“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”Albert Einstein
We tend to face different kind of problems, tasks, challenges or difficult situations in our everyday lives, be it in learning, at work while working with others, leading a team or managing an organisation. Our thinking mechanisms with which we approach such situations becomes very important when it is to come up with viable solutions to design a way forward. But most of our default thinking habits are conditioned by our belief systems or instincts for survival that makes us to look for negative consequences, threat, problems and weaknesses in most of the difficult situations. Especially, when it comes to problem solving, we base most of our thinking on immediate judgment, or tend to put the information or situation in boxes or categorising like yes/ no, true/ false, right/ wrong, or either spend too much time defining or overanalysing the problem.
Our habitual thinking patterns or perspectives based on analysis and conscious judgments, inclusion and exclusion in life makes most of us problem focused rather than solution focused. Being problem focused, we tend to dwell too much on a problem in detail, like how or why things became the way they are? How did this happen? Why do I have to do this? and place very less importance on discussing about or thinking of solutions.
Of course, analysing the problem to find a solution is important, but beyond understanding what the problem is, dwelling in every detail of the problem like to seek possible reasons for such situations or problems would only waste your time and effort. For instance, a traditional problem oriented thinking involves analysing the problem, to identify the cause, not to identify solution and then proceed to remove the cause. This may lead to some problems because sometimes, you cannot find the cause/ remove the cause or sometimes there are so many causes that you cannot remove all of them. In other words, to find solution, your thinking has to be constructive with ideas and possibilities to design a way forward. Dwelling on the problems in too much detail will only leads to thinking of what you don’t want/ have rather than what you want/have. This leads to negative and unproductive outcomes and does not add any value in solving the problem.
Problem focused Vs Solution focused
Our attitudes and decisions towards challenging tasks, problems and situations will either be problem focused or solution focused. Approaching a difficult situation being problem focused might be only helpful if you want to avoid similar problems or mistakes in the future. But this does not encourage you to come up with ideas or alternatives and the willingness to engage in finding solutions to difficult situations. Whereas being solution focused motivates you to look for possibilities or opportunities in designing a way forward, be it individually or when you are working with others or team or leading a group of people or an organisation.
Being problem focused only increases your defeatist mindset as it strengthens your negative thoughts, opinions, worries or assumptions. When you focus mostly on the problem and the array of external factors that contributed to the problem with no orientation towards internal solution, you tend to develop victimhood and often come up with some excuse for why you can’t implement a solution or why you can’t complete a particular task or how something is going to go wrong anyway. As a result, you cannot put together a plan of action to overcome the challenges you may face along the way.
Being solution focused, you can think constructively about the problems you face so you can breakdown the problem into small action steps where you can anticipate the next step you will be taking as well as the potential obstacles you may face along the way. Problem focused makes you think in limited ways where you are more concerned with ‘what is’ than ‘what can be’. This makes you reject new possibilities as it leads to immediate judgment of a situation as ‘right or wrong’/ ‘yes or no’.
What it means to be solution oriented?
Being solution oriented does not mean talking about only solutions to a problem. It means shifting to a solution focused mindset where you adapt and show resilience in the face of challenges and come up with positive ideas to overcome obstacles or difficult situations. It involves:
• Accepting the parts of the problem and to have your end goal as to help provide a clear and right solution.
• Solving problems using a creative approach via reasoning and involves ideas that may not be obtainable using only traditional problem oriented thinking.
• Viewing challenges from completely different angles to enable yourself to find novel solutions that would otherwise remain uncovered.
• Being open to possibilities and different perspectives instead of jumping to conclusions.
• Approaching a problem, obstacles or setbacks with positive attitude to think critically, evaluate and to effectively brainstorm solutions that push your thinking beyond your self-imposed limits to get to innovative ideas.
Why is solution-oriented-thinking important
Solution oriented thinking can make people in your team, workplace or in your organisation to be hopeful,optimistic and take responsibility to take a collaborative approach to solve a problem or find the way forward. You can engage them to be creative and innovative just by changing their thinking to solution oriented approach. This can encourage them to come up with other ideas and explore the possibilities.
When people are problem oriented, they often complain more about problems as to what are the causes of a problem, over analyse or imagine negative consequences they might have to face or mistakes they might commit instead of taking responsibility or involve themselves in finding a solution. Whereas being solution oriented helps them to take necessary steps or to look for new possibilities rather than thinking in terms of ‘why things won’t work’, ‘can’t be done’ or ‘will fail’ etc. It constructively challenges your current thinking and limitations and look forward without prejudging future. By helping yourself to be solution focused, you shift to more resourceful state of thinking where you can explore for new opportunities or strategies to solve the difficult situation you find yourself in.
By helping yourself to be solution focused, you shift to more resourceful state of thinking where you can explore for new opportunities or strategies to solve the difficult situation you find yourself in. Sometimes, you already tend to have some existing resources, problem solving skills and strengths that can be identified and applied to the situation you find yourself in. Or times in which you were able to effectively resolved such problem. You can tap into such resourcefulness and use them to your problem solving through solution oriented thinking.
