Analyzing Solutions

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With many different solutions in hand, the problem solvers need to analyze those solutions to determine the effectiveness of each one. This module helps participants consider is the criteria or goals for solving the problem, as well as distinguishing between wants and needs. This module also introduces the cost/benefit analysis as a method of analyzing solutions.

Developing Criteria

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Return to the information generated when defining the problem. Consider who, what, when, where, and how that the potential solution should meet to be an effective solution to the problem. 

When developing criteria that possible solutions to the problem should meet, also consider the following:

  • Ask questions such as “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” or “Wouldn’t it be terrible if…” to isolate the necessary outcome for the problem resolution.
  • Think about what you want the solution to do or not do.
  • Think about what values should be considered.

Use the answers to these questions as the starting point for your goals or problem-solving criteria.

Additionally, the criteria for an effective solution to the problem should consider the following:

  • Timing – Is the problem urgent? What are the consequences for delaying action?
  • Trend – What direction is the problem heading? Is the problem getting worse? Or does the problem have a low degree of concern when considering the future of the circumstances?
  • Impact – Is the problem serious? 

It is important to think about what the circumstances will look like after a successful solution has been implemented. Use your imagination to explore the possibilities for identifying goals or criteria related to the problem. 

Analyzing Wants and Needs

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The creative problem solving process is a fluid process, with some steps overlapping each other. Sometimes as the process provides additional information, problem solvers need to go back and refine the problem statement or gather additional information in order to effectively solve the problem.

Wants and needs seem like a fundamental aspect of defining the problem. However, in order to analyze the potential solutions, the wants and needs for the desired state after the problem is solved must be very clear.

Needs are items the potential solution absolutely must meet. If the potential solution does not meet a need requirement, you can disregard it from further analyzing.

Wants are nice to have items. You can provide a weight to each item to indicate its importance. For each potential solution, you can provide a rating for how well the solution addresses the selected want. Multiply the rating by the weight of the want to score the potential solution.

With scores for each item, it is an easy matter to rank the potential solutions in order of preference.

Using Cost/Benefit Analysis

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Cost – benefit analysis is a method of assigning a monetary value to the potential benefits of a solution and weighing those against the costs of implementing that solution.

It is important to include ALL of the benefits and costs. This can be tricky, especially with intangible benefits (or costs). Some benefits or costs may be obvious, but others may take a little digging to uncover. For example, imagine you want to replace three employees with a machine that makes stamps. A hidden benefit is that you may be able to use large feed stock instead of individual sheets, saving materials costs. In the same example, you would not only consider the salaries of the employees, but the total cost for those employees, including benefits and overhead.

The value assigned to the costs and benefits must be the same unit, which is why monetary value is suggested. The valuations assigned should represent what the involved parties would actually spend on the benefit or cost. For example, if people are always willing to save five minutes and spend an extra 50 cents on parking closer, they are demonstrating that time is worth more than 10 cents per minute. The considerations should also include the time value of money, or the value of money spent or earned now versus money spent or earned at some future point.

Case Study

Joseph, Kyle and Victor were spending the afternoon in the conference room, discussing the viability of their marketing solution for a new product. They were struggling along until Kyle suggests they use the Cost/Benefit Analysis to assess whether they’re approaching the market in the correct way. Victor provided them with a few points which discuss the financial cost of the new strategy whilst Joseph pointed out the benefits. Together they analyzed the wants and needs of the clientele and analyze whether the product will fit the market, and how much it will cost them to implement the marketing strategy. In the end Kyle was happy that he suggested the technique and that the group banded together to analyze the marketing solution and figure out whether it was the best one available to them.