Sharpen Your Problem-Solving Skills

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Sharpen Your Problem-Solving Skills

“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”  Says Albert Einstein the German-American theoretical physicist. This is a fact because you need a higher reasoning level than the problem to be able to solve it.

Problem solving is one of the most essential skills that one must have to succeed in life. Problem is defined as any question or matter involving doubt, uncertainty, or difficulty.  Regardless of whom you are or what you do, you will face obstacles. This thing we call problem, comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. How you deal with such challenges will often be a major determinant of where you find yourself in the school of success. The parable of the wise and the foolish virgins in the bible underscores the importance of problem solving ability one must have to succeed in life.

One of the major outstanding miracles of Jesus Christ that took an entire chapter of the bible was the regaining of sight by a man born blind in the book of John chapter 9:1-end.

This episode was significant not only in the life of the person who was born blind but later got healed. More importantly, in the life of so many others people who followed this particular miracle extraordinary and took valuable lessons from it.

We know Jesus is the son of God and he performed uncountable miracles.  That is not the reason for my article. If we start talking about His miracles we may not finish that discussion at this sitting.

This particular miracle is significant to us as individuals and to the country as a whole. The leadership of the country is gathering at Akosombo to strategize and find solutions to socio economic challenges of the nation starting this week. The wisdom in this case study ‘A man Born Blind Receives Sight’ can fundamentally help the delegates to move forward in their discussions because of great management lessons on how to solve problems.

I am aware that we are not all familiar with the story but for the sake of this article I want you to please take time to read that chapter of the bible to enable you grab the full substance of this discussion. Let me paraphrase the story just for the sake of those who will not want to read their bible for any reason. There was a man born blind and Jesus Christ and his disciples were passing by where he was abandoned. His disciples asked their master why was the man born blind(that was the first problem which needed a solution). In our own case, why is Ghana economy in this state?

He explained to them that the man was born blind neither because of his sin nor that of his parent but for God to show why he is God in his life. His answer provides solution to the problem because Jesus went ahead to perform the unexpected miracle which sparked of the controversy of how the blind man regained his sight which is the second problem that required answer.

It started with the blind man’s neighbors and the Pharisees (scholars) joined the debate. They were arguing among themselves whether or not the blind man is the one they know before or not. It was so serious that they brought in his parent to come and confirm the true identity of their blind son who has regained his sight.

That is how far I will go in summarizing this episode you will enjoy the entire ‘controversy’ the miracle generated if only you can take time to read the full story in John 9:1-end.

As a student of management any time I am reading my bible I tried to put my management thinking cap on to learn something practical from the master of wisdom and understanding, Jesus Christ. In this particular passage, I took special notice of the principle of problem solving called five W’s and “H” in the entire questions and answers session between the Pharisees and the person that just gained victory over blindness. It is an interesting discussion which I want us to learn some salient points in finding solutions to some seemingly intractable or unsolvable problems of our life, businesses and nation.

THE 5W’S AND “H” APPROACH TO PROBLEM SOLVING

The five Ws and H represent, who, what, when, where, why and how of a problem. The Five Ws and one H, are questions whose answers are considered basic in information-gathering. They constitute a formula for getting the complete story on a subject.

The “Five Ws” (and one H) were memorialized by Rudyard Kipling in his “Just So Stories” (1902), in which a poem accompanying the tale of “The Elephant’s Child” opens with

I keep six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who.

This is why the “Five Ws and One H” problem solving method is also called as the “Kipling Method”, which helps to explore the problems by challenging them with these questions

Who is it about? What happened? Where did it take place? When did it take place? Why did it happen? How did it happen?

Back to our case study, the problem of the man is rather unusual for one to be born blind and on the other hand to get healed in such a simple fashion as it happened in this story seems to be unthinkable to the Pharisees. It was even said in verse 32 of that chapter that “Since the world began, it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind”

This underscores the significance of the problem at hand and the solution that came aftermath. The curiosity of the Pharisees and other people around to find solution to the incomprehensible nature of the way the man was healed should provide a good learning point for us to appreciate how we could use this principle of Five Ws and H to get to the root cause of a problem and find answer to any difficult situation that may come our way. That is the import of this article.

We know in life there are challenges sometimes they may be far bigger than our knowledge and understanding sometime it requires more than knowledge and understanding to come up with a solution. Sometimes it may require the wisdom of the “gods” like those Chaldeans answered king Nebuchadnezzar when he threw a big challenge to them to tell him the dream and the interpretation of a dream he had which he has forgotten when they were not the one that dreamt.

Really, there is no problem in life which we cannot find a solution to but there are ways or steps to get answer to any problem facing human being and that is what is called the five W’s and  H.

