I'd like to give myself (and, potentially, some of the readers as well) a bubbly and positive start to 2010 by spending some time on the "what" and "how" of problem-solving. Just a few simple thoughts on the process and philosophy of problem-solving. I know. It's been done before by many a brilliant mind but, well, what's the harm in doing a bit of free-style thinking (not consciously influenced by anything else) on my own?
This isn't an attempt to teach readers how to solve problems...I don't plan to write a self-help book. :-) It is purely an introspective post, written more for my own benefit. I'd like to come back to this post when I find myself losing my way when amidst a dense problem or when I feel like scooting off into the sky when faced with a particularly blistering problem. I am just thinking aloud like I do when I write most of the posts on this blog.
It is intriguing - Though it is true that we are likely to learn a lot from personal experience, we are more capable of objectively analyzing situations when someone else - at an observable distance - is going through a challenge. This way, more often than not, we are not biased and are capable of detaching ourselves from the problem and its consequences.
So, what do we do when we come face to face with a dense or blistering problem that stares at us in a wicked way?
1. Stare back at it. Face the problem. Accept that it is there and acknowledge its existence
2. Resolve to find your way through it successfully. Tell yourself you were born to conquer that problem. Come what may. Never give up. Stay positive. Pull yourself up every time you slip
3. Stay calm and composed. It is easy when you trust yourself or believe there is an opportunity in every difficulty. You could even try assuming the role of a cartoonist and spot some hidden 'humor' in the situation to retain your sanity
4. Get creative. Try unconventional ways to get your head around the problem. Pat yourself when you think of something fresh and new, even if it doesn't work
5. Defocus. Take time off. If you feel tired, step off the track and rest a while
6. Consulting others vs independence. This is a tricky one for me. Introspection is a must. Self-help is a must. But getting others' opinions can surely help. What is dicey is how do you decide who are the 'right' people to consult. You must connect with positive, creative, helpful, and mature people for support. You have to be careful not to be misled or - at the other extreme - get over dependent on the adviser
7. Stick to your values when thinking of solutions. Stay honest, shun violence, consider the potential impact of your actions on others around you etc Don't cheat yourself by adopting methods that you don't agree with
8. Work on your negotiation skills, consider compromising on certain things and settling for a less than perfect solution....
9. Know all your facts. Look at and understand the situation from multiple angles. Do your homework
10. Take your own - final - decision and the responsibility for the consequences. If you think you've made a mistake, go to the heart of this process at #5, defocus, cut your losses and be prepared to start over again with renewed energy and determination