Rational Versus Organic Approach to Problem Solving

Team problem solving session

In business, you will face problems which in turn will require you to take a step back and think logically for a solution. However, this is not always the case, some problems are best solved organically.

When you have an issue, the first thing you want to do is identify the problem. So, what is a problem? A problem is defined as an undesirable situation that interferes with your ability to achieve an objective.

When you are faced with a problem there are two ways to fix it. The first is by using a logical approach and the second is using an organic approach.

In this article we explain the rational versus organic approach to problem solving.

The rational approach to problem solving

The rational approach to problem solving was influenced by the scientific method. The scientific method consists of proposing an explanation known as a hypothesis, predicting future events and testing the hypothesis, which is never considered to be proven, only supported by evidence. The rational approach to problem solving is a systematic procedure:

  • Understand the problem or opportunity.
  • Collect information about it.
  • Identify possible causes of the problem or solution.
  • Generate or develop possible solutions.
  • Evaluate each solution based on how well it meets the organization’s specific needs; and
  • Implement the best solution.

The steps to solve a problem in a rational way are generally well defined and clear, and the method for performing them is consistent.

The rational approach is statistical in nature – it has to do with testing and measuring, comparing various hypotheses with observed facts, and using the results of these comparisons to eliminate incorrect hypotheses and to develop logical conclusions. The rational approach is essential for making scientific discoveries. In general, the more complex a problem is, the more appropriate it is to use the rational approach.

The logical approach would follow this thought process. To solve a problem, you must first understand the elements of the problem and then formulate a solution in steps that are linear. The linear approach requires you to have clear-cut boundaries between every element – define them and determine how they will be executed. The advantage of this method is that it is clear, structured and well-defined.

The Organic Approach to Problem Solving

Organic systems are living systems that evolve over time. In contrast to the rational approach to problem solving, with its emphasis on efficient analysis and evaluation, the organic approach emphasizes a creative process that works by analogy or metaphor. It encourages people to spend more time thinking about problems and less time producing data.

The organic approach to problem solving differs from traditional problem solving methods in several ways. One of the main differences is that it is a continuous process. Ideally the organic approach to problem solving begins before the problem occurs and continues while the problem is being solved, thus shortening the time it takes to implement corrective action. The organic approach to problem solving requires that an organization have a culture that encourages creativity and innovation, that values all employees as a part of the solution, and that supports risk-taking and trying many new ideas.

Many organizations implement an organic approach problem solving process by using what is referred to as an “organic group”. An organic group is a cross section of employees that includes representatives from all organizational levels, departments, and various functions. The role of the organic group is to discuss problems and brainstorm possible solutions while developing plans for implementation.

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