Problem-solving is the mental activity that includes such stages as exploring the matter, scrutinizing the available data, and arriving at a decision. The chief purpose of this activity is to find an effective solution to a specific problem.
The choice of the methods for resolving the issue greatly depends on the specifics of the situation. In some cases, it is worth learning as much about the matter that requires a solution as possible to be able to handle it. Still, there are situations that require one to apply their creative thinking and use their intuition.
Tips on How to Solve Problems
In order to find an appropriate solution to the issue, it is necessary to stick to a particular algorithm. A large number of scholars consider it the so-called problem-solving cycle that offers people to take a series of sequential steps to arrive at a solution. However, people do not always strictly follow step-by-step instructions to resolve some issues.
Taking the steps in a specific order with the purpose of detecting a solution to the problem is not a must. Some steps can be skipped, while others can be taken several times until the needed way out is identified.
Below, there is a list of strategies that should be followed to find a solution to a specific issue.
Determining the Issue: It is sometimes very hard to identify the problem that requires a solution. It often happens that people draw their attention to the wrong issue what results in useless actions and ineffective solutions.
Defining the Issue: It is essential to detect the peculiarities of the problem to be able to solve it.
Developing a Strategy: Depending on the situation, the methods for solving the issue will vary.
Collecting Information: In order to solve the issue effectively, it is necessary to gather as much information about it as possible.
Providing Resources: Sometimes, people may not have enough time, money, or other resources needed to solve a specific problem. That is why it is required to detect the priority of the issue before starting to deal with it. If it is urgent, you should involve more resources to resolve it. In case the matter is of minor importance, you will neither need nor desire to spend a great deal of your resources on finding its solution.
Tracking the Progress: Experienced problem solvers always keep track of how they go through the process of finding a solution to the tackled issue. If they see that they are stuck, they will reconsider their approach to solving the issue.
Assessing the Results: Once the solution is found, it is necessary to evaluate the achieved results to ensure that it (solution) is the most effective. The assessment can be made either immediately or later. It depends on the character of the problem.
One should understand that the procedures providing steps to solving a specific issue are numerous. The algorithm presented above is only one of the possible scenarios. In a real world, the issues demanding effective solutions require the one to be flexible, resourceful, persistent, and aware of different environment-related processes.
In a day-to-day life, we often face the need to make decisions on different matters. What would you like to wear today? When should you arrange a meeting? What college to enter? What professional to choose? When to get married?
In some situations, when we have to make a decision about something, there is great temptation to toss a coin and let the miracle happen, i.e. to find out what direction to follow. Usually, we have a plan or strategy which we decide to follow to reach a rational decision. If to talk about common decisions which we take daily, tossing a coin would be quite helpful. However, this is not the case when it goes about fateful decisions. They demand much time, effort, resources and energy. Only when applying all the mentioned items, it is possible to achieve the desired outcome.
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Thus, what are the peculiarities of the decision-making procedures? Below, there is a description of several strategies that you may find useful for making decisions.
The Single-Feature Approach
This model is characterized by making decisions based on a sole feature. For instance, imagine that you are buying shampoo. Due to the variety of shampoos presented in your local store, you decide to make a decision paying attention to such a peculiarity as a price. Thus, you decide to purchase the cheapest shampoo available in the store. It follows that you have neglected other variables such as brand, color, scent, etc. and concentrated on one feature only.
This strategy can be good when you have to make a simple and quick decision. Nevertheless, it cannot be considered the most effective when it goes about difficult decisions.
The Additive Feature Strategy
When taking this approach, you will be supposed to mind all features of the available options and make their thorough evaluation. This decision-making method is regarded as rather useful when it goes about tough decisions.
For example, you want to buy a new laptop. You have decided to compile a list of the requirements which your laptop has to meet. Then, you start rating each option on a scale from -10 to +10. The laptops that have considerable benefits get +10, and those with serious drawbacks get -10. Once all options are evaluated, you may then calculate the points earned by each model of the laptop and decide which one to choose.
This strategy can be quite good for identifying the best item among the numerous available. Still, this approach may take much time what is rather inconvenient when you are in a hurry.
The Elimination by Aspects Approach
This strategy was offered in 1972. When following it, you need to evaluate one feature of each option starting with the one which you find the most significant. If the item does not satisfy your demands, you should delete it from your list of possible options. In the course of evaluating different options, your list will become shorter until the most suitable variant is left.
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Decision Making in Terms of Risk and Uncertainty
The aforementioned models are usually referred to when the decisions that have to be made are clear. However, what to do if the decision you are supposed to take involves some risk, confusion, or bewilderment? Imagine that you see that you are going to be late for your lecture in Philosophy. What should you do to come to the class on time? You may drive exceeding the speed limit. However, this decision involves the risk of getting a fine. There is one more option. You may drive keeping to the speed limit. In this case, you risk being late for the class and getting unsatisfactory professor’s remarks. Under the circumstances, you have to weigh the possibility of being late for your class against that of being fined.
Being in the situation described above, people usually adopt two decision-making approaches: the availability heuristic and the representativeness heuristic. Bear in mind that a heuristic is a specific mental feature that lets people make decisions quickly.
The Availability Heuristic: When we want to find out how likely something may be, we usually think about how much effort is needed to remember similar situations or cases that occurred in the past. For instance, if you do not know whether you should exceed the speed limit and risk being fined, try to remember how many times you saw the drivers pulled over by police. If nothing comes to your mind immediately, you might make your mind go for it, i.e. exceed the speed limit while driving to get to your class on time. By applying the availability heuristic method, you were unable to remember a lot of cases when drivers were pulled over by police officers in your area. If numerous cases when drivers were pulled over by police come to your mind immediately, you may decide to drive safely and keep to the established speed limit.
The Representativeness Heuristic: When using this technique, you will be required to compare the situation you are currently in with the prototype of a specific event. For example, when pondering whether you should exceed the speed limit to get to your lecture on time, you may compare yourself with the image of the person who will most probably get a fine for exceeding the speed limit. In case your prototype is that of an inattentive teenager who drives a little hot-rod vehicle and you are a goal-oriented person driving a jeep, you may consider that the probability of getting a fine is quite low.
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The decision-making procedures can be both simple (when you just need to pick one of the suggested options without paying much attention to specific features) and complex (when you are supposed to make a thorough analysis of each option with the purpose of selecting the most suitable one). The methods we choose to employ depend on a range of factors such a time, risk, and others.