19 Ways to Improve Your Problem Solving Skills at Work - ThriveYard

19 Ways to Improve Your Problem Solving Skills at Work

This article discusses step-by-step ways to improve your problem solving skills at work.

Topics addressed include breaking down a problem to understand it better, digging a little deeper to find out what caused the problem, and ascertaining how widespread the problem is including how many people are affected.

Other steps outlined consist of figuring out potential solutions then narrowing down to select the best possible option under the circumstances.

Once a problem has been figured out, dealt with or resolved, additional processes entail monitoring the progress of the solution and proactively taking action to prevent future problems.

Towards the tail end of problem solving is taking in the lessons learned and helping others who might be facing similar problems which we have overcome.

You can quickly skim all the 19 tips on handling problems on the table of contents below and then click on any tip to read further details. Please enjoy reading. Thank you.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
  • Defining the problem
  • Finding out what caused the problem/Conducting research
  • Analyzing the impact of the problem
  • Brainstorming possible solutions
  • Evaluating alternatives/solutions
  • Choosing the best option
  • Developing an action plan/Execution strategy
  • Implementing the solution/Taking action
  • Monitoring progress
  • Evaluating the results
  • If the solution does not work
  • Problem solving mistakes
  • Ways to increase your problem solving skills
  • Challenges and obstacles in problem solving
  • Causes of problems at work
  • Problem solving skills
  • Learning from others who have solved similar problems
  • Examples of problems at work
  • Best practices for problem solving

1. Defining the problem

Why is the problem a problem? The first step in problem solving is to begin by describing, explaining or outlining the problem.

In its simplest form, a problem is an issue that is out of alignment and requires to be attended to, fixed or corrected to enable desired outcomes to be achieved.

There could be a temptation to quickly jump into figuring out solutions however, if the problem is not well understood, the solutions might not be effective and valuable time and effort could have been wasted.

Write down the problem based on your own understanding. This helps in zooming into or focusing on a specific issue. Similar to how a camera zooms on to an image before taking a picture. If the focus is blurry, the image won’t be clear.

Alternatively, think of it as identifying the starting line in a race, once you have figured out the beginning point (the problem), you set the stage for figuring out the skills, information, knowledge or resources required to get to the finishing line (the solution).

2. Finding out what caused the problem/Conducting research

What caused the problem? Once you have clearly defined the current problem, the next step is to dig a little deeper to find out the root cause or background of the problem.

Some questions to ask include the following:

  • When and where did the difficulty, obstacle or complication occur?
  • Why did the problem happen?
  • How did it happen?
  • What led to the problem?
  • Was it caused by one thing or many things?
  • What information is missing?
  • Where can you find more information?
  • What could have prevented the problem?
  • What is known about similar problems?
  • What solutions have been tried before?

3. Analyzing the impact of the problem

Who or what is affected by the problem? Determine how widespread the problem is.

  • Is it affecting one person or many? – How is it affecting them?
  • How long has the problem been going on?
  • Are there any trends?
  • Is this a re-occurring problem or a completely new one?
  • What would happen if the problem is not resolved?

Talk to different people to get first-hand accounts of the impact of the problem. Establish if it is severe or manageable.

4. Brainstorming possible solutions

What are the potential solutions? Identify possible solutions through brainstorming.

When brainstorming, state the problem, and then request everyone to independently write down their own individual answers.

Afterwards list down all the answers proposed and invite others to further build upon and refine the suggested solutions or propose additional solutions.

For a brainstorming session to be successful, the problem needs to be clearly defined, enough time needs to be scheduled, participants should take time to think through the problem and generate solutions, and solutions should not be judged during the brainstorming.

In addition, use a good facilitator to listen attentively to participants, encourage input by all and drive the discussion.

5. Evaluating alternatives/solutions

How do you select the best alternative? Once a good number of options have been gathered, the next step is to go through the alternatives and narrow down the ones that are most viable.

It is also possible that the top choices would be a merger between one or more other alternatives.

Identify the advantages and disadvantages of the top choices.

In addition, take a step back and write down the desired results, when they should be achieved as well as how the results will be measured i.e. what is expected after the problem has been eliminated or handled – imagine how it would be like when the problem is solved.

Analyze how best the top choices would lead to the desired results.

6. Choosing the best option

Will this solution solve the problem? The last step in brainstorming is deciding the best solution among the top alternatives available.

This step could be one of the most difficult and overwhelming and could trigger hesitation because of fear of making the wrong decision.

There could be a tendency to want to continue digging further to come up with more information or more alternatives.

Additionally, choosing an alternative could entail making compromises and some parties would have to make concessions therefore, there is a possibility that not everyone would be happy with the final solution.

However, at some point the decision making process will have to come to an end. Following your gut instinct and seeking advice from others can help in deciding.

You can also take a break to clear your head, relax and then make the decision with a clear mind and be able to easily explain that – “this solution is the best one because …”

Taking a poll is similarly a simple way to determine the solution that should be implemented for bigger problems.

7. Developing an action plan/Execution strategy

How will you prepare to act on the solution? Write down the final solution and come up with a plan of action for implementing it.

Break down the solution into smaller manageable steps.

The number of steps would typically vary in proportion to the complexity of a problem where generally the more complex the problem the more steps would be required to address it and vice versa.

Outline the actions that need to be done, determine who needs to do what, how much time is available, establish timelines, deadlines and gauges or ways to show if the results are being achieved.

Think about possible unexpected emergencies and risks then highlight a plan for addressing them.

8. Implementing the solution/Taking action

How will you put the solution to work? Here is where the actual work gets done. Keep the desired results or end-goal firmly in your mind then proceed to work on one step at a time.

If working with others, share the plan for solving the problem. Provide training if needed on how to accomplish the desired objectives, assemble and distribute needed resources and be available to answer clarifying questions that come up.

As you work, periodically check your progress against the action plan to ensure that you are making strides in the right direction.

When you often or regularly work on implementing different solutions, you are likely to discover better, simpler and efficient ways of solving problems.

For example, if tackling a problem for the first time takes x hours, after handling the same problem many times you are likely to fine tune your methods resulting in less time to solve a problem and more improvements and efficiencies . Better yet, you can even train others on your breakthroughs.

9. Monitoring progress

Is the problem getting corrected? Track the progress to see if the solution is working. Take a pulse check to get insight and feedback.

Under ideal circumstances, if the solution is the right one, the problem should be gradually dissipating the more the solution is implemented.

Generally, there would be a need to make tweaks here and there to either address issues that arise or to ensure that the solution has the best chance of succeeding.

Regularly check to see what is going well and what isn’t and make adjustments in good time.

If there are significant deviations from the anticipated, expected or projected outcome, find out what is causing this.

Some questions to ask when monitoring the progress of problem solving consist of:

  • How much progress has been made so far?
  • What amount of work is remaining?
  • Does everyone know what they are supposed to be doing?
  • Are we within schedule?
  • Are we within budget?
  • Have we met initial milestones or targets?
  • What challenges have we encountered so far?
  • What recommended changes are needed at this point?
  • What are the next milestones?

10. Evaluating the results

Was the problem fixed? At the end of the problem solving process, it is helpful to find out if the solution was successful.

A few questions that you can ask when evaluating results include the following:

  • Did we resolve the problem within our earlier planned schedule, timeline or deadline?
  • Did we eliminate the problem within budget?
  • Is the problem fully resolved?
  • Is there anything that has not been completed?
  • Are there any lessons learned?

Conclude by documenting the results. Some items to document include the date when the problem was fixed, who ascertained that the problem was resolved and how the problem was handled or resolved.

11. If the solution does not work

The problem was not fixed, now what? The simple reality is that some solutions work and others don’t.

Some solutions can address part of a problem and conversely some solutions can even magnify the problem or reveal an even bigger problem.

When a solution does not work out as expected, of course time and resources would have gone down the drain, nonetheless, go back to the drawing board and figure out another solution.

Other remedies could consist of more time needed to allow a solution to work, more resources required, more funds or more expertise.

It is also important to analyze why the original solution did not work out to not only learn from mistakes but also to prevent repeating the same errors.

12. Problem solving mistakes

Below are examples of problem solving mistakes:

  • Refusing to admit or acknowledge that a problem exists.
  • Looking for quick fixes.
  • Thinking that there won’t be any problems.
  • Fixing symptoms instead of the root cause.
  • Focusing on putting out small fires instead of addressing the big picture problem.
  • Rushing to solve a problem before understanding it.
  • Fearing to share out of the box ideas during brainstorming.
  • Risk of group think during brainstorming or conforming to what everyone else is suggesting.
  • Not having an open mind during brainstorming.
  • Poor facilitation in brainstorming sessions.
  • Solving the wrong problem.
  • Looking for someone to blame or pointing fingers.
  • Not listening or not seeking feedback or solutions from others.
  • Thinking that you should have all the answers.
  • Solutions that are not clearly defined.
  • Lack of clear communication.
  • Assuming that people already know what to do.
  • Failing to give credit to staff who have fixed problems.
  • Fear of making the wrong decision.
  • Wrong assumptions.
  • Getting scared or panicking when a problem arises.
  • Procrastinating to make a decision or choose among alternatives.
  • Refusing to acknowledge when a solution is not working.
  • Doing nothing when a problem arises.
  • Taking a long time before attending to a problem.
  • Not being flexible or adaptable when assumptions and conditions change.

13. Ways to increase your problem solving skills

I believe that one good way of improving your problem solving skills in the office is to work on solving many problems.

You can do this by volunteering to participate in brainstorming groups or sessions and offering your input and ideas as well as listening to contributions from your colleagues.

Aim to actively work on implementing solutions to flex and stretch your problem solving muscles.

Over time, you can recognize trends or patterns in solving problems and also increase your capacity to tolerate ambiguity and unknowns at the beginning of a problem solving process.

Other ways of increasing problem solving skills include the following:

  • Observing how others solve problems.
  • Reading about problem solving techniques.
  • Practicing different problem solving methods.
  • Undergoing training on problem solving.
  • Challenging yourself to be a good problem solver and be comfortable making decisions.
  • Working on unrelated fields, assignments and different departments to cross learn new transferable subjects, skills, methods etc.
  • Playing games that help in stimulating problem solving abilities such as solving puzzles and playing chess.
  • Improving your research skills.

14. Challenges and obstacles in problem solving

Reasons why problems might not be solved include:

  • Ignoring or avoiding the problem.
  • Thinking that problem solving process takes too much time or effort.
  • Not having the authority to decide which solution should be implemented.
  • Procrastinating or inertia to resolve a problem because it could take a long time to figure out solutions especially for complex problems.
  • Thinking that the problem is more difficult than it really is.
  • Thinking that you have to figure it all out on your own.
  • Not asking for help.
  • Unwilling to take other people’s inputs.
  • Fear that implementation could be difficult.
  • Fear of failure.
  • Resource constraints; insufficient resources such as manpower and finances to properly address large scope problems.
  • Too many problems or difficulty prioritizing problems.
  • Resistance to change or new ways of doing things.
  • Not following through on solutions after the brainstorming stage.
  • Giving up too quickly when it takes long to solve a problem.
  • Not measuring progress.
  • Changing external factors causing the need to rethink or revise solutions.
  • Inexperience handling and solving problems.
  • Not wanting to deal with uncertainty.

15. Causes of problems at work

Workplace problems can be caused by issues such as micromanagement, lack of accountability, difficult work environment, too much red tape, lack of advancement opportunities and lack of recognition.

Other causes of problems in the office include: poor communication, undefined processes or procedures, lack of resources, financial difficulties, not being properly trained, boredom, lack of motivation and stress at work.

Additional factors are heavy workloads, poor performance, lack of planning, unclear expectations, poor customer service, strained working relationships, poor management, staff turnover, burnout and poor job fit.

16. Problem solving skills

Skills that can aid in improving problem solving include:

Decision making skills – useful especially in choosing between alternatives, identifying the best solution and being able to explain why the chosen solution is the best one under the circumstances.

Communication skills – helps in firstly letting others know that there is a problem then secondly in outlining how the problem will be corrected, thirdly in assigning responsibilities and explaining to others what they should be doing and fourthly in letting others know that the problem has been resolved.

Risk taking – ability to identify the pros and cons of an alternative and then arming yourself with enough information to carry out the plan of action.

Prioritization – when faced with many problems at work and being able to identify the most urgent and important problem that should be fixed.

Flexibility – conditions and situations change all the time therefore, willingness to re-analyze plans and assumptions and re-calibrate them as needed is essential.

Other helpful traits consist of willingness to receive feedback , determination and perseverance to see things through, patience, connecting the dots or figuring out the relationship between things and tolerance for uncertainty.

17. Learning from others who have solved similar problems

It is possible that this is not the first time a problem has been encountered, others within the organization or elsewhere might have encountered similar problems and successfully solved them.

A similar problem could have been previously resolved by a coworker, a manager, someone from a different department or office, a consultant, a researcher etc.

Learning from others helps to save time and boost confidence in problem solving.

It is especially important to have documented problem solving procedures for critical problems that have occurred in the past. This acts as a form of knowledge library that is stored within the organization and can be transferred from one person to another.

