Have you ever watched a magician make objects disappear and reappear? We once saw a terrific magician in the street, and my children were mesmerized. They were concentrating hard on the hand he was placing in front of their happy little faces, and consequently had no idea how the magician was doing his magic.
We are all solving problems every day, but how well are we really doing it? So often we concentrate on the obvious ‘hand in front of our faces’, but miss the other things that are going on around us or around the problem. Skilled problem solvers learn to ask questions that not only focus on the problem but put that problem in context. A simple ‘Is/Is Not’ style of questioning can help narrow down the focus of our problems by eliminating what the problem is not.
Last year I was teaching my Problem-Solving Skills course and was surprised to hear in one organisation their service department wasn’t using a set list of questions to step through when a customer calls with an issue. It turns out that many of the technicians taking calls were probably asking similar questions to each other, but that came from the individual’s experience and technical expertise rather than the organisation’s collective knowledge of typical services issues.
In other organisations, administrative staff are able to triage customer service calls and direct them to the best technical person. Which sounds like more effective use of problem-solving techniques?
You don’t have to be in an official problem-solving role such as customer service to benefit from trying these techniques and developing your skills. Problem solving is a universal skill that can drive significant improvement when applied in any area of an organisation.