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Magazine Issue 29: Problem Solving
November 2012

This month ideas about and techniques for problem solving.

Article: Problem Solving
New Resources
Mike's Books
Additional Resources

This Month's Article:

Problem Solving

Problem Solving An Article exploring the nature of problems and our methods for seeking solutions. Reveals a simple method to engage with any problem by addressing the Mindset of Solutions.

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. 
Albert Einstein 

If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. 
Abraham Maslow

What exactly is a problem?

This is a Free Sample Resource

Categories: Article, Thinking Skills, Skills-Based Learning, Any Subject, All Ages, Educators

Tags: Problem Solving Mindset
Is this a problem?
The Arlington Institute is a non-profit research organisation that addresses global problems. It lists the world’s five biggest challenges as Economic Collapse, Peak Oil, Global Water Crisis, Species Extinction and Rapid Climate Change. Sam is a toddler I know. I saw him in the street yesterday having a tantrum. His mum was refusing to buy him sweets. Economic Collapse and sweet deprivation are both problems. It all depends on context and perspective.

A problem is the hindrance which prevents you getting what you want; the obstruction between where you are and where you want to be; the complication that denies you your goal. You are motivated to solve problems in proportion to how much you desire the objectives that they impede. And your success is determined by four things: your mindset; your problem solving skills; the complexity of the problem and your familiarity with the challenge in question. This definition can equally be applied to sweets and economic collapse.

The Solution Mindset
First steps to solving a problem:

1.Believing that a solution exists and
2.Trusting that it can be found. 

It’s easy to stumble here because some problems appear far too complex and unfamiliar. But with a growth mindset you can eventually engage with any problem. You’ll then be more focussed on how you’re going to solve it rather than whether. A way to shift from fixed to growth mindset (from can’t to can’t yet to can) is to ask yourself this question: “What is stopping me believing that I can solve this?” Most likely it’ll be memories of past ‘failures’, out-dated voices of authority, and obsolete thoughts about your own ability: concepts that no longer have any relevance. It can take time and effort to stop this chatter, but if it’s not serving you or your problem solving, then maybe it’s worth making the change.

Once you’ve engaged with the challenge you can employ any number of problem solving strategies. There are rigorous, analytical processes that leave no stone unturned in the hunt for a solution. There are intuitive approaches and Eureka moments in the shower that pop up unbidden. And there is a wealth of strategies in between these two types.

Strategies & Methodologies
Problem solving strategies define single approaches. Methodologies combine several strategies into processes: sequences of thought and action that give a structure for attacking the problem. Three well known strategies are:

1. Chunking: separate the problem to its parts and find a mini solution for each one 
2. Trial & Error: repeatedly try solutions and use the feedback from each attempt to refine the next go
3. Analogy: identify a parallel or similar problem for which a solution already exists and then adapt it.

The GROW approach is one of many problem solving methodologies. Its intellectual origins appear uncertain but it does provide a sensible process for thinking about problems:

G – Goal: a clear definition of what is to be achieved; success criteria
R – Reality: a clear definition of the current situation
O – Obstacles & Options: a description of the hindrances between reality and goal, and a list of possibilities for overcoming them
W – Way forward: actions resulting from the options

New Resources:

S.H.E.R.L.O.C.K. Thinking

S.H.E.R.L.O.C.K. Thinking A Thinking Skills Tool that provides 8 different types of starting point for investigating and solving problems.

Categories: Thinking Tool, Enquiry Thinking, Thinking Skills, Any Subject, Secondary, Tertiary

Tags: Problem Solving Mindset
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S.H.E.R.L.O.C.K. Thinking Powerpoint

S.H.E.R.L.O.C.K. Thinking Powerpoint A Thinking Tool Template in Powerpoint, providing details about each of the 8 S.H.E.R.L.O.C.K. prompts, slides to edit for your own lessons, and an example of S.H.E.R.L.O.C.K. Thinking in action addressing the problem of exam equality. 

Categories: Thinking Tool, Enquiry Thinking, Thinking Skills, Any Subject, Secondary, Tertiary

Tags: Problem Solving Mindset
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Business Think Sheet - Entrepreneur

Business Think Sheet - Entrepreneur A Think Sheet of Thinking Classroom ideas for developing the skills, attitudes and thought processes of innovation.

Categories: Think Sheet, Business, Secondary, Tertiary, Thinking Skills

Tags: Innovation Problem Solving Creative Thinking
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Mike's Books:

None this month - I'll have to write one!

Additional Resources:

Thinking Classroom Archive:

Nature Thinking

Nature Thinking A Thinking Skills Tool that looks to nature for creative problem solving ideas.

Categories: Thinking Tool, Creative Thinking, Thinking Skills, DT, Junior, Secondary

Tags: Problem Solving Nature Innovation
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Decision Making & Problem Solving Strategies
by John Adair

Decision Making & Problem Solving Strategies <br>by John Adair Considers the thinking involved in decision making, problem solving and creative thinking.

Available from Amazon>

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Categories: Suggested Books, Leadership

Tags: Decision Making Problem Solving


Mind Tools - Problem Solving Skills

Mind Tools - Problem Solving Skills Introductory article on problem solving.

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Categories: Websites, Leadership

Tags: Problem Solving

Next month we think about... High Order Thinking