Problem-Solving Skills and Techniques Explained

Problem-Solving Skills and Techniques Explained


There’s no denying the fact that successful peoples are good problem-solvers first followed by their hard work, skills, and performance. Consider the problem as more of a “tough situation” that needs to be handled as for some people, the word ‘problem’ will seem a little de-motivating. Identifying the cause, finding solutions/resources to resolve it either permanently or temporarily, and putting that solution to action are three important steps that summarize the entire problem-solving skills for you. Anyhow, to get a better understanding of what a problem-solving skill is and what it takes to be a good problem-solver, let’s discuss in detail through this article.

11 Benefits you get out of good problem-solving skills

Fostering good problem-solving skills is essential for everyone, whether it is at work or personal life. By explaining it to you in simple, easy-to-understand points, you can see through the benefits of having good problem-solving skills.

1.) You will become more observant of what’s happening.

2.) You will develop persistence.

3.) Problem-solving tendency increases your lateral thinking.

4.) You will develop resiliency.

5.) Your communications with people become more effective. Discussing and doing brainstorming sessions with your team people to solve a problem gains the trust and help you need.

6.) Your ‘Attention-to-Detail’ will be enhanced.

7.) Critical thinking, innovative out-of-the-box views become easy for you.

8.) You will know ‘what is important, what needs immediate attention, what is it that you ‘need’ & what is it that you ‘want’.

9.) You will learn ‘what will work’ and ‘what will not’.

10.) You will learn to device appropriate short-term, long-term plans, and solutions to solve the problems at hand.

11.) Good problem-solvers are always a value-addition to the workplace.

With that being said, we should also consider the fact that not everyone gets the problem-solving skill by nature. Every individual has his/her own set of ideas and methods to approach a problem to find a solution and solve it. For those who are natural, it can get easy. For the rest, you just have to hone the problem-solving skills a little bit, and you are good to go.

Understanding the 4 Important Stages of Problem-Solving Skill

You can make multiples of plans and strategies to solve a problem, but in the end, it all comes down to 4 important stages. A better and clear understanding of these four stages will improve your problem-solving skills. It will help you strategize your ideas and find workable solutions easily.

1. Understand the Problem

Understanding the problem also means defining the problem. Steve Jobs rightly said that ‘if you define the problem correctly, you always have the solution’. So, how do we better define the problem? It takes simple but effective steps like:

A) Outline the problem in your own way. Describe to yourself what the problem looks like.

B) Define the root-cause/background of the problem. For example: write down what the actual problem is, where it stems, which is the root issue triggering the problems.

C) Find out the factors causing all the troubles. It may be due to sudden workplace change, can be due to employer’s issues, financial- discrepancies, mismanagements, production failures, and the like.

D) Why is it happening?

E) Has it happened before?

F) See if you find any pattern like this before.

G) Find out whether the root cause of the problem is from one or more sources.

H) You can ask people if they have handled problems like this before.

I) See where things have gone wrong in terms of you and your team.

J) Have a journal or notebook with you and write down things to better understand the problems.

K) Focus on understanding the problem at the moment, i.e. if you give importance to finding solutions, you lose focus on understanding the problem thoroughly.

L) Analyze the impact the problem is giving.

M) Is it spreading in any way?

N) Is it the same problem that has happened before, or is it a new one?

O) Does it need an immediate fix, or it could wait for some time with short-term solutions.

P) Talk to seniors or to ones who are good in the area and get an opinion of the problem.

Q) See in what way you can proceed further.

If you don’t understand the problem’s nature and everything in-detail about it, your solutions to solve it become in-effective and messy.

2. Discuss what you can do about solving the problem

Brainstorming sessions are very important for solving problems, and it is a good problem-solving skill as well.

1. Discuss the problems with your team members.

2. Do brainstorming sessions whenever possible

3. Break the problems into chunks.

4. Sit and share ideas. Every idea is valuable even if it’s a funny, crazy one.

5. Don’t judge the people for saying any different out-of-the-box or unusual ideas.

6. Encourage colleagues/teams to speak openly and honestly on what they think about the problem.

7. Come up with two or more solutions as a backup to the actual solution to the problem. For Example: If you have a final Plan A, then have a Plan B & Plan C so you can save yourselves when one goes wrong.

