Problem-formulation in a South African organization. Executive summary

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Carlo, Les ; Roberts, Paul A. B.
  • Subject: HD28

Complex Problem Solving is an area of cognitive science that has received a good amount of\ud attention, but theories in the field have not progressed accordingly. In general, research of\ud problem solving has focussed on identifying preferable methods rather than on what happens\ud when human beings confront problems in an organizational context\ud Queseda, Kirtsch and Gomez (2005)\ud Existing literature recognises that most organizational problems are ill-defined. Some problems\ud can become well-defined whereas others are and remain ill-structured. For problems that can\ud become well-defined, failure to pay attention to the area of problem definition has the potential to\ud jeopardise the effectiveness of problem-formulation and thus the entire problem solving activity.\ud Problem defining, a fundamental part of the problem-formulation process, is seen as the best\ud defence against a Type III Error (trying to solve the wrong problem). Existing literature addresses\ud possible processes for problem-formulation and recognises the importance of applying problem\ud domain knowledge within them. However, inadequate attention is given to the possible\ud circumstances that, within an organization, the participants do not know enough about the\ud problem domain and do not recognise the importance of applying adequate problem domain\ud knowledge or experience to the problem-formulation process. A case study is conducted into\ud exactly these circumstances as they occurred and were successfully addressed within Eskom\ud Holdings Ltd (Eskom), the national electricity utility in South Africa. The case study is a\ud fundamental part of this research project, which explores the gap in the existing body of\ud knowledge related to the circumstances described above and specifically to problems that can\ud become well-defined, and provides the basis for the innovation developed herein that addresses\ud that gap.
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