Problem solving is more art than science even if it involves the most complicated technical skill. First of all, problem solving requires a positive attitude that things can be fixed. Else, no action will be taken. When difficulties arise in tackling a problem, patience and perseverance must come into play to preempt the urge to quit prematurely. For a big project involving many people, it requires marshalling all the available resources, and building mutual supports in order to bear fruits.
Problems exist everywhere, big or small, present or potential, urgent or otherwise. It all depends on how we perceive and act on them. The following illustrates:
First, we may not be conscious that a problem exists. When it finally emerges, we tend to doubt because it inconveniences our way of life. Wishing the problem to go away is usually the first reaction. In one extreme, we may ignore the problem altogether and choose to live in complete denial. Examples are unhealthy habits such as drinking, smoking and gambling. At the global level, we have a complex problem such as climate change. There are scientific experts on both sides debating, leaving the public rather confused. In the end, it all depends on which side we want to believe whereby we conveniently quote evidence from one side and mockingly refute that of the other side.
Second, our vested interest determines how we view a problem. If you work for an oil company, do you see the problems of fossil fuels? Do you favor replacing the gasoline engine with the electric motor? If you work for the government, how do you react to the criticism that government is inefficient or corrupt? In these cases, we tend to ignore the problem or trivialize it. We may even find an excuse that somebody else creates the problem and it’s not our responsibility to solve it.
Third, when we don’t have a clue regarding a complex problem, external influences will fill the vacuum, coming from sources like advertising, propaganda, media persuasion, and deliberate misinformation pushed by politicians. All these are designed to brainwash a person, regardless of sound reasoning. For instance, cutting taxes for the rich can be framed as solving the unemployment problem. It’s a scheme to enrich the rich to be sold as benefiting ordinary people. In addition, government policy to regulate shadowy business practices can be framed as detrimental to job growth. Do you buy the illogic of benefitting the rich first, hoping that this will trickle down? How about benefiting the masses first? Their increased consumption will immediately benefit the rich whose companies sell to the consumer masses.
Fourth, a problem does not necessarily mean a bad thing. It can be created by an aspiration or a vision. If you want to be a great scientist or artist, or to build a new business, you must work hard to overcome all the difficulties along the way. In so doing, your aspiration, challenges, and problems will merge as one. In the 1960’s, President Kennedy’s vision of putting a man on the moon met with plenty of doubts and criticisms even from some scientific circles. But he persisted and articulated his vision to gain enough public support to bring the space program to fruition.
In conclusion, solving a problem will inevitably create others. Is it worth the effort? The answer is definitely yes. The point is not to create a perfect world for there is no such thing. The goal is to build a better life, and earn the experience to become wiser along the way. In the end, the good things that we have done will outweigh the bad. If you don’t do anything, you will not create new problems; but the old ones will not go away as wished, and may even get much worse. So it all boils down to just one thing: your attitude. Do you have the right attitude to move forward and get wiser?