Activity 15 - Becoming Skillful: Problem Solving

Tuesday, 06 December 2011 04:38

Maurice Gibbons (c) 2008 Personal Power Press International


1. Skills are the portable tools that you take with you into every enterprise.
2. Skill development is a process: model-rehearsal-guidance-practice-application. Later we get to analysis-improvement-excellence.
3. Secrets of rapid improvement: expert feedback-the continual small step forward- the tablets of excellence-pride in the product.
4. Signals: It’s easy, it moves fast, it’s excellent.
5. Problem –solving; the essential skill of the unstoppable adventurer: problem-solutions-selection-development-execution.

 Skills: Your Portable Tool Chest for Any Task

You already have a number of tools, such as goal setting and planning, that you can apply to any task. The better equipped you are for anything you want to do, or have to do, the more successful you will be. Apply what you are learning in every intentional thing you do. Be systematic and strategic.

In the activities ahead, we will add many more skills to your tool chest. Here is a systematic process that will help you to solve problems anywhere you find them. Start with a problem in mind; a problem that arose when you implemented your plan is good. or another unsolved problem you are facing now.

The Problem-Solving Adventure

Problems appear all the time. Some activities are simply one problem after another. Detective work is that way and so is mountain climbing, just to name two of many. If you ever watch a climber or a team of climbers on a rock face, you will see them searching for handholds, looking for a pathway of holds, deciding where to drive in a piton, how to cross a chasm, how to ascend an overhang or a chimney of rock. They will even search for the most problematic rock face they can find so the problems are as difficult as possible. They are challenged by problems that test their skill often at great risk, and then, suddenly, they are at the top, exultant.

You do not need to risk your life, but it is important to have this relish for problems that test your skill and spirit. It’s important to have toughness and gumption, to be unstoppable in pursuit of your quest, because there will be problems.

The Problem-solving Process

1. Identify the problem. Find out exactly what the problem is. Often discovering what the problem is takes you a long way to the solution. Alternately, you can waste a lot of time trying to solve a problem you don’t really have.

Be precise in your problem statement. The more exact your statement of the problem, the easier it will be to find a solution. Be sure, also, that you have identified the real problem. “The boss has a negative attitude toward me; what am I doing wrong?” may not be the problem if someone is telling him negative stories about you, or if you replaced a company favorite. “Why is the boss negative about me?” or “Why am I not getting ahead in this company?” are more likely to lead you to a solution.

Make your problem statement positive. It will be even more helpful to ask, “What can I do to get ahead in this company?” The first step may be to find out how the boss regards your performance so far. Again, it is better to approach authority with a positive question. The answer will tell you what you want to know, and, perhaps, a great deal more.

There are different kinds of problems and each kind requires a different kind of solution. You will find it helpful to decide what category of problem you are facing, and then focus on responses appropriate for that category.

Your response to a mechanical problem (eg. your car won’t start) is going to be very different from your response to a social problem (eg. your lover won’t answer your phone calls), a business problem (eg. people have stopped buying your product), or an academic problem (eg. you can’t think of a topic for your final course paper). There are many more possible categories.

Just think of an appropriate category title and that will help you to get focused on exactly what the problem is and how to respond. So, in summary, be precise, get it right, be positive, and make sure you are seeking responses in the right category.

Here are a few more categories:

(Relationships) What can I do to form better relationships with my colleagues at work?
(Advancement) What steps can I take to ensure a promotion within the next year?
(Task) How can I learn to be a manager while I’m still working on the green chain?
(Technical) How can I download the videos I make to my computer and make them into movies with a sound track?

In your journal, state the category and the problem you are working on.

2. Study the problem. Once you have identified the problem, find all you can about it. The more you know the easier the solution will be.

In the relationships example above, for instance, you will be better able to solve the problem if you study the forces at work in your place of business, and if you learn all you can about relationships, especially relationships in the workplace.

Keep notes and look for ideas that seem related to your situation.

