Ultimate Guide To Improve Your Problem Solving Skills • Discoverology
27 items | 218m read

Ultimate Guide To Improve Your Problem Solving Skills

6m read | Introduction
Ultimate Guide To Improve Your Problem Solving Skills

Employers value problem solving as a skill because it enables companies to find solutions to common issues within a business. Many people say they are excellent problem solvers, but when it comes to the test they fail. Why? Because problem solving isn’t as simple as it may seem. Luckily, it’s a skill you can learn with some time and effort.

Why Is Problem Solving Important?

Since your first day of school, you’re taught to address problems and find ways to solve them. Problem solving is a part of life and can take many forms. As you get older, you’ll discover that it’s more complicated in the workplace. However, if we didn’t know how to solve problems, every business would be inoperable.

If a company runs into an unexpected issue, it’ll depend on a team of individuals to solve it. Problem solving isn’t just about knowing what to do, it’s a combination of knowledge and analysis. The most valuable team members can take several factors into account and find the best solution.

Improving your problem skills will make you stand out amongst the competition and your employers will turn to you in times of need. Life is full of problems, but employers recognise that people who can offer this skill are long-term prospects for their company.

The Types of Problem Solving

You should think of problem solving as an umbrella term for a set of essential skills. There are many ways you can put your problem-solving skills to use at work.

Fixing Things

When valuable resources break, the first thing employers do is assess whether they can be repaired. They often turn to their problem solvers to fix errors and save the company money. Your role could be to fix products, or handle IT issues, but these problem solvers are valuable assets for every organisation.

Risk Assessment

Every business decision comes with a potential risk, and it takes problem-solving skills to decide whether the potential risks and worth the decision. Employees who can address risks can also plan if things go wrong.

Improving Operations

When businesses look at their productivity, they use people with problem-solving skills to increase employee output. This approach takes careful analysis and requires employees to consider numerous factors.

Finding Opportunities

Problem solving isn’t all about solving problems, it’s about finding new ways of working. When you look at how your company operates, you might see a way to improve things. Employers respect problem solvers for their analytical skills, but if you’re a creative thinker, you might see opportunities everywhere.

How to Be a Better Problem Solver

Follow these tips to increase your problem-solving skills and become a valued member of any team.

Solution Over Problem

Sometimes a problem takes over your senses, and it feels like there’s no way out of the situation. However, neuroscientists say that thinking about a problem means you’ll never find a solution. Focus seems an essential part of problem solving, but we lose our ability to be creative when we place too much emphasis on one aspect of an issue. Be calm, don’t be afraid to step away from the problem and do something relaxing. Sometimes, the answers come in their own time, and forcing them is counter productive.

Use The 5 Why’s Technique

The 5 Why’s technique is popular with businesses because it enables you to break a problem down into small questions. Once you have the answers, you can find a solution to the issue by using your analytical and reasoning skills. This helpful guide explains how to implement the 5 Why’s technique.

Keep It Simple

Just because a problem seems complicated doesn’t mean the solution has to be. It’s human nature to over complicate things but if you step back from the problem and strip it down to the basics, you’ll find it’s easier to manage. Don’t search for answers, but look at the information in front of you and see if the answer exists within it.

List Everything

There’s no such thing as a bad idea, so list each solution you think of. One bad idea might inspire you to think of something that solves the problem. It can help to create a mind map or work with others to bounce ideas off each other. There are plenty of ways to write your problems down, just don’t be afraid to share them.

Use Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking varies from the way we usually process information, but it’s the best method for problem solving. It involves approaching a problem from all directions and finding dominant ideas you can apply to other areas of the situation. Think of lateral thinking as a creative approach to problem solving. This useful guide can help you develop your lateral thinking skills.

Change Your Language

It seems so simple, but changing your language can help you solve a problem. Instead of asking yourself what should I do, use wording such as imagine this and what if?

Key Take-Away

Problem solving doesn’t have to be scary if you approach it correctly. Follow the above tips, be confident and have faith in yourself to solve problems. Everyone can develop their skills with practice and doing so will make you a valued employee.

About This Problem Solving Guide

This guide offers the most insightful articles, educational videos, expert insights, specialist tips and best free tutorials about problem-solving from around the internet. The learning guide is split into four levels: introduction, basics, advanced and expert. You can learn at your own pace. Each item shows an estimated reading or watching time, allowing you to easily plan when you want to read or watch each item. Below you’ll find a table of contents that enables you to easily find a specific topic you might be interested in.

10 items | 85m read
4m read | Basics

What is Problem Solving?

Problem solving is the act of defining a problem; determining the cause of the problem; identifying, prioritizing, and selecting alternatives for a solution; and implementing a solution. In order to effectively manage and run a successful organization, leadership must guide their employees and develop problem-solving techniques. Finding a suitable solution for issues can be accomplished by following the four-step problem-solving process and methodology.

