Mental Problem Solving

Here are three tips for executing step one like an expert. They just can’t get to it because their knowledge is organized in ways that make it difficult to see the connection between the current problem and what they already know.

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In each case, what you want and what you have are decidedly different.

Problem solving is nothing more and nothing less searching for means to reduce the differences between your goal state and your current state.

How do you make enough money to save for retirement, how do you avoid war, or how do you get that girl or guy to go out with you?

These are all ill-defined problems because they don’t have clear goal states (how much is “enough” for retirement? Regardless of the domain, inexperienced problem-solvers tend to jump right to the solution stage of problem solving, with typically disastrous consequences.

As a result, the experienced salesperson spends less time “working” the customer or showing them things in which they have no interest. Experts are more likely to ask the right questions because their domain-specific knowledge is organized more efficiently.

Continuing with the previous example, an expert salesperson’s schema is organized around understanding customer wants and needs.

This slows down the problem-solving process, and makes it less likely that a viable solution will be reached—or remembered! Often, novices have sufficient knowledge to solve the problems before them, but it is not organized in ways that allow easy access.

For three more tips on how to be a better problem solver, see this article Dr. Expert knowledge bases tend to be organized around key problem features and are linked to optimal solution strategies.

As a result, he or she will spend more time asking specific questions about those needs and wants, and then tailoring subsequent choices to match the answers given.

Sometimes the customer isn’t aware that there are product features that may be attractive to them. The article summarizes dozens of students done over the course of decades on experts and novices in a variety of domains, including physics, mathematics, chess, music, sales, and many more.


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