Using Pragmatism for Problem Solving

When approaching a new problem that comes up in any field, there are many ways to go about solving it. Businesses, organizations, entities and even individuals will all have their own process by which they reach a solution to the problem, and because of this widespread disconnect, these separate entities rarely go well together. An employee’s method of solving a problem can be vastly different from what the business that employs them expects them to do. In the search for a universal methodology to problem solving, thinkers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries developed Pragmatism and Pragmatic Problem Solving.

This is, essentially, the application of logic and reason to solve a present situation instead of using them to explore a larger idea or concept. It places focus exclusively onto the problem itself and all effort into forming a solution to the problem through inductive reasoning and knowledgeable logic.

The Simple Science of Thought

Being pragmatic often means being practical or having a readily available solution that satisfies the most immediate conditions. Pragmatic problem solving, therefore, searches for the most comprehensive solution that is within obtainable reach. It prioritizes the pragmatist way of thinking, that because everything is uncertain and changing there will never be an absolute truth or single best way. But there are Good ways that deserve focus, and the most immediate good solution will win out.

The problem solving method is broken into five steps:

Identify the problem.

Define an outcome.

Explore possible strategies.

Anticipate Outcomes of actions.

Look back and learn from it.

This is a somewhat universal approach to problem solving that reaches across all manner of boundaries. Adding pragmatism to it will remove any unnecessary thinking or words that could miscommunicate an objective intention towards reaching a stable solution to the problem at present.

Rationality Over Relativity

Pragmatism emphasizes the approach toward a demonstrable and obtainable truth, not an idealistic or “absolute” one. A solution should only work toward solving the problem that has been identified towards the defined outcome. Strategies that are explored and outcomes anticipated must all work within that single, rational limitation in order to be pragmatic. Any work done towards a higher solution, or towards a bigger problem than what is being solved, fails to

be pragmatic.

It’s one thing to want to, for example, feed a starving village. There are logistics and economics to factor in, costs of resources and labor and distribution to tally and a net-zero profitability where the feeding of the village can be sustained somewhat with goodwill or some kind of related income. That is a problem, defined and explored, towards a single solution that can be reflected on once it’s been reached. But if the problem extends beyond one village and encompasses the greater disparity of starvation globally, pragmatism would reject that scope of an issue as there would be no practical, rational and logical way to solve it.

Pragmatic problem solving is about small steps that are realizable, relatable and most importantly rational.

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