Using an IDEAL problem-solving framework

Problem solving can be a feature of many coaching contracts, whereby a coach helps the coachee to solve issues and problems encountered in the workplace.

We are not talking about ‘giving ‘ a quick-fix to problems but rather a structured process that can be used as a framework for addressing issues, that the coachee can then replicate, as and when needed.

Each coach will have their own set of tools that they use, to address issues according to the context in which they are operating within.

One such model is the IDEAL model, an adaptation of work carried out by Newell and Simon on Information Processing applied to human behaviour and in particular, problem-solving.

This five-step model, IDEAL, is as follows :

Step 1 : – Identification

  • What is the issue in hand ?
  • Is the issue linked to other issues ?
  • What is causing difficulties ?
  • What is keeping the issue as an issue ?
  • What skills gaps are there ?

Step 2 : – Definition

  • What are the main characteristics of the issue(s) ?
  • What is at the heart of the issue(s) ?
  • How can the issue(s) be defined clearly and concisely ?

Step 3 : – Exploration

  • What parts or facets of the issue can be worked with ?
  • Are there any new skills that need to be learnt to tackle the issue(s) ?
  • Are there any existing skills that can be mobilised to tackle the issue(s) ?

Step 4 : – Action

  • What course of action needs to be taken ?
  • How can any new skills best be learnt ?
  • How can we transfer these skills to the workplace ?

Step 5 : – Looking back

  • How did the course of action help to tackle the problem ?
  • Were there any learning opportunites that were taken ?
  • Are there any new behaviour patterns that have emerged ?
  • How can we consolidate and reinforce learning & behaviour changes ?
  • How have the new skills that were learnt impacted performance ?
  • Are there any other avenues to explore ?
  • Did it work ?
  • Wh did it work ?
  • Why didn’t it work ?

 Even if the IDEAL model does not immediately solve the issues at hand, it is a very effective process framework that can be used to provide learning opportunities and seredipitous learning which can help equipe people to analyse issues more thoroughly and explore ways of solving complex problems.

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