a solution.

But you can't find a solution unless you know what the problem is. So, the second important step is to define the problem. A problem has a subjective view. It appears differently to different people and each version might be as correct as any other. Defining a problem is a skill which can be developed with practice. This is that stage of your problem solving process which will impact the quality of your solution. Skilled problem identifiers can define the problem in such a way that the solution will itself become apparent from the problem definition.

Defining a problem correctly or rather appropriately, as there is nothing correct or incorrect definition of problem, will help you to decide the data that you need to gather to better understand the problem and find out the gap areas. But from where will you gather this data? There might be several sources available with you. You should chose the one that provides you the most relevant and reliable data. Relevance and Reliability are the crucial factors and you might need to make a trade off between the two.

Once you have the data, you need to analyze it to understand why the problem is there. You will be able to understand your problem better and will be able to trace out the reasons for the same, which will help you to define the solution. Once you have identified the gaps your objective becomes closing those gaps which will ultimately lead to the solution of your problem.....

But sometimes there are problems for which there are no apparent solutions.... Well, in such cases you have just 2 options left: either learn to live with the problem or change the rules which gave birth to the problem in the first place.... I prefer the 2nd one.

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