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Critical Thinking Model of Problem Solving

Problem Solving Content Issues

  • Description of Problem
  • Factors: Constructive vs Limiting
  • Ownership
  • Scope of Problem
  • Consequence of Problem
  • Alternative Solutions
  • Rank Ordered Solutions


Process Issues in Problem Solving

  • Self-awareness of the problem solver
  • Motivation of the problem solver
  • Decision making involved in selecting solution by solver
  • Execution of the solution decided upon


Components of Problem

Visceral Components of the Problem

Size of Problem - costs, risks, losses

Sensory Input

  • How’s it look?
  • How’s it sound?
  • How’s it taste?
  • How’s its smell?
  • How’s it feel?

Personal Components of the Problem

  • Inside perspective of problem solver of the problem
  • If on Team alway include the other members as problem solvers and their perspective for success
  • Low self-esteem of problem solver is the hidden component in problem solving which must be addressed to insure productive solutions


What is Needed to Improve Problem Solving Process

  • Unconditional acceptance and non-judgmental attitude of fellow problem solvers
  • Respect for each participant’s input
  • Freedom to openly express emotional response to the problem & solutions
  • Defined limits and boundaries on problem solving process

Ways of Encouraging Creativity in Problem Solving

  • Create the desire to be creative-you must want it
  • Expand Knowledge and Skills of language by reading more to be creative thinker
  • It takes effort to create-genius is 1% inspiration & 99% perspiration-Edison
  • Ferment creativity-give it time
  • Evaluate and validate creative ideas
  • Use Brainstorming
  • Use Starbursting


Rules for Brainstorming

  • Set a time frame to be completed
  • Be clear what problem you are trying to solve
  • All ideas should be heard.
  • No idea is too wild to be expressed.
  • Quantity is wanted; each idea coming to mind should be expressed.
  • Combining ideas for improvement is highly desirable.
  • Criticism or negative discussion regarding ideas is absolutely forbidden.


  • Focuses on a topic and radiates outward with questions
  • Here anything goes
  • Any questions are legitimate
  • More the questions the better
  • Begin by asking: “What are the Questions?”

Problem Solving through Intimate Engagement

  • Engager’s have a history of success with similar problems
  • Dismisser’s had history of failure with similar problems-captive of the past
  • Rather than dismiss, engage the problem intimately by getting into it
  • Be willing to take the time to deal with the problem

Engagement Takes:

  • Effort to deal with it
  • Time to mull it over
  • Looking at and not averting or looking away

Rules of Engagement with Problems

  • Become sensitive to your own confusion with a problem
  • Do not permit yourself to be confused-do not tolerate confusion
  • Use visual imagery to remember facts
  • Relate the information to people, animals or situations
  • Make your visualization vivid, dynamic, interactive, & unusual  

Reality Testing of Possible Solutions to Problem

  • Critical Path Analysis
  • Decision Trees
  • Force Field Analysis
  • PMI    Plus – Minus – Interesting
  • SWOT Analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

Critical Path Analysis

  • Calculate length of time to complete project
  • List all activities in plan by: start date, duration, if parallel or sequential
  • If dependent on what do they depend
  • Graph it out, Plot tasks on graph
  • Schedule Activities
  • Critical path-longest sequence of dependent activities that lead to completion of plan

Decision Trees

  • Start with the decision which needs to be made draw a box
  • Draw to right possible solutions on lines
  • At End of each line if result is uncertain draw circle if other decision draw box
  • From the other decisions draw lines for options which can be taken
  • Calculate decision which has greatest worth to you and give it a value
  • Estimate probability of each uncertainty

Force Field Analysis

  • List all forces for change in one column
  • List all forces against change in other
  • Assign a score to each force 1(weak)-5(strong)
  • Draw diagram showing forces for & against and size of forces
  • Helps weigh importance of factors as to if pursue or not the plan  

PMI- Plus/Minus/Interesting

  • Plus Column: all positive points of taking the action
  • Negative Column: all negative effects
  • Interesting Column: extended implications of taking action, whether positive or negative
  • Assign positive or negative scores

SWOT Analysis

  • Strengths: advantages, what you do well
  • Weaknesses: could be improved, done badly, should be avoided
  • Opportunities: good chances, interesting trends
  • Threats: obstacles, competition, are required specifications changing