18. Examples of problems at work

Typical problems faced at the workplace include the following:

  • Lack of communication.
  • Lack of resources.
  • Missed deadlines.
  • Not meeting goals.
  • Difficulties getting along with others.
  • Conflicts between employees .
  • Poor leadership .
  • Financial problems.
  • Cost overruns.
  • Bad customer service.
  • Over promising or over committing.
  • External challenges and threats.
  • Difficult co-workers.
  • Lack of teamwork.
  • Poor attitude.
  • Disconnect between supervisors and subordinates.
  • Unhappy clients.
  • Insufficient or lack of feedback.
  • Job stress.
  • Difficult customers.
  • Low morale.
  • Lack of appreciation or recognition.
  • Poor work environment.
  • Inefficient or obsolete systems.
  • Duplication of efforts.
  • Inadequate training.
Example of a problem: A simple example of a problem at the workplace is – “Failing to reach the branch office’s sales goals for the year?”

Questions to ask and analyze when diagnosing and resolving this problem can consist of the following:

  • What was the annual sales goal?
  • What percentage of the goal did we achieve?
  • What was the gap?
  • How were we supposed to reach the goal?
  • Did we break down the goal into smaller achievable tasks or milestones?
  • What processes or steps did we plan for reaching the goals?
  • What action did we implement?
  • Who was responsible for what?
  • What internal and/or external challenges did we encounter?
  • What systems or methods did we implement to monitor progress towards the goal?
  • Why didn’t we reach the goal?
  • When did we realize we wouldn’t reach the goal?
  • What are the consequences for not meeting the goal?
  • How can we correct the situation?
  • How much time do we have to fix the problem?
  • How can we prevent the problem from happening again?
  • What can we learn from our mistakes?
  • Have we met the sales goals in the past?
  • Have other branch offices met their annual sales goals?
  • How did others achieve their goals?
  • What can we learn from others?

19. Best practices for problem solving

Problem solving is an ongoing learning process. Whereas problems cannot be entirely eliminated at work, you can take proactive steps to improve the organizational knowledge and capacity for handling problems.

Below are some ways that can help you to be better equipped to handle new and old problems when they arise in the workplace:

  • Working collaboratively with others to solve problems.
  • Documenting solutions to known or resolved problems; saving steps learned in resolving past issues.
  • Constantly refining problem solving methods as new and old problems are resolved.
  • Preparing and utilizing checklists for various work processes.
  • Writing and implementing standard operating procedures and policies.
  • Using handbooks, guidelines, manuals and flowcharts.
  • Adopting quality control procedures at critical stages.
  • Regularly doing projections or forecasting and assessing progress against initial plans.
  • Learning from mistakes.
  • Regular staff training.
  • Conducting risk analysis and creating back up or contingency plans.
  • Using audits to ensure that laid down procedures are being adhered to and finding out if there are any compliance problems.
  • Regularly reviewing job performance through observation, reports, check-in meetings etc.
  • Using timelines and deadlines.
  • Generating insights from data collection.
  • Implementing stronger monitoring systems.
  • Encouraging a culture of ongoing process improvements.
  • Taking initiative to resolve problems.
  • Speaking up or voicing concerns early on when problems are detected.
  • Aiming for good and regular communication across the organization.
  • Listening to employees’ feedback.
  • Encouraging suggestions for process improvements.
  • Clear goal setting including long-term and short-term planning and goals.
  • Adopting better technology and systems.
  • Using external experts where needed such as consultants.
  • Keeping track and staying up to date with external forces and changes such as changing customer preferences, economic conditions, government regulation, competition, technological advancements, political changes etc.
  • Encouraging inter-departmental cross sharing of tips and tricks in addressing challenges.
  • Evaluating results regularly.

Problem solving entails making corrections and improvements when things don’t go as expected.

Some problems can be fixed in a short amount of time while others take longer to be resolved.

At a minimum, when faced with a problem take some time to figure out what the real problem is, what caused the problem and find out potential alternatives to address the problem.

Afterwards select the best possible solution, devise a plan for carrying out the solution then implement it. Finalize by monitoring your progress and evaluating whether the problem has been resolved.

Additional Resources on Ways to Improve Your Problem Solving Skills at Work Seven Steps for Effective Problem Solving in the Workplace How to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills 9 Ways to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills 6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills 5 Ways To Improve Your Problem Solving Skills How to Improve Problem Solving Skills Seven techniques for boosting independent problem solving skills in the workplace How to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills with These 8 Science-Backed Techniques   Summary Article Name 19 Ways to Improve Your Problem Solving Skills at Work Description Learn step-by-step ways to improve your problem solving skills at work including examples of problems at work, defining the problem, evaluating solutions and best practices in problem solving. Author Duncan Muguku Publisher Name ThriveYard Blog Categories

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What is an example of problem-solving?

What are the 5 steps to problem-solving, 10 effective problem-solving strategies, what skills do efficient problem solvers have, how to improve your problem-solving skills.

Problems come in all shapes and sizes — from workplace conflict to budget cuts.

Creative problem-solving is one of the most in-demand skills in all roles and industries. It can boost an organization’s human capital and give it a competitive edge. 

Problem-solving strategies are ways of approaching problems that can help you look beyond the obvious answers and find the best solution to your problem . 

Let’s take a look at a five-step problem-solving process and how to combine it with proven problem-solving strategies. This will give you the tools and skills to solve even your most complex problems.

Good problem-solving is an essential part of the decision-making process . To see what a problem-solving process might look like in real life, let’s take a common problem for SaaS brands — decreasing customer churn rates.

To solve this problem, the company must first identify it. In this case, the problem is that the churn rate is too high. 

Next, they need to identify the root causes of the problem. This could be anything from their customer service experience to their email marketing campaigns. If there are several problems, they will need a separate problem-solving process for each one. 

Let’s say the problem is with email marketing — they’re not nurturing existing customers. Now that they’ve identified the problem, they can start using problem-solving strategies to look for solutions. 

This might look like coming up with special offers, discounts, or bonuses for existing customers. They need to find ways to remind them to use their products and services while providing added value. This will encourage customers to keep paying their monthly subscriptions.

They might also want to add incentives, such as access to a premium service at no extra cost after 12 months of membership. They could publish blog posts that help their customers solve common problems and share them as an email newsletter.

The company should set targets and a time frame in which to achieve them. This will allow leaders to measure progress and identify which actions yield the best results.

team-meeting-problem-solving-strategies

Perhaps you’ve got a problem you need to tackle. Or maybe you want to be prepared the next time one arises. Either way, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the five steps of problem-solving. 

Use this step-by-step problem-solving method with the strategies in the following section to find possible solutions to your problem.

1. Identify the problem

The first step is to know which problem you need to solve. Then, you need to find the root cause of the problem. 

The best course of action is to gather as much data as possible, speak to the people involved, and separate facts from opinions. 

Once this is done, formulate a statement that describes the problem. Use rational persuasion to make sure your team agrees .

2. Break the problem down 

Identifying the problem allows you to see which steps need to be taken to solve it. 

First, break the problem down into achievable blocks. Then, use strategic planning to set a time frame in which to solve the problem and establish a timeline for the completion of each stage.

3. Generate potential solutions

At this stage, the aim isn’t to evaluate possible solutions but to generate as many ideas as possible. 

Encourage your team to use creative thinking and be patient — the best solution may not be the first or most obvious one.

Use one or more of the different strategies in the following section to help come up with solutions — the more creative, the better.

4. Evaluate the possible solutions

Once you’ve generated potential solutions, narrow them down to a shortlist. Then, evaluate the options on your shortlist. 

There are usually many factors to consider. So when evaluating a solution, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will my team be on board with the proposition?
  • Does the solution align with organizational goals ?
  • Is the solution likely to achieve the desired outcomes?
  • Is the solution realistic and possible with current resources and constraints?
  • Will the solution solve the problem without causing additional unintended problems?

woman-helping-her-colleague-problem-solving-strategies

5. Implement and monitor the solutions

Once you’ve identified your solution and got buy-in from your team, it’s time to implement it. 

But the work doesn’t stop there. You need to monitor your solution to see whether it actually solves your problem. 

Request regular feedback from the team members involved and have a monitoring and evaluation plan in place to measure progress.

If the solution doesn’t achieve your desired results, start this step-by-step process again.

There are many different ways to approach problem-solving. Each is suitable for different types of problems. 

The most appropriate problem-solving techniques will depend on your specific problem. You may need to experiment with several strategies before you find a workable solution.

Here are 10 effective problem-solving strategies for you to try:

  • Use a solution that worked before
  • Brainstorming
  • Work backward
  • Use the Kipling method
  • Draw the problem
  • Use trial and error
  • Sleep on it
  • Get advice from your peers
  • Use the Pareto principle
  • Add successful solutions to your toolkit

Let’s break each of these down.

1. Use a solution that worked before

It might seem obvious, but if you’ve faced similar problems in the past, look back to what worked then. See if any of the solutions could apply to your current situation and, if so, replicate them.

2. Brainstorming

The more people you enlist to help solve the problem, the more potential solutions you can come up with.

Use different brainstorming techniques to workshop potential solutions with your team. They’ll likely bring something you haven’t thought of to the table.

3. Work backward

Working backward is a way to reverse engineer your problem. Imagine your problem has been solved, and make that the starting point.

Then, retrace your steps back to where you are now. This can help you see which course of action may be most effective.

4. Use the Kipling method

This is a method that poses six questions based on Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “ I Keep Six Honest Serving Men .” 

  • What is the problem?
  • Why is the problem important?
  • When did the problem arise, and when does it need to be solved?
  • How did the problem happen?
  • Where is the problem occurring?
  • Who does the problem affect?

Answering these questions can help you identify possible solutions.

5. Draw the problem

Sometimes it can be difficult to visualize all the components and moving parts of a problem and its solution. Drawing a diagram can help.

This technique is particularly helpful for solving process-related problems. For example, a product development team might want to decrease the time they take to fix bugs and create new iterations. Drawing the processes involved can help you see where improvements can be made.

woman-drawing-mind-map-problem-solving-strategies

6. Use trial-and-error

A trial-and-error approach can be useful when you have several possible solutions and want to test them to see which one works best.

7. Sleep on it

Finding the best solution to a problem is a process. Remember to take breaks and get enough rest . Sometimes, a walk around the block can bring inspiration, but you should sleep on it if possible.

A good night’s sleep helps us find creative solutions to problems. This is because when you sleep, your brain sorts through the day’s events and stores them as memories. This enables you to process your ideas at a subconscious level. 

If possible, give yourself a few days to develop and analyze possible solutions. You may find you have greater clarity after sleeping on it. Your mind will also be fresh, so you’ll be able to make better decisions.

8. Get advice from your peers

Getting input from a group of people can help you find solutions you may not have thought of on your own. 

For solo entrepreneurs or freelancers, this might look like hiring a coach or mentor or joining a mastermind group. 

For leaders , it might be consulting other members of the leadership team or working with a business coach .

It’s important to recognize you might not have all the skills, experience, or knowledge necessary to find a solution alone. 

9. Use the Pareto principle

The Pareto principle — also known as the 80/20 rule — can help you identify possible root causes and potential solutions for your problems.

Although it’s not a mathematical law, it’s a principle found throughout many aspects of business and life. For example, 20% of the sales reps in a company might close 80% of the sales. 

You may be able to narrow down the causes of your problem by applying the Pareto principle. This can also help you identify the most appropriate solutions.

10. Add successful solutions to your toolkit

Every situation is different, and the same solutions might not always work. But by keeping a record of successful problem-solving strategies, you can build up a solutions toolkit. 

These solutions may be applicable to future problems. Even if not, they may save you some of the time and work needed to come up with a new solution.

three-colleagues-looking-at-computer-problem-solving-strategies

Improving problem-solving skills is essential for professional development — both yours and your team’s. Here are some of the key skills of effective problem solvers:

  • Critical thinking and analytical skills
  • Communication skills , including active listening
  • Decision-making
  • Planning and prioritization
  • Emotional intelligence , including empathy and emotional regulation
  • Time management
  • Data analysis
  • Research skills
  • Project management

And they see problems as opportunities. Everyone is born with problem-solving skills. But accessing these abilities depends on how we view problems. Effective problem-solvers see problems as opportunities to learn and improve.

Ready to work on your problem-solving abilities? Get started with these seven tips.

1. Build your problem-solving skills

One of the best ways to improve your problem-solving skills is to learn from experts. Consider enrolling in organizational training , shadowing a mentor , or working with a coach .

2. Practice

Practice using your new problem-solving skills by applying them to smaller problems you might encounter in your daily life. 

Alternatively, imagine problematic scenarios that might arise at work and use problem-solving strategies to find hypothetical solutions.

3. Don’t try to find a solution right away

Often, the first solution you think of to solve a problem isn’t the most appropriate or effective.

Instead of thinking on the spot, give yourself time and use one or more of the problem-solving strategies above to activate your creative thinking. 

two-colleagues-talking-at-corporate-event-problem-solving-strategies

4. Ask for feedback

Receiving feedback is always important for learning and growth. Your perception of your problem-solving skills may be different from that of your colleagues. They can provide insights that help you improve. 

5. Learn new approaches and methodologies

There are entire books written about problem-solving methodologies if you want to take a deep dive into the subject. 

We recommend starting with “ Fixed — How to Perfect the Fine Art of Problem Solving ” by Amy E. Herman. 

