Article On Problem Solving

That is, individuals and organizations must have a problem-solving process as well as specific techniques congruent with individual styles if they are to capitalize on these areas of current research.Mc Caulley (1987) attempted to do this by first focusing on individual differences in personality and then by presenting four steps for problem solving based on Jung's (1971) four mental processes (sensing, intuition, thinking, and feeling).Another strategy would be to consider first the problem-solving process and then to integrate individual preferences or patterns within this process.This second strategy is the perspective of this paper.Recent research has identified a prescriptive model of problem solving, although there is less agreement as to appropriate techniques.Separate research on personality and cognitive styles has identified important individual differences in how people approach and solve problems and make decisions.The purpose of this paper is to relate a model of the problem-solving process to a theory of personality type and temperaments in order to facilitate problem solving by focusing on important individual differences.Specific techniques that can be used in the problem-solving/decision-making process to take advantage of these differences are also identified.

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The recent transition to the information age has focused attention on the processes of problem solving and decision making and their improvement (e.g., Nickerson, Perkins, & Smith, 1985; Stice, 1987; Whimbey & Lochhead, 1982).Consideration of Individual Differences Although there are a variety of ways to consider individual differences relative to problem solving and decision making, this paper will focus on personality type and temperament as measured by the MBTI.Personality Type and Problem Solving Researchers have investigated the relationship of Jung's theory of individuals' preferences and their approach to problem solving and decision making (e.g., Lawrence, 1982, 1984; Mc Caulley, 1987; Myers & Mc Caulley, 1985). When solving problems, individuals preferring introversion will want to take time to think and clarify their ideas before they begin talking, while those preferring extraversion will want to talk through their ideas in order to clarify them.The steps in both problem solving and decision making are quite similar.In fact, the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.They will exhibit a tendency to develop new, original solutions rather than to use what has worked previously.Individuals with a thinking preference will tend to use logic and analysis during problem solving.They will also tend to select standard solutions that have worked in the past.Persons with intuition preferences, on the other hand, will more likely attend to the meaningfulness of the facts, the relationships among the facts, and the possibilities of future events that can be imagined from these facts.Most models of problem solving and decision making include at least four phases (e.g., Bransford & Stein, 1984; Dewey, 1933; Polya, 1971): 1) an Input phase in which a problem is perceived and an attempt is made to understand the situation or problem; 2) a Processing phase in which alternatives are generated and evaluated and a solution is selected; 3) an Output phase which includes planning for and implementing the solution; and 4) a Review phase in which the solution is evaluated and modifications are made, if necessary.Most researchers describe the problem-solving/decision-making process as beginning with the perception of a gap and ending with the implementation and evaluation of a solution to fill that gap.

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