The Art of Finding Solutions

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Image by upklyak on FreepikA small discussion group usually finds better solutions than any of its participants individually.

A few years ago, I took part in an experiment, in which each member of the group was asked to choose, separately, from a list 10 essential items to survive for a certain time on the Moon, in case of failure of the return ship.

Then, the same process was repeated as a group. The solutions were compared with NASA’s. The group won by a very high margin.

Before handing the problem over to the group, it is necessary to do something that, in general, the group cannot do: collect data.

If our sales are falling, the first thing to do is gather data: are sales falling for all of the company’s products, or just some? Are we losing customers or are they buying less? Is there a new competitor or a new product in the market? Is the competition going through the same? Are there new prices on the market? Is the team happy? Etc.

It is not possible to collect all relevant data. You have to know when to stop researching, otherwise you will not find a reasonable solution in time.

Sometimes, the reasons to the problem are known. When someone is in pain, usually the problem is not the pain itself, but rather what causes the pain.

The problem to be resolved must be very clear. Let’s consider, for example, the problem ‘exports to Spain dropped, why and what can we do about it?’. Maybe the group will better define the problem when debating it.

The discussion group should be small and the rules introduced at the start:

It’s not about arguing like lawyers or politicians trying to convince us of something they believe, even if that’s fake. The goal is to find the truth, the best solution.

It’s not about applying rhetoric or making long speeches, as in courts and propaganda.

It’s about applying dialectic, created by the Greeks 2500 years ago. They sought to know reality through dialogue, opposing ideas to other ideas, developing new ones as a result.

Each participant must be open to consider several proposals and its possible alternatives and improvements, not just setting for one (their own). The potential solutions are then analysed one by one, improved or discarded, until the best one is reached.

Finally, reviewing the process from data collection to conclusion will allow the decision to be qualified, widely accepted and carried out firmly and with a higher probability of success.