6. Experiment

Tried-and-tested problem-solving techniques can be useful. However, they don’t teach you how to innovate and develop your own problem-solving approaches. 

Sometimes, an unconventional approach can lead to the development of a brilliant new idea or strategy. So don’t be afraid to suggest your most “out there” ideas.

7. Analyze the success of your competitors

Do you have competitors who have already solved the problem you’re facing? Look at what they did, and work backward to solve your own problem. 

For example, Netflix started in the 1990s as a DVD mail-rental company. Its main competitor at the time was Blockbuster. 

But when streaming became the norm in the early 2000s, both companies faced a crisis. Netflix innovated, unveiling its streaming service in 2007. 

If Blockbuster had followed Netflix’s example, it might have survived. Instead, it declared bankruptcy in 2010.

Use problem-solving strategies to uplevel your business

When facing a problem, it’s worth taking the time to find the right solution. 

Otherwise, we risk either running away from our problems or headlong into solutions. When we do this, we might miss out on other, better options.

Use the problem-solving strategies outlined above to find innovative solutions to your business’ most perplexing problems.

If you’re ready to take problem-solving to the next level, request a demo with BetterUp . Our expert coaches specialize in helping teams develop and implement strategies that work.

Boost your productivity

Maximize your time and productivity with strategies from our expert coaches.

Elizabeth Perry, ACC

Elizabeth Perry is a Coach Community Manager at BetterUp. She uses strategic engagement strategies to cultivate a learning community across a global network of Coaches through in-person and virtual experiences, technology-enabled platforms, and strategic coaching industry partnerships. With over 3 years of coaching experience and a certification in transformative leadership and life coaching from Sofia University, Elizabeth leverages transpersonal psychology expertise to help coaches and clients gain awareness of their behavioral and thought patterns, discover their purpose and passions, and elevate their potential. She is a lifelong student of psychology, personal growth, and human potential as well as an ICF-certified ACC transpersonal life and leadership Coach.

8 creative solutions to your most challenging problems

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improving problem solving skills at work

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  • Turn your team into skilled problem sol ...

Turn your team into skilled problem solvers with these problem-solving strategies

Sarah Laoyan contributor headshot

Picture this, you're handling your daily tasks at work and your boss calls you in and says, "We have a problem." 

Unfortunately, we don't live in a world in which problems are instantly resolved with the snap of our fingers. Knowing how to effectively solve problems is an important professional skill to hone. If you have a problem that needs to be solved, what is the right process to use to ensure you get the most effective solution?

In this article we'll break down the problem-solving process and how you can find the most effective solutions for complex problems.

What is problem solving? 

Problem solving is the process of finding a resolution for a specific issue or conflict. There are many possible solutions for solving a problem, which is why it's important to go through a problem-solving process to find the best solution. You could use a flathead screwdriver to unscrew a Phillips head screw, but there is a better tool for the situation. Utilizing common problem-solving techniques helps you find the best solution to fit the needs of the specific situation, much like using the right tools.

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4 steps to better problem solving

While it might be tempting to dive into a problem head first, take the time to move step by step. Here’s how you can effectively break down the problem-solving process with your team:

1. Identify the problem that needs to be solved

One of the easiest ways to identify a problem is to ask questions. A good place to start is to ask journalistic questions, like:

Who : Who is involved with this problem? Who caused the problem? Who is most affected by this issue?

What: What is happening? What is the extent of the issue? What does this problem prevent from moving forward?

Where: Where did this problem take place? Does this problem affect anything else in the immediate area? 

When: When did this problem happen? When does this problem take effect? Is this an urgent issue that needs to be solved within a certain timeframe?

Why: Why is it happening? Why does it impact workflows?

How: How did this problem occur? How is it affecting workflows and team members from being productive?

Asking journalistic questions can help you define a strong problem statement so you can highlight the current situation objectively, and create a plan around that situation.

Here’s an example of how a design team uses journalistic questions to identify their problem:

Overarching problem: Design requests are being missed

Who: Design team, digital marketing team, web development team

What: Design requests are forgotten, lost, or being created ad hoc.

Where: Email requests, design request spreadsheet

When: Missed requests on January 20th, January 31st, February 4th, February 6th

How : Email request was lost in inbox and the intake spreadsheet was not updated correctly. The digital marketing team had to delay launching ads for a few days while design requests were bottlenecked. Designers had to work extra hours to ensure all requests were completed.

In this example, there are many different aspects of this problem that can be solved. Using journalistic questions can help you identify different issues and who you should involve in the process.

2. Brainstorm multiple solutions

If at all possible, bring in a facilitator who doesn't have a major stake in the solution. Bringing an individual who has little-to-no stake in the matter can help keep your team on track and encourage good problem-solving skills.

Here are a few brainstorming techniques to encourage creative thinking:

Brainstorm alone before hand: Before you come together as a group, provide some context to your team on what exactly the issue is that you're brainstorming. This will give time for you and your teammates to have some ideas ready by the time you meet.

Say yes to everything (at first): When you first start brainstorming, don't say no to any ideas just yet—try to get as many ideas down as possible. Having as many ideas as possible ensures that you’ll get a variety of solutions. Save the trimming for the next step of the strategy. 

Talk to team members one-on-one: Some people may be less comfortable sharing their ideas in a group setting. Discuss the issue with team members individually and encourage them to share their opinions without restrictions—you might find some more detailed insights than originally anticipated.

Break out of your routine: If you're used to brainstorming in a conference room or over Zoom calls, do something a little different! Take your brainstorming meeting to a coffee shop or have your Zoom call while you're taking a walk. Getting out of your routine can force your brain out of its usual rut and increase critical thinking.

3. Define the solution

After you brainstorm with team members to get their unique perspectives on a scenario, it's time to look at the different strategies and decide which option is the best solution for the problem at hand. When defining the solution, consider these main two questions: What is the desired outcome of this solution and who stands to benefit from this solution? 

Set a deadline for when this decision needs to be made and update stakeholders accordingly. Sometimes there's too many people who need to make a decision. Use your best judgement based on the limitations provided to do great things fast.

4. Implement the solution

To implement your solution, start by working with the individuals who are as closest to the problem. This can help those most affected by the problem get unblocked. Then move farther out to those who are less affected, and so on and so forth. Some solutions are simple enough that you don’t need to work through multiple teams.

After you prioritize implementation with the right teams, assign out the ongoing work that needs to be completed by the rest of the team. This can prevent people from becoming overburdened during the implementation plan . Once your solution is in place, schedule check-ins to see how the solution is working and course-correct if necessary.

Implement common problem-solving strategies

There are a few ways to go about identifying problems (and solutions). Here are some strategies you can try, as well as common ways to apply them:

Trial and error

Trial and error problem solving doesn't usually require a whole team of people to solve. To use trial and error problem solving, identify the cause of the problem, and then rapidly test possible solutions to see if anything changes. 

This problem-solving method is often used in tech support teams through troubleshooting.

The 5 whys problem-solving method helps get to the root cause of an issue. You start by asking once, “Why did this issue happen?” After answering the first why, ask again, “Why did that happen?” You'll do this five times until you can attribute the problem to a root cause. 

This technique can help you dig in and find the human error that caused something to go wrong. More importantly, it also helps you and your team develop an actionable plan so that you can prevent the issue from happening again.

Here’s an example:

Problem: The email marketing campaign was accidentally sent to the wrong audience.

“Why did this happen?” Because the audience name was not updated in our email platform.

“Why were the audience names not changed?” Because the audience segment was not renamed after editing. 

“Why was the audience segment not renamed?” Because everybody has an individual way of creating an audience segment.

“Why does everybody have an individual way of creating an audience segment?” Because there is no standardized process for creating audience segments. 

“Why is there no standardized process for creating audience segments?” Because the team hasn't decided on a way to standardize the process as the team introduced new members. 

In this example, we can see a few areas that could be optimized to prevent this mistake from happening again. When working through these questions, make sure that everyone who was involved in the situation is present so that you can co-create next steps to avoid the same problem. 

A SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis can help you highlight the strengths and weaknesses of a specific solution. SWOT stands for:

Strength: Why is this specific solution a good fit for this problem? 

Weaknesses: What are the weak points of this solution? Is there anything that you can do to strengthen those weaknesses?

Opportunities: What other benefits could arise from implementing this solution?

Threats: Is there anything about this decision that can detrimentally impact your team?

As you identify specific solutions, you can highlight the different strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of each solution. 

This particular problem-solving strategy is good to use when you're narrowing down the answers and need to compare and contrast the differences between different solutions. 

Even more successful problem solving

After you’ve worked through a tough problem, don't forget to celebrate how far you've come. Not only is this important for your team of problem solvers to see their work in action, but this can also help you become a more efficient, effective , and flexible team. The more problems you tackle together, the more you’ll achieve. 

Looking for a tool to help solve problems on your team? Track project implementation with a work management tool like Asana .

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Effective problem solving is all about using the right process and following a plan tailored to the issue at hand. Recognizing your team or organization has an issue isn’t enough to come up with effective problem solving strategies. 

To truly understand a problem and develop appropriate solutions, you will want to follow a solid process, follow the necessary problem solving steps, and bring all of your problem solving skills to the table.  

We’ll first guide you through the seven step problem solving process you and your team can use to effectively solve complex business challenges. We’ll also look at what problem solving strategies you can employ with your team when looking for a way to approach the process. We’ll then discuss the problem solving skills you need to be more effective at solving problems, complete with an activity from the SessionLab library you can use to develop that skill in your team.

Let’s get to it! 

What is a problem solving process?

  • What are the problem solving steps I need to follow?

Problem solving strategies

What skills do i need to be an effective problem solver, how can i improve my problem solving skills.

Solving problems is like baking a cake. You can go straight into the kitchen without a recipe or the right ingredients and do your best, but the end result is unlikely to be very tasty!

Using a process to bake a cake allows you to use the best ingredients without waste, collect the right tools, account for allergies, decide whether it is a birthday or wedding cake, and then bake efficiently and on time. The result is a better cake that is fit for purpose, tastes better and has created less mess in the kitchen. Also, it should have chocolate sprinkles. Having a step by step process to solve organizational problems allows you to go through each stage methodically and ensure you are trying to solve the right problems and select the most appropriate, effective solutions.

What are the problem solving steps I need to follow? 

All problem solving processes go through a number of steps in order to move from identifying a problem to resolving it.

Depending on your problem solving model and who you ask, there can be anything between four and nine problem solving steps you should follow in order to find the right solution. Whatever framework you and your group use, there are some key items that should be addressed in order to have an effective process.

We’ve looked at problem solving processes from sources such as the American Society for Quality and their four step approach , and Mediate ‘s six step process. By reflecting on those and our own problem solving processes, we’ve come up with a sequence of seven problem solving steps we feel best covers everything you need in order to effectively solve problems.

seven step problem solving process

1. Problem identification 

The first stage of any problem solving process is to identify the problem or problems you might want to solve. Effective problem solving strategies always begin by allowing a group scope to articulate what they believe the problem to be and then coming to some consensus over which problem they approach first. Problem solving activities used at this stage often have a focus on creating frank, open discussion so that potential problems can be brought to the surface.

2. Problem analysis 

Though this step is not a million miles from problem identification, problem analysis deserves to be considered separately. It can often be an overlooked part of the process and is instrumental when it comes to developing effective solutions.

The process of problem analysis means ensuring that the problem you are seeking to solve is the right problem . As part of this stage, you may look deeper and try to find the root cause of a specific problem at a team or organizational level.

Remember that problem solving strategies should not only be focused on putting out fires in the short term but developing long term solutions that deal with the root cause of organizational challenges. 

Whatever your approach, analyzing a problem is crucial in being able to select an appropriate solution and the problem solving skills deployed in this stage are beneficial for the rest of the process and ensuring the solutions you create are fit for purpose.

3. Solution generation

Once your group has nailed down the particulars of the problem you wish to solve, you want to encourage a free flow of ideas connecting to solving that problem. This can take the form of problem solving games that encourage creative thinking or problem solving activities designed to produce working prototypes of possible solutions. 

The key to ensuring the success of this stage of the problem solving process is to encourage quick, creative thinking and create an open space where all ideas are considered. The best solutions can come from unlikely places and by using problem solving techniques that celebrate invention, you might come up with solution gold. 

4. Solution development

No solution is likely to be perfect right out of the gate. It’s important to discuss and develop the solutions your group has come up with over the course of following the previous problem solving steps in order to arrive at the best possible solution. Problem solving games used in this stage involve lots of critical thinking, measuring potential effort and impact, and looking at possible solutions analytically. 

During this stage, you will often ask your team to iterate and improve upon your frontrunning solutions and develop them further. Remember that problem solving strategies always benefit from a multitude of voices and opinions, and not to let ego get involved when it comes to choosing which solutions to develop and take further.

Finding the best solution is the goal of all problem solving workshops and here is the place to ensure that your solution is well thought out, sufficiently robust and fit for purpose. 

5. Decision making 

Nearly there! Once your group has reached consensus and selected a solution that applies to the problem at hand you have some decisions to make. You will want to work on allocating ownership of the project, figure out who will do what, how the success of the solution will be measured and decide the next course of action.

