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The Difference Between Problem Solving & Decision Making

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  • 0:00 Problems and Decisions
  • 0:46 Problem Solving
  • 2:00 Decision Making
  • 3:54 The Difference Between Them
  • 4:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

When it comes to working successfully in business, you need to understand why decision making is so important and how problem solving helps with the decision making process.

Problems and Decisions

Imagine that you are the owner of a small pizza chain in your local town. Owning your own little shop is something you've always dreamed of doing, and now you are doing it! When you dreamed of owning your own little shop, you thought of all the great things, such as having happy customers and making lots of money.

The one thing that you didn't dream of are all the problems you need to solve and all the decisions you need to make; but to have a successful pizza shop, you now realize just how important it is for you to do these two separate but related tasks. You also realize just how important it is to understand the difference between the two.

Problem Solving

Today, there seems to be a problem with the food delivery. Usually, your pizza shop will get a food delivery early in the morning, around 5 a.m., before you open for business at 10 a.m. This gives you just enough time to prep and begin making your awesome pizzas. Today, though, the food delivery truck is late. It's almost 7 a.m. and still no food delivery. Your employees tell you that they can't begin to prep because they don't have the necessary ingredients.

You need to perform some problem solving, which is looking for possible solutions or ways to fix what is wrong. Unlike math problems, where there's usually only one possible solution, real-world problems can have multiple solutions. For your food delivery problem, you and your employees think about it and come up with a couple of solutions:

  1. Your employee says he can go and purchase most of the necessary ingredients from the local grocery store.
  2. You can call your food delivery people and ask them what is going on with the delay and how much longer it will be.

Now that you've found your possible solutions, this is where your problem solving ends.

Decision Making

To make use of your possible solutions, you need to apply some decision making, which is choosing a best solution or course of action. Of course, for your business to be successful, your decision-making skills need to be good. You need to choose the best course of action that will take the least amount of time and expends the least amount of resources. You don't want to lose money by making the wrong choice. Decision making has several steps to it, which actually include the problem-solving process.

  • First, you problem solve to find possible solutions.
  • Next, you determine which possible solution is the best.
  • And finally, you figure out how to put that chosen solution to work.

Sometimes, in the real world, you'll try one solution and it may not work out as you expect. In that case, your decision-making skills will allow you to pick the next-best solution and figure out how to use that solution.

For your food delivery problem in your pizza shop, you decide to first call your food delivery people to see what is going on. You have analyzed both possible solutions and have decided that calling the food delivery people is the best first course of action. It will take your employee at least an hour to go get the ingredients. If the food delivery truck is less than an hour away, it will be better to wait.

You go ahead and call and you find out that your truck hasn't even left the food delivery company's office. Nor has it been loaded. Turns out that the farmers that deliver the food to the food delivery company are also running late. Apparently, there was a bad accident on the highway preventing the farmers from arriving on time.

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