Picture Courtesy of Shutterstock

Picture Courtesy of Shutterstock

 

Last week we looked at what key questions to ask when defining a problem. This week we examine the importance of brainstorming and weighing up the pros and cons.

 

Step Two – Brainstorm Possible Solutions

 

This is the moment to think of as many possible solutions – however ridiculous they might at first appear – and write them all down. Try to think laterally, remembering how you defined the problem in the first place.

 

For example, when I was fourteen years old at school my teacher took me to one side after class and explained I was to sit somewhere else as the ‘frenemy’ sitting next to me was a distraction. That night I was beside myself thinking what everyone would think if I just moved and how on Earth I would explain it, my bullying was bad enough without adding fuel to the fire!

 

Then the next day before class, I suddenly thought laterally – what about if the teacher were to just ask me to move in class? I waited for him outside the classroom and asked him and hey presto, understanding my position he said yes. I thought laterally and as a result, I wasn’t perceived as being as much of a teacher’s pet. As you can see, thinking laterally can reveal novel solutions.

 

Think of outlandish solutions, simple solutions, lateral solutions, Google it even, but come up with and write down as many possible solutions that you can.

 

Step Three – Assess the Pro’s and Con’s

 

There are likely to be some solutions you thought of that are in fact, inappropriate or just not suitable. For example, if I had social anxiety and was invited to a 70th birthday party of a close family friend it wouldn’t be appropriate to ignore the invitation. It’s a solution, but certainly not an appropriate one. Discard the solutions that are clearly misguided – trust your intuition and be totally honest with yourself and you’ll have no problem identifying which solutions need to be thrown out.

 

Then evaluate the pro’s and con’s of each solution, listing as many as you can think of. Evaluate and compare the solutions and then rank each solution, with 1 being the preferred option all the way down the list.

 

For example, when tackling the problem of my finding work I weighed up the pro’s and con’s of registering with a few or many agencies for both temporary and permanent roles, improving my interview skills in line with feedback, buying interview books, updating all three versions of my CV, and the pro’s and con’s of which type of role to go for that would both challenge me and yet provide me with a work / life balance so I could still pursue writing whilst earning enough.

 

At this stage you may realise that there are several solutions that could work well if carried out together, in which case you may wish to adopt a few strategies simultaneously. For example, I decided to register with two agencies for temporary work and at least twenty agencies for permanent work, I adjusted my interview style in line with feedback I was receiving, I read my interview books and also updated my CV’s.

 

To tackle the issue of a work / life balance whilst still being challenged and earning enough I set a minimum salary that I needed for the budget I had created and then researched jobs to see what the job market was like. I then wrote out a job description of the duties I would like to have in my chosen field of work which was realistic because it was in line with the current job market. Finally, I expressed what I was looking for to the job agencies I was registered with.

 

The last thing to do, as outlined above, is to decide on the definite solution/s you will carry out, based on the ranking given once the pro’s and con’s of each solution were evaluated.

 

Stay tuned – next week we will look at the planning, action and review stages of problem solving.

Does the notion of brainstorming leave you overwhelmed? Do you find it difficult to assess the pros and cons when problem solving? What has been your experience of weighing up the pros and cons of possible solutions in the past? Please share your thoughts in the comments below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community, we’d love to hear from you.

 

Exercises:

 

  1. Brainstorm all possible solutions to your chosen problem.
  2. Throw out the brainstormed solutions that are not viable.
  3. Assess and write down the pros and cons of every brainstormed solution that wasn’t thrown out.
  4. Choose one primary and one back-up solution to your problem.