The decision making stage is a part of the problem solving process that can get missed or taken as for granted. Fail to properly allocate roles and plan out how a solution will actually be implemented and it less likely to be successful in solving the problem.

Have clear accountabilities, actions, timeframes, and follow-ups. Make these decisions and set clear next-steps in the problem solving workshop so that everyone is aligned and you can move forward effectively as a group. 

Ensuring that you plan for the roll-out of a solution is one of the most important problem solving steps. Without adequate planning or oversight, it can prove impossible to measure success or iterate further if the problem was not solved. 

6. Solution implementation 

This is what we were waiting for! All problem solving strategies have the end goal of implementing a solution and solving a problem in mind. 

Remember that in order for any solution to be successful, you need to help your group through all of the previous problem solving steps thoughtfully. Only then can you ensure that you are solving the right problem but also that you have developed the correct solution and can then successfully implement and measure the impact of that solution.

Project management and communication skills are key here – your solution may need to adjust when out in the wild or you might discover new challenges along the way.

7. Solution evaluation 

So you and your team developed a great solution to a problem and have a gut feeling its been solved. Work done, right? Wrong. All problem solving strategies benefit from evaluation, consideration, and feedback. You might find that the solution does not work for everyone, might create new problems, or is potentially so successful that you will want to roll it out to larger teams or as part of other initiatives. 

None of that is possible without taking the time to evaluate the success of the solution you developed in your problem solving model and adjust if necessary.

Remember that the problem solving process is often iterative and it can be common to not solve complex issues on the first try. Even when this is the case, you and your team will have generated learning that will be important for future problem solving workshops or in other parts of the organization. 

It’s worth underlining how important record keeping is throughout the problem solving process. If a solution didn’t work, you need to have the data and records to see why that was the case. If you go back to the drawing board, notes from the previous workshop can help save time. Data and insight is invaluable at every stage of the problem solving process and this one is no different.

Problem solving workshops made easy

improving problem solving skills at work

Problem solving strategies are methods of approaching and facilitating the process of problem-solving with a set of techniques , actions, and processes. Different strategies are more effective if you are trying to solve broad problems such as achieving higher growth versus more focused problems like, how do we improve our customer onboarding process?

Broadly, the problem solving steps outlined above should be included in any problem solving strategy though choosing where to focus your time and what approaches should be taken is where they begin to differ. You might find that some strategies ask for the problem identification to be done prior to the session or that everything happens in the course of a one day workshop.

The key similarity is that all good problem solving strategies are structured and designed. Four hours of open discussion is never going to be as productive as a four-hour workshop designed to lead a group through a problem solving process.

Good problem solving strategies are tailored to the team, organization and problem you will be attempting to solve. Here are some example problem solving strategies you can learn from or use to get started.

Use a workshop to lead a team through a group process

Often, the first step to solving problems or organizational challenges is bringing a group together effectively. Most teams have the tools, knowledge, and expertise necessary to solve their challenges – they just need some guidance in how to use leverage those skills and a structure and format that allows people to focus their energies.

Facilitated workshops are one of the most effective ways of solving problems of any scale. By designing and planning your workshop carefully, you can tailor the approach and scope to best fit the needs of your team and organization. 

Problem solving workshop

  • Creating a bespoke, tailored process
  • Tackling problems of any size
  • Building in-house workshop ability and encouraging their use

Workshops are an effective strategy for solving problems. By using tried and test facilitation techniques and methods, you can design and deliver a workshop that is perfectly suited to the unique variables of your organization. You may only have the capacity for a half-day workshop and so need a problem solving process to match. 

By using our session planner tool and importing methods from our library of 700+ facilitation techniques, you can create the right problem solving workshop for your team. It might be that you want to encourage creative thinking or look at things from a new angle to unblock your groups approach to problem solving. By tailoring your workshop design to the purpose, you can help ensure great results.

One of the main benefits of a workshop is the structured approach to problem solving. Not only does this mean that the workshop itself will be successful, but many of the methods and techniques will help your team improve their working processes outside of the workshop. 

We believe that workshops are one of the best tools you can use to improve the way your team works together. Start with a problem solving workshop and then see what team building, culture or design workshops can do for your organization!

Run a design sprint

Great for: 

  • aligning large, multi-discipline teams
  • quickly designing and testing solutions
  • tackling large, complex organizational challenges and breaking them down into smaller tasks

By using design thinking principles and methods, a design sprint is a great way of identifying, prioritizing and prototyping solutions to long term challenges that can help solve major organizational problems with quick action and measurable results.

Some familiarity with design thinking is useful, though not integral, and this strategy can really help a team align if there is some discussion around which problems should be approached first. 

The stage-based structure of the design sprint is also very useful for teams new to design thinking.  The inspiration phase, where you look to competitors that have solved your problem, and the rapid prototyping and testing phases are great for introducing new concepts that will benefit a team in all their future work. 

It can be common for teams to look inward for solutions and so looking to the market for solutions you can iterate on can be very productive. Instilling an agile prototyping and testing mindset can also be great when helping teams move forwards – generating and testing solutions quickly can help save time in the long run and is also pretty exciting!

Break problems down into smaller issues

Organizational challenges and problems are often complicated and large scale in nature. Sometimes, trying to resolve such an issue in one swoop is simply unachievable or overwhelming. Try breaking down such problems into smaller issues that you can work on step by step. You may not be able to solve the problem of churning customers off the bat, but you can work with your team to identify smaller effort but high impact elements and work on those first.

This problem solving strategy can help a team generate momentum, prioritize and get some easy wins. It’s also a great strategy to employ with teams who are just beginning to learn how to approach the problem solving process. If you want some insight into a way to employ this strategy, we recommend looking at our design sprint template below!

Use guiding frameworks or try new methodologies

Some problems are best solved by introducing a major shift in perspective or by using new methodologies that encourage your team to think differently.

Props and tools such as Methodkit , which uses a card-based toolkit for facilitation, or Lego Serious Play can be great ways to engage your team and find an inclusive, democratic problem solving strategy. Remember that play and creativity are great tools for achieving change and whatever the challenge, engaging your participants can be very effective where other strategies may have failed.

LEGO Serious Play

  • Improving core problem solving skills
  • Thinking outside of the box
  • Encouraging creative solutions

LEGO Serious Play is a problem solving methodology designed to get participants thinking differently by using 3D models and kinesthetic learning styles. By physically building LEGO models based on questions and exercises, participants are encouraged to think outside of the box and create their own responses. 

Collaborate LEGO Serious Play exercises are also used to encourage communication and build problem solving skills in a group. By using this problem solving process, you can often help different kinds of learners and personality types contribute and unblock organizational problems with creative thinking. 

Problem solving strategies like LEGO Serious Play are super effective at helping a team solve more skills-based problems such as communication between teams or a lack of creative thinking. Some problems are not suited to LEGO Serious Play and require a different problem solving strategy.

Card Decks and Method Kits

  • New facilitators or non-facilitators 
  • Approaching difficult subjects with a simple, creative framework
  • Engaging those with varied learning styles

Card decks and method kids are great tools for those new to facilitation or for whom facilitation is not the primary role. Card decks such as the emotional culture deck can be used for complete workshops and in many cases, can be used right out of the box. Methodkit has a variety of kits designed for scenarios ranging from personal development through to personas and global challenges so you can find the right deck for your particular needs.

Having an easy to use framework that encourages creativity or a new approach can take some of the friction or planning difficulties out of the workshop process and energize a team in any setting. Simplicity is the key with these methods. By ensuring everyone on your team can get involved and engage with the process as quickly as possible can really contribute to the success of your problem solving strategy.

Source external advice

Looking to peers, experts and external facilitators can be a great way of approaching the problem solving process. Your team may not have the necessary expertise, insights of experience to tackle some issues, or you might simply benefit from a fresh perspective. Some problems may require bringing together an entire team, and coaching managers or team members individually might be the right approach. Remember that not all problems are best resolved in the same manner.

If you’re a solo entrepreneur, peer groups, coaches and mentors can also be invaluable at not only solving specific business problems, but in providing a support network for resolving future challenges. One great approach is to join a Mastermind Group and link up with like-minded individuals and all grow together. Remember that however you approach the sourcing of external advice, do so thoughtfully, respectfully and honestly. Reciprocate where you can and prepare to be surprised by just how kind and helpful your peers can be!

Mastermind Group

  • Solo entrepreneurs or small teams with low capacity
  • Peer learning and gaining outside expertise
  • Getting multiple external points of view quickly

Problem solving in large organizations with lots of skilled team members is one thing, but how about if you work for yourself or in a very small team without the capacity to get the most from a design sprint or LEGO Serious Play session? 

A mastermind group – sometimes known as a peer advisory board – is where a group of people come together to support one another in their own goals, challenges, and businesses. Each participant comes to the group with their own purpose and the other members of the group will help them create solutions, brainstorm ideas, and support one another. 

Mastermind groups are very effective in creating an energized, supportive atmosphere that can deliver meaningful results. Learning from peers from outside of your organization or industry can really help unlock new ways of thinking and drive growth. Access to the experience and skills of your peers can be invaluable in helping fill the gaps in your own ability, particularly in young companies.

A mastermind group is a great solution for solo entrepreneurs, small teams, or for organizations that feel that external expertise or fresh perspectives will be beneficial for them. It is worth noting that Mastermind groups are often only as good as the participants and what they can bring to the group. Participants need to be committed, engaged and understand how to work in this context. 

Coaching and mentoring

  • Focused learning and development
  • Filling skills gaps
  • Working on a range of challenges over time

Receiving advice from a business coach or building a mentor/mentee relationship can be an effective way of resolving certain challenges. The one-to-one format of most coaching and mentor relationships can really help solve the challenges those individuals are having and benefit the organization as a result.

A great mentor can be invaluable when it comes to spotting potential problems before they arise and coming to understand a mentee very well has a host of other business benefits. You might run an internal mentorship program to help develop your team’s problem solving skills and strategies or as part of a large learning and development program. External coaches can also be an important part of your problem solving strategy, filling skills gaps for your management team or helping with specific business issues. 

Now we’ve explored the problem solving process and the steps you will want to go through in order to have an effective session, let’s look at the skills you and your team need to be more effective problem solvers.

Problem solving skills are highly sought after, whatever industry or team you work in. Organizations are keen to employ people who are able to approach problems thoughtfully and find strong, realistic solutions. Whether you are a facilitator , a team leader or a developer, being an effective problem solver is a skill you’ll want to develop.

Problem solving skills form a whole suite of techniques and approaches that an individual uses to not only identify problems but to discuss them productively before then developing appropriate solutions.

Here are some of the most important problem solving skills everyone from executives to junior staff members should learn. We’ve also included an activity or exercise from the SessionLab library that can help you and your team develop that skill. 

If you’re running a workshop or training session to try and improve problem solving skills in your team, try using these methods to supercharge your process!

Problem solving skills checklist

Active listening

Active listening is one of the most important skills anyone who works with people can possess. In short, active listening is a technique used to not only better understand what is being said by an individual, but also to be more aware of the underlying message the speaker is trying to convey. When it comes to problem solving, active listening is integral for understanding the position of every participant and to clarify the challenges, ideas and solutions they bring to the table.

Some active listening skills include:

  • Paying complete attention to the speaker.
  • Removing distractions.
  • Avoid interruption.
  • Taking the time to fully understand before preparing a rebuttal.
  • Responding respectfully and appropriately.
  • Demonstrate attentiveness and positivity with an open posture, making eye contact with the speaker, smiling and nodding if appropriate. Show that you are listening and encourage them to continue.
  • Be aware of and respectful of feelings. Judge the situation and respond appropriately. You can disagree without being disrespectful.   
  • Observe body language. 
  • Paraphrase what was said in your own words, either mentally or verbally.
  • Remain neutral. 
  • Reflect and take a moment before responding.
  • Ask deeper questions based on what is said and clarify points where necessary.   
Active Listening   #hyperisland   #skills   #active listening   #remote-friendly   This activity supports participants to reflect on a question and generate their own solutions using simple principles of active listening and peer coaching. It’s an excellent introduction to active listening but can also be used with groups that are already familiar with it. Participants work in groups of three and take turns being: “the subject”, the listener, and the observer.

Analytical skills

All problem solving models require strong analytical skills, particularly during the beginning of the process and when it comes to analyzing how solutions have performed.

Analytical skills are primarily focused on performing an effective analysis by collecting, studying and parsing data related to a problem or opportunity. 

It often involves spotting patterns, being able to see things from different perspectives and using observable facts and data to make suggestions or produce insight. 

Analytical skills are also important at every stage of the problem solving process and by having these skills, you can ensure that any ideas or solutions you create or backed up analytically and have been sufficiently thought out.

Nine Whys   #innovation   #issue analysis   #liberating structures   With breathtaking simplicity, you can rapidly clarify for individuals and a group what is essentially important in their work. You can quickly reveal when a compelling purpose is missing in a gathering and avoid moving forward without clarity. When a group discovers an unambiguous shared purpose, more freedom and more responsibility are unleashed. You have laid the foundation for spreading and scaling innovations with fidelity.

Collaboration

Trying to solve problems on your own is difficult. Being able to collaborate effectively, with a free exchange of ideas, to delegate and be a productive member of a team is hugely important to all problem solving strategies.

