Here is how we define problem-solving skills:
Your ability to quickly, effectively, and objectively take in information regarding a problem, discover the root cause, then create and design a plan to solve the root cause alleviating the problem. Deductive reasoning. Your “Sherlock Holmes Brain”
How do you rate yourself here?
If you don’t quite recognize my reference to “Sherlock Holmes Brain” pick up a copy of Maria Konnikova’s book, Mastermind: How to Think like Sherlock Holmes. It’s a fantastic read about the psychological application of Sherlock Holmes and his method of problem-solving.
Back to the tactic…
Have you heard of “functional fixedness”? this is a simple bias that refers to the cognitive tendency to see things as working in only one particular way. In other words, we see things as only how we experience them to be true.
In most of the big problems we face, we are limited by our own particular background, experience, and knowledge of the subject at hand. Whether we recognize it or not, this really limits our ability to solve problems. You start to tell yourself that “because of my past experiences on this, this is the only possible solution” or, “this is the way it has always been done, so it must be the only way to get it done.”
This is DANGEROUS!
There is certainly something you can do about this… when faced with a tough problem, create “psychological distance” from the problem which, in a way, means to take a different perspective on the problem at hand. This can certainly be difficult for any individual at first, but with practice, you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes to think about the problem outside of your own dispositions and beliefs.
Ever wonder why a business has a board of directors that is stacked with people from different experiential backgrounds? it naturally creates “psychological distance” which can dramatically increase the speed and creativity in problem-solving
Test your problem-solving skills! Look at the image below… how do you attach the candle to the wall using only the items in the image? Check out Improving Your Problem-Solving Skills Part 2 for the answer.