Are You A Good Problem Solver?

Abstract:Traditional problem solving strategies are subjective and focused on people, rather than being objective and based on sound principles. They work for event-based problems by chance rather than design. Traditional problem solving revolves around casual observation, linear thinking, and the search for the root cause. A more useful approach builds on the ideas of philosophers such as the Buddha and Thomas Aquinas to develop a series of causal principles: cause and effect are the same thing, there is an infinite continuum of causes, each effect has at least two causes, and effects only exist if their causes exist in the same space and time. These principles can be used to redefine the protocol for solving …

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Very interesting article. It would be great if the author provided an effective problem solving practical example at the end of the article.
--Ali Al-Dakoki, 06-01-2011

It is rewarding to see that my article has caused people to think more deeply, or in some cases to validate the shallowness of human thinking that the article speaks to. As for the notion of truth. Truth cannot be anything but relative to the beholders of a common reality, and since science is the practice of challenging prototypical truths it is always changing and thus improving the human experience. The human condition often demands answers even where there are none, and because of this seemingly natural condition, we create answers in direct violation to the principles of causation and the reality of happenstance. Just because we don't have an answer, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. We can demystify the many unhealthy human belief systems that rely on mystery and intrigue to sell certainty about the unknown by seeing the world as many systems operating in their own space and time, each with its own set of infinitely variable action causes. With this understanding, we can recognize that the unknown is knowable, or if it is not currently knowable, we can accept the unknown as only a temporary condition in the infinite set of causes that is reality. To do otherwise is a mindless, arrogant, ineffective strategy that leaves us in stasis. We can choose to learn or not. The last paragraph of the article speaks for itself.
--Dean Gano, 05-24-2011

It is still not principle-based strategies. It is still lacking dynamic customized principle applicable in real lean world.
--narayan ghimire, 05-12-2011

--KM, 05-12-2011

Excellent article on the subject. Problem solving is a system improvement opportunity.
--Girish Trehan, 05-10-2011

Excellent article!! I have read the author's book, Apollo Root Cause Analysis, so most of content was review. His viewpoints changed the way I think and how I approach problems. I am continuously urging others to view situations using this approach.
--Bart Gensch, 05-10-2011

Dean raises a lot of good points and challenges conventional thinking to problem solving, which is always worth doing.

I don't agree with his concept of variable truth. 1 plus 1 is always going to be 2. What we do have to keep in mind is that individuals are going to focus on different things and filter information selectively.

Categories such as in fishbone analysis are merely part of the brainstorming process. I think the danger lies in confusing a root cause and its associated category.
--Charles, 05-10-2011

It's interesting to see that systems thinking can give a much broader and deeper insight into a problem and the relationships between components than just pure linear thinking.
--Ides de Vos, 05-10-2011

Great article. Very deep topic. I find the following statement a bit controversial: "People's understanding of reality is as unique as everyone's fingerprints, formed from every experience of their lives by a nervous system with limited and varied senses, and a brain that provides for an infinite set of perceptions using an endless set of strategies to establish their own truth."

It is OK up until the last four words. I think what the author more correctly is trying to convey is that we all have varying perceptions or interpretations of "absolute truth," depending on our own unique background of experiences among other things. This seems to suggest that "truth" is a moving target. This is not the case.

It's a subtle but very important distinction that should not be lost or misconstrued. If there were no absolute truth, how can there be any science or fact? Everything would be relative and subject to infinite variance, or at least as much variance as there are humans on Earth.
--Jay E, 05-09-2011

I don't think that this article is very good at all. The only paragraph with any merit (in my opinion) is the final one, 'Effective Problem Solving,' which alludes to 'necessity' and 'sufficiency' as important conditions for causation. More importantly, the identification of the necessary conditions for failure, and measurements of the conditions sufficient to initiate the failure are VITAL for engineering and validating a solution to the problem.

- Techniques such as categorization and linear thinking are still useful tools to focus a team's brainstorming power, and identify conditions of necessity and sufficiency against which evidence can be tested.

- Causes are NOT effects; this is a major misstatement: the effects of a failure at the component level may cause the the failure of a subsystem or system, but a cause is not its own effect.

- As for all that mumbo jumbo about 'continuum of causes' and the existence of effects, while infinite limits may be important to pure science, applied scientists know that for practical purposes, the 'continuum' can be limited to the conditions observable in the immediate vicinity at the time and place of the failure. Often, Occam's razor will make short work of Buddah's fishing net.
--AS, CMQ/OE, 05-09-2011

In reality, less than 1% of problems are analyzed for proper root causes. 99% of problems are allowed to recur again and again because top management initiative is not there. The result is very high quality costs and lesser customer satisfaction.

Very interesting article with some nice insights. It's definitely going to make me think when I use the causal analysis tools next time :)
--PC, 05-03-2011

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