From our case study, we realized that the Pharisees used this principle to get the answer to their inquisitiveness on how a man born blind could regained his sight in such an unsophisticated fashion.

All the  five W’s and H were tested and answered before the Pharisees came to the conclusion that truly there was a problem which has been solved by someone with higher authority.

First let us examine their approach before we relate it to our problems as a nation or business, family, personal life or any other areas of human Endeavors for that matter.

  • WHO: This was used about four different times starting with who sinned? Is this not he who sat and begged? Who is the Lord that I may believe him? Is this not your son who you say was born blind? I’m sure you will notice that each time the 5W’s and H words are used they are followed by a question mark. Meaning there is an expected answer to come with the question which will lead to a solution.
  • HOW: How were your eyes opened? How can a man who is a sinner do such a signs? How then does he now see? How did he open your eyes?
  • WHERE:Where is he?
  • WHEN: When did he do it? It was on a Sabbath.
  • WHAT: What do you say about him because he opened your eyes? What did he do to you?
  • Finally WHY: Why do you want to hear it again?

These five Ws and H approach is what i suggest they should take along to Akosombo as they deliberate on the issue of the economy of Ghana and come up with quick turnaround solutions which is what everyone is expecting from them after the  NEF (National Economic Forum) now but not to go there and be engaging in blaming game. It is even much easier for the ruling party to help themselves with solutions they can call theirs now that the opposition is staging a boycott.

PROBLEM SOLVING IS A SKILL:

Everybody can benefit from having a good problem solving skills as we all encounter problems on a daily basis; some of these problems are obviously more severe or complex than others. Every day you will be faced with at least one problem or the other that require your problem ingenuity or skill to solve. But it gets easier when you realize that problems are simply choices. There are various ways to enhance your problem solving skills. They are as follows:

Focus on the solution-not the problem, have an open mind, view problems neutrally, think laterally, use language that creates possibility and Simplify things.

Your creativity in solving your problems is an essential factor in determining your level of success. The more problems you can handle the more business you can handle. The more responsibilities you can handle the more clients you can handle and ultimately, the more money and wealth you can create.  It is that simple. Your income can only grow at the rate that you are growing. Your problem solving ability determines your level of income.

Steps to problem solving.

Avoid being panic

Panic is a sudden sensation of fear which is so strong as to dominate or prevent reason and logical thinking, replacing it with overwhelming feelings of anxiety and frantic agitation consistent with an animalistic ‘fight-or-flight’  reaction.

Depending on how big the challenges are that come your way, there’s a certain level of panic that kicks in. This is a problem because panic leads to a closed mind. An open mind is critical to creative problem solving. You have to change your approach to solving problems. Forget about how you’ve done it in the past. Wrap your mind around a new paradigm that will instantly change your result.

Know the right questions to ask

Stop looking for the right answer and start looking for the right question. Don’t ask a close minded question that won’t lead to a strong outcome. For example, why is this happening to us? Is NOT a question that will solve whatever problem we are facing. Instead, ask questions such as how can we use this to our advantage?

When you start asking yourself different questions, using Five Ws and H approach we recommended above, you immediately start thinking of different answers. The more questions you can ask the better. Multiple questions from different perspectives will cause you to create solutions you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. The best part of this is that the questions you ask yourself do not have to be complex. In fact, the more simple the question the better.

Instead of focusing on the right answer, focus on the right questions. We too often spend time looking for the right answer to the wrong question.

Don’t see your problem to be bigger than you- Be Bigger Than Your Problems

What sets successful people aside from the rest is that they are bigger than their problems. Poor

or unsuccessful people try to avoid problems and challenges, choosing instead to pretend that they

have no problems at all when often they may be  in serious financial trouble. Rich or successful people

however have learned that the secret to success  is not to try and shrink your issues, but rather to

grow yourself to be bigger than your problems.

 

Furthermore, you must spend time to focus on the desirable end result rather than challenges. This makes challenges look less scary because they don’t have much time to expand. Remember what you focus on expands.

Also, focusing on desirable result keeps your energy on a high level and from this state you can access the solutions of the problems.

You need Godly wisdom

The best way to solve a problem is to get wisdom. The New Century Version translates Ecclesiastes 10:10, “A dull ax means harder work. Being wise will make it easier.” Seems obvious enough. Wisdom is to sharpen the axe so that the work can be completed faster and with less effort. This truth extends into the use of one’s talents and abilities in life. To get better results, sharpen the axe. To sharpen the axe, get wisdom. Wisdom is the principal thing and God is the only one that understands its way and He knows its place. Job 28 v 23

In conclusion, no one does it alone. We need the counsels of solid men of God and savvy successful business people within and outside the government to offer tried and tested wisdom that helped them achieve amazing results even at some most difficult times of their business or professional life.