The Knowledge Hub of IMD
Share
FacebookFacebook icon TwitterTwitter icon LinkedInLinkedIn icon Email

Brain circuits

3 steps to critical problem solving

Published 15 September 2021 in Brain circuits • 3 min read

Although solving problems intuitively can be a disaster, too much analysiStyles can be equally nefarious and potentially lead to paralysis by analysis. What you need is a process that covers all necessary bases at a level of detail commensurate for the problem at hand. We have identified a simple three-step process to get to the heart of complex problems and enable you to make better decisions. Give it a try.

Step 1: Frame

Complex problems are rarely what they appear to be on first look. To better understand what you are dealing with, frame the problem by asking yourself “What is my problem?” Hint: you can safely assume that whatever you think your problem is right now probably isn’t your actual problem.

Step 2: Explore

Do not rely on intuition. No matter how much faith you have in your own judgment, if you rely strictly on your instincts you will miss the opportunity to see things from an alternative perspective. Instead, explore potential solutions. That is, ask yourself “How may I solve my problem?” It is equally important to explore what matters to you; that is, the various attributes of a solution that would make it more attractive to you.

Step 3: Decide

In most cases, one solution isn’t consistently superior to all others on all attributes. To make your decision, answer your question, “How should I solve my problem?” Surface the trade-offs for each solution, identifying what you are ready to give away that you value so that you can get a little more of something else that you value even more.

Frame, explore, decide, or FrED, for short. For most complex problems, your understanding of the problem changes as your progress through the analysis. The three steps aren’t so much a linear sequence as they are elements of an iterative loop. Do not hesitate to revise previous conclusions as new evidence surfaces.

Authors

Arnaud Chevallier

Professor of Strategy at IMD

Arnaud Chevallier is Professor of Strategy at IMD. Arnaud’s research, teaching, and consulting on strategic thinking bridges disciplines to provide concrete tools to improve decision-making and corporate problem solving. Arnaud’s work prepares executives for the strategic challenges organizations face in today’s dynamic global marketplace.

Albrecht Enders

Professor of Innovation and Strategy at IMD

Albrecht Enders is Professor of Strategy and Innovation at IMD. His major research, teaching and consulting interests are in the areas of managing discontinuous change and top team strategy development processes. Before coming to IMD, Professor Enders spent three years as a consultant with The Boston Consulting Group in the company’s Cologne office where he worked on projects in the areas of financial services, energy and industrial goods. These projects focused on strategy development, reorganization and efficiency improvement. He holds a PhD in strategic management from the Leipzig Graduate School of Management in Germany and a BA in economics from Dartmouth College in the USA.

Related

Learn Brain Circuits

Join us for daily exercises focusing on issues from team building to developing an actionable sustainability plan to personal development. Go on. They only take five minutes.
 
Read more 

Explore Leadership

What makes a great leader? Do you need charisma? How do you inspire your team? Our experts offer actionable insights through first-person narratives, behind-the-scenes interviews and The Help Desk.
 
Read more

Join Membership

Log in here to join the conversation with the I by IMD community. Your subscription grants you access to the quarterly magazine plus daily articles, videos, podcasts and learning exercises.
 
Sign up

Welcome to I by IMD

Install
×

You have 4 of 5 articles left to read.