“Problem-solving is taking actions to have something go away: the problem. While problem-solving has its place, as a persistent approach, it limits accomplishment. The elimination of a problem does not mean that the desired result can be created. As distinguished, solving a problem does not by design lead to a creation. Creating is taking action to bring into being that which does not yet exist: the desired outcome.”

Robert Fritz
Source: Robert Fritz, author of The Path of Least Resistance, in Corporate Tides: The Inescapable Laws of Organizational Structure.

“A rather direct implication of [Humberto] Maturana’s view is that all problems are in language. Until ‘languaged,’ a problem does not exist. Maturana states that ‘Everything said is said by an observer.’ Since problems are things said, they must always be said by someone, to someone (even if the second someone is oneself). It follows that only the person speaking of a problem can have that problem.”

Humberto Maturana
Source: The World According to Humberto Maturana, by Jay Steven Efran, Temple University, and Michael D. Lukens.

“‘The best thing that can be done to a problem is to solve it.’ False. The best thing that can be done to a problem is to dissolve it, to redesign the entity that has it or its environment so as to eliminate the problem. Such a design incorporates common sense and research, and increases our learning more than trial-and-error or scientific research alone can.”

Russell Ackoff
Source: A Lifetime of Systems Thinking, by Russell Ackoff, in Systems Thinker,  June/July 1999.

“Asked for help on a case by a young psychotherapist he was supervising, an astute and seasoned clinician asked what the problem was. Upon being informed it was ‘the symbiotic relationship between mother and daughter,’ he replied at once, ‘I would never let that be the problem.’

A problem is only an avenue of approach we happen to have pursued, where we cannot see our way clear. Whilst a problem with a ready solution is not a problem at all but just a clear way forward, a problem without a solution is just a blind alley, a failed attempt to proceed a certain way. A problem is only a solution that we cannot get to work. Indeed, I have come to view most efforts at so-called ‘problem-solving’ in practical affairs to be ultimately quite worthless endeavours. An unsolved problem, like an unanswered question, should be an invitation to go back and choose another problem instead, like asking a different question to get at what you are after when your first enquiry draws a blank. A problem that does not call for its own solution may best be regarded as but a first feeler; instead of trying to solve it, we could put out another feeler.”

Dr. James Wilk
Source: Dr. James Wilk MA Oxf, MSc Oxf, PhD, FCybS, University of Oxford; Research Director and Managing Partner, Interchange Research.