8. You should be honest enough to say the actual problem. As a fresher, it could be hesitant to approach the problem with the thought that what they will think about your performance. Don’t hesitate.

9. Discuss the output of the solutions you make.

10. You have to be logical as well as follow your instincts in determining the solutions to problems.

11. Estimate the time it will take for the solution to take effect. Similarly, estimate the resources, team, and people needed.

12. You should be flexible enough to consider and analyze ideas and solutions from others besides your own.

13. Come up with short-term answers as well as long-term answers for your problems.

14. Pros and Cons of every possible solution you bring to the table should also be considered.

For the most part, these ideas will be sufficient enough to give you some insights into discussing and finding solutions. However, brainstorming sessions and methods can vary with a team, work-environments, and people in it. So, consider these tips as start and work your way through finding solutions in all possible ways.

3. Choose the best option

Choosing the right decision is an important aspect of problem-solving skills. This is where you get to fix the problem. A confident and robust decision making is all you need in this stage.

(i) By this stage, you and your team should be able to pick the best strategy that works.

(ii) Identify the Positives and Negatives of the final solution or strategy you are going to implement.

(iii) You can take a poll and see what works best to solve the issues.

(iv) Sometimes you have to take risks and be confident enough to try new things. Discuss during the brainstorming sessions with others about it.

(v) To be practical, sometimes, the situations can force you and the team to take care of the problem temporarily. Be confident in doing so.

(vi) Don’t be stubborn with finding the exact solution. In specific scenarios, the time you spend finding solutions could make the problem even worse. In such cases, seek a quick-fix.

(vii) Sometimes you have to fix the problem temporarily. Once the wave settles, look for implementing a final accurate solution.

(viii) A good problem-solving skill is also about finding when you need the quick-fix to avert long-term damage or impact.

(ix) Discuss the short-term plans and try to get everyone on-board. Make sure that everyone’s okay with it.

(x) Make sure that no consequences come owing to short-term problem fixing.

(xi) For instance, contingency plans that you all prepared can end-up being the final solution to the problem.

(xii) It is also possible that the problem can demand more than one solution.

(xiii) Before you pick the best strategy that works, analyze every possibility you have once again with your team.

Not everyone will agree with your strategies or solutions. People can oppose or criticize. Eventually, you have to think about what’s important; solving the problem or answering criticisms.

By keeping all this in consideration, choose the best solution that works for the problem confidently.

4. Implement the solution

Implementing what you worked so far to solve the problem can be crucial, overwhelming, and demanding. But once you start, it will get easy. The visualization of the problem getting solved will boost your confidence. You just have to take a note of some steps like:

1. Fear of ‘what if the idea backfires,’ ‘what if it increases the problem even more,’ ‘what if you need to make many compromises’ should be avoided.

2. As of now, you and your team should be confident enough for implementation since you have gone through the above three stages thoroughly.

3. Sit and work with people and draw a good action plan. You can enhance it when possible.

4. Discuss different approaches to implement the action plan.

5. You can consult with people outside your team too as of someone who has handled problems like this type even though the field is different.

An effective problem-solving skill starts with these four stages; you understand what’s going on, see what you can do about it, select the right thing to do, and finally set the wheels in motion. By facing multiple problems, your thinking, action, planning, and way of approach will improve considerably if and only if you take this as a challenge or opportunity. If you consider problems as ‘problems,’ you will be overwhelmed. If you are a young professional, the latter should not be the case.

How to sharpen your Problem-Solving Skills?

Mastering the problem-solving skill takes time. It is not something you get over-night. You need to sharpen specific characteristics which we will discuss below to be a good problem-solver. The more experience you get out of facing difficult and challenging situations, the better and quicker you will be in solving problems.

Mind-Mapping –

The mind mapping is an effective strategy that helps you break down the problems and understand them. Draw the main problem in the center and start developing your mind-map. Draw the causes, impact, etc. separately. Draw the ideas you get. Mind mapping gives an excellent focus on your brain. It helps you generate more ideas. It increases the thinking capacity as well.

