Identifying Viable ‘Need-Solution Pairs’: Problem Solving Without Problem Formulation
36 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2013 Last revised: 2 May 2015
Date Written: November 16, 2013
Problem-solving research, and formal problem-solving practice as well, begins with the assumption that a problem has been identified or formulated for solving. The problem-solving process then involves a search for a satisfactory or optimal solution to that problem. In contrast, we propose that, in informal problem solving, a need and a solution are often discovered together, and tested for viability as a need-solution pair. For example, one may serendipitously discover a new solution, and assess it to be worth adopting even though the “problem” it would address had not previously been in mind as an object of search -- or even awareness. In such a case, problem identification and formulation if done at all, comes only after the discovery of the need-solution pair.
In this article, we propose the identification of need-solution pairs as an approach to problem solving in which problem formulation is not required. We argue that discovery of viable need-solution pairs without problem formulation may have advantages over problem-initiated problem-solving methods under some conditions. First, it removes the often considerable costs associated with problem formulation. Second, it eliminates the constraints on possible solutions that any problem formulation will inevitably apply. We suggest that this approach merits further investigation.
Keywords: problem formulation, problem solving, need-solution pairs
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