Problem solving skills are essential for any individual or organization looking to achieve success. To solve problems effectively, one must have a process and the necessary tools and techniques. This article will provide an overview of problem-solving skills, including a definition, examples, importance, methods, techniques, and tools. We’ll also look at some frequently asked questions (FAQs) around problem solving and offer tips on how to master these essential skills!
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 difficulty problem, humans came up with machines and technology.
What Is Problem Solving?
If you ask a layperson for the definition of problem-solving, he would tell you problem-solving is the process of providing solutions to a particular problem. That is right. But if we are to go a little bit technical, the problem-solving definition is more than that.
Technically, problem-solving is the accumulation of processes that could include the following steps:
- Definition of a problem
- Determination of the root cause of the problem
- Selecting different alternatives for the solution
- Applying the solution
You need to go through the above process to solve the problem effectively. So, in simple terms, problem-solving is the journey through many relevant steps to solve a problem. Now that we have established the problem solving definition, we must proceed to other details.
Before then, I would like to establish that problem solving skills are one of the most important skills required of an individual. No matter the nature of your work, 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.
Key Problem Solving Skills
Problem solving skills are a compilation of skill sets that comprise different abilities that are interrelated. Some of these important problem solving skills include the following:
The ability to do new things or do the old stuff in a new way. This is always important for problem-solving. With creativity, new methods could be employed to wisely solve the problem in an intelligent way.
2. Communication Skills:
It is being able to communicate well with members of a group of workers in the workplace. This is important because to solve workplace problems; you need to be able to communicate with your team members.
Communication involves being able to listen more than you speak. It also consists in being able to give clear instructions when necessary and also being able to receive instructions from others too.
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 globally—if not more.
The information will give them an informed and fully loaded approach to the problem. They 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. Then, once you are through with your analysis, you can settle for the best conclusion.
This is the ability to work together with others towards providing a solution. Collaboration involves teamwork. And in problem solving, it is vital to have a team that you can work with.
6. Decision Making:
Decision-making includes the ability to decide on the most appropriate solution quickly. It also involves weighing the pros and cons of each option before arriving at a decision.
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 bigger problem 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 shortlist of steps that make up the problem solving process:
- Problem definition
- Generation of available solutions and alternatives
- Analysis of the options and deciding on the most appropriate
- Implementation and follow up
The above procedure has sub-procedures for each step that you could follow to develop the most appropriate solution to the problems you may have. Remember that issues abound. Some problems need solving in every area of life—at home, in the workplace, etc. 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 adequately analyze the situation. 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 possible about the problem, and filter them out. Doing this will leave you with the most critical 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 sentences to know exactly what the problem is. First, ask yourself, “what exactly is the problem?” then provide an answer. Do 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 opinion 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 minor 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 thought. For example, some ideas may not sound as brilliant as others at first in a team. This does not mean that you should trash those contributions immediately. Instead, 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 with the highest probability of solving the problems. The other opinions could make up your plan B.
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 practice 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 a need to seek adequate information to handle issues effectively. Now, we will look at the resources you can get the information you need. The resources include:
- Case studies
- Websites and Blogs
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 consider when you are trying to solve problems. What problem solving techniques can you use to improve your business practices? Read further to find out.
Ask compelling questions.
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 views 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. Then, think before you go to 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 opinion will just be among the others 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:
- What is the problem?
- Who has/made the problem?
- Why is the problem here?
- When did the problem start?
- Where did the problem start from?
- How did the problem come about?
Asking yourself these questions is vital to problem definition. Therefore, 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. Of course, you should look out for the failure mode and consider the effect of its failure. Also, it would help if you examined the possibility of the loss 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 instance 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.
Once, 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. So I had to follow the processes above. I got good experience in the problem solving process from this task. Guess what? It worked for me.
It wasn’t an easy task as all committee members had to make their opinions known. It took patience to bring the ideas together, even when everyone wanted their ideas to count. We compiled everyone’s opinions objectively, and everyone was happy. We submitted our report, and the company thanked us for a job well done.
Problem solving skills are essential in the business world. Identifying and solving problems is a critical skill for all employees. There are a few steps you can take to improve your problem solving skills.
First, ask questions. Asking questions is a great way to get more information about a problem. When you ask questions, you force yourself to think more deeply about the issue at hand.
Second, brainstorm. Brainstorming is a great way to generate new ideas and solutions to problems. Get a group of people together and bounce ideas off of each other.
Third, take a step back. Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to take an action back and look at it from a different perspective. You can gain some much-needed clarity on the issue by taking a step back.
Fourth, think outside the box. When you’re stuck, it can help to think outside the box. Sometimes the best solution is one that’s not obvious.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re having trouble solving a problem, don’t be scared to ask for help from a friend, colleague, or expert.
Problem solving techniques are tools that can help you solve problems more effectively. There are various problem-solving techniques, including brainstorming, round-robin brainstorming, and the five Ws technique.
Problem solving skills are essential in the workplace because they allow employees to identify and solve problems quickly and efficiently. Those skills can also help employees to avoid potential problems before they occur. Employees can save their employers time and money by solving problems quickly and efficiently.
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. For example, 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 severe mess. Hence the importance of these problem solving skills cannot be overstated.
Master these skills, and employ them in your everyday problem solving tasks. You could be one of those making moves to make the whole world a better place—starting with your immediate community.