How to enhance your solution-oriented-thinking
Whenever we face obstacles or challenges, we all wish that it should all go away. But how many of us actually think or talk more about solutions than problems? How can you become more independent of solving your problems? or engage your team or people you lead or manage to be solution oriented. Here are some strategies to enhance your solution oriented thinking:
Ask yourself solution focused questions for better idea generation and problem solving ability.
Your success in solving problems is determined by what you dwell on. Rather on dwelling on the problems, clearly define your problem by focusing on what you want. Most of the times the solutions exist right there, but we take them for granted by becoming problem focused. Here are some questions that you can use to be solution focused.
Is there a specific way you can approach this problem differently that might provide you a solution? What are the benefits of solving this problem? How is solving this important to you? When is the problem a problem or what’s driving the problem?Who are what is involved in the problem? Which people are supportive of my goals? What will make me unstuck? What would be the first step that will help me change my situation for the better? What could I possibly do to solve my problem? Asking solution based questions helps you emphasise less on your deficits, limitations and weaknesses. They also make you aware of your automated responses and to check your unhelpful perspectives or thinking errors, so you can work towards fixing them.
Come up with possible solutions that could possibly help you solve the problem. Ask yourself about what things you need, reasons as to why and who could you possibly involve? Ways to let them know what it is that you are doing and how you might get their help in? Also, think about the things that might get in the way, risks, obstacles and assumptions. Then you can arrive at some possible solutions to deal with these things. Involve your team or people with whom you are working to generate ideas which may turn out to be novel and useful solutions to the problem being addressed.
To think ideas & solutions,
• Use alternatives and concepts to breed new ideas.
• Sharpen or change your focus to improve your creative efforts.
• Challenge yourself to break free from the limits of accepted ways and to open new lines of thinking.
Check the sustainability of your ideas or solutions you have come up with.
Work with the ideas and potential solutions you have come up with and decide which one is the beat. To do so,
• Be flexible in approaching the chosen methods of solution without jumping to conclusions or prejudging.
• Drop an idea when it becomes clear that it simply won’t work. Instead of resorting to one method, adapt to the situation and reevaluate your ideas so as to come with alternatives.
• Eliminate ideas which are too hard or involve things you can’t control and then merge similar ones if there are any.
• Instead of dwelling too much on ‘what if’ scenarios, every time a possible solution is brought up, take small action steps and learn from any mistakes rather than sit back and wonder what could have been better.
Ask yourself, Will this solution be good for me or benefit me? Will this solutions be good for others involved? How much time and effort does this involve? What will be the costs and benefits of this idea? How will this solution fit in with my goals? What resources do I need to makes this solution happen? What skills do I need to make this happen? What solution seems best to you? What possibilities open up if you do this? What will be your first step and when by? Reflecting on these questions can help you check the sustainability of your potential solutions and help you narrow down to the best solution for your problem.
Structure your thinking
Keeping your thinking structured can help you to be more solution focused, especially when working with others or a team. Laying down all your ideas alongside each other so that there is no kind if rigid or box thinking, or with no dispute, no initial true or false judgment leads to a genuine exploration of the solution from which conclusions and decisions may then be derived. You can start by asking yourself, What information is available? What information is needed? What information is missing? How can I get the information needed to solve the problem? Even if there are disagreements while working towards solving a problem, work with the different versions alongside each other to see how something can be done by being optimistic and logical. This provides structure to your thinking process instead of drifting from point to point.
Solution oriented thinking should also involve risk assessment, to be cautious or look for mistakes, point out difficulties or any obstacles, see whether something fits information, your objectives, your values or your experience. Organising your thinking
• Balances your thinking cautiously from where you can think positively and creatively.
• Provides a practical means for shifting from the right or wrong basis of argument/ judgment to explore the viable solution.
• Instead of seeking to be creative, critical, information-oriented all at the same time, you can focus on doing one thing at a time and doing it properly with full attention.
So, What is your preferred way of thinking?Is it problem oriented or solution oriented?
what part you play in solving the problems in your personal or professional life ?
How can as someone involved in the process, help to come up with ideas to resolve the issue?
How do you make yourself or those around more solution focused?
Are you more concerned with ‘what is’ than ‘what can be’?
Do you feel inspired to help find and create solutions for others?
When faced with problem in workplace, do you involve yourself to find a solution or complain about it ?
Is your thinking helping or hindering your problem solving abilities?
By reframing your thinking from ‘I am facing problems’ to ‘I am solving problems’, you can reprogram yourself thinking in possibilities. Use the above strategies to shift your mindset to prioritise your solutions to demonstrate an ability to design your way forward with purpose and not to limit yourself in the face of problems.
“Identify your problem, but give your energy and power to solutions.” – Tony Robbins
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