All though life we all must solve problems. It is a major element in being a human. As an engineer, this writer's main job was solving very complex problems. If you become a good problem solver, you will be highly respected, and have a lot of influence and power.
We often have to work together in problem solving. Have you ever been working with someone on a problem, and it seemed to you the other person was not helping at all, and was even working against your efforts? You might well have thought the other person was being very illogical, or even crazy.
But this writer states that People are Rational. If that is true, how can they seem so illogical? Why might they work against you while solving a problem?
This essay tries to answer that question. It also provides concepts and steps on how to solve problems. The ideas expressed below are global in nature. That is, they apply in very many situations and many areas of life.
When two people seem to come to dramatically conflicting results about a problem they are trying to solve, the cause of that conflict may be they are not solving the same problem. Sounds dumb, but it is quite true, and quite common!
It is my observation and belief that often people make errors in problem solving not so much because they have information that is wrong, or that they are using bad logic, but rather that they have not stated the questions correctly and all persons agreed on them. I have seen it happen.
They are not solving the same problem or answering the same questions. Two parties can come up with two solutions. Each says the other is wrong. A careful observer may detect these crossed purposes, and may be able to guess what are the two different Problems being solved.
Sometimes problem solving can be stated (in general terms) with questions something like these.
The failed "thing" might be anything, a TV set, a computer, or the national health care system. If each person has different ideas about what it is supposed to do, how it is supposed to work, and how it is broken, then they will most likely come up with different ideas of how to fix it.
Thus the first two parts of a problem solving effort must be explicitly decided "What is it supposed to do?" and How it is supposed to work. This should lead to What part is broken. This leads to why is it broken? This leads to ideas on "How to fix it." So often steps are skipped. No wonder we have people, husbands and wives, engineers, and politicians operating at crossed purposes.
A hidden agenda is a form of not asking the right questions. One or both parties do not wish to state their true end goal or purpose because they feel that to do so will expose them to arguments and/or resistance they cannot overcome by truthful argument.
The person who is pursuing a hidden agenda may not even know he is doing it, and will deny it loudly. In politics, a (not well) hidden agenda is often to make the other political party or candidate look bad. Never mind trying to solve the problem, just try to make the opposition look like an idiot. The hidden agenda is to defeat the opponent in an election (rather than solving the problem!).
A person with a hidden agenda is operating (either knowingly or unknowingly) under the negative Life-Rule of The end justifies the means. They have an end result in mind, that they want to be true or to happen. They bend the facts to achieve that end. Thus they may distort points of fact or events. Sometimes they dont know they are doing this. (See Egocentric Tendencies, and see Thinking Styles.) (NOTE: The end justifies the means was a major operational belief of the USSR communist regime!)
This is true even if the person is not consciously aware he is doing it. I make this statement because the person has first lied to himself. Such a lie is called a rationalization. The person then believes his own rationalization (lie!) and passes it on to his listeners or readers. It is still a lie. (See essay "About Lying" for further discussion.)
Detecting Hidden Agendas
I don't think there is any one "formula" for doing this.
If you can't agree on the definition of the "Goal" or "How the thing is supposed to work," that is a good clue there is a Hidden Agenda. Start thinking about "What could this person gain from following their expressed chain of thought?"
If you are starting out with wrong information, it is not likely that you will get the right answer! (Duh!) The defense against these mistakes is "Check it out!" Verify the information is correct.
We often make assumptions. It is a BIG mistake to act as though our assumptions are correct. (Duh Again!) Even if it is reasonable, an assumption is a guess.
The defense is to make a list of the assumptions, clearly stating they ARE assumptions. Then set about trying to first disprove them, and if you can't disprove them, then try to prove them.
You might have several assumption about "what is wrong" with the system. Decide which is most likely true - then check that one first! This can save time.
Now it is time to come up with a good solution, or fix. The best way is to Brainstorm!
Group You can't do it by yourself. You need a
Criticism! Do not Criticize ideas. Accept all &
reject none, even if silly or impossible to do
all ideas Assign one or more people to record all
ideas are OK Crazy, off-the-wall, and wild ideas are
OK! Get really imaginative! Anything goes! LOTS
of ideas! The more the better! It takes a lot of
ideas to come up with a few good ones! Piggyback Even a "bad" idea from one person could
stimulate someone else to have a "good"
idea. Pick When time is up pick the best
You can't do it by yourself. You need a group!
Do not Criticize ideas. Accept all & reject none, even if silly or impossible to do them.
Record all ideas
Assign one or more people to record all ideas.
Wild ideas are OK
Crazy, off-the-wall, and wild ideas are OK! Get really imaginative! Anything goes!
LOTS of ideas!
The more the better! It takes a lot of ideas to come up with a few good ones!
Even a "bad" idea from one person could stimulate someone else to have a "good" idea.
When time is up pick the best solution.
(Teacher: You may have to bring kids back to the task if they go too far off track!)
Which solution should you use? Try applying the concepts of wisdom.
The Rule of Wisdom, according to Mr. Andrews: "A wise judgment, action, or decision is one that brings the greatest good to the greatest number, both in the short run and in the long run, while at the same time thwarting evil intentions and minimizing negative outcomes."
For a detailed discussion, read the essay Wisdom.
OK, we think we have a good solution. We apply it to the system or thing that is not working right.
Do not now walk away, thinking that your "job" is done. We are all human, and therefore, and by definition, we are quite capable of making mistakes! Monitor the thing you fixed to see if it is ACTUALLY FIXED! Try various things to see if it will break again! When you have "thrown every rock you can think of," and it doesn't break, then it is probably fixed.
These are the steps to do effective problem solving.
WARNING! During the following steps, look for clues that there may be hidden agendas. Try to ferret them out and resolve them.
Doing what this essay recommends may seem like a lot of effort, but it isn't. It can and often does save a LOT of time and FRUSTRATION. It can prevent bad feelings between you and the other people that you MUST deal with daily. And it can make you a hero! I know. I've been there. It works!
By Mr. Andrews