I am a problem solver… deal with it!

As one might think, a problem solver is not a person who solved a lot of problems or continues solving one or two problems a day. Not at all. A problem solver is a person who thinks as a problem solver. In this post, we want to try and shed some light on how you can become a problem solver, and share some of my personal experiences of being a problem solver.

Who is a problem solver?

Because of the way the problem solver thinks, he can recognize a problem – he knows how it looks like. A problem-solver knows how to analyze and eventually come up with a solution. It does not mean, however, he always does. To reiterate, a problem solver is not necessarily a person who solves problems, but rather one who thinks like a problem solver; and, of course, can solve a problem.

Innovation and Problem Solving

Innovation and problem solving are two sides of the same coin. Innovation is just a result of solving somebody’s problem. We already discussed it in one of our previous blogs Innovation is a solution to somebody’s problem.

Problem-solving is a science therefore problem-solving is a profession and I am a problem solver.

Being a problem solver is not as easy as it might seem. It comes with benefits, but also presents a lot of challenges!

How can one become a problem solver?

Be ready to learn… a lot!

It does not really matter which university you graduated from. It is not important if you are M. Sc. or Ph.D. You should be ready to tell yourself I know nothing and I have to continue learning, and I have to learn a lot.
There are many resources to learn problem-solving from. In general, you can pick up everything relevant such as TRIZ, Lean, 6 Sigma, Kaizen, etc. The more the better. Read papers, try different problem-solving tools, learn from others, and simply learn and consume as much information as you possibly can.

Be ready to fail

Participation in real projects and real problem-solving processes is very important. Apply your problem-solving knowledge and build up your innovation experience. The most important is that you should not be afraid to fail; not only on the exam but also at solving real problems. You should be ready to fail. I have been working a lot on different projects and was never afraid to fail. It is not comforting and often painful but this is a part of problem-solving education. Failure is a way to learn.

Be ready to not being recognized as a problem solver

Everybody thinks he can solve problems. Everyone knows that to be a doctor, engineer, or attorney requires you to spend a long time studying, and after that, you have to convince that you are a worthy professional. In the case of problem-solving everything is inverted. Apparently, you don’t need to learn, you don’t need to prove anything. You can simply decide that you are a problem solver. Weird, but true…

The majority of people we talk to believe that there is no need for any problem-solving tools. This leads to people jumping directly into the solution without the systematic analysis of the problem or in fact without any systematic approach.
Engineers believe they do not need to waste time on a problem statement, root cause analysis, failure modeling, and system analysis followed by a reasonable solution. People just starting “to shoot in the dark”, “play a roulette”, by simply throwing possible solutions, and that is not a reasonable process at all. This process never can bring good results without a lot of luck.

Nonprofessional problem solvers are similar to nonprofessional medical doctors and are very dangerous. And, they don’t even know that they are nonprofessional.

Be ready that your solution will be unreasonably rejected

Be prepared that any of your ideas, even a brilliant one, can and will be rejected without any reasonable explanation. Here is one typical example of my consulting activity.

In order to reduce the amount of oxygen in some products, a reducer was added. The problem was that the concentration of the additive remains was relatively high after the interaction. I have been working on the chemical and functional model and got to the conclusion that the interaction goes up to the formation of suboxide. That means that the amount of additive should be increased twice. When I explained all my models, the engineering manager told me: “Your proposal is to increase the amount of the additive in order to reduce the amount of the residue in the final product? This is nonsense. I do not want your consultations anymore.”

6 months after that incident, a process engineer called me and said that a miss-process had happened. Mistakenly, one of the technicians loaded the additive twice. The results were wonderful. “But what interesting,” – he said, – “that nobody remembered that this is what you proposed.”

This is a typical situation, because of a very well known reason. People accept ideas using “pattern recognition”. Everyone has “patterns” and if the idea fits their pattern is most likely to be accepted. If not, it will be rejected without any explanations.

Be ready that your ideas and solutions will be rejected.

I am a problem solver. This is my way of life because it is fantastic to be a problem solver. Each time you understand and solve a problem you feel like a winner, creator, you feel fantastic.

Do you want to be a problem solver? If you do, start learning, solve problems, innovate, and repeat.

Good luck.

Ph.D. in Chemistry. Expert in processes design, improvement and problem-solving. TRIZ (Inventive problem solving) specialist (Level 3).

2 Comments

  • Igor Polk
    November 12, 2020

    Very true. A problem-solver has to have iron nerves. By the way, who is he?
    A problem solver sees the world in problems and solutions. It is his state of mind. He sees the world in terms of contradictions and applications. It is mostly inherited, but can be learned. And it makes the problem solver life difficult. A problem solver penetrates nature through common opinions and sees the roots of what is happening. And that is essentially, what the author conveys: a problem solver is a man who thinks like a problem solver.

    Reply
  • Ed Bernacki
    November 16, 2020

    LInked to being a problem solver is the gift or curse of being a problem finder. You look at the half-full glass of water and see it as half-empty — a problem to be solved as you see twice its potential. I often find that finding problems puts you in a position that many see as negative and cynical.

    Reply

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