One of the most common definitions of a problem is, that it applies to a question or difficulty calling for a solution or causing a concern. The word is normally negatively perceived as a challenge or difficult situation but can be replaced by more positive terms like aspiration, goal, or opportunity. Because a problem is not a state of being or a thing unto itself. Instead, a problem is the act of bringing forth a question about a situation for consideration. The process of consideration results in an understanding of the current and the desired states of that situation.
All problems have two features in common: goals and barriers.
Goals, because problems involve achieving an objective or a desired state, which can also include to wish to avoid a certain situation or event. If there were no barriers in the way of achieving the goal, there would be no problem. Problem solving involves overcoming the barriers or obstacles that prevent the achievement of goals.
If you are hungry then your goal is to eat something. A barrier to this may be that you have no food available. So, you take a trip to the supermarket and buy some food, removing the barrier and thus solving the problem.
If you are the head of an organisation, then your main goal may be to maximise profits and this main goal may need to be split into numerous sub-goals in order to fulfil the ultimate aim of increasing profits. There may be many barriers preventing the goal from being reached. The manager needs to attempt to recognise these barriers and remove them or find other ways to achieve the goals of the organisation.
Looking at a problem in terms of goals and barriers can also help you to split bigger problems into more manageable sub-problems.
For example, in this problem:
“I have been offered a job that I want, but I don’t have the transport to get there and I don’t have enough money to buy a car.”
|Take the job