4 ways to improve your problem-solving skills

Advice based on new research in cognitive psychology and design thinking suggests the best methods in solving problems, with greater attention to company and business issues, they list the best ways to “sell” the solutions found.

Through this article readers are guided in the process of formulating, structuring and solving a problem.

Two thinking methodologies most commonly used by individuals

There are two main systems of thought commonly used by individuals:

System 1 or fast thinking, where you focus on the information available immediately and jump to conclusions without doing further research and System 2 or slow thinking, which requires more attention and research but can lead to analytical paralysis. System 2 is activated only when fast thinking does not work.

Research shows that experience is a necessary but not decisive factor in problem solving, in fact experts are often guided by the illusion of understanding the problem, thus making wrong analogies in their own sector of competence, with consequent formulation of erroneous solutions.

A systematic problem solving method that does not lead to hasty solutions of the first system or to analytical paralysis of the second is required to improve your problem solving skills.

The most common traps when trying to solve a problem

  • Wrong definition of the problem.  For example, when the MP3 format began to spread, the music industry tried to fight the problem by defining it thus: “How to stop piracy?” and making its solution impossible.
  • Confirm the solution.  The two CEOs of the joint venture of Grameen and Danone proposed a particular type of yogurt to solve child malnutrition in Bangladesh. Despite the various defects of this solution, such as the difficulty of distributing yogurt in such a hot climate and without adequate infrastructure, the proposal was carried out without being contested by anyone. The two administrators were blind to the flaws in what they had proposed.
  • Wrong reference scheme.  The reference schemes indicate what we must pay attention to but also what to ignore, therefore the choice of a certain scheme can blind to other important aspects of the problem.
  • Shallow framing.  When dealing with a complex problem understood only superficially, one often falls into the wrong use of reasoning by analogy in order to quickly identify a solution, without however investing resources to better understand the problem. For example, Ron Johnson failed with his JC Penny renewal strategy because he followed the same reasoning used in the past for the Apple Store, without investing more resources to better understand the needs of JC Penny’s customers.
  • Bad communication. Bad communication of a good solution leads to inactivity, while on the contrary it is also true, excellent communication of a wrong idea can do greater damage. In 1950 researcher John Yudkin discovered that sugars were the main cause of obesity, but his research was ignored for years due to the bad communication of the idea while the erroneous belief that fat was the main cause of obesity spread quickly thanks to effective communication.

The Solution: the 4S method (state, structure, solve, sell)

The 4S method is not necessarily sequential but is iterative.