Problem Solving is a mental process wherein an individual analyzes, interprets a task or a problem at hand and chooses from a pool of possibilities to reach the simplest solution. It involves an individual’s creativity and decision making abilities.
In most situations, the solutions must be unique and simple at the same time. All kids and adults have their own ways of reaching decisions. While the decision might be same, the journey towards reaching the conclusion or solving a task will be different. And in this process lies maximum learning.
One of the most important ways is to learn from past experiences and gathering as much information as possible about the task at hand. Many individuals are not able to break free from what is called the ‘escalation of commitment’–a process in which an individual does not change the approach even though it might not be working. Thus it becomes important to gather all information at the beginning before one makes a choice to choose one approach over another.
Following steps should be followed while solving a problem:
1. Identifying the problem: It is important to have clarity about what the problem at hand is and what it demands. The resources required to solve the task and the kind of solutions that have been used before and have been successes and failures.
2. Forming a strategy: The approach to solving the problem will depend upon the environment and the available resources. It will differ from individual to individual since they will have their own preferences and set schemas.
3. Organizing Information: As stated before, it is important to gather as much information as possible and organizing it, segregating it to identify the gaps. Whether its a top down approach or a bottom up approach, one should be able to identify the source of the problem.
4. Allocating resources and monitoring the process: Once you know the problem, its source and have organized the information,allocate the resources such as time, money etc, including past experiences and future impacts. For effective solutions, one also needs to monitor the progress of the approach to avoid being caught in the vicious circle of escalation of commitment.
5. Evaluating the Solution: Once the task at hand has been solved, what is its present and future impact? It can be immediate such as solving a math problem or a long term process such as a learning curve.
Effective solutions are applicable and make positive impacts. Problem solving as a skill and a process can be learnt. Of course, the desire is to reach a unique solution that no one has come up with before. The ability to understand what the goal of the problem is and what rules could be applied represent the key to solving the problem. Sometimes the problem requires some abstract thinking and coming up with a creative solution.