Why should you focus on problem solving in your workplace?

In this series, I’ve mentioned Problem Solving almost every other day. 

We need to develop strong, robust problem solving skills not just for a few technical experts, but for every person in our organization and every student in school.  I have said that the only sustainable competitive advantage a company can have is the ability of its people to sense, define, and solve problems more and more quickly.

I outlined a new book that I’m calling High Speed Problem Solving.  It’s supposed to allow me to capture everything I’ve learned about people and problem solving since I published my first book on Problem Solving that was called The C4 Process: Four vital steps to better work.

Why do I think Problem Solving is so important?

The way people learn begins with a very linear, accumulative process where we first gain basic knowledge that we may or may not understand fully.  In this knowledge phase, someone might share a set of facts with us and we should be able to repeat them back to the teacher or to someone else.  Knowledge is the first level of learning.

Next, if we place enough value on those facts to spark continued interest, we will seek to understand more about them.  Understanding is the second level of learning.

If we value and understand what someone is sharing with us, it will actually change our behavior as we start to apply what we know.  The only way we can tell if someone has actually learned something is in their behavior.  Application is the third level of learning.

In the application of any task, because the environment is never absolutely stable, we can expect to encounter problems.  A problem is anything that happens that we didn’t expect to happen.  Here’s where our learning changes. 

At higher levels of learning, we don’t continue on a nice linear, accumulative path.  Three mental activities work in a series of rapid cycles as we Analyze what we’ve experienced, Evaluate what that means, and Create something new.  That creation has to also be analyzed and evaluated and usually adjusted.

This cycle was captured by Walter Shewhart as the Plan – Do – Check – Act cycle, or PDCA. 

You’re going to have problems.  We need to be able to understand what happened, why it happened, and then do something about why it happened to really make a lasting difference.  If we just do something about what happened without addressing why it happened it’ll come back.

More to follow, so please stick with me.

Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.