Problem Solving With Peripheral Vision

Problem Solving With Peripheral Vision

Problem solving is a skill that needs honing. Entrepreneurs face having to make business critical decisions daily. Whether they are working on approaches to acquire new clients or they are trying to understand the financial impact of employing new staff. Their lives are a quagmire of decisions. The problem however is that a lot of the time we approach decision-making incorrectly.

Problem Solving Methods

A lot is written on the various problem solving methods – of which there are probably 5 that are considered “best practice”.

  1. The Deming- Shewart Cycle. This is based on: “Plan, Do, Check and Act” with the aim of Process Improvement. The concept behind this approach is that problem solving and process improvement is a continuous process which iterates a better solution each time.
  2. The Eight Discipline Methodology (8D). This team based approach to solving problems is used to correct and show recurring problems. Through the use of statistical methods to start data collection, root cause analysis, and problem resolution, this is one of the most scientific problem solving methods.
  3. Five Why Methodology. This system of asking “why” five times until the cause of the problem is uncovered is possibly the least scientific of all. It is also important to apply critical thinking principles during use of this method to cut out irrelevant assumptions. The Toyota Motor company has used this method successfully to solve manufacturing problems for many years.
  4. Kaizen. A team based method of problem solving oriented to continuous and incremental improvement at all levels of the business. The line operators, middle level managers and the CEO are to be invested in this method if the goals of continuous improvement are to be achieved.
  5. Lean Six Sigma. This method uses the approach of: Design Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. It focuses on the use of data, root cause analysis, implementing improvement actions and implementing system actions to sustain improvements.

All of the above methods work. The all get us to a solution; but they are sometimes very complex and don’t make it manageable for an entrepreneur to react quickly.

There needs to be a layman’s way to problem solving; and I believe there is.

The Layman Method

Typically when we approach problem solving, we tend to fixate on the problem. We tunnel-vision in on what must be fixed and we attack it head on.

There are many times when this is the right (and sometimes: only) way to solve a problem. To dive in. To commit.

The problem with this though is that we are not using our peripheral vision. We tunnel vision in on a single fraction of the environment. To make sure we are solving a problem holistically and not missing the point, we need to look left and right. We must circle the problem like a lion circles its prey.

We need to have a better strategy for problem solving.

octagonal table for peripheral view to problem solvingProblem solving is not always just about coming up with answers. It is about asking the right questions. Problem solving is about using your peripheral vision to look at every side of the problem; asking the right questions and not just throwing in solutions. Problem solving needs to be considered and measured.

I was once asked to sit at a table that had 8 sides. In front of me was an object I had to describe. Once I had done that I was asked to move to the next seat and repeat the process, then again and again until I have returned to the start.

The point that was being demonstrated to me is that much like a physical object; problems have many sides and look different from every angle. To that end we must approach problems from multiple angles to appreciate their form holistically.

Using our peripheral vision to make sure we understand the environment around the problem as well as the problem itself!


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