fuzzy problem solving

Years ago, I learned a wonderful problem solving methodology through a class by Basadur Applied Creativity. (For a thorough understanding of Fuzzy Problem Solving, I definitely endorse Basadur. For an informal crash course, check out this video that Joe Malek took of me presenting at ProductCamp Seattle 2009 or this multimedia montage of the process from Tim Matsui.)

The techniques weren’t new, but they were new to me. Since then, I have learned a great deal more about creative problem solving, and I’ve tried to share these lessons with my friends and colleagues.

While I’m happy to share what I know about useful methods, I’ve come to realize that the beliefs with which I approach problem solving matter much more to achieving meaningful outcomes.

Here are 3 of those beliefs.

Belief #1: Every problem can be solved. That’s a sweeping generalization, so let me qualify it. By “solved”, I mean addressed. Every problem can be looked upon as an opportunity to be assessed, prioritized, and appropriately acted upon. Actively holding this belief empowers one to overcome the biggest barrier to problem solving, the inertia of being in problem-mode rather than solution-mode.

Belief #2: You already know everything you need to know. Over and over again, I have found this to be true. If you have a problem, you not only know everything you need to know about it, you probably also know everything you can know about it. Again, these are sweeping generalizations that I’ll qualify. First, people always know more than they realize. Sometimes it takes a facilitator to draw the important facts to the surface, but people always know enough to act on a given problem, even if the most appropriate first action is to conduct research to learn more. Second, there is a limit to how much a person can know or need know before taking action on a problem. Believing that you know enough is critical to overcoming another big barrier to problem solving, the marketing cliché known as analysis paralysis.

Belief #3: Many problems don’t need to be solved. When you look at a problem set from several angles, you usually see a few things you hadn’t before. Some problems are irrelevant. Many problems go away once you solve a root problem. Other problems are actually valuable assets and opportunities once reframed in a broader context. When you know what problems don’t need to be solved, you can focus more clearly on the right course of action.

There are thousands of creative problem solving techniques from which to choose, but our beliefs guide us to solutions.

What are your beliefs?

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