Why Problem Solving is not a Linear Process

Problem solving is not a linear process

When someone says that they will solve a problem, it is easy to imagine them meaning that they are about to embark on a process that starts with there being a problem and ends with that problem being solved. A process that follows a straight line from point A to point B, one that then allows the problem solver to move on to the next problem.

Problem solving is anything but linear. And a robust problem solving process is not designed to be so. From the moment that we detect a problem and decide that we will try to solve it, we have begun a process of discovery. We will need to follow the path that the process, and most importantly the evidence, leads us along, in getting to a solution. And we will then need to evaluate the results achieved once that solution has been implemented, using that feedback to guide us onto a new path.

And so, we see that with problem solving, the path between individual steps is a winding one, often tracking back before moving forward, and the path of the overall process is circular. An ongoing process of alignment and revision occurs throughout the problem solving process, with the ultimate measure of success and the most important feedback loop being the one which judges whether the problem has been solved or not. Problem solving is nothing if not a learning process, and learning does not happen in a straight line.

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