Problem-solving requires objectivity, curiosity, and creativity.
Traffic is one of the biggest problems we face each day. When just getting from point A to point B is a headache, imagine how much less energy we have to focus on our own projects and priorities.
Fortunately for folks in the mid-Atlantic region, we've got an excellent problem-solver looking for ways to make travel easier for us.
Amy Morris, PE, PTOE, is the president of T3 Design, a transportation engineering firm based in Northern Virginia. (What are those crazy letters after her name, you ask? PE stands for professional engineer, which means she's met all the criteria in terms of book knowledge and professional experience to qualify for licensure, and PTOE stands for professional traffic operations engineer, which is the highest licensing available in traffic engineering. In other words, Amy knows her stuff.)
I invited Amy to talk about problem-solving because she is great at it, and I wanted to learn her secrets.
Amy says there's no magic involved. First and foremost, being a good problem-solver requires an ability to really define the problem. That's tougher than it sounds.
In many cases, we look at the symptoms of a problem as the problem itself. In some cases, relieving the symptoms will fix the issue, but often we find ourselves sucked into a game of whack-a-mole as we try to address symptom after symptom without ever addressing the underlying issue.
This is where the objectivity, curiosity, and creativity come in. Some folks are more naturally suited to enjoy the challenge of exploring a problem's parameters and seeking improvements, but all of us can get better at these skills. (In addition to her amazing problem-solving skills, Amy's also known for her honesty, so I'll take her word for it that I too can get better at wrestling with complicated issues.)
I hope you enjoy this wide-ranging discussion that touched on everything from paper airplanes to HR practices to Soduku puzzles to the negative effects of frustration to the joys of hanging out with a dog. Trust me, it all ties together!
What are your best strategies for defining and solving problems? How do you know when you've found the right answer?
Share what you do and how it helps you in the comments below.
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