Remember that whatever your role, collaboration is integral, and in a problem solving process, you are all working together to find the best solution for everyone. 

Marshmallow challenge with debriefing   #teamwork   #team   #leadership   #collaboration   In eighteen minutes, teams must build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow. The marshmallow needs to be on top. The Marshmallow Challenge was developed by Tom Wujec, who has done the activity with hundreds of groups around the world. Visit the Marshmallow Challenge website for more information. This version has an extra debriefing question added with sample questions focusing on roles within the team.

Communication  

Being an effective communicator means being empathetic, clear and succinct, asking the right questions, and demonstrating active listening skills throughout any discussion or meeting. 

In a problem solving setting, you need to communicate well in order to progress through each stage of the process effectively. As a team leader, it may also fall to you to facilitate communication between parties who may not see eye to eye. Effective communication also means helping others to express themselves and be heard in a group.

Bus Trip   #feedback   #communication   #appreciation   #closing   #thiagi   #team   This is one of my favourite feedback games. I use Bus Trip at the end of a training session or a meeting, and I use it all the time. The game creates a massive amount of energy with lots of smiles, laughs, and sometimes even a teardrop or two.

Creative problem solving skills can be some of the best tools in your arsenal. Thinking creatively, being able to generate lots of ideas and come up with out of the box solutions is useful at every step of the process. 

The kinds of problems you will likely discuss in a problem solving workshop are often difficult to solve, and by approaching things in a fresh, creative manner, you can often create more innovative solutions.

Having practical creative skills is also a boon when it comes to problem solving. If you can help create quality design sketches and prototypes in record time, it can help bring a team to alignment more quickly or provide a base for further iteration.

The paper clip method   #sharing   #creativity   #warm up   #idea generation   #brainstorming   The power of brainstorming. A training for project leaders, creativity training, and to catalyse getting new solutions.

Critical thinking

Critical thinking is one of the fundamental problem solving skills you’ll want to develop when working on developing solutions. Critical thinking is the ability to analyze, rationalize and evaluate while being aware of personal bias, outlying factors and remaining open-minded.

Defining and analyzing problems without deploying critical thinking skills can mean you and your team go down the wrong path. Developing solutions to complex issues requires critical thinking too – ensuring your team considers all possibilities and rationally evaluating them. 

Agreement-Certainty Matrix   #issue analysis   #liberating structures   #problem solving   You can help individuals or groups avoid the frequent mistake of trying to solve a problem with methods that are not adapted to the nature of their challenge. The combination of two questions makes it possible to easily sort challenges into four categories: simple, complicated, complex , and chaotic .  A problem is simple when it can be solved reliably with practices that are easy to duplicate.  It is complicated when experts are required to devise a sophisticated solution that will yield the desired results predictably.  A problem is complex when there are several valid ways to proceed but outcomes are not predictable in detail.  Chaotic is when the context is too turbulent to identify a path forward.  A loose analogy may be used to describe these differences: simple is like following a recipe, complicated like sending a rocket to the moon, complex like raising a child, and chaotic is like the game “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”  The Liberating Structures Matching Matrix in Chapter 5 can be used as the first step to clarify the nature of a challenge and avoid the mismatches between problems and solutions that are frequently at the root of chronic, recurring problems.

Data analysis 

Though it shares lots of space with general analytical skills, data analysis skills are something you want to cultivate in their own right in order to be an effective problem solver.

Being good at data analysis doesn’t just mean being able to find insights from data, but also selecting the appropriate data for a given issue, interpreting it effectively and knowing how to model and present that data. Depending on the problem at hand, it might also include a working knowledge of specific data analysis tools and procedures. 

Having a solid grasp of data analysis techniques is useful if you’re leading a problem solving workshop but if you’re not an expert, don’t worry. Bring people into the group who has this skill set and help your team be more effective as a result.

Decision making

All problems need a solution and all solutions require that someone make the decision to implement them. Without strong decision making skills, teams can become bogged down in discussion and less effective as a result. 

Making decisions is a key part of the problem solving process. It’s important to remember that decision making is not restricted to the leadership team. Every staff member makes decisions every day and developing these skills ensures that your team is able to solve problems at any scale. Remember that making decisions does not mean leaping to the first solution but weighing up the options and coming to an informed, well thought out solution to any given problem that works for the whole team.

Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ)   #action   #decision making   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #innovation   #design   #remote-friendly   The problem with anything that requires creative thinking is that it’s easy to get lost—lose focus and fall into the trap of having useless, open-ended, unstructured discussions. Here’s the most effective solution I’ve found: Replace all open, unstructured discussion with a clear process. What to use this exercise for: Anything which requires a group of people to make decisions, solve problems or discuss challenges. It’s always good to frame an LDJ session with a broad topic, here are some examples: The conversion flow of our checkout Our internal design process How we organise events Keeping up with our competition Improving sales flow

Dependability

Most complex organizational problems require multiple people to be involved in delivering the solution. Ensuring that the team and organization can depend on you to take the necessary actions and communicate where necessary is key to ensuring problems are solved effectively.

Being dependable also means working to deadlines and to brief. It is often a matter of creating trust in a team so that everyone can depend on one another to complete the agreed actions in the agreed time frame so that the team can move forward together. Being undependable can create problems of friction and can limit the effectiveness of your solutions so be sure to bear this in mind throughout a project. 

Team Purpose & Culture   #team   #hyperisland   #culture   #remote-friendly   This is an essential process designed to help teams define their purpose (why they exist) and their culture (how they work together to achieve that purpose). Defining these two things will help any team to be more focused and aligned. With support of tangible examples from other companies, the team members work as individuals and a group to codify the way they work together. The goal is a visual manifestation of both the purpose and culture that can be put up in the team’s work space.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is an important skill for any successful team member, whether communicating internally or with clients or users. In the problem solving process, emotional intelligence means being attuned to how people are feeling and thinking, communicating effectively and being self-aware of what you bring to a room. 

There are often differences of opinion when working through problem solving processes, and it can be easy to let things become impassioned or combative. Developing your emotional intelligence means being empathetic to your colleagues and managing your own emotions throughout the problem and solution process. Be kind, be thoughtful and put your points across care and attention. 

Being emotionally intelligent is a skill for life and by deploying it at work, you can not only work efficiently but empathetically. Check out the emotional culture workshop template for more!

Facilitation

As we’ve clarified in our facilitation skills post, facilitation is the art of leading people through processes towards agreed-upon objectives in a manner that encourages participation, ownership, and creativity by all those involved. While facilitation is a set of interrelated skills in itself, the broad definition of facilitation can be invaluable when it comes to problem solving. Leading a team through a problem solving process is made more effective if you improve and utilize facilitation skills – whether you’re a manager, team leader or external stakeholder.

The Six Thinking Hats   #creative thinking   #meeting facilitation   #problem solving   #issue resolution   #idea generation   #conflict resolution   The Six Thinking Hats are used by individuals and groups to separate out conflicting styles of thinking. They enable and encourage a group of people to think constructively together in exploring and implementing change, rather than using argument to fight over who is right and who is wrong.

Flexibility 

Being flexible is a vital skill when it comes to problem solving. This does not mean immediately bowing to pressure or changing your opinion quickly: instead, being flexible is all about seeing things from new perspectives, receiving new information and factoring it into your thought process.

Flexibility is also important when it comes to rolling out solutions. It might be that other organizational projects have greater priority or require the same resources as your chosen solution. Being flexible means understanding needs and challenges across the team and being open to shifting or arranging your own schedule as necessary. Again, this does not mean immediately making way for other projects. It’s about articulating your own needs, understanding the needs of others and being able to come to a meaningful compromise.

The Creativity Dice   #creativity   #problem solving   #thiagi   #issue analysis   Too much linear thinking is hazardous to creative problem solving. To be creative, you should approach the problem (or the opportunity) from different points of view. You should leave a thought hanging in mid-air and move to another. This skipping around prevents premature closure and lets your brain incubate one line of thought while you consciously pursue another.

Working in any group can lead to unconscious elements of groupthink or situations in which you may not wish to be entirely honest. Disagreeing with the opinions of the executive team or wishing to save the feelings of a coworker can be tricky to navigate, but being honest is absolutely vital when to comes to developing effective solutions and ensuring your voice is heard. 

Remember that being honest does not mean being brutally candid. You can deliver your honest feedback and opinions thoughtfully and without creating friction by using other skills such as emotional intelligence. 

Explore your Values   #hyperisland   #skills   #values   #remote-friendly   Your Values is an exercise for participants to explore what their most important values are. It’s done in an intuitive and rapid way to encourage participants to follow their intuitive feeling rather than over-thinking and finding the “correct” values. It is a good exercise to use to initiate reflection and dialogue around personal values.

Initiative 

The problem solving process is multi-faceted and requires different approaches at certain points of the process. Taking initiative to bring problems to the attention of the team, collect data or lead the solution creating process is always valuable. You might even roadtest your own small scale solutions or brainstorm before a session. Taking initiative is particularly effective if you have good deal of knowledge in that area or have ownership of a particular project and want to get things kickstarted.

That said, be sure to remember to honor the process and work in service of the team. If you are asked to own one part of the problem solving process and you don’t complete that task because your initiative leads you to work on something else, that’s not an effective method of solving business challenges.

15% Solutions   #action   #liberating structures   #remote-friendly   You can reveal the actions, however small, that everyone can do immediately. At a minimum, these will create momentum, and that may make a BIG difference.  15% Solutions show that there is no reason to wait around, feel powerless, or fearful. They help people pick it up a level. They get individuals and the group to focus on what is within their discretion instead of what they cannot change.  With a very simple question, you can flip the conversation to what can be done and find solutions to big problems that are often distributed widely in places not known in advance. Shifting a few grains of sand may trigger a landslide and change the whole landscape.

Impartiality

A particularly useful problem solving skill for product owners or managers is the ability to remain impartial throughout much of the process. In practice, this means treating all points of view and ideas brought forward in a meeting equally and ensuring that your own areas of interest or ownership are not favored over others. 

There may be a stage in the process where a decision maker has to weigh the cost and ROI of possible solutions against the company roadmap though even then, ensuring that the decision made is based on merit and not personal opinion. 

Empathy map   #frame insights   #create   #design   #issue analysis   An empathy map is a tool to help a design team to empathize with the people they are designing for. You can make an empathy map for a group of people or for a persona. To be used after doing personas when more insights are needed.

Being a good leader means getting a team aligned, energized and focused around a common goal. In the problem solving process, strong leadership helps ensure that the process is efficient, that any conflicts are resolved and that a team is managed in the direction of success.

It’s common for managers or executives to assume this role in a problem solving workshop, though it’s important that the leader maintains impartiality and does not bulldoze the group in a particular direction. Remember that good leadership means working in service of the purpose and team and ensuring the workshop is a safe space for employees of any level to contribute. Take a look at our leadership games and activities post for more exercises and methods to help improve leadership in your organization.

Leadership Pizza   #leadership   #team   #remote-friendly   This leadership development activity offers a self-assessment framework for people to first identify what skills, attributes and attitudes they find important for effective leadership, and then assess their own development and initiate goal setting.

In the context of problem solving, mediation is important in keeping a team engaged, happy and free of conflict. When leading or facilitating a problem solving workshop, you are likely to run into differences of opinion. Depending on the nature of the problem, certain issues may be brought up that are emotive in nature. 

Being an effective mediator means helping those people on either side of such a divide are heard, listen to one another and encouraged to find common ground and a resolution. Mediating skills are useful for leaders and managers in many situations and the problem solving process is no different.

Conflict Responses   #hyperisland   #team   #issue resolution   A workshop for a team to reflect on past conflicts, and use them to generate guidelines for effective conflict handling. The workshop uses the Thomas-Killman model of conflict responses to frame a reflective discussion. Use it to open up a discussion around conflict with a team.

Planning 

Solving organizational problems is much more effective when following a process or problem solving model. Planning skills are vital in order to structure, deliver and follow-through on a problem solving workshop and ensure your solutions are intelligently deployed.

Planning skills include the ability to organize tasks and a team, plan and design the process and take into account any potential challenges. Taking the time to plan carefully can save time and frustration later in the process and is valuable for ensuring a team is positioned for success.

3 Action Steps   #hyperisland   #action   #remote-friendly   This is a small-scale strategic planning session that helps groups and individuals to take action toward a desired change. It is often used at the end of a workshop or programme. The group discusses and agrees on a vision, then creates some action steps that will lead them towards that vision. The scope of the challenge is also defined, through discussion of the helpful and harmful factors influencing the group.

Prioritization

As organisations grow, the scale and variation of problems they face multiplies. Your team or is likely to face numerous challenges in different areas and so having the skills to analyze and prioritize becomes very important, particularly for those in leadership roles.

A thorough problem solving process is likely to deliver multiple solutions and you may have several different problems you wish to solve simultaneously. Prioritization is the ability to measure the importance, value, and effectiveness of those possible solutions and choose which to enact and in what order. The process of prioritization is integral in ensuring the biggest challenges are addressed with the most impactful solutions.

Impact and Effort Matrix   #gamestorming   #decision making   #action   #remote-friendly   In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.

Project management

Some problem solving skills are utilized in a workshop or ideation phases, while others come in useful when it comes to decision making. Overseeing an entire problem solving process and ensuring its success requires strong project management skills. 

