Nature of the problem
To solve the problem the first thing you need to do is classify the problem. Problems per se can appear in dual form as either being acute or chronic in nature. An acute problem can be defined as one that requires immediate attention such as your car having a breakdown and requiring repair. Whereas a problem can be defined as chronic in that it has only a few or sometimes no symptoms in the initial stages but intensifies in nature if no action is taken to rectify it. An instance of this is when you are driving your car and you hear a rattling noise coming from the engine compartment and you are not quite sure why.
Once you have identified a problem to be either acute or chronic the next step is to use critical thinking to define and analyse the problem. To define the problem, there are four critical thinking tools that you can use.
The first tool is to determine the origins of the problem by getting to its root cause by asking for further information, challenging assumptions, looking for reasons and evidence about the problem and attempting to look at the problem from different perspective.
The second tool is to define clearly the present state that you are in and the desired state you want to be. When using this tool, make it a point to write a statement of the problem as it presently appears. Then you should write another statement of what the desired state you want to be in. This desired state should include all the concrete details and ideal outcome of the problem.
The third tool is to state and restate the problem so that you have a better understanding of the true nature of the problem. To do this collate as much data as you have regarding the problem even if it appears vague. Then use some trigger mechanism to assist you to identify the true nature of the problem. Example of some triggers includes drawing the picture of the problem or writing the problem as an equation [if this is possible]; reframing the problem in different perspectives and emphasising a different aspect of the problem.
The last tool is to write a problem statement that gives a concise and accurate view of the problem with specific details about the problem, including the: who, what, where, when and how. The statement should also address the scope of the problem to identify the boundaries of what you can reasonably solve and the ideal solution.
Once you have done this and have a clear perspective of the problem you can switch your mental mode to creative thinking that allows you to generating ideas and solutions to solve the problem.
Once you have defined, analysed and collated all the data as to the nature of the problem you can use creative thinking to generate viable solutions and ideas to overcome the problem. There are many creative thinking tools that you can use to solve problem and one time tested tool is brainstorming. In order to apply brainstorming successfully you have to apply to two steps.
The first step is to try to identify the potential mental blocks that stifles your ability to think creatively. Some examples of mental blocks includes: emotions such as fear of taking risk and failure; distractions from too much, too little or irrelevant information; assumptions of perceived boundaries; and lack of knowledge and/or experience that prevents you from looking beyond the norm.
Once you have identified the mental blocks the next step to do is to try to remove them by adjusting your mental attitude, taking calculated risk, allowing a free flow of imagination, feelings and being less reliant on logic alone to solve the problem.
When the mental blocks are lifted your mind will engage in creative thinking via brainstorming. The basic brainstorming method is based on free-association of ideas with the only rule being not to condemn and reject any idea put forth to solve the problem no matter how ludicrous and outlandish it may sound or look. There is no hold bars as to how many ideas are needed as long as the brainstorming is done with the clear objective of literally exhausting the brain with all the possible ways to overcome the problem. By doing this the chances of you finding the ideal solution to solve the problem may just appear. As Winston Churchill mentioned: "No idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered with a searching but at the same time steady eye."