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About this book

People Problems aims to equip students, practitioners and managers with an understanding of the factors that contribute to a range of problems, such as conflict, stress, relationship difficulties and poor communication. It introduces fifty problem-solving techniques, with a commentary on how they can be effectively used in a variety of contexts and plenty of suggestions for further reading. The book offers an invaluable source of ideas and is an ideal companion volume to People Skills. Its generic approach will appeal across a wide readership, in health and social care and beyond.

Table of Contents

Part One. Understanding People and Their Problems

As mentioned above, Part One of this book is an extended essay which has the aim of (i) providing a general introduction to the subject matter of problem solving in relation to people, and (ii) setting the scene for Part Two and the various tools, methods and techniques contained therein. Many people can work in the people professions without realizing that problem solving is a key part of what they do. For example, I have come across many managers who complain of people getting in the way of their doing their job — as if they fail to grasp that helping people solve their problems (so that they work to their maximum output) is a key part of any manager’s role. Similarly, I have come across many social workers who get bogged down in ‘providing services’, who lose sight of the rationale for providing such services — that is, to solve a problem or meet a need. Many more examples could be provided of managers and professionals engaged in a wide range of settings who have fallen into the trap of failing to appreciate the problem-solving nature of their work.
Neil Thompson

Part Two. Problem-Solving Methods

Part Two of the book contains fifty ‘tools’ — methods or techniques that can be used to help tackle problems. They are geared towards ‘operacy’, as discussed in Part One, Edward de Bono’s notion of ‘making things happen’. Achieving our goals often depends on being able to solve problems — for example, removing barriers to progress. Problem solving, then, is not a peripheral activity — much of what happens in various work settings is about problem solving. So many of these problems are ‘people’ problems, in the sense that they relate to human factors, such as relationships, emotions and needs. Many of the problems that appear on the surface to be technical problems may also have their roots in the ‘people’ dimension.
Neil Thompson

Part Three. Guide to Further Learning

In this final part of the book, I present some ideas for follow-up study. The point was made in Part One that the ideas presented in this book draw upon an extensive theory base. While you do not have to be au fait with the theoretical underpinnings before you can use the tools presented in Part Two, I would argue that the deeper your understanding of the ideas on which the tools are based, the better equipped you will be to make best use of the tools. The more informed you are about the theoretical issues, the greater the insight you will have when it comes to using the tools at an advanced level. You should be wary of falling into the trap of seeing practical tools as an alternative to theoretical understanding. As the discussion of reflective practice in Part One confirms, we should be seeking to integrate theory and practice rather than to reject one in favour of the other. The more you understand the theory base linked to the various tools, the stronger a position you will be in, not only to practise at an advanced level, but also to continue learning and developing over time (Thompson, 2000).
Neil Thompson
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