Problem Solving

John Dewey was an American philosopher and educator who developed in 1910 a model called “Reflective Thinking”. This method is often taught in college classes as ‘effective thinking skills’ and often utilized in the workplace.

It is a model to formalize how we naturally process information and make decisions. It can be employed with the most simple or complex issues. The model is effective for short and long-term goal setting as well as business, career and life planning.

Problem Solving

Six-Step Problem Solving Method

1. Identify the Problem (or Goal)

This may be the most difficult step because we can easily mistake the solution for the problem. When we confuse this with the second step we may not realize our error until we reach step six and wonder what went wrong.

2. Develop Possible Solutions/Alternatives/Options

This step is for brainstorming: a freewheeling, no holds barred creative thinking process. We want to generate as many creative options as we can, no matter how unrealistic the solution may seem. All evaluation or criticism is withheld until we reach step three.

3. Evaluate The Solutions

This is the stage for critical evaluation, to examine the possible choices. At this stage options from stage two are discarded and new solutions may be developed as we evaluate the results from step two.

4. Choose a Solution or Solutions

Once all the options have been evaluated it is time to choose which option to implement. There may be more than one solution with complex issues. This is the planning stage. It is important to review the previous steps as you go along to be sure that they match with the current step. If not, follow back through the stages to refine the process.

5. Implement the Solution

This is the stage to put the plan into action. It can be easy to jump to this step without assuring the previous steps are accurate.

6. Follow-Up/Evaluate

This step may be inadvertently omitted. When I hear that a plan didn’t work I encourage people to work back through the steps to see what went wrong (it is important to do this even when all goes well). I often find that the solution was confused with the problem. Or, it might be that the solution or the plan was not well developed.

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