Problem Solving in 3 Dimensions

March 13, 2024

As a coach, mentor, trainer, therapist, educator, consultant, family member and friend you are constantly challenging yourself to solve the problems which are inherent in your environment. You are consistently searching for solutions, unconsciously and consciously, to problems of varying size and complexity. Sometimes the solution will be presented to your conscious mind quickly and easily and sometimes the journey towards resolution isn’t that smooth and can take a protracted amount of time.

So how do you approach a problem? The most obvious way is to concentrate on the content of the problem. Content is presented to us in the form of words, linguistic labels to which we attach meaning, the complex equivalence. The human flaw in this thinking is that the labels we use to create our problems ARE NOT TRUE. They are simply a product of our sensorial and cognitive filtering systems which generate our model of the world. The model we choose to create may be problematic, or not. Our conscious notion of a problem is completely self-generated and from then on, self-sustained.

Deletion, distortion and generalisation of the problem event leaves behind a surface structure which we represent to ourselves and the outside world as a linguistic problem with linguistic boundaries, the surface structure of the problem. So, to discover and implement a solution that addresses the problem behind the surface structure, we need to view the problem in 3-D! This doesn’t mean putting on a pair of unflattering spectacles with blue and red lenses!

First dimension – The Surface Structure

In this horizontal dimension we take the linguistic structure of the problem, the uttered surface structure and examine it carefully to discover the deeper structure. By searching for the deeper level of meaning, we recover deleted, distorted and generalised content and begin to hear the genuine problem that sits behind the utterance. We can easily and rapidly uncover the deep structure by implementing an NLP linguistic model known as the Meta Model, which recovers content that has been deleted, distorted and generalised by your cognitive filtering system. You can also use an NLP approach called Prime Concerns which reveals a deeper level of meaning. The Meta Model and Prime Concerns are deeply revealing language patterns which are taught in detail at our NLP Coach Practitioner and NLP Master Coach Practitioner Trainings.

Second Dimension - Context

The second dimension is the vertical structure of the problem and is concerned with context. To really understand the reality of a problem we must unravel the issue of context. A problem may exist and manifest in one particular context, or many contexts. You often make the quantum leap between a specific context and all of life, elevating the problem beyond its scope and creating something much larger and foreboding. The problem becomes almost impossible to solve. If you are very clear about context and address the solution in the appropriate environment, then the problem becomes properly defined and resolvable.

Third Dimension – Logical Level

In order to fully understand a problem, there is a third dimension that we should generate in our thinking to enable the correct solution to be found. To view a problem from the vantage point of the third dimension, we must adopt a meta-position, at least one or two logical levels above that of the problem. The concept of Logical Levels was extracted from the work of Gregory Bateson and specifically his work, ‘An Ecology of Mind’. In simple terms, the thinking behind logical levels is that everything in nature belongs to a set. In turn, each set belongs to another set which exists at a higher level. For example, if you think of horses as a set, they belong to a higher level set (chunking up) of animals, which belong to a set of sentient beings, for example. Each of these sets represents a logical level and our thinking operates in exactly the same way. So, each problem you have belongs to a set which we can chunk up to reach the higher logical level. From this meta-position of logical levels, the problem is viewed, not only from a dissociated and unbiased vantage point, also from a level where solutions are easily accessed and made available for implementation.

When you work with clients or listen to the surface structure problems of family and friends, make sure that you take the 3-D approach to solution generation in order to create the most effective and long-lasting results.

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