An enemy of problem solving is the problem blindness. Problems exist, where the targets are not reached. This happens in simple activities exactly like in complex, long-term activities and projects. Even established solutions fail because of the perception of the acting people. What actually disturbs solving a problem?
The following aspects disturb solving a problem.
- There is no problem
Sometimes we recognize problems, where actually are none. It can be a task that is yet finished, which simply take a certain time. In other cases the problems are so big that we do not recognize them, e.g. today’s economic crises or the social shifts. Accordingly problems can be so small that we overlook them. This includes the damages that we expect in our body, by the intake of certain medicines or the drinking of water that is polluted below safety level. Already looking in another direction prevents the timely recognition of a problem. Everybody, who paid attention to the right hand traffic at a crossing and was hit from the left side, knows this. Eventually it also could be that maybe there is simply no problem.
- The problem is not sufficiently specified
Sometimes it is a certain cause that is missing. Who did not ever switch the PC on and the monitor remained black? If something is missing on the checklist in your head, the screen will remain dark. The way to solving the problem can be also obstructed by an insufficient description of the effects. We take our PC that is running in the meantime. Unfortunately the familiar Windows user interface does not appear. As long as your hotline does not get the message “Please do not power off or unplug your machine …”, the specialist pokes around in the dark. It becomes also very difficult, if too much information is presupposed. Thus, copying a text will become a problem for a computer beginner, if he does not know the available functions for the operation of a mouse: Clicks, double clicks, pressed mouse button, etc.
- The problem gets stuck in unconscious assumptions
Sometimes simply the words are missing, in order to seize the problem. Technicians often wonder that their perfect solutions do not get the expected acceptance by the customer. They overlook that customers do not consider the technical, but also the emotional aspects of the design, the usability and the haptics. Frequently the solution hides itself behind logical conclusions that are imposed by our experience. We remember the Fosbury Flop, i.e. the technology of high jump that reached new heights by the “back first” technique over the bar. Previously, everybody implied that one would have to jump forward over the bar. But it is only a matter to jump across a bar as high as possible without any means.
- The solution is stuck in a dead end
Sometimes, you are simply too late, because somebody else already solved the problem. If for example a colleague already put the plug of the supply cord back into the socket (see above). The solutions that we do not want are uncomfortable, because we don’t like them. Imagine that you have two important appointments at the same time in the calendar. You would not like to leave one to a colleague. But many difficulties cannot be solved alone. Then, you need the help of somebody. Some problem solutions fall into stagnation, because nobody needs them at exactly this moment. Eventually it exists always the possibility that there is no solution at all. The earlier you understand it, the better.
Bottom line: A clear problem awareness is the key to the solution.