8 Keys to Problem Solving


By: Martin Grunburg

Problems, problems, problems. As the saying goes, problems aren’t going away anytime soon. However, a key to solving problems is understanding their inherent nature. Below are 8 keys to effective problem solving.

Key #1: Problem equals “barrier.”
This from www.etymonline.com:  Latin problema, from Greek problema “a task, that which is proposed, a question;” also “anything projecting, headland, promontory; fence, barrier;” also “a problem in geometry,” literally “thing put forward,” from proballein “propose,” from pro “forward” (see pro-) + ballein “to throw” (see ballistics). (footnote).

Key #2: All goal achievement is simply problem solving — the ability to remove barriers. The very best goal achievers are problem solvers.

Goal: To increase the company’s agreement sales
Barrier: Insufficient marketing and sales resources.

Key #3: Address/solve the barriers and achieve the goal.

Key#4: Barriers tend not to go away on their own.

Key #5: Once removed a new barrier is likely to expose itself.

Key #6: Changing perspective and reframing/phrasing the problem differently often yields new possibilities and solutions. Sometimes you can’t attack the barrier head on and need to go around it/circumvent it. Think of an army attacking a promontory (barrier/problem) with the goal to overtake it.

Key #7: Remove just one barrier at a time (when working as an individual). Teams have the ability to address multiple barriers at once.

Key #8: Identify your biggest limiter. This is the barrier that will yield the greatest impact and reward when removed.

Example: I learned much of this trying to achieve the goal of completing an Ironman. One of the first things I did was purchase a book, Going Long. In the book the author spoke at length about the idea of key limiters. For me, running long distance is/was my biggest limiter and I knew I would have the greatest impact/result by addressing it first. To do so, I spent the majority of my energy and time working on my running. Comparatively, swimming was/is a strength, so I spent the least amount of time on my swimming.

Next steps: Address the following…

What is your goal?

List the barriers/problems preventing the goal’s achievement. You will likely be able to recite the top three immediately and without much thought.

Identify the biggest limiter. What is the one barrier (problem) that, when addressed, will yield the greatest result and have the most impact?

Example: You might say my biggest limiter is that we are unfunded…We need money!

How can you address this most effectively? What is the key limiter? Often money is just a symptom, not a cause. In other words— money may not be the real problem (barrier).

What can you do to increase sales? What are you doing to reduce costs? How are you marketing?

If money really is the desired goal (investment), how are you pitching investors? How can that pitch be made stronger, etc.?

To put a bow on this, problem solving (and goal achievement) is easier when you understand the real nature of problems.



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