At 10 pm in the night as soon as I got down at the bust stop near my home, my wife called. She was scheduled to leave for Varanasi tomorrow morning at 6 am, quite early. It had been an eagerly awaited for trip for long.
As luck would have it, she caught a bad bout of cold last week and suffered from high fever and chest congestion. Only this morning after five days of fever her temperature came down to normal. But severe chest congestion still remained and she was visibly suffering. Her first course of medicines completed yesterday.
Our doctor friend was treating her. Just now she thought to consult the doctor a last time hoping to lessen the discomfort from the congestion. We knew that chest congestion is not easy to deal with, but suffering as she was, she must have thought why not try one last time!
The doctor told her over phone to take two medicines for congestion relief. My spirits lifted. The doctor always had delivered highly effective results in the past. Though chest congestion is tough to deal with, chances should be high for the medicines to work.
It was already quite late in the evening. The shops would be closing soon. Tomorrow would be out of bounds as she would leave early morning. I decided, this is an important and urgent problem to resolve now without any delay.
Assigning high priority to any problem improves the chances of its solution. Principle of priority plays an important role in any real life problem solving.
The new prescribed medicines were Solvin and a second medicine that we already had at home as capsules. But now my wife told me specifically to get tablets instead of capsules. Doctor prescribed half the capsule dose for her and as capsules can’t be halved, tablets to be obtained.
I never heard of this commonly used medicine in tablet form. I sensed a problem here.
Regarding Solvin as far as I could gather, liquid syrup was wanted. Armed with this information I entered the first shop. It didn’t have Solvin syrup and the man at the counter never heard of the second medicine in tablet form.
Pushing ahead I tried the second shop. To my big relief, the shop owner produced a bottle of Solvin syrup. The second medicine as tablet he didn’t have.
I decided to solve the Solvin problem first and take up the second medicine problem next.
In applying Problem breakdown technique, at the first opportunity we break down a problem into independent parts and proceed to solve whatever part is solvable.
By now quite alert and wary, when I looked at the bottle, it seemed to me too small containing only 60ml of liquid. I quickly estimated. As per the dosage prescribed it would last for a mere two days.
Working on an important activity, you have to critically examine every little aspect. This is direct application of principle of verification. When verifying, varieties of quick estimation may be needed.
I didn't like the situation. It was not at all a clear-cut case and was full of grey areas. I called my wife to get more details.
Principle of consultation says, whenever in doubt don't hesitate to consult the right person. This is different from Consult the expert technique in that, here the consultant is anyone who may have the right information that might be useful in solving the problem.
Her mobile was busy. After a minute I called again. Still busy. How to get to her? Oh well, we have a landline, I just remembered. I dialed my landline number and sure enough my wife answered after a few rings. Persistence produced results.
Principle of persistence says, try once more, don't give up. But would you try the same way next time? Is there any other option? This is Principle of exploration. We always search for more options when in a bind. Some option stays invisible. It is our job to bring it to light and use it.
I described her the situation, "Solvin syrup bottle is too small and the second medicine is not available as tablet." After a brief hesitation, she said, “I actually told you Solvin tablet and not syrup.”
I should have been surprised by this turnaround. But being aware of possible gaps in verbal communication for long, and considering her delicate physical condition I didn’t think of contradicting her in the slightest. I had experienced the principle of communication gap too many times in all spheres of activities in the past and so acceptance came easy.
The principle of communication gap says,
In any form of communication, there is always a possibility of communicating only a part of the information that was intended to be communicated.
The middle-aged shop owner fetched me the much sought after Solvin tablet at last without wasting any words.
Solving the Solvin part of the problem, I now hurried on to the last shop that was on the verge of closing.
When I described my dilemma with the second medicine, the shop-owner, a friend of mine, straightaway went for a quick search and took out a medicine of similar name. He went on to examine the composition of the new medicine with a magnifying glass. Finally he said, “It is of same composition and so it can be used. It is produced by the same firm.”
By then I too have gone through the composition. I told him with a little disappointment in my voice, “Still it won’t do as both the capsule and the tablet contain 2mg of the basic ingredient. The doctor prescribed an 1mg tablet."
He was at the point of putting the medicine back to the shelf when as a last resort, I decided to consult my wife again.
Never hesitate to re-consult in case of slightest remaining doubt while in an important problem. This is again application of principle of consultation, but in a more enriched form.
This time she picked up quickly and sure enough informed me calmly that the doctor had told her specifically to cut the tablet in half and then take it.
Even in such a hurry I noted that our doctor friend, a precise man of great abilities, nevertheless didn't mention that in tablet form the name of the medicine changes slightly. It was a distinct possibility that he was not aware of this minor details.
It is our job to apply principle of precision as well as deductive reasoning to the hilt because the problem is ours, here and now. None else will be of any help. We are the problem owners and must take our decisions as best as we can.
Now absolutely sure about all aspects of the problem, I quickly paid for the second medicine with slightly different name from the prescribed one, and hurried home.
To resolve a real life problem satisfactorily, a single problem solving technique or strategy usually is never enough, one needs to apply a host of suitable principles and techniques that the unfolding problem situation demands.