Douglas clambered down the loft ladder with the dusty box pressing against his shirt. After several hours up and down this ladder, his wife’s idea of a good way to spend another lockdown weekend of clearing the loft did not seem like a good idea. He lifted the lid to see what was inside this box and there it was, his ZX Spectrum from 1982 and the series of game on tape. There at the top was his favourite – ‘The Hobbit’. He would spend hours on this decision based strategy game. The graphics were awful compared to modern games, but he remembered it fondly. He remembered the joy of completing that final level and he remembered the frustration when made the wrong decision picking up the sword instead of leaving the cave, causing him to not get as far as his best mate Andrew that day. As he sat there at the top of the stairs reminiscing into the box, it struck him that this game was the source of his love of problem solving. He had learnt to consider the eventualities before making decisions on that game and ever since he had done the same in life and work. He was known for winning family board games, all because he considered eventualities before making decisions. Sure he took longer on his turn but when he made the decision it was usually the right one.
That week, Douglas had just completed a big job at work. The company had hit a challenge at work and they needed to get the right solution. Douglas was the one they turned to. He was renowned at work for solving problems. It was because he followed the right process.
Purpose – Why you are doing it and what you are trying to achieve?
Problem – What is best practice? What are your shortfalls? What are you trying to solve?
Pinpoint – What does your customer actually need?
It was the possibilities process that he was particularly good at. He had learnt this from his Dad as they spent most weekends hunched over his Dad’s 1974 MG trying to solve the latest reason that it wouldn’t start. A split radiator hose could be fixed by cutting and joining, tape, hose clip and splint pipe or the more expensive 'buy a new one'. Dad tended to avoid the more expensive one, sometimes to his peril! Since then, Douglas had done the research on problem solving and he knew the different approaches and used them.
Analytical What do I have? What is missing?
Logical What big picture am I trying to achieve?
What has been used before that might help?
Positive Who can I collaborate with? What other things could I consider?
Creative What are the different solutions
Absolute What are the pros and cons with each solution?
What does the authority in this area have to say on it?
Rational What is the optimal solution from our perspective?
That’s the approach that helped him innovate. Taking time to review the different possibilities, not the first one that came into his head, and then choosing the best one, enabled him to find the best solution. A good example of this had been when the office was so cold. The others were all ready for putting in bigger radiators. But Douglas had talked them through the problem solving process
The boss was going to get a loan for £20k to replace all the heating system. The total cost had come to £2,100. Considering the different options had saved them a lot of money.
The big project at work had also used the same approach and had led to an innovative way of working across the departmental teams.
He closed the lid and made his way downstairs. He turned left into his study. “I won’t be long darling. I just need to sort out what’s in this box,” he called out to his wife in the other room. She wasn’t that naïve. She knew she wouldn’t see him for a while.