While project management incorporates many of the other skills listed here, it is important to note the distinction of considering all of the factors of a project and managing them successfully. Being able to negotiate with stakeholders, manage tasks, time and people, consider costs and ROI, and tie everything together is massively helpful when going through the problem solving process. 

Record keeping

Working out meaningful solutions to organizational challenges is only one part of the process.  Thoughtfully documenting and keeping records of each problem solving step for future consultation is important in ensuring efficiency and meaningful change. 

For example, some problems may be lower priority than others but can be revisited in the future. If the team has ideated on solutions and found some are not up to the task, record those so you can rule them out and avoiding repeating work. Keeping records of the process also helps you improve and refine your problem solving model next time around!

Personal Kanban   #gamestorming   #action   #agile   #project planning   Personal Kanban is a tool for organizing your work to be more efficient and productive. It is based on agile methods and principles.

Research skills

Conducting research to support both the identification of problems and the development of appropriate solutions is important for an effective process. Knowing where to go to collect research, how to conduct research efficiently, and identifying pieces of research are relevant are all things a good researcher can do well. 

In larger groups, not everyone has to demonstrate this ability in order for a problem solving workshop to be effective. That said, having people with research skills involved in the process, particularly if they have existing area knowledge, can help ensure the solutions that are developed with data that supports their intention. Remember that being able to deliver the results of research efficiently and in a way the team can easily understand is also important. The best data in the world is only as effective as how it is delivered and interpreted.

Customer experience map   #ideation   #concepts   #research   #design   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   Customer experience mapping is a method of documenting and visualizing the experience a customer has as they use the product or service. It also maps out their responses to their experiences. To be used when there is a solution (even in a conceptual stage) that can be analyzed.

Risk management

Managing risk is an often overlooked part of the problem solving process. Solutions are often developed with the intention of reducing exposure to risk or solving issues that create risk but sometimes, great solutions are more experimental in nature and as such, deploying them needs to be carefully considered. 

Managing risk means acknowledging that there may be risks associated with more out of the box solutions or trying new things, but that this must be measured against the possible benefits and other organizational factors. 

Be informed, get the right data and stakeholders in the room and you can appropriately factor risk into your decision making process. 

Decisions, Decisions…   #communication   #decision making   #thiagi   #action   #issue analysis   When it comes to decision-making, why are some of us more prone to take risks while others are risk-averse? One explanation might be the way the decision and options were presented.  This exercise, based on Kahneman and Tversky’s classic study , illustrates how the framing effect influences our judgement and our ability to make decisions . The participants are divided into two groups. Both groups are presented with the same problem and two alternative programs for solving them. The two programs both have the same consequences but are presented differently. The debriefing discussion examines how the framing of the program impacted the participant’s decision.

Team-building 

No single person is as good at problem solving as a team. Building an effective team and helping them come together around a common purpose is one of the most important problem solving skills, doubly so for leaders. By bringing a team together and helping them work efficiently, you pave the way for team ownership of a problem and the development of effective solutions. 

In a problem solving workshop, it can be tempting to jump right into the deep end, though taking the time to break the ice, energize the team and align them with a game or exercise will pay off over the course of the day.

Remember that you will likely go through the problem solving process multiple times over an organization’s lifespan and building a strong team culture will make future problem solving more effective. It’s also great to work with people you know, trust and have fun with. Working on team building in and out of the problem solving process is a hallmark of successful teams that can work together to solve business problems.

9 Dimensions Team Building Activity   #ice breaker   #teambuilding   #team   #remote-friendly   9 Dimensions is a powerful activity designed to build relationships and trust among team members. There are 2 variations of this icebreaker. The first version is for teams who want to get to know each other better. The second version is for teams who want to explore how they are working together as a team.

Time management 

The problem solving process is designed to lead a team from identifying a problem through to delivering a solution and evaluating its effectiveness. Without effective time management skills or timeboxing of tasks, it can be easy for a team to get bogged down or be inefficient.

By using a problem solving model and carefully designing your workshop, you can allocate time efficiently and trust that the process will deliver the results you need in a good timeframe.

Time management also comes into play when it comes to rolling out solutions, particularly those that are experimental in nature. Having a clear timeframe for implementing and evaluating solutions is vital for ensuring their success and being able to pivot if necessary.

Improving your skills at problem solving is often a career-long pursuit though there are methods you can use to make the learning process more efficient and to supercharge your problem solving skillset.

Remember that the skills you need to be a great problem solver have a large overlap with those skills you need to be effective in any role. Investing time and effort to develop your active listening or critical thinking skills is valuable in any context. Here are 7 ways to improve your problem solving skills.

Share best practices

Remember that your team is an excellent source of skills, wisdom, and techniques and that you should all take advantage of one another where possible. Best practices that one team has for solving problems, conducting research or making decisions should be shared across the organization. If you have in-house staff that have done active listening training or are data analysis pros, have them lead a training session. 

Your team is one of your best resources. Create space and internal processes for the sharing of skills so that you can all grow together. 

Ask for help and attend training

Once you’ve figured out you have a skills gap, the next step is to take action to fill that skills gap. That might be by asking your superior for training or coaching, or liaising with team members with that skill set. You might even attend specialized training for certain skills – active listening or critical thinking, for example, are business-critical skills that are regularly offered as part of a training scheme.

Whatever method you choose, remember that taking action of some description is necessary for growth. Whether that means practicing, getting help, attending training or doing some background reading, taking active steps to improve your skills is the way to go.

Learn a process 

Problem solving can be complicated, particularly when attempting to solve large problems for the first time. Using a problem solving process helps give structure to your problem solving efforts and focus on creating outcomes, rather than worrying about the format. 

Tools such as the seven-step problem solving process above are effective because not only do they feature steps that will help a team solve problems, they also develop skills along the way. Each step asks for people to engage with the process using different skills and in doing so, helps the team learn and grow together. Group processes of varying complexity and purpose can also be found in the SessionLab library of facilitation techniques . Using a tried and tested process and really help ease the learning curve for both those leading such a process, as well as those undergoing the purpose.

Effective teams make decisions about where they should and shouldn’t expend additional effort. By using a problem solving process, you can focus on the things that matter, rather than stumbling towards a solution haphazardly. 

Create a feedback loop

Some skills gaps are more obvious than others. It’s possible that your perception of your active listening skills differs from those of your colleagues. 

It’s valuable to create a system where team members can provide feedback in an ordered and friendly manner so they can all learn from one another. Only by identifying areas of improvement can you then work to improve them. 

Remember that feedback systems require oversight and consideration so that they don’t turn into a place to complain about colleagues. Design the system intelligently so that you encourage the creation of learning opportunities, rather than encouraging people to list their pet peeves.

While practice might not make perfect, it does make the problem solving process easier. If you are having trouble with critical thinking, don’t shy away from doing it. Get involved where you can and stretch those muscles as regularly as possible. 

Problem solving skills come more naturally to some than to others and that’s okay. Take opportunities to get involved and see where you can practice your skills in situations outside of a workshop context. Try collaborating in other circumstances at work or conduct data analysis on your own projects. You can often develop those skills you need for problem solving simply by doing them. Get involved!

Use expert exercises and methods

Learn from the best. Our library of 700+ facilitation techniques is full of activities and methods that help develop the skills you need to be an effective problem solver. Check out our templates to see how to approach problem solving and other organizational challenges in a structured and intelligent manner.

There is no single approach to improving problem solving skills, but by using the techniques employed by others you can learn from their example and develop processes that have seen proven results. 

Try new ways of thinking and change your mindset

Using tried and tested exercises that you know well can help deliver results, but you do run the risk of missing out on the learning opportunities offered by new approaches. As with the problem solving process, changing your mindset can remove blockages and be used to develop your problem solving skills.

Most teams have members with mixed skill sets and specialties. Mix people from different teams and share skills and different points of view. Teach your customer support team how to use design thinking methods or help your developers with conflict resolution techniques. Try switching perspectives with facilitation techniques like Flip It! or by using new problem solving methodologies or models. Give design thinking, liberating structures or lego serious play a try if you want to try a new approach. You will find that framing problems in new ways and using existing skills in new contexts can be hugely useful for personal development and improving your skillset. It’s also a lot of fun to try new things. Give it a go!

Encountering business challenges and needing to find appropriate solutions is not unique to your organization. Lots of very smart people have developed methods, theories and approaches to help develop problem solving skills and create effective solutions. Learn from them!

Books like The Art of Thinking Clearly , Think Smarter, or Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow are great places to start, though it’s also worth looking at blogs related to organizations facing similar problems to yours, or browsing for success stories. Seeing how Dropbox massively increased growth and working backward can help you see the skills or approach you might be lacking to solve that same problem. Learning from others by reading their stories or approaches can be time-consuming but ultimately rewarding.

A tired, distracted mind is not in the best position to learn new skills. It can be tempted to burn the candle at both ends and develop problem solving skills outside of work. Absolutely use your time effectively and take opportunities for self-improvement, though remember that rest is hugely important and that without letting your brain rest, you cannot be at your most effective. 

Creating distance between yourself and the problem you might be facing can also be useful. By letting an idea sit, you can find that a better one presents itself or you can develop it further. Take regular breaks when working and create a space for downtime. Remember that working smarter is preferable to working harder and that self-care is important for any effective learning or improvement process.

Want to design better group processes?

improving problem solving skills at work

Over to you

Now we’ve explored some of the key problem solving skills and the problem solving steps necessary for an effective process, you’re ready to begin developing more effective solutions and leading problem solving workshops.

Need more inspiration? Check out our post on problem solving activities you can use when guiding a group towards a great solution in your next workshop or meeting. Have questions? Did you have a great problem solving technique you use with your team? Get in touch in the comments below. We’d love to chat!

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8 Steps to Improve Problem-Solving Skills for the Workplace

Author: By Zenresume Editorial Team Updated on September 14, 2020

When employers are surveyed about the most important soft skills for employees, problem-solving almost always tops the list.

Problem-solving is a universal job skill. In any line of work, challenges will arise.

In my company, Transizion, my team and I solve problems each and every day. We’ve built our skills to tackle all types of obstacles. But it’s a time-consuming process that you need to be committed to.

Strong problem solvers can expertly navigate unexpected issues. They also find creative solutions that improve processes and make them more efficient.

Boosting your problem-solving skills will make you a more effective employee and a more competitive candidate.

So, how can you get started?

Try the simple activities below to become a problem-solving pro.

1. Play Games That Stimulate the Brain

Challenge your brain with logic puzzles, sudoku, chess, or a Rubik’s cube. These brain teasers require both analysis and lateral thinking. Lateral thinking means solving problems with a more creative approach.

You’ve probably heard the term “Use it or lose it.” When we don’t confront challenges or think creatively, our ability to do so declines.

On the plus side, our brains are neuroplastic . They shift and change in response to our experiences and activities. When you consistently stimulate your brain with logic puzzles, your neural pathways become faster, stronger, and smarter. Solving problems becomes easier.

2. Stay Active

They say the best exercise for the brain is exercise. Numerous studies suggest that exercise positively impacts memory and thinking skills.

In fact, regular aerobic exercise boosts the size of the hippocampus , the area of the brain involved in learning and memory.

Exercise also reduces stress and anxiety while improving mood and sleep. Naturally, this results in clearer thinking.

Dancing, yoga, and strategic, fast-moving sports like soccer have also been shown to strengthen cognitive skills.

If you want to improve your ability to solve problems, get up and get moving!

3. Observe How Others Solve Problems

Do any of your colleagues have strong problem-solving skills? It’s helpful to observe their process and take note of how you can improve your own skills.

If possible, ask some of your more experienced co-workers about their problem-solving process.

  • Is there a specific way they approach problems?
  • How have they honed their skills?
  • Do they have tips for improving your abilities in this area?

4. Learn a Problem-Solving Process

Often, out-of-the-box thinking is the best way to find new, innovative solutions to workplace problems. But having a clearly defined process is a great way to start improving your skills.

Here’s a typical problem-solving process you can practice:

  • Define the problem. What is the problem? Who or what is it affecting? How serious is the problem?
  • Determine what caused the problem . When did this problem occur? Why and how did it happen? Are you missing any information? If so, how can you gather more info?
  • Brainstorm solutions. What are some potential solutions to this problem?
  • Evaluate your options. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option? Can any of these options be combined? Which option(s) would most likely lead to your desired results?
  • Choose an option. Why is this solution the best one? How will you put the solution into action?
  • Measure outcomes. What results are you hoping for? How will you know when the problem has been solved? Is your solution working? If not, what other options will you try?

If you often feel overwhelmed by challenges, this structured process can help you tackle them one step at a time.

Need a CIA-approved problem-solving hack? Try the Phoenix Checklist —a handy tool CIA agents use to tackle unexpected problems!

5. Focus on Solutions

When we focus too heavily on a problem, our brains struggle to find solutions. Focusing on the problem activates negative thinking. In turn, negative thinking stimulates the fight or flight response or emotional reactions such as blaming.

Your brain power then goes to answering questions like: Why does dumb stuff like this always happen? Whose fault is this? How can I prove it’s not my fault?

Instead, save your energy for the important question: How can I solve this problem?

Remain calm. Once you’ve defined the problem, move on to solution-focused thinking. Instead of getting upset or finding fault, search your brain for helpful answers.

