Ineffective Solution Strategies – without a simplified problem, a solution is unlikely


Quick summary – In this post I will be talking about deconstructing (specifying and simplifying) a problem to more manageable variables. Often times the problem is either to big to be adequately addressed by one simple solution (ex. – to solve pollution lets outlaw gasoline) or the proposed solution neglects to address other related problems (often the proposed solution is to remove someone else’s solution without offering a replacement solution for the more fundamental problem). Successful solution acquisition strategies are something that I have worked very hard on (I have developed a solution engine) – I will start by simply explaining how to identify what I will call the “foundational problem” – or the problem that is at the source of the issue.

Often times in a disagreement we can not even start to look for a solution as we have not truly agreed upon what the problem is – I see this all the time in couples – they believe that they are having a disagreement about the same thing only realize later that they were discussing one solution for different problems.

–                          Example – a couple is in an argument concerning the topic of visiting their families for the holidays. One partner believes the problem to be that her partner does not want to go to her family’s house at all… meanwhile the other partner was planning on visiting both families, but believes the problem surrounds which family they will visit first. There are two problems = 1, the order of the visits – 2, if they will go at all. – They are unlikely to find a solution until they both start talking about the same concern.

Politics has become a mess in this country because politicians are not deconstructing problems. Many Politicians are spending countless amount of our time arguing over problems that have not been properly deconstructed or simplified… the result is a national focus on polarized issues instead of a focus on resolving more fundamental problems (that we mostly all agree on); Ironically often times fixing the more fundamental problem will either directly or indirectly work to resolve the surface level problem.

–                          Example – it seems unlikely that this country (or any large group of people) will come to an agreement concerning war. What is a variable that would reduce the occurrences of war? War often has something to do with resources. How about ‘lack of self-sufficiency” being labeled the problem instead? What about ‘lack of energy independence’? How many people in this country would disagree with a plan which promoted energy independence?

Problem Questions – finding the broad, surface level or unspecific problem (sample questions)

  • What is the obstacle that you will have had to overcome when your desired solution is present?


  • What is the difficulty that you will fix when the solution is in existence?


  • If the problem was observable and measureable what would we observe and what would we measure?


Deconstruct the Problem – making the problem as specific and ‘foundational’ as possible.

  • In order to create solutions that everyone can agree upon you must deconstruct a problem to its most simple parts.
  • If your problem was caused by anther problem than you have not deconstructed enough.
  • If what you are labeling as the ‘problem’ is currently a solution in place for another problem… then you have not deconstructed enough.
  • Deconstruction allows you to understand the issue in its entirety. Often when people attempt to ‘fix’ a surface level problem without looking at all the components of the problem… they can end up making the situation worse.
    •  Example – if someone had food poisoning and you label the problem as “throwing up” your solution might be to give that person something that reduces the symptoms of nausea. With this solution the sick person does not throw up so your solution seems successful…but… the individual needed to throw up to remove the food poisoning from their body and this ‘solution’ will make the individual even sicker. In this example if the problem had been deconstructed to “poisonous food in the stomach” instead of “nausea” then a better solution could have been implemented.


Deconstruction questions

  • What are the variables that impact the problem… what are the components of the problem?


  • What caused the problem to exist in the first place? Was there a good intention at the source of the problem… what was the intention?


  • Would anybody suggest that the ‘problem’ which you are trying to fix is actually a solution to a more fundamental problem? If so, what is the ‘problem’ attempting to resolve? If some people view the ‘problem’ as a solution what are they proposing that it is fixing?


The Current political solution strategy – Our current strategy is exactly the opposite of what I am proposing… If you would like to increase the harmony in your own relationships it would be helpful if you avoided the following strategy. The ineffective strategy is to –

  • Create a broad and often exaggerated problem
  • Identify one solution to address that one broad and complicated problem
  • Attack the other party’s solutions without the two parties ever specifying an agreed up on and deconstructed problem.
  • They spend the majority of their attention on refuting solutions instead of on creating solutions.
  • The primary objective is not to find a solution but rather to discredit the adversary.
  • Use emotionally charged subjects with existential, religious, and cultural themes to distract people from the fact that the solution strategy itself is fundamentally flawed.
  • Encourage dichotomous or polarized views of subjects that can in truth be deconstructed to a point of agreement. As you will find in my blog about dialectics I think that it is enormously detrimental to encourage dichotomous (black and white) thinking in adults (especially if you desire a functional democracy).


I will now list some deconstructed problems. You should answer the following two questions –


1.) Can the deconstructed problem be deconstructed further?


2.) Do you believe that it would be easier to find an agreed upon solution to the deconstructed problem?


1.) Your driving stinks – I don’t like it when you accelerate before turns

2.) The basketball team is awful – the team has a poor turnover rating

3.) Health Care – people are sick and injured

4.) I have nothing to wear – it is snowing and my shoes are not waterproof

5.) Lack of intimacy in a relationship – no time without the kids present

6.) War – lack of energy self-sufficiency

7.) Global warming – pollution interrupting the view of the mountains

8.) “You never listen to me” – when I am expressing emotions you try and look for solutions instead of simply comforting me.

9.) I don’t like that restaurant – that restaurant does not have the ability to deal with my allergies

10.) Education – too many kids in the classroom


The point is that we need to make sure that we are talking about the same subject in order to move forward… deconstructing a problem not only ensures that we are both trying to fix the same thing, it also makes it more likely that we will agree on both the problem and the related solution.

“If deconstructing problems can increase our ability to be united and to work together around more simple solutions then we will become more empathetic and open-minded to all those people with whom we share this wonderful country.” – Will

“Working together is a solution itself.” – Will

There is a reason that we as humans tend to focus more on our disagreements than on our agreements… I will cover this topic in a future blog post.



William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

William Hambleton Bishop

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

2 thoughts on “Ineffective Solution Strategies – without a simplified problem, a solution is unlikely

Leave a Reply