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How to Solve Problems with Critical Thinking

Photo by Rob Bye on Unsplash

Everyone has problems: money problems, interpersonal problems, business problems, social problems, technical problems, legal problems, medical problems, family problems. What problems are you facing?

The first step in solving a problem is to examine the problem and define it.
Be specific: what exactly is the problem? Find the root problem. What appears to be the problem may only be a result of the root problem, so the root problem must be solved rather than its side effects.

Look at the problem from various points of view.

If people are involved, look at it from each of their points of view. How do they see the problem? If it isn’t a problem involving people, look at the various aspects of the problem: for example, temperature, speed, lack of necessary resources, supply and demand, timing, a component of a machine or system, etc.

Next, analyze the problem.
Ask questions:

Who/what is causing the problem? What are the contributing factors?
What are the effects of the problem?
Who or what is affected by the problem?
When did the problem begin?
When does the problem most often occur?
Is there a specific place where the problem occurs?
Who can do something about the problem?
What has already been tried to solve the problem?
Are there any solutions being used elsewhere to solve the problem that are working?

Once you have analyzed the problem, it is time to find a solution.

Use creative thinking to produce various solutions.
Next, examine possible solutions. Consult experts. Study how others have solved similar or the same problems. 
Ask:
What solution will solve the root problem? 
What are the costs in time, money, etc. to implement this solution? 
Who can help resolve the problem?
What do you need to do to persuade others to provide the necessary tools for fixing the problem?

Propose a solution to those who can do something about it. 
During the process of enacting the solution, measure its effectiveness. If you are not satisfied with the results, attempt a different solution.

Sometimes, there is no one else who can solve a problem except you.

A friend of mine, has an autistic daughter. Once she finished high school, there were no social activities available for her except very expensive programs. Her daughter became isolated and withdrawn. She tried a number of available solutions, but none offered what her daughter really needed. After much searching, she still could find no program or opportunity that would help her daughter to have social interactions on a regular basis. So, she created the solution. She quit her job and started a foundation and program for autistic young adults and it has been a great success. 
See Austen’s Autistic Adventures.

Right before I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in English, my entire department at Ericsson’s was laid off. This was after the events of 9/11 and there were no jobs to be had. I spent eight hours every day submitting resumes and calling about all kinds of possible jobs and found nothing. Not even McDonald’s would hire me. At the end of my rope, I began reading books about successfully finding work as well as a book titled How to Think Like Einstein. I don’t remember which book or combination of books convinced me to try something different. Instead of looking for advertised jobs, I asked myself: “What kind of job can I do?” I knew I wanted to become a college teacher, but I could not teach at college level until I earned a Master’s Degree. Then, I realized that I could teach non-credit courses, so I created a list of non-credit courses I was qualified to teach. I wrote out short course descriptions for each one and I sent them along with my resume and a cover letter to every community college in the area. I received a call a few weeks later offering me a noncredit technical writing course in the Fall. I went on to teach several other non-credit courses and eventually found a technical writing job through a former coworker. The fact that I had been teaching technical writing helped me get the job.

What is your method for solving problems?