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Finding Problems and Solving Problems

Updated on January 15, 2018
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Stephen Bush is a consulting and problem-solving expert. He is the CEO and Chief Business Writer for AEX Commercial Financing Group.

Finding Problems and Solving Problems
Finding Problems and Solving Problems

Solving Problems or Problem-Solving?

While I enjoy and love solving problems, I must admit that it can be awkward to have a passion for an activity that tends to be hyphenated like problem-solving. So please forgive me when you instead see "problem solving" because hyphenating is not high on my prioritized list of problems to solve!

As most of you probably realize, there are plenty of problems in need of practical solutions. My problem-solving focus usually involves small businesses, but I periodically go wandering in another direction as events dictate. One of the most enjoyable parts of my love for problem solving is helping the many people who tend to hate dealing with problems and peripheral activities like negotiating. Yes, I love negotiating as well.

While I love solving problems, life and business solutions must involve a community process to be successful. Do you suppose that problem-solving deserves to be hyphenated because of the multiple parties involved?

Albert Einstein is a credible authority about solving problems, and I enthusiastically endorse his sentiment that preventing problems is even better than solving them. But when problems cannot be prevented, I still love finding problems and solving problems.

Solving Problems Often Starts with Plan B

Please remember these words of wisdom: Always have a Plan B.

Expert Opinions about Mistakes, Problems, Success and Solutions

  1. "All problems become smaller if you don't dodge them but confront them. Touch a thistle timidly, and it pricks you; grasp it boldly, and its spines crumble."

    (Admiral William F. Halsey)

  2. "You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it."

    (Margaret Thatcher)

  3. "I use not only all the brains I have but also all the brains I can borrow."

    (Woodrow Wilson)

  4. "The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year."

    (John Foster Dulles)

  5. "One thing is sure. We have to do something. We have to do the best we know how at the moment. If it doesn't turn out right, we can modify it as we go along."

    (Franklin D. Roosevelt)

  6. "Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well-informed just to be undecided about them."

    (Laurence J. Peter)

  7. "The most serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers. The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong questions."

    (Peter Drucker)

  8. "If you choose to not deal with an issue, then you give up your right of control over the issue and it will select the path of least resistance."

    (Susan Del Gatto)

A Common Problem: The Bottom Line

Problem-finding is often more important (and more difficult) than problem-solving.

— Stephen Bush

A Poll - Do You Love Solving Problems?

Even though I love solving problems, many people probably hate the process for one or more reasons. Which response describes how you feel?

How do you feel about solving problems?

See results

Failure to Plan Ahead

Unfortunately some of the most serious problems do not yet exist. It often takes a few "dry years" like farmers had in the Dust Bowl to force a realization about the importance of planning ahead. Such thinking about the possibility of something going wrong can prevent difficulties.

Recurring problems are a common difficulty for many small businesses. This video presentation includes a list of the most common recurring challenges.

"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."

(Albert Einstein)

Finding and Solving Problems
Finding and Solving Problems

Finding, Prioritizing and Solving Problems

Finding Problems Before Solving Them

Before problems are (usually) solved, they must be found and prioritized. If you are unaware of a problem, it is not likely to be solved! Problem-finding is often more important (and more difficult) than problem-solving. All problems are not created equal. If there are several difficulties, it might be impossible to deal with all of them immediately. The practical solution: prioritize them and leave the least important one for last.

In a rapidly-changing world, it seems like we are constantly confronted by one new difficulty after another. Most of us simply do not have enough time or patience to deal with yet another complex challenge. While I enjoy helping individuals and businesses to avoid, prevent and solve these real-life puzzles, I would also prefer an environment that was focused more on the positive and less on the negative.

Effective solutions are a major part of my own contribution to increasing positive outcomes as much as possible. This generally involves managing risks, asking a lot of questions, searching intensively for answers and planning ahead to prevent more of the same complications. It is a tough job, but someone has to do it!

As I have suggested both here and elsewhere, recurring difficulties are among the most challenging of all. The best possible example that I could possibly provide of a recurring problem that literally continues to impact all of us is banks and their many questionable practices. Although I have successfully dealt with a whole series of banking difficulties on behalf of small business clients, this (and other recurring challenges like it) does require constant vigilance.

You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.

— Margaret Thatcher

Finding and Solving Business Writing Problems

Focusing is about saying no.

— Steve Jobs

The Art of Saying No: Avoiding Problems

Communication in all forms is among the most challenging activities for both individuals and businesses. Failure to communicate and negotiate effectively can lead to critical problems on multiple levels. Negotiating plays such a big role in most of our everyday interactions that it is sometimes hard to understand why many people avoid becoming better at the overall process of negotiation. A contributing factor is possibly that many individuals simply hate negotiating, and we only rarely go out of our way to learn something that we hate to do unless there is a major incentive to do so.

In most cases, those incentives are already on the table and in plain sight. Do we or don’t we want to be able to communicate more effectively with our children, friends, business colleagues, customers, and everyone else? Do we want to make our business more profitable? Do we want to make better use of our already scarce time? Learning more about the art of saying “No” is a suggested starting point.

Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them.

— Albert Einstein

Preventing Zombie Business Problems

Always Have a Plan B
Always Have a Plan B

© 2013 Stephen Bush

And now, your thoughts on the subject...

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    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 2 years ago

      What a great page...Love it, in particular "Expert Opinions about Solutions" I have been reared to always use common sense (hard at times)

      A great deal of problems (with nature) that have arisen, are do to the fact the solutions lacked common sense. When you want to play God....we all suffer!

    • VioletteRose LM profile image

      VioletteRose LM 3 years ago

      Great lens, this is really helpful. I wish I had more problem solving skills and more patience to do that, unfortunately I get stressed out most of the times. But I am working on to improve myself :)

    • bushaex profile image

      Stephen Bush 3 years ago from Ohio

      @julieannbrady: One potential solution (far from perfect) is to find a buyer that will pay you cash. In this situation, the comparables do not matter because there isn't anybody trying to qualify for a loan. The banks are a huge part of the current real estate problems. As I have said many times during the last seven years, banking institutions are the problem and not the solution. "Thinking outside of the bank" is now a necessary part of the problem solving process for many of us.

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      julieannbrady 3 years ago

      Ah! I do have a problem to solve ... I am trying to sell my home ... I bought it for $170K; have put in about $25K ... have it listed for $189,900. Was under contract for $190K in January; fell out of contract. The last appraisal came in at $181K. The comparables are killing my sale ... how do I solve my problem?

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

      I love the quotes on this lens!

    • AstroGremlin profile image

      AstroGremlin 4 years ago

      I took the marshmallow test, saved all my marshmallows and invested them. :) Many people are full of it, don't know how to solve problems, have no interest in solving problems, but get ahead by talking about problems and what a bad job is being done, and how they should be in charge. The fact that they never solve the problem doesn't seem to get mentioned. Politicians LOVE problems. Every now and then they hire an actual problem-solver. But usually they blame their predecessor. :)

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      Sue-DN 4 years ago

      Very interesting. Ever noticed the way politicians solve problems? They go the sticking plaster route with absolutely no time spent on thinking about what the consequences will be a few years down the line. Drives me mad!

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      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      Very well done. Thought provoking and informative.

    • profile image

      DebW07 4 years ago

      Interesting and motivating information on problem solving.

    • profile image

      testosterone-booster 4 years ago

      Your lens forced me to think deeply and planning ahead.

      Thanks for eye opening lens.

    • Jo-Jackson profile image

      Jo-Jackson 4 years ago

      I enjoy the challenge of problem solving. Great lens.