The Lost Art of Problem Solving

30 Dec


Photo by Ladyheart from Morgue File.

What’s the best idea you’ve ever had? Regale us with every detail of the idea — the idea itself, where it came to you, and the problem it solved.

I will answer this prompt as a politician would . . . meaning I will answer it without actually answering it! I do not have one particular idea to share with you (I mean, there are so many! Ha!), but I thought I would discuss the spirit of this prompt. In fact, it is something I have discussed with others at some length. It seems that the ability of problem solving is becoming somewhat extinct! I do not know if it is the video game culture in which we live, or the instant gratification mentality or just plain old laziness. Maybe it’s several things all in one?

The ability to problem solve is an important quality for the human race to keep at its disposal. I know you show your age when you start lamenting the shortcomings of the younger folk, but it does seem, at an increasing rate, that many have no sense of problem solving skills. Now, it is probably true that certain people have had shortcomings in this area since the dawn of time; but, could it be it is increasing? I’m not sure.

I know when I was part of the younger crowd, (whatever age that is!) the older crowd was lamenting on my age group. I heard all the stories about how my generation was lazy and dumb and irresponsible. How we had it too easy. We did not know the value of work and money. Those who were doling out this sage wisdom told of their own hardships. They had to walk to school barefooted, in three-feet of snow, uphill both ways! They had to make do on a dollar’s allowance for an entire week! 

Mind you, some of these wisdom-givers were not much older than myself! So, much of what they were saying was bunk!

But, there was still, some truth in what was being said. No, not the walking to school in snow bit, but the fact that my generation did have it too easy for too long; at least, many of that generation did.

So, maybe I am now just playing my role as an old fogey! Maybe I am condemning the younger cats to take the heat off my own generation! Maybe I am lamenting their vices, because it reflects my own generation’s so clearly to me!

Then again, maybe the younger guys are really as bad as they seem! Maybe they are the worst generation ever to step foot on this planet! Maybe I and the legions of my generation are right after all!

Or, more than likely, the truth is somewhere in the middle!

Either way, problem solving is an important tool. It is something I have done naturally for as long as I can remember. In fact, one of my former employers would give its staff an annual evaluation. The evaluation consisted of several parts. One of the parts I always received high marks and accolades on was my problem solving skills. Now, I am not writing this post to brag (at least, not entirely!).

But, it has been an ability I have always sensed of myself and used. Many of the jobs I have had, including my academic studies, problem solving was an invaluable tool. And, like many tools, the more it is used the more honed it becomes.

I also think it is tied to some degree with imagination and creativity. It does seem in the video culture of our world, these are sadly lacking in many. I remember as a kid I had a vivid and active imagination. I was told my favorite words were, let’s pretend!

Problem solving is often times thinking outside the box, this takes imagination and creativity. It takes the ability of being able to look at a problem from different perspectives, different points of view. It requires the ability to think for oneself. It calls for the power of deduction and reasoning. Again, when our minds are inundated with video games and music and the rest, it has little time to think for itself. It becomes accustomed to being spoon-fed ideas and thoughts.

I have had a few conversations with people, where they will ask about a problem and I will ask them what they think the issue could be. They will respond something like this, I don’t know, just tell me what you think it is. In other words, I don’t want to have to think through it myself, I want you to think for me!

What’s the solution to all this? Well, that is above my pay scale! But, I think getting back to people reading books and poetry is a start. Reading causes us to use our imagination. It requires us to create the scenes that we are reading. It stokes and hones our imagination and creative juices. It causes our brains to think for themselves. Or, simply having kids play with toys, instead of watching TV or videos is helpful. Again, they are forced to develop and use their imagination. It is not being done for them by Disney or the like.

No, I am not against Disney or movies or cartoons. All I’m saying is we could do with less of that and more of old-fashioned imagination. If anything, it makes us appreciate movies more.

No doubt, all generations could learn from one another. We all have our shortcomings. We all are lazy from time to time. We all just want someone to give us the answer at times, it’s quicker and easier!

But problem solving, imagination and creativity these are key to our race. These are gifts God has given us to use and hone and improve. Is it easy? Not always. But, the more you do it, the better at it you become. So, dust off those old books on the bookshelf and plunge in and allow your imagination to create the scenes. Read a good poem and think about its meaning. Turn off the TV and do a crossword puzzle or a word find or the like, anything that exercises the mind.

It will not be the easiest thing, but it will be well worth it!

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Posted by on December 30, 2013 in Daily Prompt


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