Problem Solving Skills: Process, and Techniques

Problem Solving Skills Process, Techniques, and Examples
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Problems… That word keeps the world rolling because everybody spends their lives trying to find solutions to problems. Without problems, there won’t be any need to seek solutions. Without solutions, there won’t be missions or quests. And without those, human beings will have no purpose. So, the importance of problem solving skills is clearly visible everywhere.

For example, to solve the problem of hunger, we look for food through cultivation or money to make purchases. To solve the problem of money, we all work to earn it. To solve the problem of difficulty, humans came up with machines and technology. And to solve the problem of not being able to effectively deal with your problems (especially at the place of work), this guide was written.

What Is Problem Solving?

If you ask a layman for the definition of problem solving, he would tell you problem solving is the process of providing solutions to a particular problem. Obviously, that is right. But if we are to go a little bit technical, problem solving definition is more than that.

Technically, problem solving is the accumulation of processes that could include the following steps:

  1. Definition of a problem
  2. Determination of the root cause of the problem
  3. Identification
  4. Prioritizing
  5. Selecting different alternatives for the solution
  6. Applying the solution

You need to go through the above process if you want to solve the problem effectively. So, in simple terms, problem solving is the journey through many relevant steps to arrive at the solution to a problem. Now that we have established the problem solving definition, it is important that we proceed to other details.

Before then, I would like to establish that a problem solving skill is one of the most important skills required of an individual. No matter the nature of the work you do, or even your role in a family setting, you need such a skill. Soon, you will get acquainted with some effective problem solving skills examples.

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Key Problem Solving Skills

Problem solving skills are a compilation of skill sets that comprise of different abilities that are interrelated. Some of these important problem solving skills include the following:

1.Creativity:

The ability to do new things or the ability to do the old things in a new way. This is always important for problem-solving. With creativity, new methods could be employed to wisely solve the problem in a smart way.

2. Communication Skills:

Being able to communicate well with members of a group or workers in the workplace.

3. Research Skills:

Research here means that an individual can search for relevant information. It is an example of fact-finding skills to solve a problem. Based on a 2015 study, there should be about 10 million researchers in the world—if not more.
The information will give him/her an informed and fully loaded approach to the problem. He/she will also have a lot of alternatives to explore. Remember that this is also one of the steps of problem solving.

4. Analytical skills:

This involves the ability to listen to other people’s opinions, and then analyze the pros and cons of the available options. Being analytical also means that you can take your time to check out the advantages and disadvantages of your options. Once you are through with your analysis, you can settle for the best conclusion.

5. Collaboration:

This is the ability to be able to work together with others towards providing a solution.

6. Decision Making:

This includes the ability to quickly decide on the most appropriate solution.

Problem Solving Process

Problem solving is simply like building a house. It is systematic. You cannot afford to skip a step. If you do, you will land yourself in a problem that is bigger than the one you are seeking to solve. So, in a problem solving process, you need to follow the process as it is, so you won’t waste your time and resources only to end up in a worse situation.

Below is a short list of steps that make up the problem solving process:

  1. Problem definition
  2. Generation of available solutions and alternatives
  3. Analysis of the alternatives and deciding on the most appropriate
  4. Implementation and follow up

The above procedure has sub-procedures for each step that you could follow in order to come up with the most appropriate solution to the problems you may have. Remember that problems abound. There are problems that need solving in every area of life—at home, in the workplace, and so on. To live a good life generally, you have to master these problem solving skills.

1. Problem definition:

First, you need to understand what the problem is. You cannot successfully find a solution to a problem if you know nothing about it.

So, take your time to identify the problem and do a proper analysis of the problem. While doing that, you need to be able to know the difference between opinions and facts.

Look out for the cause(s) of the problem. It is easier to get the solution to a problem that you know the root cause of. Gather as much information as you can about the problem, and filter them out. Doing this will leave you with the most important pieces of information to focus on.

Now, do what is called problem specification. This means that you should write the problem in one or a few sentence(s) so as to know exactly what the problem is. Ask yourself, “what exactly is the problem?”, then provide an answer. You see that answer? That’s the problem, put it down.

2. Generation of available solutions and alternatives:

The beauty of this stage is that you get to gather as many ideas as possible from your team members. In this case, you need to understand that no one’s idea is foolish.

Allow everyone to contribute their ideas, no matter how irrelevant they may be. Don’t forget that there is “sense” in every “nonsense”. So be a good listener and pay attention to the smallest details.

