Are you solving the right problem?

Are you solving the right problem?

Many think they understand what the problem is because they are too keen to find a solution. That’s when they make errors. If you are going outside your company to someone like us, then being open minded is the best approach before and during discussions.  And asking the question: Are you solving the right problem? When looking for a solution, it’s essential to consider the types of issues there are and differentiate between them.

1. Puzzles

Puzzles have defined established routes to the answer. For these problems, you need to find someone who knows the answer and can solve the puzzle for you. Usually, there is already a tried and tested solution to the problem. Think Rubik cube or a jigsaw.

2. Nonobjective problems

Nonobjective problems are the complete opposite of a puzzle problem. There will be several ways of finding solutions and may not be universally  popular. To solve them, you need sound judgement, intuition and even innovation. Take a look at the legal system for these sort of problems. There will likely be many decision-makers too resulting in getting an answer even harder.

3. Uncertain problems

These problems are the unknown or not known types that create uncertainty. The answer and the question are usually is future-facing, and the solution rests on how on an ever evolving situation. Things change in the field, and your solution has to change too. It would be best if you were flexible, observant and prepared. Uncertain problems are food and drink for the military. They get round some of the uncertainty by creating and practicing for every eventuality. Classed in the UK military as “Actions on.”

A group of soldiers walking down a valley they will have several “Actions On.” Actions On contact with the enemy, Actions On finding civilians, and Actions On an impassable river bed. Actions On chemical weapon threat or Actions On meet an intelligence source. Actions on running out of water etc.  Each action has been decided, practiced and communicated with the whole team. Something happens, and the crew reacts immediately without the need of a pie chart or group hug.

4. System problem

A system problem is a result of linked interacting systems. Like global warming, weather, migration and air pollution. These problems are almost unpredictable as things change depends on how unseen parts interact with each other. 

5. Predicament problems

You find predicament problems tend to when you commit to several goals, but in reality, they are incompatible with each other, Do well with one solution. It will have a detrimental effect on the other. These problems tend to involve people and their polarised viewpoints. You will find that some predicament type problems are never solved, just managed. You have to manage these types of problems as they soon become serious fall-outs and disputes.

6. Fallout problems

A fallout problem is a disagreement between parties who have different agendas and want different things. Fallout problems can range from all out war between nations to which TV channel to watch. Usually, a solution is acceptable for one group and not the other. Despite how distasteful it could be a solution will require cooperation as there can be no solution without agreement from all parties—the people involved need to move closer together to have any chance of a solution.


Of course, problems and solutions are not exclusive to the business world. So don’t always look for a business solution. Take a look at where you live, your family, nature and most importantly, look at yourself. Persistent Problems can be annoying, complicated, frustrating and discouraging so start problem-solving after you have asked the question – Are you solving the right problem?

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Here are some case studies too. Also, for more information on ethics within Competitive Intelligence from SCIP
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