12m read | Basics

The 7 Steps of Problem Solving

Problem solving with a standardized, disciplined and methodical approach is by far the best way of understanding root causes, exploring influences and implementing solutions that not only work, but also stay effective over time. The best solution to a problem is not always the most obvious and only after careful thought and assessment can the most suitable and feasible solution or solutions be implemented.

12m read | Basics

Problem Solving Styles

Problem-solving styles are the different ways companies and individuals attempt to solve problems. The various problem-solving styles can help alleviate deviations from what is expected or planned, including anything from technical problems to employee-relations problems. Despite the various approaches, these styles address some or all of the stages of the problem-solving process.

9m read | Basics

The 8D Problem Solving Process

The Eight Disciplines of Problem Solving (8D) is a problem solving methodology designed to find the root cause of a problem, devise a short-term fix and implement a long-term solution to prevent recurring problems. When it’s clear that your product is defective or isn’t satisfying your customers, an 8D is an excellent first step to improving Quality and Reliability.

22m read | Basics

Are You Solving the Right Problem?

“If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it,” Albert Einstein said.

Those were wise words, but from what I have observed, most organizations don’t heed them when tackling innovation projects. Indeed, when developing new products, processes, or even businesses, most companies aren’t sufficiently rigorous in defining the problems they’re attempting to solve and articulating why those issues are important.

4m read | Basics

Root Cause Analysis

Root cause analysis (RCA) is a systematic process for identifying “root causes” of problems or events and an approach for responding to them. RCA is based on the basic idea that effective management requires more than merely “putting out fires” for problems that develop, but finding a way to prevent them.

4m read | Basics

5 Whys: Getting to the Root of a Problem Quickly

“Quick fixes” may seem convenient, but they often solve only the surface issues and waste resources that could otherwise be used to tackle the real cause.

In this article and in the video, below, we look at the 5 Whys technique (sometimes known as 5Y). This is a simple but powerful tool for cutting quickly through the outward symptoms of a problem to reveal its underlying causes, so that you can deal with it once and for all.

5m watch | Basics

How to Conduct a 5-Why

This 5-minute video explains a simple example of a 5-Why root cause analysis for the Titanic.

9m read | Basics

Brainstorming Techniques to Generate Ideas for Every Situation

When brainstorming focuses on problem solving, it can be useful to analyze the problem with tools that lead to creative solutions. Analytic brainstorming is relatively easy for most people because it draws on idea generation skills they’ve already built in school and in the workplace. No one gets embarrassed when asked to analyze a situation.

4m watch | Basics

Creative Ways To Brainstorm Ideas

Do you ever have an issue developing ideas? Here are six creative ways to overcome hitting a roadblock when generating ideas.

7 items | 55m read
3m read | Advanced

Effective Problem Solving in the Workplace

There are two reasons why we tend to see a problem as a problem: it has to be solved and we’re not sure how to find the best solution, and there will probably be conflicts about what the best solution is. Most of us tend to be “conflict-averse”. We don’t feel comfortable dealing with conflict and we tend to have the feeling that something bad is going to happen. The goal of a good problem-solving process is to make us and our organization more “conflict-friendly” and “conflict-competent”.

6m read | Advanced

Pitfalls of Problem Solving and How to Avoid Them

Of the many skills leaders need to be effective, research consistently shows that complex problem solving is paramount. For most of us, however, solving difficult problems and selling the solutions doesn’t come naturally since we haven’t been taught how to do it well. And when we try, obstacles abound.

We’ve identified five pitfalls that frequently trip up business leaders when they tackle complex problems.

11m read | Advanced

Barriers to Finding the Best Solution

All of the blocks, except those caused by the physical environment, arise through learning or lack of it, either our own or that of people who influence us. We can overcome most of our own blocks permanently by re-learning, and overcome other people’s blocks which hinder us by learning ways to sidestep them.

4m read | Advanced

Evaluating the Solutions

The criteria of effectiveness which you defined to guide your search for solutions are inadequate to make an effective evaluation. Each solution may differ slightly or radically in the way and the extent to which it achieves your various goals. To be able to evaluate these effectively’ you need to construct a model of the ideal solution against which to measure them.

14m read | Advanced

Implementing Your Solution

Implementation is the culmination of all your work in solving a problem and requires careful attention to detail. There are three basic stages involved:

— planning and preparing to implement the solution
— implementing and monitoring the action
— reviewing and analysing the success of the action.

7m read | Advanced

Examples of Problem Solving in the Workplace

You might think that being passive aggressive with your colleagues is the way to go, but this will eventually boil over and poison the workplace. First, as an employee, identify what is wrong. Second, improve your problem-solving skills. Third, enjoy how peaceful and productive your workday has become without these headaches and challenges. These are just elements of your overall professional skills.

10m read | Advanced

Problem Solving Activities for Your Team

Problem solving games aren’t for just any team. Participants must have an open-mind and accept all ideas and solutions. They must also have an Agile mindset and be open to different structures, planning, and processes. Problems usually arise when we least expect them, so there’s no better way to prepare than embrace agility and flexibility.

