10 Step Problem Solving

My son recently bought to my attention a problem solving methos called the “10 Step method to Problem solving”.

It went like this:

10 step problem solving model

1. Elect a leader

2. Identify the problem

3. Identify resources

4. Brainstorm ideas

5. Evaluate ideas

6. Pick an idea

7. Develop a plan

8. Implement the plan

9. Review the Plan (and if necessary return to step 4)

10. Celebrate Success

My immediate response to him was the old red rag – brainstorming (Step 4). As I shot back: “I have a problem with this step: “Brainstorm ideas”. Brainstorming as a method for creative generation has been empirically discredited since 1959”.

Nevertheless, I’m a sucker for looking up models, so googled “10 step problem solving model”.

This is really interesting! Look at the variation we get in “10 Step Models” – each one of which claims to be “proven”, to “guarantee results if applied consistently”, to be “patent pending”, or to “be based on the best empirical research”.

· There is no agreement on phasing.

· One of the models pushed the boundaries – Does having a Step 0 really mean it’s an 11 step model – or that the other models which start with “find the problem” are really only 9 steps?

· Being a disciple of Miller’s “Magical number seven, plus or minus a few”, I tend to think 10 step models are chosen more for their impressive suite of stages than for maping onto the basics of efficient human cognition in problem solving.

This one took the prize – I’m a sucker for models, but even more so visual ones!


We can have (an obtuse sort of) fun with this. But there is an underlying problem that is extremely serious, which must have costs in industry and human enterprise that are mind-numbingly huge. And it is simply this – that despite the fact that problem solving is so basic to human society that some say it actually is the root definition of what it means to be/have a culture (Edgar Schein), WE DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!


1 Response to “10 Step Problem Solving”

  1. 1 Dylan July 20, 2014 at 4:40 am

    Whilst I (your son) agree with the research on brainstorming, I still find this an incredibly useful tool for dealing with problems that arise in my line of work (outdoor guiding) particularly for situations that require much improvisation and trial and error with incredibly limited resources. I would however be interested in understanding how your work will impact on my profession at the level of field work.

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