Problem Solving Toolkit

It also helps to include people from varied backgrounds.

Through “recombination,” the problem solvers design a solution.

They implement on-site childcare borrowing from the exercise club model: Parents can drop off their children without an appointment.

One could design a patient survey, another examines the efficacy of the appointment reminder notice, another tries to determine the causes of patient drop-off, and another researches what’s worked well for other hospital settings. Some are relatively easy fixes: The receptionist has been notifying patients 72 hours before the appointment, but it turns out a 24-hour notification leads to better turnout.

Others are more challenging: The hospital serves low-income people who lack consistent childcare, transportation, and guaranteed time off work.

“The elements can be broken down and then combined and recombined in new ways.” According to Bendor, the best problem solvers mix and match the cognitive shortcuts to reach their solution.

The idea is growing in cognitive psychology that experts in information-intensive domains, like teaching, chess, or medicine, become skilled because they garner enormous mental libraries of heuristics and patterns, he says.And, they introduce an automated notification system that lets patients decide when and how they would like to be reminded of their appointments.Lindblom’s crucial move in his 1959 essay “The Science of Muddling Through” and partner papers was to challenge the conventional prescription to problem solving.When people don’t show up, it wastes hospital resources and possibly jeopardizes their health.The makeup of the team, which is setting out to solve the problem, is important.He introduced the idea of disjointed incrementalism, a package of heuristics that could be used to make small, incremental changes along the way.Disjointed incrementalism rang true for several generations of scholars and problem solvers.When faced with a difficult decision, the problem solver, Bendor says, is better off turning to “a toolkit of heuristics that can be deployed separately and combined in various ways.” Bendor’s research shows we actually have more options when it comes to solving hard problems than “Muddling Through” suggested.“There aren’t just two fixed methods of decision making like Lindblom thought,” Bendor says, referring to disjointed incrementalism and the synoptic method.Indeed, when faced with really complex decisions, organizational behavior theorist Charles Lindblom argued the problem solver was actually better off “muddling through.” How do you solve a complex problem using a toolbox of heuristics as Stanford GSB professor Jonathan Bendor suggests?Bendor considers the hypothetical dilemma of patients missing their medical appointments.


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