A major function of critical thinking is it gives your team the ability to solve problems. Your team is presented daily with a host of decisions and problems to solve. In this blog, we will learn some steps your team can use for problem solving. Some psychologists define a problem as a gap or barrier between where the team is and where they wish to be. In other words, a problem is the space between point A and B. Problems then essentially consist of the initial state and a goal state. All possible solution paths leading to the goal state are located in the problem space. Some researchers say that problem solving has three primary stages:
- Preparation or familiarization
- Judgment and evaluation
Your Team Must Identify Inconsistencies
Much of critical thinking is about how to connect the two points in a problem. However, sometimes critical thinkers are presented with inconsistencies or what scientists call cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance can appear through a discrepancy between attitude and beliefs. Inconsistencies can also be called variances or dissimilarities. It is a natural tendency to want to eliminate inconsistencies when solving a problem. The best way your team can identify inconsistencies is by using their logic and objectivity to see variances. Identifying inconsistencies would fall under the first stage of problem solving in which the team is familiarizing themselves with the subject.
Encourage Your Team to Trust Their Instincts
“Trust your instincts” falls under the second stage of problem solving, and the team should now start to see solution paths. Instincts are defined as a natural intuitive power. Intuition or instincts are key pieces in problem solving. When coupled with trial and error, informed guesses, and brainstorming, intuition and instincts can lead to a highly creative process. Many scientific discoveries and inventions were made because the innovator followed their instincts. Think of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison, for instance.
Get Your Team to Ask Why
Asking the right question is important in logical thinking. Asking why is equally important in problem solving. It is not sufficient to be simply presented with the information or data. Your team must always be willing to dig deeper and explore various possibilities. Asking why can fall under any of the three stages of problem solving.
Your Team Needs to Evaluate the Solutions
Once a possible solution has been derived, your team may feel they can proceed with the solution. However, they should not overlook the all-important step of evaluating all possible solutions. Sometimes, one problem has more than one solution and taking the time to evaluate the efficacy of each alternative is a critical thinking skill. Evaluation is also called judgment, and this is the third stage of problem solving. Your team should evaluate each alternative and judge which one is the best. The following steps are an effective evaluation technique:
- Make a T-chart to weigh the pros and cons of each possible solution
- Develop criteria (or requirements) and assign weights to each criteria
- Prioritize the criteria
- Rate the proposed solutions using the criteria
To solve problems using critical thinking, your team has to resist the tendency to eliminate inconsistencies. They should also trust their instincts which together with trial and error, informed guesses, and brainstorming and intuition, can lead to a highly creative problem solving process. Another part of problem solving is asking why, which will help your team to dig deeper and explore various possibilities. Once the possible solutions have been derived, all of the solutions must be evaluated to select the most appropriate one.
TBAE has developed a outcome based problem solving team building event which focuses on discovering and developing your team’s problem solving skills. Click here to find out more about the Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activity.