Problem solving – How we’re all better at it than we think

Often, you’ll hear people say that they’re not good at problem solving. The issue with that, in my opinion, is that they’re simply not framing what it means to be a problem solver the right way.

Everyday problem solving

Something as simple as realizing you’re out of milk in the fridge can be classified as a problem solving venture. You recognize there is a situation that needs corrected. You have to decide if you’re going to go to the store just to get milk, or if you’ll turn it into a full shopping trip. If you make it a full trip, you have to go through the kitchen and take inventory of other items that need purchased, prepare a list, possibly gather coupons. Then you get to leave the house. That’s where the life and death problem solving begins.

Problem solving behind the wheel

Assuming you have a vehicle to drive, you have to decide which store you’re going to, plan a route, then navigate that route. All the while, you’re negotiating with countless other people solving their own problems, often at high speeds, surrounded by two to three tons of steel and combustible fuel. Anyone who has driven anywhere has solved more problems than they can imagine just to get from point “A” to point “B”.

Problem solving in the store

Once you get to the store, you’re still not out of the woods. Find a cart that doesn’t wobble, that’s big enough to hold all your stuff, but not so big it’s unweildy. Now, for each item on your list, figure out where that item is in the store. Compare it to the other similar items to find the best buy. Place the items in the cart, being mindful that you don’t want to put a 50 pound bag of dog food on your carton of eggs. Then get to the checkout, unload the cart, decide how to pay for all your stuff, load it into the car, and go through the life or death return trip home.

Jay-Z was wrong

Jay-Z concert (cropped).jpg

Jay-Z concert (cropped)” by i am guiltyJAY-Z, original resolution. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Anyone who thinks they only have 99 problems isn’t really thinking about what problems they solve every day. Don’t sell yourself short. You’re better at problem solving than you think you are.