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There are many problem solving techniques which you can use for a variety of situations I'd like to share 2 with you today. Creativity is a key capability when finding solutions and getting a fresh perspective is a good place to start. So I am going to share 2 techniques today; The Reversal Technique and The Metaphor Technique

In the reversal technique you solve the opposite problem to your stated problem and look at what solutions might also then be appropriate for your stated problem and what causes might be preventable or removed thereby eliminating the problem completely.

For example:

Problem Stated - People don't like a smoky atmosphere in my restaurant

Reverse problem - People want a smoky atmosphere in my restaurant

If you were to solve the reverse problem how would you do it?

  • Create a smoking only restaurant
  • Have an advertising campaign aimed at smokers on the menu
  • Filter smoky air through the air conditioning
  • Have ash trays where waiters would constantly refill with lit cigarette
  • Hire people to come in and smoke

Now look at how the principle of those solutions could apply to your stated problem.

Today's second option is The Metaphor Technique

In this technique you use "like a" to put your problem into a different context. For example

Problem Stated - Customers on the London to New York flights are down overall by 20% on last year

Metaphor - Garden

What are the elements of a garden?

  • In a garden there are many types of plant, vegetable insect
  • In a garden certain vegetables grow better at certain types of year
  • A garden can mean different things to different people
  • A garden can be just lawn or full of features
  • A garden has weeds
  • A garden needs maintenance
  • Some gardens have hired gardeners to tend them

Then ask what problems could this give a garden owner?

You can do that yourselves!

Then ask, how is a flight on a specific route like a garden?

  • on an aircraft there are many types of people
  • certain types of people go to New York at certain times of year
  • New York means different things to different people
  • Flying across the Atlantic is done for many reasons e.g. business, holiday, visit relatives
  • Some flights have unruly and disruptive passengers
  • Passengers need looking after
  • Cabin crew look after passengers

Then ask how can the solutions to the garden problem relate to the stated problem?

For example -

  • Is the mix of passenger down or only certain types? If yes, what can we do to attract that type back onto the route?
  • Are there peak and trough flights or are there times where passenger numbers are steady? Why is that?
  • Have our customer care (maintenance) scores dropped and why?

Looking at your problem through another lens may help you see it from another angle.

Using different techniques, tools and methodologies for defining and solving problems can increase productivity, improve team work and develop creative thinking when used consistently.

As a leader/business owner take every opportunity to look at problems in different ways and from different perspectives in order that you not only define a problem correctly but that you create solutions that tackle the problem, eliminate the problem or grow opportunities from the problem.

Problems in themselves can be opportunities and you should therefore view them constructively. The idea is for you to get creative and outrageous.

"No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.

Albert Einstein

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.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2007-10-11 22:11:35 in Business Articles

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