Third Man’s Perspective –

Distance yourself and see the problem as a third man. Get a better view of the problem from the outside. You can miss things which are in front of you, so step out, see the problem from another person’s perspective and find things out.

Critical mode –

Take the role of a critic. Ask yourself questions like ‘What if it goes wrong,’ ‘what if the ideas become counter-productive,’ ‘what if I test this new approach,’ ‘what possibilities I have with this approach’ etc.

Maintain a Separate Journal –

Keep a separate journal, write things down. Solutions can occur at any time anywhere. Work out your problems by writing. If you want, you can draw little sketches, diagrams, or charts to visualize the problem better. Notes always come handy.

Good Sleep –

We have heard people saying ‘Sleep on it. Say the answer tomorrow’. It’s true. Good sleep enhances brain functions and stimulates clear thinking. If you don’t get enough sleep, you cannot solve problems effectively as you will feel restless and agitated.

Mind-Games -

People find it helpful in playing mind-games like logical-puzzles, Sudoku for good decision making, speed thinking and problem-solving.

Relax –

You have to clear your mind from time to time and relax. Take breaks.

Effective Problem-Solving –

It depends upon situations, challenges, and constraints. It also depends upon the industry knowledge too. For instance, He/She can be a natural problem-solver, but when it comes to a new scenario, even they need time to process. An effective problem-solver needs to gather more experience.

Practice your problem-solving skills -

by actually facing it. To put it another way, sometimes reading about a ‘road’ can entirely be different from actually ‘walking’ on the road. Likewise, being in the middle of the situation will give a better insight into problem-solving instead of reading about improving your problem-solving skills.

Get the help and support of your team; take it as a challenge. See what opportunities it could open and work on your problem-solving skills. While there are people who possess strong problem-solving skills, the above are tips and strategies that anyone can use to improve theirs.

What are the Best Characteristics of a good problem-solver?

Ever come across people who you think are excellent problem-solvers? If so, look closely, and you’ll find the following traits.

1.) They will be good listeners.

2.) They will handle emotions well when faced with problems.

3.) They are positive, optimistic thinkers.

4.) They are simple people with less drama.

5.) They see problems like a challenge and an opportunity. When faced with problems, the first thought that comes to their mind would be ‘how can we sort this’ and not anything negative.

6.) Good problem solvers will give space to others and listen to their ideas too.

7.) They will never forget to give proper credits to those who actually came up with ideas.

8.) They will use their intuition and not just logic.

9.) They cannot be right all the time. Good problem solvers will know this for a fact.

10.) They look for solutions instead of worrying.

11.) They will be open to new ideas.

12.) They will encourage people around them.

13.) Good problem solvers are also good communicators. They will move very well with people. They know how to connect with people and bring gladness to both sides.

14.) They will know when to use short-term fix for the problem to prevent it from growing.

15.) They will avoid giving troubles to others to solve theirs or make themselves look good.

16.) They know what they can do and what they cannot do.

17.) They can judge when the ideas will become counter-productive.

18.) They will possess good self-confidence.

19.) They don’t hesitate to take the blame when the solutions go wrong. Similarly, they will avoid the blame on people too.

20.) Due to experience, they can easily visualize worst-case scenarios.

21.) They won’t hesitate to improvise the plans or gather new ideas from younger people in the team too.

Our final Thoughts

Good problem-solving is a skill and a value-addition, we agree. At the same time, it is something that needs constant improvisation and learning. Situations and challenges don’t come announcing, and this is where good decision-making and problem-solving skill comes into place.

Certain percentages of People are good-problem solvers in nature, but that too can change when they are out of their comfort zone. While some people find it easy to handle big problems, some people find it difficult to handle small issues. It depends upon individuals. The point is, problem-solving skills sharpen over time, experience, challenges, and environments.

Overall, good problem-solving skills take some universal approaches, which we have discussed in this article. We have also given an insight into how a good problem-solver will be. It is in the hope that you will find it really useful, especially the young people who are starting in their career.

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