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How to Be Better Problem Solver

To be a better and more creative problem solver, start with these three simple steps:

1. Learn some good problem solving techniques and approaches. The more of these you know, the better problem solver you can be.

2. Practice using the techniques repeatedly, until they become habit. This is the "programming" of your mind, and it assures the power of your subconscious will be there to help you.

3. Let many ideas to flow forth. Discard ideas later, or make them into something useful, but you have to have ideas first - and the more the better. Just suspend your judgment or any critical impulses until you have a list of possible solutions to look over.

Problem Solving Tools

The tools you'll use are various techniques and approaches. As noted above, the more you know, the better your odds of finding creative and useful solutions to problems. With that in mind, here is one to get you started.

Clarify Problems

Ever stop in the middle of a project to ask "What exactly are we trying to do here?" Vague problems are tough to solve, aren't they? For example, if you are unhappy with your house, and you want to effectively solve that problem, you need to identify the specific things you are unhappy about.

Suppose you were assigned the project of designing a better employee scheduling system for your employer. What's better, fewer hours on the payroll, or a schedule that makes for happier employees? These are the kinds of questions you would need to ask.

To be an effective problem solver you need to make clarifying problems a habit. Ask the right questions. How do you do that? You could start by asking any question you can think of. This can work, although it may tend to waste time.

It is better to identify the key elements of the problem. Ask "why do I care?," or "why is this problem important?" These questions not only clarify the problem itself, but can help to determine which problems you need to be working on first.

Work up and down the hierarchy of values to clarify what the problem is. Suppose you start with the problem of "where to go on vacation." Ask why you need to solve this. The answer might be the more important value of "I want to have a good vacation." Approaching the problem at this level may yield other solutions that resolve the "where" or make it less important.

Questioning the need for a good vacation can lead to the more important value of "having a good life." On that level, some people may find that their vacations are an escape from an unsatisfactory job. Looking for a better career may be the more important task. You might just get back to choosing a vacation destination, but this process can help clarify why the problem needs to be solved, and suggest new ways to do that.

Clarify what the problem is, and which is the most urgent or important problem. This is a great way to be a better problem solver. Why not add it to your arsenal of problem solving skills?

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