9 items | 72m read
4m read | Expert

Style of Management Effect on Problem Solving

People who have responsibility for and control over the work feel a greater commitment to ensuring that they work efficiently. Staff should be given the freedom to mal decisions and to tackle problems without constantly having to get agreement from their manager. Some managers feel that this lessens their control over staff and their work. In fact, because people are more committed to their work, their is less need for control.

6m read | Expert

Effective Ways Leaders Solve Problems

Problem solving is the essence of what leaders exist to do.  As leaders, the goal is to minimize the occurrence of problems – which means we must be courageous enough to tackle them head-on before circumstances force our hand.  We must be resilient in our quest to create and sustain momentum for the organization and people we serve. But the reality of the workplace finds us dealing with people that complicate matters with their corporate politicking, self-promotion, power-plays and ploys, and envy.

4m read | Expert

How to Have A Constructive Argument

Some simple tips on how to have a successful argument, without it getting heated and with both parties being able to walk away satisfied – whether that be satisfied that they’re right, or satisfied that they learned something new.

7m read | Expert

What Kind of Problem Solver Are You?

Today’s professionals are under pressure to keep the ideas coming and to deliver new products, services, and organizational changes that provide real value. However, generating and nurturing new ideas is a team effort—and one that can easily waste time and create chaos and conflict among team members. The good news is that the process of bringing new ideas to fruition can be highly productive if we can learn to work together more effectively.

4m read | Expert

How Good is Your Problem Solving?

To be an effective problem-solver, you need to be systematic and logical in your approach. This quiz helps you assess your current approach to problem solving. By improving this, you’ll make better overall decisions. And as you increase your confidence with solving problems, you’ll be less likely to rush to the first solution – which may not necessarily be the best one.

10m watch | Expert

The Unexpected Truths About How We Solve Problems

Making toast doesn’t sound very complicated — until someone asks you to draw the process, step by step. Tom Wujec loves asking people and teams to draw how they make toast, because the process reveals unexpected truths about how we can solve our biggest, most complicated problems at work. Learn how to run this exercise yourself, and hear Wujec’s surprising insights from watching thousands of people draw toast.

17m watch | Expert

Creative Problem Solving Within Extreme Limits

Navi Radjou has spent years studying “jugaad,” also known as frugal innovation. Pioneered by entrepreneurs in emerging markets who figured out how to get spectacular value from limited resources, the practice has now caught on globally. Peppering his talk with a wealth of examples of human ingenuity at work, Radjou also shares three principles for how we can all do more with less.

10m read | Expert

Further Reading: Best Problem Solving Books

Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People. Ken Watanabe originally wrote Problem Solving 101 for Japanese schoolchildren. His goal was to help shift the focus in Japanese education from memorization to critical thinking, by adapting some of the techniques he had learned as an elite McKinsey consultant.

Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill That Changes Everything. In this book, you’ll learn the seven-step systematic approach to creative problem solving developed in top consulting firms that will work in any field or industry, turning you into a highly sought-after bulletproof problem solver who can tackle challenges that others balk at.

Think Smarter: Critical Thinking to Improve Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Skills. This book is the comprehensive guide to training your brain to do more for you. Written by a critical thinking trainer and coach, the book presents a pragmatic framework and set of tools to apply critical thinking techniques to everyday business issues.

Cracked it!: How to solve big problems and sell solutions like top strategy consultants. In this book, seasoned strategy professors and consultants Bernard Garrette, Corey Phelps and Olivier Sibony present a rigorous and practical four-step approach to overcome these pitfalls. Building on tried-and-tested (but rarely revealed) methods of top strategy consultants, research in cognitive psychology, and the latest advances in design thinking, they provide a step-by-step process and toolkit that will help readers tackle any challenging business problem.

10m read | Expert

Further Learning: Best Problem Solving Courses

Effective Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Course by the University of California. Learn how to use analysis, synthesis, and positive inquiry to address individual and organizational problems and develop the critical thinking skills needed in today’s turbulent times. Using case studies and situations encountered by class members, explore successful models and proven methods that are readily transferable on-the-job.

Computational Thinking for Problem Solving by the University of Pennsylvania. In this course, you will learn about the pillars of computational thinking, how computer scientists develop and analyze algorithms, and how solutions can be realized on a computer using the Python programming language. By the end of the course, you will be able to develop an algorithm and express it to the computer by writing a simple Python program.

Critical Thinking & Problem-Solving Course by RITx. This course will demystify, discuss, and provide application techniques for critical thinking and problem-solving in a business context. Learners will draw connections to their work experience by analyzing and critiquing case studies. Best practices for problem-solving will be discussed and illustrated including how to weigh alternative solutions, incorporate feedback from stakeholders, and how and when to start over.

Lean Problem-Solving for Team Members and Leaders. This short course provides the basic skills and philosophy of effective problem solving. It is based on 45 years of experience developing teams and implementing lean management.

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