6. Ask “Why?”

Asking, “Why?” can help you get to the root of the problem and find an effective solution.

Let’s say your problem is that you’re frequently late to work. Why ?

  • You always turn off your alarm, telling yourself, “I’ll get up in five more minutes.” Why do you have difficulty getting up when your alarm goes off?
  • You don’t get enough sleep. Why ?
  • You stay up too late. Why ?
  • Maybe it’s because you drink too much caffeine during the day. Or you spend too much time scrolling through social media in bed.

Now, you can find a solution.

Have a cut-off time for caffeine and social media. Then you’ll sleep better, which will make it easier to get up in the morning and arrive to work on time.

Of course, this is a simple example. But asking “why” can always help you discover the root cause of an issue. And unless you’re addressing the root cause, you can’t truly solve the problem.

7. Try a Brain Dump

When brainstorming, a brain dump is usually the way to go. We often second-guess ourselves with thoughts like, “I’m not sure this will work,” or, “Maybe this idea is stupid.”

With a brain dump, you list everything that comes to mind. Literally. All of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s silly or unreasonable or just plain impossible. The goal is to stimulate creativity.

Ask yourself “What if…” or “Imagine if…” instead of shutting down your thought process with negativity.

Once you’ve recorded all your ideas, sift through them to find the best options.

8. Seek Out Opportunities to Solve Problems

Practice may not make perfect , but it certainly makes progress. Improve your problem-solving skills by practicing them consistently.

Look for opportunities to solve problems. Ask to join or sit-in on brainstorming sessions. Volunteer for new projects and put yourself in new situations.

Start approaching everyday challenges with a “what if” mentality. Seek fresh ideas and solutions, and jot them all down in a journal.

Over time, you’ll become more comfortable making decisions and more adept at solving problems.

So, what do you think?

What’s a major problem or challenge you’ve tackled at work? How did you solve it?

What tips have helped you improve your problem-solving skills?

Why are problem solving skills in the workplace so important? Subskills, benefits, scenarios

Test your candidates' problem-solving skills with testgorilla.

improving problem solving skills at work

The importance of problem-solving skills in the workplace can’t be overstated. Every business and job role has its problems. From entry-level hires to senior staffers, every one of your employees will face challenges that don’t can’t be answered by doing a quick Google search – or asking ChatGPT to come up with solutions.

That’s why employers must hire people with excellent problem-solving skills, especially for roles that require dealing with complex business challenges, tight deadlines, and changing variables – for example, when recruiting leaders .

But what are problem-solving skills? What role do they play in the workplace? 

And, most importantly, how can you evaluate candidates’ skills before you hire them?

Table of contents

What are problem solving skills, the benefits of problem solving skills: why are problem solving skills important , examples of problems at the workplace – and how problem solving skills can help, how to assess problem solving skills, evaluate problem solving skills and hire candidates who can think for themselves.

To fully understand the importance of problem-solving skills in the workplace, it’s important first to understand the broad skill set that we commonly refer to as “problem solving skills”. 

Generally, problem-solving refers to a person’s ability to successfully manage and find solutions for complex and unexpected situations. 

Candidates with great problem-solving skills have a combination of analytical and creative thinking. They’re comfortable with making decisions and confident enough to rise to challenges in the workplace.

These candidates possess a combination of analytical, creative, and critical-thinking skills – and a high level of attention to detail . As a result, they will quickly identify problems when they arise and identify the most effective solutions. 

They’ll also identify the factors and forces that might have caused the problem and instigate changes to mitigate future challenges.

There are six key problem-solving skills that you should look for when assessing job candidates: 

key problem solving skills to look for when hiring

1. Listening skills

Active listeners are generally great problem solvers. 

They can listen to those around them to gather the information needed to solve the problem at hand. They also recognize the importance of valuing others’ opinions and experiences to help understand why the problem occurred and define the best course of action to remedy it. 

2. Analytical thinking skills 

Analytical thinkers can identify the logical reasons why a problem occurred, what the long-term effects of the issue could be, and identify how effective different solutions might be to select the most practical one. 

That’s why it’s essential to assess analytical thinking skills during recruitment.

3. Creative thinking skills

Creative thinkers can balance their analytical skills with creative approaches to challenges. Creative thinking skills enable individuals to uncover innovative and progressive solutions to problems. 

In this way, they’re able to provide new perspectives and provide imaginative and experimental solutions to all kinds of problems. 

4. Communication skills 

Problem solvers should also possess great communication skills . The ability to effectively relay complex information thoroughly yet succinctly is a huge benefit for employers working in fast-paced environments. 

5. Decision-making skills 

Those with problem-solving skills will also possess the ability to make decisions and be confident in them. This is important, because most problem-solving involves making firm decisions to reach a successful outcome. 

6. Teamwork

Although problem-solvers need to be independent thinkers, it’s also vital for them to work well as part of a team . 

Determining the best solution often requires collaboration, so it’s important that candidates can demonstrate how they can motivate others to come up with the best solutions and work with them to help develop and implement solutions. 

Problem-solving skills enable you to find candidates who are cognitively equipped to handle anything their jobs throw at them.

Problem solvers can observe, judge, and act quickly when difficulties arise when they inevitably do. Moreover, they are not afraid of the unknown, which is invaluable to employers who rely on their employees to identify and solve problems. 

Why are problem solving skills important?

There are several important benefits of problem-solving skills in the workplace. Below, we’ll go through five of the most significant ones that all problem solvers can bring to their roles and workplaces: 

1. Ability to organize their time intelligently 

Time management skills can often be underlooked as one of the benefits of problem-solving skills in the workplace. 

However, those with problem-solving abilities also typically possess stellar time-management skills. The ability to manage their time wisely and laser-focus on what’s important to the business will lead to better decision-making and business impact. 

2. Ability to prioritize, plan, and execute strategies

Problem solvers have no issue with carefully assessing customer and business needs and deciding how to prioritize, plan, and execute strategies to meet them. They can manage all moving parts and strategize to meet multiple unique demands.

3. Ability to think outside the box

Problem solvers can often identify hidden opportunities in problems. Thinking outside of the box is an important problem-solving skill in the workplace, because it can often lead to better outcomes than the originally expected ones. 

4. Ability to work under pressure

This is often one of the most important benefits of problem-solving skills in the workplace. Problem solvers often work well under pressure, for example when dealing with short deadlines and changing project requirements.

Depending on your workplace culture, you might prefer someone who can deliver quick solutions or someone who takes their time to identify the next steps. Both are valid and important problem solving qualities. 

5. Ability to address risk

Planning is an important problem-solving skill. Problem solvers are not just equipped to deal with the problem at hand but are also able to anticipate problems that will arise in the future based on trends, patterns, experience, and current events.

Let’s now look at some specific examples of problems that could arise at the workplace – at any workplace, really – and how employees’ problem solving skills can help address each issue. 

Below, you’ll find five typical scenarios where problem solving skills are essential.

Conflict between team members

Poor team dynamics or lack of a collaborative spirit might result in frequent workplace conflicts – especially within larger teams.

For example, members of cross-functional teams might disagree on the way they should address a particular issue or even on the priority they should give to it. 

How problem solving skills can help: 

Teamwork is essential when solving conflict – and a cornerstone of effective cross-functional team leadership .

For this, coworkers need to share a common understanding of the team’s goals and also be willing to work towards achieving them, even when they disagree on the specific approaches to each goal.  The ability to understand others’ perspectives, analyze information critically, and come up with a few different solutions is key to finding a common ground and making progress on the team’s objectives.

Inefficient processes

Outdated, inefficient processes can reduce productivity and frustrate employees.

Multi-step approval processes are a typical example of this. Having multiple layers of approval for routine decisions can significantly slow down team progress and lead to missed opportunities.

Analytical thinking skills are key in identifying inefficiencies and building better procedures. Employees or team leads can build flowcharts that speed up decision making without having to ask a supervisor’s permission at every step of the process. 

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improving problem solving skills at work

Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings and lack of clarity and direction – which, in turn, can be detrimental to team performance. 

For example, if you’re a remote-first company, maintaining clear and effective remote communication can be challenging. 

The over-reliance on emails and messaging apps might make it feel like teams are communicating effectively and are always connected. However, the lack of non-verbal cues and face-to-face interactions might make it more difficult to build rapport and a positive workplace culture .

Listening skills are essential to solving communication issues – and good listeners are often excellent at solving problems by recognizing, understanding, and acknowledging others’ points of view. 

One-on-one meetings enable people to communicate more freely and effectively and solve challenges together, so consider encouraging team members to hop on a call each time they encounter a difficult challenge.

Additionally, you can help employees bond with each other with some remote team building activities to improve team cohesion. Plus, problem solving challenges can be excellent team building exercises.

Technological disruptions 

New technologies often disrupt the usual ways of doing things – and sometimes, this can be disruptive for entire teams’ work. 

For example, generative AI and automation technologies have revolutionized numerous types of work, including data analysis, marketing, customer service, and even content creation.

Creative thinking and cognitive flexibility are among the top 10 most important skills of the future , according to the World Economic Forum. Both are essential for adopting new technologies successfully – and finding ways to make the most out of each new tool to improve productivity. 

Insufficient onboarding resources 

Team members may struggle to do their best work if they haven't received proper training or resources.

For example, start-ups that experience rapid growth might hire a few employees at once – or even entire teams. 

If they fail to allocate sufficient time and resources to onboarding new hires, this might lead to lost productivity, a lacking sense of belonging, or increased turnover. That’s true not only for junior employees but also for newly hired senior leaders , as the Harvard Business Review points out.

Your leadership team’s analytical and decision-making skills are crucial in enabling them to distribute limited resources in a way that would give their teams the best chances of success. 

To build a solid onboarding process , you need leaders who are able to take ownership of it – and who have the right problem-solving skills.

Many organizations use problem-solving interview questions to identify the right candidates for their job openings. However, the most effective way to assess problem-solving skills is with pre-employment skills assessments . 

That’s because skills tests provide an objective way to quantify a candidate’s problem-solving skills in a way that isn’t possible during an interview.

How problem solving skills tests work

Tests like TestGorilla’s problem-solving skills test assist organizations in finding candidates who are able to quickly identify the key elements of the problem and work through the problem at speed without making mistakes. 

By presenting candidates with a wide range of questions related to typical problem-solving scenarios, hiring teams can rank their candidates based on an intensive assessment of each candidate’s skill level.

The test specifically evaluates whether a candidate can perform problem-solving tasks like:

Creating and adjust schedules

Prioritizing items based on a given set of rules

Interpreting data and applying logic to make decisions

Analyzing textual and numerical information to draw conclusions

As you can see, even the best interviewer would have trouble assessing each of these skill areas while still covering all the other questions that they need to ask. 

If you’re convinced of the importance of problem-solving skills in the workplace and want to build a team of employees that can think independently and solve their own problems without constant supervision, assess problem-solving skills during the hiring process. 

Problem-solving skills tests like ours are an excellent way to achieve this – especially if you combine them with other skills tests. Check out our extensive test library for other tests you can use in your talent assessment process to hire the best talent. 

Sign up for our free plan to start building your first assessment – or schedule a demo with one of our experts to see how to evaluate applicants’ problem solving skills quickly, efficiently, and without bias. 

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Regardless of your job and industry, there are certain soft skills that are universally valued by employers. Problem solving is one of them, yet the ability to solve problems is not a skill that comes naturally to everyone. In fact, problem solving can be a very difficult skill to master. As the world of work becomes more complex and fast-moving, the ability to find the cause of complex problems then solve them will become increasingly vital. So, if you need to enhance your problem solving skills in response to this growing demand, we share a few practical methods for improving your problem solving techniques below.

What are problem solving skills?

5 ways to improve your problem solving skills, 1. identity and understand the right problem, 2. research the systems and practices behind the problem, 3. visualise the problem, 4. brainstorm creative solutions, 5. identify the best answer, problem solving skills: next steps, problem solving methods faq, what are the 5 steps of effective problem solving strategies.

  • Identify and understand the problem.
  • Research the systems and practices behind the problem.
  • Visualise the problem.
  • Brainstorm multiple solutions.
  • Identify the most suitable solution.

How do you develop a problem-solving mindset?

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Problem-solving skills at the workplace

improving problem solving skills at work

Table of Contents

What is problem-solving?

Problem-solving skills are essential for success in the modern workplace. As the workplace grows more complex and global competition forces companies to move faster and farther ahead of the competition, employees need to possess problem-solving skills to get ahead. 

Companies rely on problem-solving abilities to innovate and create solutions to customer issues, develop strategies to grow their products and services, and remain ahead of the competition.

Problem-solving skills help employees analyze data logically. For example, suppose an employee receives an urgent client request. They should take the time to assess the available data to understand the problem before making decisions. 

This method helps to ensure the best solutions are developed and implemented. Employees should understand the problem from all angles to address potential long-term implications.

Problem-solving skills are essential in any workplace. People need to be able to think critically, analyze data, assess the potential risks and rewards, and communicate their ideas. 

These skills ensure that a business’s objectives are met while helping employees reach their full potential.

What are Problem-solving steps in the workplace?

Problem-solving skills are a set of soft skills that are essential in many areas of life. These skills can help individuals and teams identify, assess and resolve significant and small challenges. 

