I was reading Seth Godin's blog and found his post about Reacting, Responding & Initiating. His thoughts are pertinent to problem solving also.
The term "problem solving" implies that you are reacting to a situation. This may be true but the ultimate problem solution is to anticipate problems before they occur. Initiate solutions before the problems even occur. This is the root behind much of the Quality philosophy. A problem avoided is priceless since low quality (problems) hurt you in so many ways, some of which can't be quantified.
Are you reacting to problems that have occurred, responding to external data which indicates a problem is imminent (e.g. a trend on a statistical process control chart) or are you initiating solutions to weaknesses in whatever process you are working on?
- I guess I'm reacting to Seth's posting - we can't always be initiators!