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There are rarely perfect of ideal solutions to problems, however, the structured problem solving approach aims to identify the effective plan of action available at the time.

To Solve a Problem

Step 1 Identifying the problems
Gaining a clear definition of the problem or goal is a vital step in problem solving. Only consider one problem at a time.

Step 2. Generating solutions through brainstorming
Brainstorming is a method to come up with as many alternative solutions as possible. List any ideas that come to mind even if they seem ridiculous.

Step 3. Evaluating the solutions
This involves considering the advantages and disadvantages of each solution.

Step 4. Choosing the optimal solution
The aim is to choose the solution or combination of solutions which will solve the problem or achieve the goal. It is better to choose a solution that can be readily applied and is not too difficult to implement initially even if it may not fully solve the problem.

Step 5. Planning
A detailed plan of action will increase the likelihood that the problem will be solved. You need to consider what resources are required, possible difficulties in the plan and who else will be involved in the plan.

Step 6. Review
Problems solving is a continuing process since problems are often not resolved nor are goals always attained after the first attempt. Not all possible hitches are considered at the planning stage and so ongoing reviews are necessary to cope with unexpected difficulties.


The following is an example using a structured problem solving form

Step 1. What is the problem?
Think about and discuss the problem or goal carefully then write down exactly what you believe to be the main problem or goal.

  • getting depressed because Iíve given up so much of my Ďold life'
  • want to go to the gym again, donít know what to do with baby

Step 2. List all possible solutions
Brainstorm and put down all ideas, even bad ones. List all possible solutions without any evaluation of them at this stage.

  • ask mum to look after baby while I go
  • ask neighbour to babysit
  • ask husband to come home early one day a week
  • go to gym with childcare facilities
  • leave baby in care while I go
  • pay someone to look after baby

Step 3. Discuss each possible solution
Quickly go down the list of possible solutions and assess the main advantages and disadvantages of each one.

Step 4. Choose the best or most practical solution
Choose the solution that can be carried out most easily with your present resources (time, money, skills etc)

  • cheapest and not imposing on anyone if can find a gym with childcare

Step 5. Plan how to carry out the best solution
List the resources needed and the main problems that need to be overcome. Practice difficult steps and make notes of information needed

Resources needed transport, gym clothes, joining fee

Problems to overcome - find a gym

  • Step 1 call around gyms re: child care
  • Step 2 ask Janet if she wants to come
  • Step 3 ask people at gym if childcare ok
  • Step 4 try it out

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