A good problem solver

In the previous blog we have considered the steps to implement problem solving, but there also are tricks that can help us to be a good problem solver.

When we are faced with a problem, our instinctive reaction is to immediately find a solution so that we can act as quickly as possible. Our mind, in fact, responds almost automatically by quickly trying to formulate the most convincing hypothesis on the basis of the information available and our past experiences, without pondering each time what the best solution is. Often guided by the illusion of understanding the issues, we formulate hasty and erroneous solutions without having delved into the complete overview. Instead, the first step is the study of the problem, not the hypothesis. A good problem solver does not advance solutions impulsively.  

The most common mistake in solving a problem lies in misunderstanding, i.e., a lack of care in defining the problem. To define a problem clearly and precisely, one must first ask questions. In addition, using an expert is a useful aid in understanding the problem and identifying the information needed to outline a resolution plan. 

We are human, mistakes can happen and are part of the process; if we realise we have made a mistake, we must be ready to call into question our choices and provide new solutions. Quoting Albert Einstein, “You cannot solve problems with the same thinking that created them”, a good problem solver must rely on intellectual humility: recognising one’s own limits and being able to question even what one already knows. The ability to change one’s mind and rethink enhances the ability to find new and functional solutions. Rethinking means seeing things from different points of view, exploring problems with curiosity and being open to the idea of learning something new. 

You need to train some transversal skills that more than others contribute to developing the ability to solve problems: awareness, which is necessary to acquire an overall view of the issue; the ability to actively listen, also through “listening to the unspoken”, which is useful to identify the problem right from the start; curiosity, which encourages to evaluate more possible solutions, even unprecedented ones; creativity, which helps experiment new forms and give life to unexpected solutions; grit and determination, to not stop in front of the first obstacle and to move forward towards the solution.

At Colloi Plus, we apply mind maps to generate ideas and solutions, a visual tool used to bring back the complexity of thoughts emerged in brainstorming and to make connections among them. Making ideas visible helps us build a shared understanding of the problem, explore options and create clear, intelligent choices. Our mind is able to process more ideas when they are visible to our eyes. Moreover, the very act of writing, jotting down and tracing diagrams on a physical medium activates many more areas of our brain than a simple discussion, stimulating creativity. 

Never underestimate the power of visualisation!

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