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Rational and Creative Problem Solving Part 2


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This is part 2 of the series on rational and creative problem solving. In the last edition of Quickstart, we started to look at this basic 4 step process for problem solving

Step 1 - Take stock of the current situation
Step 2 - Identify and clarify the cause and effect
Step 3 - Identify options and consequences
Step 4 - Envision what if scenarios

Last time we covered steps 1 and 2 (If you want to review steps 1 and 2 click here on Steps 1 and 2). In this edition we look at steps 3 and 4.

Step 3 - Options and Consequences

It is at step 3 that you can really let your creativity loose. The generation of options for how you might solve a problem can be done in many ways and we will look at some of those techniques in future editions of Quickstart.

When looking at options you should always keep in mind the purpose for solving the problem. For example, let's say it's 1pm and your car has broken down. You don't know what's caused it but you know the effect is that you will be late for a key customer appointment at 3pm unless you can get it fixed.

But see how quickly you have jumped to a solution, which might not be feasible, nor might it serve your purpose i.e. fix your car. The immediate and most important problem is actually that you will be late for your meeting not that your car has broken down. So the options need to be related to getting you to the meeting on time not to, necessarily just fixing the car. Fixing the car may be an option but there could be other options e.g. phone a friend and ask them to come and give you lift or phone for a taxi.

So make sure the options you are looking at serve your purpose.

Your process for coming up with some options may consist of the generation of possibilities, assessment of suitability to purpose and assessment of viability. You should then look at the consequences of each option if implemented. Then weigh up the consequences against the severity of the problem and the impact of an effective solution.

For example,
* Would option A be quicker, safer and more cost effective than option B?
* Would option B give you quicker short term results but be cost prohibitive in the long run?
* Would option C solve the problem but be extremely difficult to implement given your companyís financial status and the state of the market?

It is key that you weigh up the options in relation to the consequences of their impact.

Step 4 - What if?

This final stage, before you make a decision and implement your solution, is like a double check and another opportunity to review your thought processes and perhaps extend your consequences thinking.

So you need to ask questions such as
* Have we considered all options?
* Have we taken a logical thought process to our chosen solution?
* If we implement option A what impact might that have elsewhere?
* If we implement option B might that give us opportunity C which we hadnít thought of?
* What if we could implement option D and E might that solve this problem and improve X?

Again the amount of time, effort and money put into this stage needs to be commensurate with the nature of the problem and the positive effect solving it will have, in comparison with not spending the time doing so.

"It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers" James Thurber

Next time we will look at some creative problem solving techniques and in anticipation of that, if you have any great techniques that you can share with me and your fellow readers of Quickstart, please let me have them by sending them to me by email at

About the Author

Beverley Hamilton works with independent business consultants to help them grow a profitable consultancy and still have time for their life. You can get my Free Ecourse Discover the 5 Most Common Incorrect Assumptions Independent Business Consultants Make and a complimentary subscription to Quickstart, the newsletter specifically for consultants. Go to One Step Further for more instantly accessible resources. Your future Your choice!

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2008-02-05 23:01:23 in Personal Articles

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