Problem Solving

Decision making under stress
to find the best solutions

Like its genetic twin, opportunity seizing, problem solving uses all the
tricks of decision making.

It is a several step process, from gathering information to analyzing,
imagining, deciding and implementing, usually under stress.

Behavioral biases interfere often at different steps and have to be
minimized.


Finding a hidden door
into the maze and then the way out


Problem solving is a topic directly related to
decision decision making.

Problem solving is about:
  • Finding a bulb (preferably good!) solution,
either to a practical problem or to a theoretical issue.
  • Even, in some cases discovering a hidden opportunity,
This is fining a clue or path that lies behind, aside or around the
issue.
This "serendipity" supposes an ability to observe and think in an
open, creative and opportunistic.


What is needed
for efficient problem solving?

The senses, the brain, the guts!

To meet the challenge, important assets are:
  • not only observation and reasoning,
  • and enough courage to face realities and make hard decisions)
(not to neglect our bodily organs that start moving,  sometimes in 
anticipation)

From the full process...

Practically, problem solving is, as described in the decision making
article,
a several step process, that goes from gathering information
to analyzing,
imagining, deciding and implementing. 

Every of those steps mentioned above has its pitfalls, if only because

mental biases tend to intervene.

The differences are that
* problem solving is usually decision m
aking ...under stress.
* it adresses new situations with no ready-made solutions
   
(heuristics) available
    This makes things more difficult, but on the other hand it can avoid
    lazy-thinking and "jumping to conclusion" that might lead to deficient

    solutions
because of a lack of fact-finding and a shallow analysis.

Thus, whenever possible, the whole decision making process mentioned
above should be performed with care, which could be helped by some
knowledge of the potential biases that can be found in the link above.

...to the fast track

In cases of emergency, some mental or physical automatisms might
drastically shorten the process or even bypass it.

You know how Alexander the Great cut the knot with its sword.


Reliance on the "gut instinct" (or on the "fight or flight" instinct, a

neuron acceleration fueled by adrenaline), however efficient in some
occasions (it can give an alert about some weak signal / discrepancy
not consciously identified), could be a trap.

The usual automatisms that are activated in such a "fast track" can be
two-sided :

* They might come from experience, knowledge, positive feelings
  
and underground work by our always active neurons (an
   unconscious
constructive power)

* but on the other hand they might
   - not fit the situation or the decider's
goals,
   -
or  be under the influence of violent emotions / compulsions,
   - or
in some cases result from an overconfidence on one's own 
     
experience that prevents to dig further.

=> Thus, when there is no real emergency, and the intuition is only
     
an emotional symptom, it is better, even if we believe we found the
     
solution,  to "sleep on it", or at least to calm down before
      implementing it.

On the other hand, to train ourselves to use and improve the "magical
triangle":
  • Experience/ education
  • Anticipation / imagination
  • Preparation
but at the same time avoiding overconfidence on one's aptitude, can
bring us beforehand important practical keys and means to be ready
to respond quickly
to problems.


See details in the main article on this topic:
Decision making

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M.a.j. / updated : 09 Aug 2015
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