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Information technology impact on soft problem solving effectiveness
 
Experiment description:  


Rapid pace of changes and development in all fields require organizations to continuously adapt to the new circumstances. If an organization does not adapt to the new circumstances it may become noncompetitive, and a long-term existence of such an organization is therefore questionable. Organizations must overcome this situation with organized and systematic approach to solve complex soft problems.

This research experiment which was part of disertation thesis explores information technology impact on soft problem solving effectiveness. A soft problem solving process and a model for soft problem solving is defined. A model for soft problem solving shows decomposition of soft problem into cause, goal and solution. The model also presents roles of problem owner, client and solver.

Further a model of technology support for soft problem solving is derived. A model for technology support of soft problem solving presents an organized and systematic use of information technology in a soft problem solving process. A soft problem solving process is supported by an intranet application for soft problem solving which we have developed.

Application for soft problem solving supports gathering of ideas related to soft problem solving. Application for soft problem solving also enables feedback information from soft problem solving process by enablement of a view to other problem solver ideas.

This dissertation explores impact of an information technology by enablement of a view to other problem solver ideas to enhance effectiveness of soft problem solving. Effectiveness of soft problem solving process is analyzed by means of number of given ideas and time needed to generate the ideas. Application for soft problem solving was thoroughly validated in nine experiments with students.

The students which used information feedback from soft problem solving process on average generated more ideas and they need shorter time spent per idea compared to the control group which did not use information feedback with risk of 0.05. Therefore we can conclude that information technology improves effectiveness of soft problem solving process by fostering generation of more ideas in shorter time spent per idea.

Laboratory experiments also successfully validated and confirmed proposed model for technological support of soft problem solving process. Dissertation is concluded by presenting recommendations for organizations on how to provide technological support for solving of complex soft problems. We recommend organizations to use technological support for soft problem solving process with a use of feedback information to enhance its effectiveness. Organizations, which support systematic solving of soft problems, will be able to adapt more quickly to changes in environment and will therefore be able stay competitive in the global rapidly changing marketplace.

M.Sc. Gregor Lenart

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