3. Generate a variety of solutions. This is a big step, and you have prepared yourself for success by doing a thorough job in step #2. The better informed you are the more material you will have to draw upon in this search for a workable solution.

This is brainstorming and employing it successfully involves keeping some guidelines in mind. The idea is to list as many ideas as you can, with the expectation that a good solution to your problem will appear among them.

Your list will likely begin with ordinary, even familiar ideas. It is important to continue long after that part of your list is exhausted. Once they are exhausted you will begin to push into fresh territory will newer ideas. They will likely still be reasonable and they may include a good solution or two.

But do not be too quickly satisfied. The best may still be to come, when imagery and imagination kick in. We are not just looking for solutions, we are looking for the best solution, which often comes when you push far past the easy list and begin to find wilder possibilities. When you’ve run out of easy stuff and have to invent.

Push. Seek strange solutions Turn off the editor in your mind and be wild. It’s not just numbers of ideas you seek, it’s also originality. inventiveness.

The wild answers may be just that, wild. But some of them may suggest the great idea that you are looking for, so look at them closely. The idea that says make your colleagues at work into a constellation of stars in the heavens may seem ridiculous at first, but think about it. There are several good ideas in that brainstorm, ideas that just may be the answer.

Make your list in your journal.

4. Select the most promising solution. If you have a lot of ideas, start reducing the list. On the first read through, check off anything that seems useful. Then go back and check off 3-5 responses. Look them over. Restate your dashed down ideas as clearly as possible. Think about their possibilities and choose one.

Be sure that you end up with a clearly stated goal. ‘Making your colleagues into a starry constellation’ is not a very helpful guide. ‘Treating my colleagues as a group of stars at their lofty work,’ however, is something you can work with—unless it is odious to you.

State the solution you choose.

5. Develop it into a workable plan. Selecting a good idea launches the planning process, that is, developing a plan to use the idea successfully. If you decide to use ‘Treating my colleagues as stars at their work,’ your plan would include such items as the following,

1. Study my colleagues and their jobs to find out what they do.
2. Find out about their work histories to see what they have accomplished.
3. Arrange to meet with them one-on-one over the next month.

Write your plan in your journal. When your plan is ready, you are ready to take action.

6. Apply your plan and modify it. Next is the tough part, putting your plan into action. Once you launch remember the imperative that problems are sure to follow.

See how meeting with the first colleague goes and decide from there whether to continue with your plan or to modify it. You are on your way to solving your problem.

Once you have successfully added problem-solving to your tool kit, you can think about other skills you would like to have and how to go about getting them. 

Learning skills.

Reading about skills, as you have done here, is not the best way to learn them. If you want to be successful, here is the best way to learn them.

1. Connect with a personal experience of using the skill.
2. Find an expert to watch applying the skill.
3. Try the skill under the guidance of an expert. Bandura claims that this ‘guided practice’ is the single most effective way to become skilful.
4. Practice regularly realistically as possible.
5. Apply the skill to real situations as soon and as often as possible.

Think of a skill that you want to have and apply this system to learning it. Remember, be systematic and strategic about learning the skill.

Tell us

We want to hear from you. Please just tell us how you are doing. Just tell us, or fill out this little questionnaire and send it, or do both. Thanks, your advice has led to many changes already and we will continue to upgrade, especially when we get all of the activities up and have the luxury of looking back at the activities more carefully.

Maurice Gibbons (c) 2009 Personal Power Press International

 Skills: Your Portable Tool Chest for Any Task

1. I got this far, and here’s what I’m doing: a. skimming b. reading c. doing some things d. doing everything
2. The activities are: a. easy b. challenging c. hard d. too difficult
3. I’m learning: a. a tremendous amount b. quite a bit c. not much d. next to nothing
4. I feel: a. excited b. satisfied c. bored d. angry

In the attached email send us the letters of your four answers and, if you will, your answers to these two questions:

1. The thing I like most about the program is...
2. The one change in the activities that I would like to see most is...
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Last Updated on Thursday, 29 December 2011 18:45