02 Jun

From a problem to a sustainable solution: Effective steps, strategies, and considerations

From a problem to a sustainable solution: Effective steps, strategies, and considerations


In the coming months, I will publish a blog every two weeks in which I will explain in detail the solving of complex problems. Collectively, all these blog articles will form a blog series.

My aim is to present considerations, tips, and tricks that can contribute to an effective approach, taking into account strategic, operational, and tactical plans. And of course, this blog series will cover many more topics that are relevant to solving very complex problems. Think of mapping out and solving complex social issues, or describing future problems that are not yet present but which are important to preemptively address.

Let’s kick off with an introduction. Before discussing the methodology and the step-by-step plan for problem-solving, it’s crucial to first define what constitutes a problem. You can find that definition below.

What is a problem?

A problem is a circumstance or situation that is experienced as unfavorable, difficult, or challenging (Hirst, 2018). It is a deviation from what is desired or expected, creating a gap between the current and desired situation (Krulik & Rudnick, 1980). A problem requires a solution, but the solution is not immediately clear or available. Problems can be of various kinds, such as practical, emotional, relational, or intellectual (Jonassen, 2000).

Characteristics of problems

According to Jonassen (2000), problems have several distinguishing characteristics:

– There is a starting situation that differs from the desired end situation.
– The solution or the path to the solution is not directly clear.
– There are various ways to solve the problem, but not all solutions are equally effective.
– Problems can be embedded in larger, more complex situations.

Types of problems

Problems can be categorized depending on their nature and complexity (Mayer & Wittrock, 2006):

– Well-defined problems: these have a clear starting situation, goal, and method of solution.
– Ill-defined problems: these have an unclear starting situation, multiple goals, and no prescribed method of solution.
– Simple problems: these require only a few steps to solve.
– Complex problems: these consist of multiple embedded sub-problems that need to be solved.

In all cases, analyzing a problem is an essential step before further actions are taken. This analysis forms the basis for creating a solution and devising a strategy. The first part of my blog series will therefore focus on this crucial question: how to map problems, especially at the highest level of complexity, regardless of the type of problem.

Read here Chapter 1, part 1 of my blog series, in which I explain how to map a problem at the highest level of complexity.

Other relevant topics will be discussed in future parts. I invite you to follow my blog for more insights and information.

Read chapter 1, part 1…

Please note that many of the upcoming blog articles are published in English. However, below each article, you can select the desired flag to translate the blog into your preferred language.


  • Hirst, G. (2018). What is a problem? In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Summer 2018 ed.). https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2018/entries/problem/
  • Jonassen, D. H. (2000). Toward a design theory of problem solving. Educational Technology Research and Development, 48(4), 63-85. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02300500
  • Krulik, S., & Rudnick, J. A. (1980). Problem solving: A handbook for teachers (2nd ed.). Allyn and Bacon.
  • Mayer, R. E., & Wittrock, M. C. (2006). Problem solving. In P. A. Alexander & P. H. Winne (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (2nd ed., pp. 287-303). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.


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