4 Ways to Solve a Problem


An apocryphal story:

A man you know is hungry.

There are 4 ways you could solve his problem:

  1. Slap him about a bit. This will take his mind of it.  Hunger gone, problem solved.
  2. Give him a fish to eat.  Hunger gone, problem solved.
  3. Give him a fishing rod and show them how to fish.  Hunger gone, problem solved.
  4. Develop a first-world infrastructure with trawlers, freezers, distribution centres, corner stores and fish fingers.  Hunger gone, problem solved.

I’d love to claim credit for this line of thinking

But it came from a gentleman called Russell Ackoff. He called the 4 methods

  • Absolve
  • Resolve
  • Solve
  • Dissolve

His point was that the further you take your problem solving, the more likely you will make the problem go away for ever.

There is an extra twist:

Absolving and Resolving don’t count as solving the problem. I’m sure you would agree.

Solving, though valid, involves current knowledge.  If there is a known solution you shouldn’t have to waste your time on it.

As a manager — a paid problem solver — only Dissolving problems is a worthwhile use of your time.

How did you spend your time today?

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of James Lawther – View the original post

About the author

James Lawther James Lawther is an operations manager. For 20 years (and a bit more) he has worked for large organisations in all sorts of operational roles, from counting frozen peas to chasing tax avoiders. Currently he works as Head of Operational Excellence for a FTSE 100 financial services company.

Read other posts by James Lawther

Call Centre Helper is not responsible for the content of these guest blog posts. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Call Centre Helper.

Published On: 10th Jun 2016 - Last modified: 5th Mar 2019
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