Problem Solving


Photo by Karla Hernandez on Unsplash

What if your weird, “out-there” ideas could solve the world’s problems? If you think differently, you probably don’t think of problem-solving as a negative--you see it as an opportunity for innovation. And if you think differently, you could be the next HeroX hero!

There are two important things to remember about problems: they happen every day all around us, and they are opportunities to improve processes, systems, and make lives better. Rather than being stumbling blocks, problems are actually providing us with information that we can use to fix what needs fixing and innovate for the future. 

To do some creative problem solving, it’s important to understand the nature of problems and the steps one needs to take to work out solutions. These are the basic steps involved in collaborative problem solving.

Address complexity

First, it’s important to understand the complexity involved in a situation by observing all the factors causing a problem. Some people tend to want to immediately come up with solutions, but a common mistake in problem solving is to jump to conclusions too soon. That's a mistake because putting the solution at the beginning of the process does not allow for all the necessary steps needed to work through the intricacies in any given scenario. In other words, you can’t get from a to z by forgetting about those other 24 steps in between. 

Working through this process is not always a strictly linear exercise, in fact, it seldom is. When all you can see is the problem that lies directly in front of you, you block the deeper, underlying issues that are causing the problem. It is only when the totality of the problem is grasped that one can truly evaluate the situation.  

Break down silos

One of the key reasons people come to HeroX for outside-the-box solutions is that sometimes in order to get outside-the-box thinking you need to actually leave the building and put a problem out there to the hivemind. Outside organizational constraints and long-standing agendas, new ideas can flourish. Traditional hierarchies and traditional protocol close things off rather than opening up the possibilities of new ideas and a new approach. Teams that participate in HeroX challenges are united around one cause, and that is to solve the problem at hand.

Generate interventions and disruptions

Brainstorming unleashes all kinds of fresh ideas and different angles. And since two (or many) heads are better than one, the members of a team should build on each other’s ideas. Respect all the individual voices and use them for collective problem solving on a really deep level. In addition to brainstorming, this stage of the process includes: 

  • Design thinking
  • Forecasting
  • Prediction
  • Project design
  • Project planning

Embrace the F word: Failure!

When you consider that penicillin, plastics, the pacemaker, and the Nintendo Power Glove were all inventions made by mistake, it makes you rethink the word failure. Innovation is about trying, and inherent in trying is not succeeding. Honor the process, and don’t expect everything to come easily, because it won’t. 

Evaluate solutions

When formulating solutions, work out all the scenarios, including possible barriers to the successful implementation of your solution. Don’t be near-sighted--use a wide-angle lens. This stage involves:

  • Analysis
  • Discussion
  • Corroboration
  • Teamwork
  • Test development
  • Prioritizing

So far, in the HeroX challenges, this is a stage of the process that can really bring the team together. It has been said that you don’t know the true potential and character of a person until you see the way they solve problems. If the team utilizes the strengths of its people, they can truly harness the power of the hivemind. They can anticipate the unexpected and come to a sustainable solution together. 

Select a solution

After the evaluation process is over, the group should come to a consensus and select a solution most likely to solve the problem. Consider to what extent a solution meets the following objectives:

  • Efficiency
  • Solving the problem smoothly without creating another problem
  • Cost
  • Long-term value

This stage involves: 

  • Collaboration
  • Time management
  • Successful project management

One of the most consistent comments that HeroX gets in feedback from challenge participants is what a joy it is to collaborate with creative, bright people from all backgrounds, and what a great feeling it is to be a part of a first-class problem-solving team. Regardless of whether or not your team wins the challenge, being part of this think tank is an incredible confidence booster, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn and grow.