Utilizing the Scientific Method to Solve a Problem

The scientific method offers both benefits and drawbacks to solving everyday or chaotic problems that go on in the focus of this article: high pressure or high activity situations. On one hand, too much focus on proving cause and effect, analyzing, classifying, quantifying and practicing the other rigors of scientific understanding results in far too much focus on process and far too little focus on action.

On the other hand, reducing the fallacies in reasoning and logic, eliminating as much bias as possible and getting as much factual work done as possible leads to a far better problem resolution process. The most likely root cause can be identified and corrected in order to prevent further damage or recurrence of the problem. The investigation and documentation allows more permanent solutions, as well as for planning and forecasting to adapt to change that might lead to more problems. 

The first step in problem resolution training, for example, is to teach investigation. In investigation, scientific method is helpful in eliminating bias and logical fallacy, taking in relevant fact, making fruitful and correct observations, and in documenting and recording. Better inductive and deductive reasoning creates logical pathways that lead to facts and situations that would otherwise not have been noticed.

After investigation, determining root cause is a famous term in problem solving. It is so famous that the meaning of the term has been subjected to some distortion. The scientific method allows a person to get a clear picture of the sequence of events that led to the problem. With a clearer picture of the facts, combined with a decent presentation of the facts, the step or event that was a likely cause can become more apparent. Scientific method allows the use of statistical analysis, charts, timelines and other ways of organizing and presenting facts so that trends, special events and possible relationships stand out.

There may not be a way to quickly experiment or to test to see if a particular root cause actually led to a problem, but the above aspects of the scientific process is a good way to identify problematic events and actions and to fix them before they do cause trouble. 

The drawback to all of these steps, however, is that the problem may still not be solved. Sometimes it is necessary to come up with a solution without proof. Solutions without proof may have to involve shutting down operations or transactions, purchasing replacement equipment on an emergency basis, emergency reassignment of suspect or injured personnel or doing whatever is needed to prevent either work stoppages, worse damage, more financial loss or more injuries and accidents. Investigation and detailed process is done at another time, while the chaotic real world must go on.

The benefits of scientific process in problem solving is that many of the accounting, financial, consumer protection and education, life skills, safety, industrial, facility management, security, driving and other processes of life have already been closely examined and tested under controlled conditions in order to devise, to teach and to provide the best preventive solutions.

The challenges to the scientific process is that, with real world problems, the chaos of ongoing activities destroys or misplaces a lot of evidence. Immediate response takes precedence over examination and collection of evidence as well as information gathering. After accidents and injuries, people can tell lies for various reasons, or they can have greatly flawed perceptions of events. 

In a hectic work environment or busy home, workload, human interference, high priority distractions and other events present roadblocks to a measured and elegant process.

Fortunately, there is common sense, experience, indigenous knowledge, instinct and other forms of problem solving for the immediate resolution of problems, while there are ongoing and rigorous scientific processes that lead to more permanent fixes or to problem prevention.