3. Analysis of the alternatives and Deciding on the most appropriate:

This is also the stage where you will evaluate your ideas. Objectively consider every single idea. For example: In a team, some ideas may not sound as brilliant as others at first. This does not mean that you should trash those contributions immediately. Be patient enough to allow for proper deliberation.

You could combine ideas or even derive a better one from those that seem less feasible. Consider the pros and cons of all the ideas and select the one that has the highest probability of solving the problems. The other opinions could make up your plan B.

Just like you defined the problem, write out the particular objective you have selected. Ask yourself, “So which alternative am I settling for?” Note down the answer that you came up with.

4. Implementation and follow up:

This is the final stage of the problem solving process where you will apply your proposed solution to solve the problem. You can attempt a pilot test or a trial, and see if things will work out. Get feedback for the trial. If the trial works, then you may accept the proposed solution. If it doesn’t work out, then test other options.

Problem Solving Resources

From problem solving definition, we have gotten to problem solving resources. Soon, we will get to problem solving skills techniques. As stated earlier, there is need to seek adequate information in order to handle problems effectively. Now, we will look at the resources from which you can get the information you need. The resources include:

  1. Articles
  2. Books
  3. Case studies
  4. Webcasts
  5. Websites and Blogs
  6. Professionals

Related Articles:

Problem Solving Techniques

As stated earlier, we will be discussing technical problem solving techniques. Firstly, we will define what a technique is in a simple way. Techniques are ways in which one can get something done.

So, I will be taking you through some problem solving techniques that you can take into consideration when you are trying to solve problems. What are some problem solving techniques that you can use to improve your business practices? Read further to find out.

  • Ask questions that are compelling. Ask as many as possible. Questions like “can we…”, “why not…”, “what if….”, “how about….”, “ don’t you think….”, etc. These compelling questions make your team members give more details about their opinions and you will also have a complete understanding of what they are referring to. Likewise, you would immediately detect opinions that may not work out.
  • Brainstorm as much as you can. Reason with others, and ponder about ideas on your own too. Think while you are with others. Think before you go for the meeting. Simply put, you need to do a lot of thinking.

    Doing this will make you come up with many ideas on your own until you can decide on the most desirable one that you can share with your team. Of course, your idea will just be among the others that will be deliberated on at the meeting. Employ the different methods of brainstorming – silent brainstorming technique, round-robin brainstorming technique, etc.
  • The 5 Ws technique: This technique could be employed to find out the cause of the problem. That is, you will ask the following questions:
  1. What is the problem?
  2. Who has/made the problem?
  3. Why is the problem here?
  4. When did the problem start?
  5. Where did the problem start from?
  6. How did the problem come about?

Asking yourself these questions is important to problem definition. Ensure that you do not overlook any one of them.

  • Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA): with this technique, you can try to guess or predict when and how a strategy may fail. You should look out for the failure mode, and consider the effect of its failure. Also, you should examine the possibility of the failure occurring.

Now that we have discussed some problem solving techniques, it is time to move to problem solving examples.

Check out some other problem solving techniques in this video.

Problem Solving Examples

Problem solving examples are everywhere. I will be sharing one example with you. But it is not out of place to say that you must have come across some situations where you had to solve some problems yourself in the personal and business areas of your life.

There was once a time I headed an ad-hoc committee that was meant to see to the problem of lack of commitment among employees in my workplace.

Remember I told you problems abound everywhere, even in the workplace. I had to follow the processes above. In fact, I got good experience of the problem solving process from this task. Guess what, it worked for me.

It wasn’t easy task as all members of the committee had to make their opinions known. It took patience to be able to bring the ideas together even when everyone wanted their ideas to count. At the end of the day, we compiled everyone’s opinions objectively and everyone was happy. We submitted our report and the company thanked us for the job well done.

Conclusion

It was said at the beginning that problems keep the world rolling. However, the inability to proffer solutions to these problems could make the world move without purpose. Just imagine if we couldn’t aim at finding a solution to end world hunger. Also, imagine if we couldn’t find solutions to most of our problems, then we would be in a serious mess. Hence the importance of these problem solving skills cannot be overstated.

Master these skills, and employ them in your everyday problem solving tasks. By then, you could be one of those making moves to make the whole world a better place—starting with your immediate community.

By Kalpataru Biswas

Kalpataru is a Software Sales, and Product Marketing professional. He writes on business development, personal development, personal finance, and career development. He has more than 10 years of experience in driving revenue through data-driven Sales & Marketing.