Problem Solving and Decision Making.

Author:Ellet, Bill

Problem Solving and Decision Making, Video, 2007, Edge Training Systems, Inc., $1395.

Support: leader's guide, participant booklet, slide presentation.

It's surprising to me that there aren't more DVD's like Problem Solving and Decision Making: Achieving Desired Results. I wish there were more and think you should preview this program.

I've worked with MBA students at an elite business school for years, and many of them aren't sure how to analyze an issue, make a decision, and prepare an action plan. It stands to reason that many managers and employees aren't well prepared either.

The explanation for the dearth of work on the topic may be that this serious weakness is largely unappreciated and therefore isn't a high priority for training. Instinct, passion, and energetic performance are all critical to organizations, but they need to be complemented with strong analytic skills.

The big consulting firms are very much aware of the issue and commit their resources to solving it. They aren't under any illusion that business schools or undergraduate business departments train students in methods of thinking. The academy is organized according to traditional disciplines, and analytic methods don't fit and aren't taught.

Two obstacles to acquiring the necessary skills are semantics and an assumption about thinking. First, the term "problem solving" is used a lot, often with great authority, but its meaning tends to be vague.

The video doesn't have much to say about the definition of "problem." It assumes you know what the term means. The word is defined in the print materials, but I think a detailed one belongs in the video so that viewers can better understand what follows.

Second, it is widely assumed that the thought process underlying problem solving and decision-making is primarily intuitive. Because you learn through practice, you don't need to define it.

Practice is required, of course. Nevertheless, thinking can be structured to make it more focused and effective. The structure doesn't do the thinking; the brain has to do that. The brain benefits, though, from a structure tailored to the task being asked of it.

Problem Solving and Decision Making furnishes a six-step process for the related activities of analyzing a problem, making a decision, and creating a plan of action. I won't detail the parts of the process; instead, I recommend that you preview the video.

It makes the important distinction that a problem isn't necessarily something...

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