Even though many senior citizens are no longer employed, there are still problems to be solved. Perhaps not as many challenges as we experienced while in the work force, but problems nonetheless. How Seniors Problem Solve
A CEREBRAL WARM-UP
Before we turn to specific problems that may be befuddling you, let’s take a general look at the process of problem-solving. It requires some critical thinking. And, such thinking, according to learning theorist Jerome Bruner, involves the ability to “go beyond what is given.” (In a similar vein, the top competence identified by the federal government for those aspiring to executive service is “external awareness.” And, GE’s former CEO, Jack Welch, notes, “When the rate of change outside the organization is greater than the rate of change in side the organization, then we are looking at the beginning of the end.”)
To get your cerebral juices flowing, warm-up your brain by making a prediction, noting a trend, based on the events of the present. Go beyond what you deal with on a daily basis in your personal life, and state an awareness of events that are external to your life. Then discuss with someone whose intellect you admire some possible problems that may be associated with these future events. Of course, the next step is to discuss possible solutions.
TIP #1: VARY YOUR APPROACH
Before we move from the macrococsmic to the microcosmic, heed this caution: It’s been said that if you view every problem as a nail, you will always hit it with a hammer. Vary your methods of solving problems. After all, the problems you face are varied enough to require different approaches. For example, can you think of three ways to solve this problem?
There are eight senior citizens waiting for lunch in the senior center. Each one shakes hands just once with each of the others. What is the total number of handshakes?
Keep in mind what H. L. Mencken said: “For every complex problem, there is one solution that is simple, neat, elegant…..and wrong!” You probably jumped to a quick answer that you got by simply multiplying eight (the number of people) by seven (the number of other people with whom you would shake hands. If you said “56,” you have the wrong answer. Try solving the problem by:
A. Get seven friends and start the handshaking process. Tally the handshakes. You won’t get 56 as the total.
B. Draw eight circles to represent the eight people. Then start drawing lines to show the handshakes. Again, you will not have 56 as the total number.
C. The third approach requires some logical thinking, whereas the first two depended more on an actual physical solution and then a visual one. If you take eight people and multiply them by the seven handshakes, it’s true that you will get 56. But…. you then have to divide that number in half, to get the correct answer of 28. Person 1 shakes with seven others. Person 2, though, when it’s his turn, will already have shake with Person 1. So, he only has six shakes to do, as he won’t be shaking hands with himself. Person 3, having already shaken with 1 and 2, will only have to shake five other times. And so on.
TIP #2: PERSEVERE, DON’T PERSEVERATE
Good problem-solvers persevere–they don’t perseverate. In other words, they don’t keep heading their head against the same wall. They look for another wall!
Here’s what we mean. The following combination of letters, representing a sentence from which one particular vowel has been removed, illustrates what we mean. Figure out what letter is missing, insert it in nine different places, and you’ll be able to figure out what the sentence is saying.
Most people will jump on the letter “e,” which is indeed the missing letter. But, they will start the sentence with “Very” and will continue to create a sentence that is not the correct one: “Very fine exemplar exceeds what we expect.” Can you figure out the answer?
TIP #3: TRY ON A DIFFFERENT HAT
Asked how he came upon the polio vaccine, Jonas Salk replied, “I learned to think like Mother Nature.” Looking at problems from different perspectives often affords insights we might not have had otherwise. State a problem you or a larger entity such as our government is facing and then consider that problem from the eyes of a politician, an environmentalist, a priest, a police officer, an entrepreneur, a student, a politician, a scientist, a musician, et cetera. Put your usual way of thinking aside, forget about your own person for a while, and try to come up with solutions that might occur to someone very different from youo.
LISTEN TO ALBERT
“No problem can be solved,” Einstein assured us, “from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Interpret his wises words in any way you wish. Basically, though, we have to bring something new to our consciousness of the problem if we want to come up with a solution that works.
By Dr. Marlene Caroselli
Dr. Marlene Caroselli is an author and former keynoter/corporate trainer whose clients include Lockheed Martin, Allied Signal, Department of the Interior, and Navy SEALS. She writes extensively about education, business, self-improvement, and careers and has adjuncted at UCLA and National University. Her first book,The Language of Leadership, was named a main selection by the Executive Book Club. Principled Persuasion, a more recent title, was designated a Director’s Choice by the Doubleday Book Club. Applying Mr. Albert: 365+ Einstein-Inspired Brain Boosts, her 62nd book, will be released by HRD Press in 2018.
How Seniors Problem Solve
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