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The Myths and Realties of Problem Solving

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Management is all about problem-solving, yet few managers are good at it. Problem solving suggests that large and complex problems be broken down into smaller and simpler problems. The smaller and simpler problems are then remedied, with the assumption that once they are remedied, the large problem will also be remedied.

Research reveals that one reason why managers are not good at problem-solving may be that what they are taught is incomplete; thus, managers are not equipped with the correct conceptual tools to solve problems. In general, when managers are taught problem-solving:

  1. They are given a problem and expected to provide a single correct solution.
  2. They are given easy and medium problems instead of ugly and hard problems, which is what they need to know.
  3. They are not taught how to formulate (define) problems, which is also what they need to know.

As a result, managers expect to be given an easy problem and produce a single solution.  This does not reflect the real-world in which they manage.

Based on my research findings incorporating Schön’s work, I have created a short video on the myths and realities of the problem-solving process.  The video explores:

  • The myth of the single correct solution to a problem.
  • The myth that a single pass through the problem-solving process can solve the problem.
  • Acceptable and optimal solutions instead of a single correct solution.
  • The multi-pass problem-solving process.
  • A problem formulation template.

The video at: provides theoretical knowledge and a useful tool for formulating problems.


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