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3. Are you using the right approach to problem solving and opportunity development?

Given that Seventy percent of business performance programmes fail to achieve the desired results and that problem solving covers strategic issues as well as fixing things that are wrong or broken, it is important that you apply the right approach to the issue you are tackling.

Geof Cox in his book “Ready-Aim-Fire: Practical Guide to Solving Business Problems (Institute of Management)” categorized problems into three different types – Puzzles, complex puzzles, and problems.  Understanding the type of problem you are trying to solve allows you to apply the right approach, tools and techniques.

  • Puzzles: Typically technical issues – The problem and the solution are localised within an area or department and there is often one right answer. The approach is very analytical and focussed on finding root cause(s) and the right problem to solve. When the root cause is found the solution can be obvious and applied immediately. Puzzles require a great deal of specialist skill and technical knowledge of the area under consideration, and may be resolved by a person working alone or a small technical team.
  • Complex Puzzles: although there may be a technical element these are often process oriented. One right answer may exist but there are often several alternative answers and it could take longer to find and evaluate them. Examples might be taking a new product idea to market, introducing a new Information Technology System. These are multi-step processes and there be could several solutions and several implementation alternatives each with options at each stage.
  • Problems: These are more strategic in nature affecting the organisation at the highest level. The answer may not exist and there will be more than one possible answer. There may be no right answer whilst many answers may be correct. The success or failure of any solution will not be known before implementation starts and could be remain unclear well into the future.

Management teams operate in the areas of Complex Puzzles and Problems addressing issues that affect the overall performance of the company. To achieve the best results both types require collaborative teams, creative thinking and the application of creative techniques at all three stages: Recognition (understanding the issue / opportunity), Resolution (finding many possible solutions / approaches), Results (being creative in planning and implementation).

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