by Destiny Chukwuma Ogbonnaya
If you have read the recent theoretical and philosophical propositions about thinking, you would have started framing higher dimensions of domains when thinking. You can have a look at “The art of execution “. Today, let me explore how to situate problem-solving within the people-time domain of the Questelligence framework.
For the purpose of this short contribution, I would use “organisation” to mean formal and informal institutions created to solve problems in the society. It may even loosely apply to states/nations, families, communities or any setting where problems can be solved collaboratively with others. Perhaps, it is better to start by highlighting the time domain of problem-solving. There are to types of problem-solving approaches based on the time domain: preventive and corrective problem solving.
Preventive problem solving approaches involve creating and implementing schemes, programmes, trainings, etc to “solve problems before they become manifest” in the systems of the organisation. A system in this context is the collection of physical, intangible, human and non-human resources that should harmoniously work together to achieve the objectives of the organisation. Systems are creations of the mind. Thus, the failure of implementing preventive problem-solving approaches lead to the manifestation of myriad of problems that can then be solved using corrective problem-solving approaches.
As of it, corrective problem-solving approaches are used to solve problems when they have already manifested in the systems of the organisation.
In our world today, those that engage in corrective problem-solving approaches are mistaken to be productive because they work visibly like firefighters trying to quench the manifest problems in the systems of the organisation. People are usually so engrossed in the whole activities and emotions of corrective problem-solving that they rarely ask if the problem could have been prevented in the first place.
Meanwhile, preventive problem solvers are rarely valued because the problems they stop from occurring has not manifested in form of losses, failures, accidents, delays, inconveniences to customers or downtime, inefficiencies, expenses and low productivity for the organisation. So, it takes visionary leaders to value preventive problem solvers. Some benefits of preventive problem-solving approach includes that:
1. It is cost effective because resources that would have been used to solve manifested problems can be channelled to preventive problem-solving programmes and activities. The cost of arranging solutions to a manifest problem is usually higher when external consultants are involved because it may leave the affected organisation little room to negotiate and consider alternatives.
2. It improves systems predictability, certainty, and equilibrium which could lead to improved efficiency, effectiveness and productivity. Reconfiguring a stable system is easier than reconfiguring a turbulent and problematic system. So, deploying preventive problem-solving programmes helps an organisation to model and simulate scenarios of problems and guide them to make advance decisions that can improve their adaptability, continuity and change management.
3. Everyone, teammates, customers, and indeed all the people affected by our work and that of your organisation we work for would be better of if we stop problems from occurring in the first place. This is why preventive problem-solving skills are very crucial. As a strategy, organisations should invest more in training their teams and building their capabilities for preventive problem-solving rather than corrective problem-solving emergencies. I understand that it might be boring if problems are designed-out of organisational systems, but I can assure you that there will always be enough problems to stimulate everyone. The idea is to convert problems to routines and predictable activities. After all, no organisation is created to be facing problems instead of solving problems.
Nevertheless, there are times that unanticipated problems manifests. Yes, it should be addressed with corrective problem-solving approaches which may have been partially or fully contemplated during preventive problem-solving trainings, simulations and practices. Corrective problem-solving toolkit requires effective communication, creativity, analytical skills, collaborative and cooperative behaviours, etc. The aim of engaging in corrective problem-solving activities should be to gradually move the new problem into preventive problem-solving domain. In order words, whenever you or your organisation solves a novel problem, establish if it possible to adjust the processes and systems of the organisation to prevent such problems from occurring in the future.
Ultimately, the aim of any organisation is to solve problems they have decided to solve for the society with minimal individual, organisational and societal costs. In turn, the society will reward them with patronage. The influence of any organisation is directly proportional to the problems they are solving for the society. This is why companies like Google would remain valuable for the society. Think of it, Google has a goal of collecting and organising world knowledge. This is a powerful vision and they are making success of it.
What problems are you or your organisation trying to solve? Note that the problems your organisation is solving would be the aggregation of the problems individuals in the organisation are solving. It therefore behoves leaders or managers of organisations to work towards empowering their people on preventive problem-solving approaches and working with the people themselves to configure the systems of the organisation to deliver excellent outcomes of their organisational objectives and values for the society.
I will be available to facilitate “Think-a-thon” session for organisations with real problem that would spell value if solved. Perhaps, this is the best time, if not late already, to start planning 2022 using preventive problem-solving approaches! The session would be based on problem-solving skills based on the Questelligence framework. The cost is £2500 for a 3 hrs session. There is an option for Virtual and in-person sessions. Contact my team for more information or a discount if you are an SME at email@example.com.