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Methodology and tools are important in solving problems. Equally important is the mental attitude of the problem solver and how their view the problem Eight aspects of the psychology of problem-solving is discussed in this section.
One, every problem solver carries, within themselves, self-imposed rules that limits their own ability to solve their problem. These self-imposed rules include cultural conventions, morality/values, norms, preconceived limits, and unverified assumptions, all of which restrict the set of possible solutions or narrows the solution space. Most of these rules are "know" below the level of consciousness and not explicitly realized. The notion of rules is important become some problems are either made more difficult or unsolvable with the existing rules set. The most innovative solutions are those that BREAK the RULES. To break-out of these rules and find innovative "out-of-the-box" solutions, the problem-solver must first be aware of them. One way to begin the mental exercise of removing constraints is to ask the question, "This problem would be solvable if only _______________________." The answer to the "if only" part of the question are either rules that inhibit or solutions that are currently viewed as outside the rules. Brainstorm a list of these constraints and their rule-breaking counterparts. Examine the rule breakers to see if there are some that might have a promise of solving the problem if they were tailored more towards reality. In summary, do not remain a slave or chained to your mental model about how life works. Explore other philosophies for viewing the world differently.
Two, sometimes the old answers or solutions must be eliminated to make way for new and innovative thinking. As Albert Einstein declared, "The significant problems we face today cannot be achieved at the same level of thinking we were at when they were created." In fact, it is likely that the old ways of thinking were direct contributors to the problem and sometimes the source of resistance to newer and better solutions.
Three, the definition of a solution is that it solves a problem (described as a deviation from a previously satisfactory condition). The definition of what constitutes an acceptable solution could be modified somewhat to fit one of the solutions. In other words, if you can't hit the bulls eye, then move the center of the target to the closest arrow. Dropping your standards and defining victory flexibility is one "rule-dropping" way to get a solution.
Four, for intractable problems, consider widening the scope of its purpose. Most often, a solution is just the means to some higher end. "Perfection of means and confusion of ends seem to characterize our age." (Albert Einstein) Often, we are too narrowly focused on solving a deficient means that we don't realize that there might be may other ways to satisfy the higher-order end if the focus were only shifted to that level. An alternative means might satisfy the desired end. If so, then the unsolvable means can be abandoned. Problem statements should list the desired ends and not the means for achieving them, because the end may be more solvable with a different means.
Five, some problems suffer more from a lack of effort than from a lack of solution. So, if adequate solutions are on the table and the problem solver is not implementing one of them, this implies that the problem is one of motivation. The problem solver claim of not to have a good enough solution is often a mask for laziness. Sometimes it helps to reframe you problem in such a way that you will derive great benefit and satisfaction from its solution. If the consequences of the problem and benefits of a solution are not worth the cost of solving it, then the problem is not yet big enough to motivate an effort to solve it. So, it can be postponed. But once the problem occupies a lot of your worry space, then it is time to get motivated.
Six, most problems are ill-defined if defined at all. Most problems are never written down but carried around in the heads of its owner. Problems that are written down, reviewed daily, and rewritten as they are better defined and clarified, stand a much better chance of being solved. Also, keep a list of all possible ideas including the bad ones. One way to find a good solution is to have many solutions to choose from.
Seven, fear of making mistakes often delays the problem solver from getting started. Many problem solvers must resist the temptation to using the fear of making mistakes as an excuse from getting started. The real advantage of getting started is that you will learn along the way what you need to know to succeed. Even bad ideas and mistakes can become stepping stones towards good ideas.
Eight, to reduce the size and scope of the problem you face, consider a "divide and conquer" strategy. A problem could be broken into smaller chunks and solved one piece at a time. By scaling the problem down into something manageable, the solution of each piece becomes something that is achievable within the time, skills set, and resources of the problem solver.