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By ITS Education Asia

[Problem Solving Guide-Home]

Perceptual blocks

These are relatively easy to overcome, simply by using the step-by-step approach, e.g.:

  • having systems to warn of the occurrence of problems
  • defining and analysing problems adequately
  • collecting all the relevant information
  • questioning whether you have used inaccurate information or made assumptions about what is and isn't relevant
  • asking for other people's points of view
  • using models to. represent the relationships between different aspects of the problem.

Emotional blocks


These can be difficult to overcome because they require a change in attitude, which may take some time to learn. The following methods help to achieve this change:

  • accept that if you are looking for new, better ways of doing something, some mistakes are almost inevitable
  • remember that many great thinkers have been , ridiculed for what turned out to be great inventions eg the heavier-than-air flying machine
  • if you still' fear looking foolish, try to develop your ideas into a practical form before you show them to anyone, or develop a logical argument to prove that they will work
  • following a strictly methodical approach will automatically curb impatience
  • to avoid anxiety tackle problems in small, easily manageable steps; if necessary, put the problem aside and come back to it later
  • if you don't want to take risks, identify the worst possible consequences, and how likely they are to occur, and then try to find ways of preventing them

Intellectual blocks

interllectual blocks

To overcome the intellectual blocks described in this chapter you need to:

  • learn to be methodical
  • practice using different types of 'language' to tackle problems
  • practice using the various analytical and creative techniques.

Expressive blocks

Overcoming these blocks involves learning to

  • identify which 'language' is most likely to help you solve a particular problem
  • use languages in different ways, eg diagrams to represent problems normally described verbally
  • ensure that when you explain ideas you have all the relevant information, it is accurate, and that you convey it all clearly
  • develop a style of working with others which is not too forceful (so that people are more willing to listen to you) and not too passive (so that you learn how to influence people); showing enthusiasm for your ideas can help by infecting others with enthusiasm.

Environmental blocks

Overcoming these blocks can be done by using some of these methods:

  • if there is a climate of ,criticism, develop the strengths of your ideas and ways to overcome their weaknesses before you propose the being careful how you describe it to others " also help to avoid premature criticism
  • conduct your problem solving in an environment which suits you, ie comfortable and free of distractions likely to hinder you; this may make setting aside some time when you can move away from your normal working environment
  • if you feel people may not provide the help need, try to identify the benefits to then solving the problem before you ask for their help
  • if pressure of work hinders you, set aside s time when you are free from other wor tackle the problem
  • if your work is monotonous, introduce ~ variety by looking for different ways of , the job; alternatively, look for varied tasks that could be delegated to you.            '

Cultural blocks

The following methods can be used to help overcome various cultural blocks:

  • critically question existing ideas and me looking for areas for improvement
  • identify constraints and question their validity
  • if you dislike change, do some 'wishful thinking’ to see what benefits change would bring; ask yourself what would be the consequences of taking a new approach.
  • if you think fantasy and humour have no place in problem solving, practice using your day dreams to develop your ideas; next time someone cracks a joke about a situation, think about what new perspectives it creates
  • if you think intuition is unreliable, think back over recent problems you have solved; did that first 'hunch' turn out to be dose to your final solution?
  • if you are in a very competitive environment, be careful how you explain your ideas to people competing with you; emphasise the likely benefits to them
  • if there is a strong climate of cooperation, ask members of your group for their ideas and comments; share the problem with them.

If you fail to solve a problem effectively, look back over your thoughts and actions to see if a block hindered you. If it did, next time you can prepare to avoid it. By being constantly aware of the blocks that can occur and using the techniques described above to overcome them when they hinder your problem solving, you will find that gradually fewer and fewer blocks occur.


  • There is a range of factors known as blocks which can prevent you finding the most effective solutions to our problems.
  • You can recognise blocks by their specific effects on your thinking and problem solving.
  • When you recognise that a block exists you can overcome it by using the appropriate technique.


Read the next article  A good climate for problem solving

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