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Solving the process of problem-solving

  • Published at 06:04 pm March 6th, 2019
There isn’t always a light bulb
There isn’t always a light bulb

It can be more rewarding to step out of the safe zone sometimes 

I believe it’s not an exaggeration when I say that the first type of model that pops up in the minds of most individuals when they think about problem-solving is a linear model -- connecting the problem with the solution. We have a problem, and we have solutions, and the solutions are connected to the problems with straight lines.

On the topic of images that relate to problem-solving, this would include almost always at first light bulbs, followed by workers with tools, and, if we were to stretch it, a half-naked Archimedes (for the historians out there) with the seminal "Eureka" moment.

There’s almost always (at least in the images), a method towards the solution, and an expectation that there shall be guidelines that steer us towards these solutions.

That’s the generic formulaic way at least. There’s also the Archimedes way. Archimedes’ approach to solving problems, or how I define them, go far beyond math problems, or workplace or social problems. And often enough, problem-solving becomes the problem itself, because everybody has their own methods, and as human beings, we would like others to adopt our methods because we feel our methods are the best.

At the preliminary level, this is two brothers walking back from school in Bangladesh arguing about which beat-up path is the shorter distance to that steaming plate of rice and curry waiting for them back home.

On a global level, it’s Apple telling the world that it solves problems better than Samsung when it deals with mobile phones.

But those are problems in the generic sense too. What of the problems within us? When I think problem-solving, I cannot ignore the war within us, the desire to find truth, balance, and harmony.

Often, that pursuit is futile, and one is not able to conjure the inspiration to get to where he or she wants to. At that point, getting creative seems to provide the necessary outlet to counter these barriers. 

However, in the pursuit of solving problems that are personal, complex, internal, and often more abstract, perhaps it is necessary to get creative; by that I mean an openness to deviate from the norm, because if the norm isn’t solving your problems, then the “other side” may just have the answers.

It’s fearful, and our inherent nature compels us to remain in the safety of familiarity, but sometimes, it is necessary to seek answers where we would not seek them.

Marketers and advertisers are often faced with the same dilemma. Too often, they are more concerned about the ways to problem solve, the means rather than the end becomes what concerns them. It’s a very systematic process, from client meetings to creative briefs to execution and so on. Too often, they get so caught up in the everyday hassle of going through the process that they may feel inclined to overlook opportunities.

It’s a difficult task too, because the ordeals of everyday life often hamper us from truly being creative with our solution-seeking, and creativity is at its most fundamental still a complex, multi-layered human attribute that we still cannot fully comment on. There is no shortage of creativity in the world, and indeed in the marketing industry, but perhaps what is in bigger demand is adding a creative spark to everyday life, where the mundane everyday problems we face can be approached better.

Perhaps the future shall be clearer regarding the matter, but all I ask for, both internally and externally, is to remember that often it is extremely rewarding to step out of the safe zone in order to truly solve our problems in favour of the usual route.

Similarly, for businesses and organizations, the solutions to their problems are not always linear, and may require a less-than-ideal pathway, but which, ultimately, will yield far more desirable results and outcomes than if these alternative routes were not explored at all.

AHM Mustafizur Rahman is Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune.