Problem Solving Methods Learned from Case Studies iU Class Discussion vol.0

Recently, my Innovation Project (InnoPro) teacher Mr. Nobuyuki Kume suggested I take a new approach. In response, I’m going to start posting my thoughts and impressions about my iU classes entitled “iU Class Discussion.” Where discussion refers to the conversations and construct of certain themes.

This article represents a discussion of a certain topic, and represents my opinions and thoughts of my experiences. As a means of neutrality, I am fully aware that some students may not have registered for the same classes, for which I provide commentary. So, I will try to keep the content to a focused minimum. I want students to truly enjoy all classes.

First, let’s discuss the class Business Field Research (BFR) course. In a recent BFR class, we discussed the issue of customer service centers and part-time jobs in discount stores. During this class, we learned and used a learning technique called the case study method. This method is meant to learn the application of general business administration knowledge. A central practice, in applying this methodology, expects students to collaborate together in small teams. The teams will then begin a process of decomposing the given problem in order to eventually create solutions. The solutions are generated from open discussions, opinion sharing, and collaboration.

First, I learned that it is important to have an opinion. Furthermore, it is critical for the group members to think about the perspective and meaning of the discussions. In fact, up until now, when I heard the word discussion, I thought it meant that teams had to to display the effort to come up with a better opinion; this would be accomplished by clashing opinions from each team member. However, I learned a new concept about the term discussion. I feel that it signifies a method of approving opinions brought forward by team members. And to also ask each other, “What could be done to make our solution better?” This idea consists of discourse which includes expressions such as: “That’s one way to think about it.” and “That’s a great idea!” performed as we endorse and improve each other’s ideas. It is possible that as more members begin to share the same insights, the more the discussion will evolve.  Making the final solution easier to formulate.

Secondly, I discovered the effectiveness of a “multi-pronged approach” to a single central theme. For example, in the customer service center discussion, we have would typically consider it as follows:

So, instead of applying a 2-D thinking style (see picture on the right), students can best think in terms of multiple approaches or 3-D style (picture on the left) to observe problems from different angles.

By applying the 3-D style, I learned how difficult it is to think about a company’s profit while trying to respond to customers’ needs. I was able to discover that if a company hires more people, they will naturally solve their problem. However, in reality, it does not always work this way.

And, in the long run, the organizational culture may deteriorate, and labor cost will increase.

 In the end, it may be difficult to provide the kind of service that customers expect. Naturally, if a company does not receive positive feedback from your customers, they will not feel rewarded, and service will further deteriorate. It’s a vicious cycle.

Human beings are easily influenced by their environment. I have certainly often felt this, since joining iU University. And, the feeling that I have to “take action” comes to me. It could arguably be the same with a company’s culture and work environment. If the culture is not supportive of its employees, the result is that services quality will not be favorable. This is a lesson learned, and a point that we should all be aware of.

As a final point, it was suggested that the introduction of information and communications technology (ICT) is a good way to break the vicious cycle I described. The progress of technology is nonstop, but the human race should consider the perspective of improving the life/work balance environment as well. From an efficiency point of view, it is obvious that technology (e.g. computers) are beneficial, because they tend not to make mistakes. Yet, mass use of technologies is questionable, because it is not the definitive way of answering the needs of customers. Similarly, as automated voices are evolving, there is no denying that humans continue to feel the need for machines and robots to use a human-like voice. I have been studying how robots make sound to resemble humans.

In closing, when running a business, we have to maintain a balance between technological work and human work, especially in consideration of customers’ needs. And, thanks to this class, I placed more thought about such issues.