How we solve problems in our world reflects the type of thinking in action. If we solve problems based on the direction of some set of people’s thought, idea, solutions, and concept, our thinking is dependent; if we solve our problem based on observations, interactions, and reflections which emanate from our indigenous communities, then we can say, our thinking is independent, but how do we solve problems that are decked with various interrelated and interwoven parts? My last discussion on this concept (The levels of thinking) centered on independent thinking, which could take place in three connected phases: Observations, Interactions, and Reflections. These phases occur within ourselves or our communities. If a problem ensues, it must have emanated from a context, a context that is unique, peculiar, and entirely different in every sense. Therefore, the solution to the problem must equally ensue from the same context.
Every problem is always a contextual problem! And a contextual problem requires a contextual solution.
Mind you, the same problem could be affecting another country or continent but not in the same degrees nor with the same set of people. God gives people in the local community the ability and capacities to solve their problems. Supports from other countries or continents can be required only when the solution has been discovered not otherwise. Isn’t that what entrepreneurship is all about? Identify the problem and propose solutions to the problem. Take, for instance, the problem/outcome of low literacy and numeracy among the girl child in some geopolitical areas in Nigeria, and recently aid was announced by an international organization to help solve the problem in seven states of Nigeria. Aids and supports are not usually released except a clear-cut solution have been presented and the investors are convinced, the solutions are practicable. Supports and aids could definitely come from another country or continent.
However, for this week, I want to paint a scenario in Nigeria, “There was a study carried out by some group of employers and the outcome was, Nigeria graduates are not employable” So, we have the problem (outcome) of non-employability of Nigeria graduates. Solving this problem (outcome) is not as easy as it seems, but the problem(outcome) must be solved. How do we solve the problem(outcome)? Solving the non-employability of Nigeria graduates will require a cursory dive into all that contributed to producing those graduates. We have to look at primary education, secondary and tertiary education, at least on a superficial level, when you select Primary education, you have a lot of factors you must consider to ascertain the quality of that aspect of education in Nigeria. The immature way to address the problem (Outcome) is to look at the tertiary education of Nigeria graduates, which I believe will not produce any sustainable solutions, because what goes into producing a graduate is systemic in nature, and the neglect of one affects the other. What kind of thinking required to proffer sustainable solutions to problems in our society? It’s Interdependent thinking.
As important as independent thinking is, it must go through the lens of interdependent thinking. What does it mean? I will discuss Interdependent thinking from two angles: Social and Systemic.
I will discuss the later first before the former. Interdependent thinking is looking at a problem (Outcome) as a “System” Everything we see and interact with is a system with many parts, working dependently and independently to achieve the wellness and success of the system. A typical Toyota car has about 30,000 parts and each of these parts has some sub-parts. When a car does not ignite, it’s usually caused by a dying or dead battery, loose or corroded connection cables, a bad alternator, or an issue with the starter. The non-ignition of a car has about four possible problems. It’s a lack of interdependent thinking to quickly jump to only identify one problem (Kick-starter), of course, it could be the problem and it could also be all of the causes. One might be as a result of the other. Interdependent thinkers will look at the systemic nature of a problem(s)/Outcome(s). What does an interdependent thinker need to do in this situation?
- Understand that every problem (outcome) is systemic (All the parts)
- Identify all possible causes(problem) (In this case four-4)
- Check the state of each of the causes (Problems) (Based on set standards)
- Restore each element to its perfect state (Based on set standards)
- Test again
Therefore, solving the problem (outcome) of non-ignition in a car requires you to go through all the possible elements involved in the process of ignitions. The emergence of the problem(outcome) is the neglect one or two element(s) of the system. Fixing the problems in tertiary education alone will not solve the problems of education in a country, other related problems in other parts of the system must be attended to. The truth is, tertiary education does not have a product on its own, students are admitted into tertiary education after successfully passing through secondary education or meeting the minimum requirements and standards. For example, I didn’t really perform well in my secondary education nor my primary education, I managed to pass all my exams as though one was passing through fire, but when I got to higher institutions, I performed excellently well with little efforts. I picked up when I got to higher institutions. So, one part of the whole is responsible for the success of the whole. The suffering of a part affects the whole and therefore crashes the whole if abandoned.
When you pick the concept of learning, for instance, learning itself is a system with numerous parts that are intentionally or unintentionally working together to bring about learning. One needs to ask the question of “Why” to first identify the problem before proffering solutions. If we can’t identify the problem, we can’t solve an unidentified phenomenon. Identifying a problem is difficult, I am not saying identifying the results of a problem. The dreadful question I struggle with all the time is when people ask me after listening to my explanations “What is the problem?” Most time, it will take me minutes to “trouble my coconut” as one of my friends- (Ajisafe Habeeb) will say, before I can convincingly say, this is it. But, on the contrary, it’s easy for me to race through a list of outcomes of a problem. Could it be that most of us are still not able to identify the problem? And if we can’t identify the problem, we can’t begin to solve it.
For instance, if someone says, please Mr. Smith, I can’t read! We might be quick to say that’s the problem, but the truth is that’s not the problem, but an outcome. The problem is deeper than that! The problem is what’s not making him be able to read when he picks up a book, which could vary from one person to another. When a country or a person is poor, the problem is not poverty but an outcome. The problem is deeper than that! A person can’t run, walk, speak, fly, think, swim, sleep, read, jump, ride, operate computer even think, etc. All of these are characteristics of the real problem(s) not the problem(s) themselves. We need to identify the problem. I just want us to start to re-think about some of these things we claim are problems, they might not be the problems. We have been saying, Africa leaders are corrupt, or corruption is our problem. Is corruption our problem in Africa? I believe corruption is not our problem, our problem is deeper than corruption. Corruption is the outcome of a problem that has made itself invincible so that we don’t get to identify it and thereafter solve it. Don’t look at the outcomes but the causes! My post-graduate. supervisor (Ayotola Aremu) has this habit, she will only ask this question, what problem are you trying to solve? And most time, I will think for minutes before I could answer. At times I would say some few words, but she would say, those are results of the problem you are trying to solve. Most of us try to solve outcomes and not problems, and until the problem is identified, we can’t solve them.
Take a deeper look into the situation by asking the question of “WHY” Once you can answer the question of “WHY”, you have discovered the problem. The problem of not being able to run, swim, fly, etc is locked in the question of “WHY” Our leaders are corrupt, the question is why are they corrupt? People are poor. Why are people poor? The problem of every outcome is locked in the question of “WHY”
Having discovered the “WHY” then you can switch on your interdependent thinking capacity to start solving the problem. Some of what we call problems, and that we shout about every day are the outcomes of the problems. The previous example of a car, a car can’t ignite, the problem is not that it can’t ignite, the problem could be: the kick-starter is bad, the connecting cables are corroded, the battery is dead, and the alternator is bad. Anyone of the causes could be responsible for the outcome. So, if it turns out that the kick-starter is bad, it then means the problem is a damaged kick-starter. My car can’t start is not the problem, but the damaged kick-starter. And solving the problem will change the outcome, which is, the car will ignite. Interdependent thinking will not only help us solve our problems but equally assist us to discover the problems.
The other “social” angle of Interdependent thinking will be discussed next week………
Hope it helps!
Creating human-focused learning!