A process driven approach.
Thinking of problems as opportunities provides a means of changing the perspective of the issue. This approach has a variety of benefits such as changing the manner in which one deals with the problem. For example, if looking at the high cost of a workplace, one could see this as an opportunity to reduce cost. This perception defines the problem as an issue that is solvable rather than just seeing it in terms of being problematic. As a result of this thinking, new robust ideas and alternatives can be considered rather than singular solutions to the problem. This is an important area of perception because not all problems are solvable, but they are always manageable. Understanding this difference can help managers seek alternatives, but more importantly, think outside the box using creative strategies such as benchmarking, collaborative team efforts, and many other process-driven methods which employ the use of critical, dynamic thinking.
Rushing to a Solution
Worse than skipping steps, people often race head long into solutions which they have no idea whether they are going to work or not. This is a huge problem in the workplace as people waste time and money trying to fit solutions to the problems with no real critical analysis or creative understanding. We see this a lot in the tech industry or R&D where workers must invent or discover methods or solutions while getting paid, but this is a costly method of problem solving that doesn’t work in most areas of business or life, making problem solving one of the worst cost drivers in business today.
Working in a labor industry for fourteen years, I witnessed countless hours and dollars wasted trying to solve problems through trial and error. Perhaps one of the most atrocious wastes came from heavy equipment cost. Machines like forklifts and tractor trailers cost a tremendous amount to repair and in order to save money, companies tried many different maintenance plans and service companies. While repairs and upkeep are necessary, the majority of cost for these machines came from careless use and accidents. When studied critically, the cost of repair could have been tremendously reduced with proper training.
Creativity is only effective if it can be expressed. Employees with answers often go ignored even in today’s highly collaborative environments. The reason that both team and individual creativity goes unnoticed is due to a lack of communication. Any effective problem solving, especially in a collaborative environment, requires a high level of communication. Collaboration can be an effective means for fostering new solutions such as through focus groups, constructive criticism, and team feedback because different ideas and creativity can be expressed providing more diverse solutions. However, there is a downside to collaboration as a problem solving process in which individuals succumb to ‘group think’ which sadly occurs in many collaborative settings. In a collaborative setting, sometimes individual members can lose their voice to stronger personalities in the group, so instead of individuals voicing their concerns or ideas, they simply agree with the stronger team member’s ideas. This is groupthink and it stifles the creative process and creates problems in which there is a lack of uniqueness or comprehensiveness.
Working for a large bank after high school, I saw firsthand how individuals get lost in large companies and how companies suffer from groupthink. For years, the bank suffered high cost of administration and finally deciding to use collaboration, the bank created a bonus program that leveraged worker ideas for saving the bank money. A teller for the bank won a bonus when she suggested getting rid of cover sheet for checks and deposits being sent to the proof department. This cover sheet printed only with the word, “Batch” did nothing but cover the checks that had no place to go but to the proof department. This saved the bank from purchasing reams of paper annually. The teller voiced this suggestion many times to supervisors before the bonus program but no one took it seriously because that was the way batches were always handled.
Policies are a good thing but can also be a limiting force to communication when blindly obeyed. To solve this problem policies need to be designed to enhance communication reinforce problem solving by providing a process that individuals can use. I think creativity at work also depends on the environment. More than just a process of communication the workforce needs to utilize diverse problem solving because teams designed with people from diverse backgrounds are capable of generating new ideas that focus through different cultural and individual interests as well as reinforcing critical thinking(Kirby & Goodpaster, 2007). Whatever process implemented must promote communication, diversity, and a lattice for problem solving.
Example of Basic Problem Solving Process
Kirby, G.R. & Goodpaster, J.R. (2007). Thinking (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.