Management – Defining the Problem

Whenever I need a quote for an article or a speech, I start by checking Albert Einstein. My other favorite-but for totally different reasons-is Yogi Berra. Einstein is quoted as saying that if he had only one hour to save the world, he would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only 5 minutes finding the solution.

Oftentimes, we think we know what the problem is: We don’t have enough money or resources; we don’t have the time. But in point of fact, those aren’t the problems-they are the result of the problems.

How to get to the heart of the matter?

There is much written in both management and scientific circles about defining problems. They range from the practical (Rephrase the problem) to the whimsical (“Problem-solve your problem statement”). Most, however, warn against avoiding solutions until the problem has been defined.

Iris Lloyd who was (and may still be) a management analyst in the Management and Organizational Division of the National Bureau of Standards, suggested in a 1978 article in the Public Administration Review, that perhaps defining the problem was actually the wrong way to approach complex management problems.

She suggests that oftentimes “working on them incrementally as open-ended problems” can solve problems more effectively. These solutions, she says may not be elegant, but they are “realistic responses to real life situations.”

Lloyd agrees with most of today’s management gurus (and me) that too often we mistake the symptom for the problem. But for her, a larger issue is that too often we are too quick to set boundaries around what we think the problem may be. This, she says, limits us and does allow us to see the problem as part of a larger situation and to consider total effects. Or, as my husband always reminds me, “Beware of unintended consequences” that happen largely because of failure to consider the bigger picture.

Define the problem? Go with the flow? I think I’ll let Yogi have the last word. “If you ask me anything I don’t know, I’m not going to answer.”

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Protect Yunnan Yuanyang Terrace by Digital Management

Most foreign learners know the beauty of Yuanyang Terrace when they come to learn Chinese in China, especially those in Yunnan. However, during the process of enjoying the beauty of Yuanyang Terrace, many people do not realize that the protection of the terrace has encountered great difficulty. It must be a great pity if this beautiful scenery disappears.

The reason of the difficult protection is simple. In traditional farming, great labor intensity is needed but has a low income. Therefore, most young people are not willing to do farming work at home and go out for earning money. As a result, some parts of the terrace go out of cultivation. Some people who study in China think the beauty of Yuanyang Terrace will no longer exist if there is no protection.

According to the Propaganda Department of Honghe Prefecture, the only approach to solve this problem is to improve the value of the agricultural products planted on the terrace. Some people who study Chinese in Yunnan may be told that only when the farmers think it can gain much income can they insist in farming so that to protect it.

Under this condition, Honghe Prefecture cooperates with the scientific and technical corporation to start the protecting program by the way of digital management. Some students may have heard about it during the process when they learn Mandarin in Kunming. In this system, the farmers cooperate with each other to do farming and the managers manage the terrace through the Internet.

By combining the reality with the virtual world, people can give orders of growing seedlings, transplanting, fertilizing, farming and weeding according to the practical conditions. Then, the farmers will do the farming work accordingly. Students who study in Mandarin learning courses can see that the application of the Internet technology will greatly increase the value of Yuanyang Terrace and solve the problem of protecting it.

At present, the price for renting the terrace to manage on the Internet is not confirmed. After great effort, this system has been developed and will be put into use. Nowadays, the cooperation is dealing with some coordinating work with the farmers. When you go to school to learn Mandarin, you may know that this kind of method will relieve the pressure of the renters, and at the same time, the farmers can get profits.

In brief, the beauty of Yuanyang Terrace needs to be protected urgently. The application of the Internet technology is helpful to protect the terrace and bring benefits to the local farmers.

Kayla Liu is the academic advisor at Keats School and has been teaching Mandarin Chinese and Chinese culture for 5 years. Keats Chinese Language School offers Chinese learning programs and courses to learn and study Mandarin Chinese language in China. If you want to study in China, Keats School is for you.

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TRIZ – A Problem Solving Tool

TRIZ is a problem solving, strategy development, new research activities and product value maximizing tool for engineers, scientists, researchers and managers specially product development professionals. TRIZ is a methodology, tool set, knowledge base, and model-based technology for generating innovative ideas and solutions for problem solving.

TRIZ is a Russian acronym for “Teoriya Resheniya Izobretatelskikh Zadatch” (Теория решения изобретательских задач), a Theory of solving inventive problems or Theory of inventive problem solving (TIPS), developed by Genrich Altshuller and his colleagues since 1946.

Altshuller while working at the “Inventions Inspection” department of the Caspian flotilla in Baku, began developing TRIZ methodology. He reviewed about 40,000 patents to find out in what way the innovation had taken place, to understand the technical relationship between problems and innovative solution for different industry sectors. He eventually developed 40 principles of invention, several laws of technical systems evolution, the concepts of technical and physical contradictions that creative inventions resolve, the concept of Ideality of a system and numerous other theoretical and practical approaches. This extensive work represents a unique contribution to the development of creativity and inventive problem-solving.

Foundational knowledge which TRIZ is based on is invention documents. TRIZ was created as an abstraction of the “world’s best solutions”, as appearing in the development of inventions. TRIZ is based on logic and data, not intuition, thus accelerates the person’s ability to solve the problems creatively. TRIZ is spreading into corporate use across several parallel paths – it is increasingly common in Six Sigma processes, in project management and risk management systems, and in organizational innovation initiatives.

TRIZ, principles shows that the solutions to specific problems in a technology domain are spread over the different technical unrelated domains. If these principles could be identified and codified, this could make the process of innovation and creativity more predictable. Someone has better defined it as:

Somebody someplace has already solved this problem (or one very similar to it.)
Creativity is now finding that solution and adapting it to this particular problem.

There are three primary findings of technological research by TRIZ are as follows:
Problems and solutions are repeated across industries and sciences. The classification of the contradictions in each problem predicts the creative solutions to that problem.

Patterns of technical evolution are repeated across industries and sciences.

Creative innovations use scientific effects outside the field where they were developed.

The key learning for an innovator is to find out those repeating patterns of problems-solutions, patterns of technical evolution and methods of using scientific effects. Creativity involves looking at a problem from many different angles.

Thus, TRIZ is a process that empowers and helps engineers, scientists and managers to find solutions to problems in a way that is faster, smarter and more cost effective than traditional Western methods. By understanding – through TRIZ – the essential functionality of a problem solution many traditional patents can be designed around.

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