Effective problem solving helps us develop mental agility
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SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- Have you ever solved a problem, only to have to solve it again next week or next month?

There are times when we hastily identify the factors we believe caused the problem and move immediately to developing solutions based on our heat of the moment thoughts.

This may work, at times, but when problems are complex, interpersonal or recurring, it may not be the most effective approach.

Problem solving is a skill to help us accurately identify what caused the problem and identify effective solution strategies. We must first understand a problem before we can effectively solve it.

The skill of problem solving teaches us to look beyond our heat of the moment thoughts about what caused the problem and include critical information we may have missed, so that we can best understand the problem.

-- The process.

Effective problem solving begins with focusing our thoughts on why the problem happened and identifying all the contributing factors that caused the problem. This can be a rather difficult task because the brain is wired to find what it is looking for and, by contrast, not find what it isn't looking for.

This process is called the confirmation bias, and it makes it hard to be accurate in identifying what caused the problem and difficult to take others' perspectives for developing effective solutions.

-- Effective problem solving.

For example, if you had the belief "I'm not smart," you will recall the instances when you've been confused by something others understood or subjects you struggled with in school.

You may not easily recall the instances when you grasped a new concept quickly, or figured out how something works, that others did not. This is not intentional and can occur for positive or negative thoughts, such as "I am a good leader" or "I am not a good leader."

By writing down your thoughts, asking fair questions to gather evidence for and against the factors contributing to the problem, and consulting with others, you can fight against the confirmation bias. Effective problem solving requires one to fight the confirmation bias to be more flexible, accurate and thorough in understanding the root cause of the problem.

-- Six steps.

The skill of problem solving consists of six steps beginning with objectively describing the problem and ending with developing effective strategies for solving the problem.

The six steps can help us be more flexible, accurate and thorough in our understanding of the problem.

Problem solving helps clearly identify the factors that caused the problem and develops effective solutions you have more control or influence over.

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U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii