Leadership News

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Four Horsemen of the Problem Solving Apocalypse

MAJ M. Nicholas Coppola

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, problem solving became an industry all its own. A simple search utilizing Yahoo on the Internet reveals over 100 companies and consulting firms offering software packages, personal services and literature to prospective customers for assistance in their problem solving queries. A great majority of the tools offered by these services are very similar. They assist the decision maker in the underlying principle involving problem identification and solution accomplishment in a timely manner. However, in many cases, the advancement of problem solving methodologies has done more harm than good to the decision maker. Cognitive dissonance between competing problems, recidivism in problem solving methodology, linear problem solving approaches, and general fear of decision making all lend themselves to problem solving failure. These Four Horsemen of Problem Solving often lead toward problem solving failure or a problem solving Apocalypse.

In professional industry, it is typical to see executives struggling with management issues involving complex environment pressures that affect the survivability of their organization.1 In many cases, the problem lies beyond simple identification of the problem. The solution to the problem lies within the organization's ability to break the problem down into incremental events and approach the problem from a systems perspective. These simple components within themselves produce easier problems which can be quickly identified and solved.2 In many cases, managers are unable to attack the problem from an incremental perspective. In cases such as these, solutions to the problem or dilemma may fail, will be stalled, or not reach closure at all.3

The thesis of this article revolves around four fundamental issues with traditional problem solving. The first problem is one of Linearization. The second one is of Recidivism coupled with Cognitive Dissonance, the third is one of Problem Solving Creep, and finally, the last problem with problem solving is Avoidance. These Four Horsemen of Problem Solving often result in the Apocalypse of decision making….problem solving failure.


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