PROBLEM SOLVING THROUGH EXPLOITATION AND EXPLORATION
By NICHOLAS C. HILL(FIC FInstLM)
Problem solving is generally credited for continuous innovation. As we refuse to settle with observed mediocrities, or the status quo, we consequently exert the required efforts to transcend our current realities, en route, to a more enhanced and advanced being and doing.
It is through problem solving that we human beings were able to combat diseases that could have, otherwise, claimed the lives of many, counter international disputes that could have put human existence in absolute jeopardy, and deal with each crisis we have faced in the course of our collective evolution and history.
Indeed, problem solving has allowed us to triumph amidst adversities, and at times, thrive amidst groundbreaking opportunities.
On our management training courses, you will explore two general approaches for problem solving, exploitation and exploration.
Exploitation is employing current knowledge, concepts, or paradigms for achieving a workable solution for a specific problem.
Exploration, on the other hand, is problem solving by employing certain approaches or sets of information, which are considered beyond the realm of the familiar.
Exploitation exhausts what is known, whereas exploration maximises the possibilities, in order to optimise problem solving. Famous people, who have perfected these strategies include Thomas Edison through exploitation, and Albert Einstein through exploration.
Thomas Edison, in his quest to invent the electric light bulb, adapted what he knew about tungsten wire and energy conduction, to succeed in his invention. Meanwhile, Albert Einstein refuted long held principles in physics, and science in general, to come up with his innovative theses, like the Theory of Relativity.
Although differing in their chosen strategies in problem solving, with Edison more of an adaptor and Einstein an innovator, these two intellectual pioneers are equally admirable in terms of satiating their individual curiosities.
Based on these two problem-solving styles, here are two sub-categories worth taking note of:
This problem solving approach is triggered by the onset of an unambiguous problem, whose solution is yet to be discovered or invented. For instance, poor customer satisfaction, as betrayed by declining sales, is obvious enough as an organisational concern or issue.
In this situation, sales reports can easily be exploited to support the fact that there is a concern that needs to be addressed. Exploration, meanwhile, comes in the course of determining potential solutions, or strategies to alleviate the observed sales decline.
This is the opposite of the aforementioned problem solving approach. Here, the solution is already present, but the problem remains vague or unidentified.
For instance, organisations that are privileged with a wide array of technological resources, and good management skills, are intent to maximise each of these available tools, would have to derive new needs or functions for them. The course of the problem solving process is then traced from exploration of possible needs to exploitation of current solutions.
Problem solving all boils down to practicality. Whether it follows the mode of exploitation or exploration, the most crucial consideration should be that the outcome is one that serves a specific and clear purpose.
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Nicholas C. Hill is Managing Director and Principal Trainer for The Hill Consultancy Ltd, London, specialising in UK-wide public training courses in leadership and management development. Become a highly productive manager and influential leader today. Claim £100 off the list price on any two-day course. Promotional code: PASSION0213. Visit the website or call now to find out more or request a FREE consultation. T: 020 7993 9955 W: www.nicholashill.com