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Finding solutions to challenges
The first step in finding a solution to a problem is to really understand and define the problem. You can only solve something that you really understand.
Now you can try to generate as many ideas as possible. Don't critisize anything during this phase. It must be clear that everything goes. Note everything down and only ask questions if anything is unclear.
You can generate idea with typical brainstorming. Or you can use Edward de Bono's method (see my other short article). Just try to generate as many ideas as possible. In the next phase you then try to analyse them. Could any of the ideas work? Could we make changes to an idea and with this improvement it could work? Could we combine 2 or more ideas and then it could work?
Many of the ideas might have assumed that certain contraints don't exist. But maybe there really is a workaround?
Before you finally go for an idea you have to find as many reasons as to why this is a bad idea. The earlier you know all possible pitfalls before you implement it the easier it is to prepare or change it.
Try to look at the challenge from different perspectives. How does it look for the customer? How are the people manufacturing / developing / selling seeing it?
Sometimes you will find that the problem is actually different from what you thought it was. When my daughter was in primary school there were times when she got way too much homework. So I tried to find ever better ways to be efficient and get it done quicker. But of course this only went so far. After all too much homework was too much homework and as we didn't want to change schools (and talking with the teacher was useless) I soon hit a wall. You can try all sorts of learning methods learning still takes time. But then one evening when I was sitting relaxed in my chair watching in awe a highly creative lecture on how to create dances which means doing something totally unrelated to my problem I suddenly realized that I had to change my focus. Instead of optimizing time I had to try to make the time we were spending doing homework more enjoyable. So we made artworks out of her spelling words and tried to make the other things more playful too. It didn't always work but she survived the time without too much frustration.
Sometimes you have tried to solve a problem in a certain way but it didn't work. You can try it again of course but after a while you will have to admit that you need another method if it still doesn't work. Too often people assume that more of the same will solve the problem. It usually doesn't even though it seems easier to do. Try something different to expect a different result. Be careful that the same method doesn't come in different clothing. For example when my daughter was little she once was sick and the doctor had given her antibiotics. (I have learnt more since and wouldn't give it to her so easily now but well, that was then). Unfortunately she was allergic to the antibiotics and started throwing up. So we went back to the doctor. And what did she do? She prescribed the same antibiotics just with a different taste. I understand that the bureaucratic rules made it difficult for her to prescribe something else. Still it escapes me why she honestly seemed to believe that now she would get a different result. Of course my daughter continued vomiting and again I lost more faith in the medical profession...
Sometimes problems really go away by doing nothing. If you don't have any idea what to do or the ideas you have are all terrible this might be worth it. Maybe someone else will solve the problem for you. I must admit that sometimes I use this technique when the school sends me emails asking me to fill out some forms on a website. Way too often it doesn't work at first. So usually I wait a bit and then someone else has already complained to the school and they fixed it. Problem solved for me simply by waiting. However this isn't always a good strategy. If you solve the problem you can decide how to solve it. If others solve it for you, they decide and you might not always like the result.
You also have to understand that if a problem exists that concerns not just you but many other people too if you don't solve it or solve it in a way people don't like a workaround will eventually be found that might even sweep you out of business. I still believe that cell phone use became so widespread because people were simply fed up with all the viruses and other inconveniences of their laptops.
Well, these are my 2cents on how to find solutions and what to avoid. I will add to this article when I come up with more ideas. As always I am happy to hear from you with your thoughts and ideas.
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