Solving problems... in the future

Today at work, I mentioned that I had participated in a Future Problem Solving competition and, much to my shock, someone else on my team not only knew what it was, but had also participated in one as well.

When I was in junior high, we lived in Illinois and the Future Problem Solvers Bowl was an after school program where we worked with teams to examine scenarios and work through a problem solving process. We went to regional and statewide competitions where we were presented with a scenario and had to work through the process to develop a solution and then present our conclusion.

When we moved to South Carolina, there wasn’t a Future Problem Solvers Bowl in the state. But in retrospect, I still use many of the tactics that I learned every day. 

The Future Problem Solving Process is:

  1. Identify challenges
  2. Select an underlying problem
  3. Produce solution ideas
  4. Generate criteria to judge solutions
  5. Evaluate solutions with criteria
  6. Develop an action plan

It’s basically the foundation of a good design process. And in competition, you learn to apply the process quickly, under pressure, with a team and then present your findings. 

I hadn’t thought about Future Problem Solving in years, but in retrospect, I can’t imagine a better foundation for my design career.