With this skill, individuals can analyze and develop creative solutions to their challenges, helping to improve their ability to make accurate decisions quickly.

Problem-solving skills involve recognizing a problem and the commitment to tackle it,  which needs identifying the root of issues and understanding the bigger picture. To develop this skill, individuals need to have the capacity to remain composed and collected when assessing challenges and to be willing to take the time to analyze and understand the issue entirely.

Once a problem is acknowledged, problem-solvers need to be able to break the challenge apart into smaller, manageable parts that can be addressed individually. Once the challenge has been broken down, problem-solvers must be able to identify relevant solutions and the means to execute each of them. 

To make that happen, employers need creativity and resourcefulness, as well as an understanding of the problem, to determine whether proposed solutions will help to address the issue.

Some critical problem-solving techniques are as below:

  • Active listening
  • Communication
  • Decision-making
  • Team-building

Problem-solving skills are a set of skills essential for helping individuals and teams to identify, assess and resolve challenges. Problem-solvers must think critically and be capable of testing and evaluating proposed solutions. Developing this skill is an invaluable asset.

How can employees use problem-solving skills?

Problem-solving skills help employees to use available sources to reach a solution that matches the company’s needs and requirements. Some examples of using these skills in the workplace are as below:

  • Managing a disagreement with a coworker
  • Analyzing and removing technical issues 
  • Solving problems related to accounting, finance, and customer billing
  • Taking action when a colleague misses or fails to notice something important
  • Drawing out new data that can guide a company’s policy in a specific area

In modern business, problem-solving skills are essential for any successful business. Regardless of their position and job description, every employee must have the knowledge and capability to solve problems. 

The most successful companies and individuals have proven, time and time again, that an effective problem-solving strategy can be integral to a company’s success. 

The first step in solving any problem is to identify the problem. Employees have to take a step back, look objectively at issue, and connect the dots to determine the root of the problem. 

Often, the best way to do this is by breaking down the problem into smaller components, giving the employee a better understanding of the issue and how it affects other parts of the business.

Next, employees use problem-solving skills to develop a strategy to address the issue. This step requires creative thinking, brainstorming sessions, and taking risks. Employees must also consider available resources when planning to solve the problem. 

Third, employees need to find ways to implement the chosen strategy. This step often demands collaboration between different teams and the implementation of new processes or procedures. It is also crucial for employees to be realistic about the timeline for launching the solution.

Finally, employees need to assess the effectiveness of their chosen strategies continuously. Employees should regularly evaluate the progress and ask questions such as, “Is this strategy helping us solve the problem?” If the answer is no, then the employee may need to consider new alternatives or modify their approach. 

A company can use these steps between two people, a big group, or one individual facing a complex decision. When a problem is more complicated, it is more valuable and necessary to use a regulated process.

Why are problem-solving skills so important at work?

Modern work environments have many problems, and employees should be able to solve complicated problems quickly. Employers are interested in good problem-solving skills, such as imagination, logic, flexibility, creativity, innovative thinking, and willpower.

Problem-solving is necessary for everyone, including teams, leaders, individuals, organizations, and shareholders, because these skills can empower people to control their environment better and allow everything to happen worldwide. 

The speed of problem-solving is essential nowadays. Therefore, organizations should give team members more power and mastery so that employees can avoid problems and make decisions without hesitation. 

Critical workplace problem-solving skills, like analytical thinking and adaptability, are essential for resolving challenges efficiently. Integrating workforce scheduling software enhances resource management and operational efficiency.

Using problem-solving strategies in the workplace can have many advantages. Below are some of the most vital features that all problem solvers should apply in their workplace.

  • Ability to organize their time 
  • Ability to prioritize, plan, and perform strategies
  • Ability to think outside the box
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Ability to identify risk

What are the critical problem-solving skills in the workplace?

Problem-solving should be used for managing difficult, unexpected, and complex problems that emerge in the workplace. These skills benefit all employers, whether you are a senior or entry-level employee.

Educating yourself with problem-solving skills also has other significant advantages: Problem-solving skills let an employee prepare for problems before they occur.

Some basic methods for solving common and uncommon problems and even worst-case scenarios exist. When you are prepared, there is less possibility for you to get agitated or stop working and damage the company eventually.

Problem-solving skills let you recognize an issue, root cause analysis of the problem, plan for a productive solution, and apply it. This process helps you to understand whether you can achieve the results that you want or not.

Problem solvers can predict problems before they emerge, and they step forward to avoid issues from happening or take lessons from previous issues. They use creativity to present inventive solutions and logical thinking to define the problem. Having powerful problem-solving skills will help you ess your employers, come up with unique ideas and reach your goals. 

Some primary problem-solving skills at work include:

  • Communication skills
  • Dependability
  • Decision making
  • Open-Mindedness
  • Creative thinking
  • Teamwork Skills

What are some tips for improving problem-solving skills at work

Improving problem-solving skills is essential for businesses looking to stay competitive in the modern market. Identifying and swiftly addressing issues can mean the difference between success and failure. 

Fortunately, several steps can help anyone in the workplace improve their problem-solving skills.

The first step to any successful problem-solving process is identifying the issue. This step includes observing any processes or procedures failing to accomplish the desired results at work. 

With a clear understanding of the issue, it’s easier to generate potential solutions, evaluate their effectiveness, and choose the one that will produce the best outcome. 

Once a problem has been identified, the next step is to establish the approach that will be used to resolve the issue. Brainstorming can be a great way of doing this, as it allows for various ideas to be explored without the restrictions of established protocols. Additionally, gathering input from team members or experts can foster a collaborative approach to problem-solving.

Once the approach has been established, gathering all necessary data and information is essential before beginning to work on a solution. 

Gathering all information will ensure that the problem-solving process is adequately supported and well-informed. It’s also vital to make sure that any assumptions are accurate and valid to avoid potential drawbacks.

Finally, the solution should be carefully tested and monitored to ensure that the desired result is achieved. Evaluating the data and results that come out of the process can help identify trends and make more informed decisions in the future. 

When problems arise during the process, addressing them as quickly and effectively as possible is essential.

Employers take problem solvers seriously, even if problem-solving is optional. An employer may ask you about a situation in which you should solve a problem. Therefore, you must always be ready to discuss these skills during an interview.

While interviewing applicants for a job, employers mostly prefer to hire those with excellent problem-solving skills. The reason is that these skills determine if the applicant has other capabilities, such as creativity, logic, determination, innovative thinking, and flexibility. 

Therefore, you must prove that you have the necessary problem-solving skills to get your ideal job. Improving these powerful skills is crucial for your long-term occupational success.

The best way to improve your problem-solving skills is to go through all the tips we provided you in this article. Writing down your success in solving your usual issues in a diary would be best to have substantial proof to represent potential employers.

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How can your problem solving get better?

I’ve said this many times before and I’ll say it again: Problems are opportunities in disguise! When most people think about problems, they picture a cluster of negativity that will eventually bury them. However, that’s not the case. Problems are an inevitable part of life with some merits of their own. Of the many things they do, problems ensure continual learning, help us think differently, and build our confidence. 

Here are 5 methods you can follow to sharpen your problem-solving skills:

1. Question the Problem Repeatedly with “Why?”

To solve a problem, you need first to define it. To do so, start by asking yourself, “Why did this problem occur?” Follow up on your answer with another “Why?” Keep going until you dig into the root cause. 

2. Draw a Mind Map to Visualize the Problem

Take out a piece of paper, a few colored pens, and draw a mind map of the problem at hand. Make sure that your drawing includes the central idea, which is the problem itself, and that it contains the reasons for the occurrence. Next, draw sub-branches that suggest possible solutions before analyzing them and picking the best option.

3. List All Possible Solutions

When trying to solve a problem, come up with as many solutions as possible, even if they sound ridiculous to you. Brainstorm bad ideas! I’ve come to learn that it’s better to focus on brainstorming bad ideas when trying to think of creative and innovative solutions. Even if the ideas we come up with could be considered stupid or ridiculous, brainstorming bad ideas removes the pressure of having to conceive good ideas and allows us to push past obvious answers. Terrible ideas can be reevaluated and turned into something unique and brilliant. 

4. Always be Willing to Learn

Even if you’re the most accomplished person on the planet, know that there’s always room for improvement. One of the best ways to learn is by mimicking others. For example, when I’m trying to accomplish a specific goal or solve a problem, I do the research and find the best people in that field, even if they are competitors. I look at what they have done, what has worked, and their principles. It’s like following a scientific formula and the way I rose to the top so quickly and early in my life. I’ve just followed the same steps that have already been taken, adapting them to my situation and needs, and have found a lifetime of success in a short time.

5. Give Your Brain a Good Workout with Puzzles & Brainteasers

This may sound like child’s play, but doing puzzles and playing games involving logic, like chess and Sudoku, hones your problem-solving skills by helping you learn strategies and techniques that you can later apply to real-life situations. Pick a game that you think you’ll enjoy, find a partner, if needed, and start playing!

The ability to solve problems comes down to mindset, which determines the way we turn the challenges we face into positive solutions. The next time you encounter a problem, try to see it as a learning opportunity that will only make you better at what you do once you tackle it. After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

Andres Pira

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How to improve your problem-solving at work: skills, models and examples

How to improve problem solving skills

Highly valued by employers, problem-solving is needed in just about any line of work. We’ll show you how to step up your ability to take on workplace challenges below…

Whether you’re a seasoned manager or in a junior role, you’re bound to encounter challenges that need tackling head on during your week. And when it comes to overcoming them, fine-tuned, well-honed problem-solving skills are the way to do it.

If your problem-solving has been off in the past, then it can be difficult to take a step back before you act. Luckily, problem-solving is a skill to be learned like any other.

To help you get to grips with this valued skill, we’ll define problem-solving in detail, show you why it matters, and offer some pointers for improving your problem-solving skills.

What are problem-solving skills?

Problem-solving skills let us take on issues without resorting to hasty decisions and snap judgements. They’re what allow us to better understand the challenges before us so we can come up with solutions for dealing with them.

Depending on what the problem is, such skills may call on things like active listening , teamwork, creative thinking or mathematical analysis. Whatever you use to reach a solution, problem-solving is a valuable soft skill that most employers will look for in potential employees.

Why are problem-solving skills important?

Problem-solvers are equipped to take on what comes their way. When they have the right tools at their disposal, they’re in a better position to observe the issue, judge it accordingly, and act in the most effective way. And through experience, these skills become more refined and precise, allowing them to take on tougher problems.

So, why else are they important? Let’s look at what else problem-solving can add to an employee’s skillset…

Greater time management skills

When you know how to approach a problem, greater time management skills tend to come naturally. Because you can balance your time more efficiently, your ability to weigh up your options becomes more precise and considered, allowing you to make less hasty decisions that could make a problem worse.

More creative thinking

Those with strong problem-solving skills can always see the opportunity in a challenge. By tackling problems with innovative solutions, you might find that the result is stronger than you expect.

Improved performance under pressure

When deadlines loom or change is on the horizon, a lack of problem-solving skills could be what leads to poor or half-baked solutions. Because they’re naturally geared towards dealing with the unknown and the unexpected, problem-solvers are less inclined to feel pressure when it arises.

Greater addressing of risk

As well as the ability to deal with the issue itself, problem-solvers are well-equipped to address problems that could spring up later down the line based on trends, patterns and current events . This allows them to possess a degree of control over the future.

How to improve your problem-solving skills

So, how can you improve your ability to solve problems in the workplace? The following tips can help give you an edge whatever your position in a company may be.

Look for opportunities to solve problems

If you’re not used to taking them on, it can be easy to sit back and let someone else deal with problems. Instead of shying away from them, put yourself in situations where problems can arise.

We don’t mean deliberately making mistakes here, but taking on more duties in your current role, with another team or outside your organisation can help familiarise you with the kind of problems that can occur and ways to deal with them.

Observe how others solve problems

By shadowing your colleagues, you can learn problem-solving techniques and put them into practice yourself. Ask a colleague if you can observe their strategy, or schedule in a one-to-one to ask about how they take on problems.

Familiarise yourself with practice problems

There’s a wealth of resources in print and online that you can use to improve your problem-solving skills. These materials offer all sorts of scenarios to put your abilities to the test, unearthing skills you didn’t know you had.

An example problem-solving model

There are several problem-solving models out there, but typically, they follow the broad steps below.

1. Define the problem

Take a step back and analyse the situation. Are there multiple problems? What is causing them? How do these problems affect you and others involved?

Then, drill into the problem by doing the following:

• Separate facts from opinion

• Identify what has caused the problem

• Discuss with team members to gather more information

• Gather relevant data

At this stage, don’t be tempted to come up with a solution. You’re simply trying to find out what the problem is.

2. Identify potential solutions

While you may have only come up with one solution to a problem in the past, brainstorming several alternatives is a better approach. Ask colleagues for their input and get some insights from those with experience of similar problems.

In coming up with alternatives, consider the following:

• Weigh up what might slow down solving the problem

• Ensure your ideas align with goals and objectives

• Identify long and short-term solutions

• Write down the solutions you come up with

3. Evaluate your solutions

Once you have a list of solutions, you need to evaluate them further before acting. What are the positive and negative consequences of each? What resources will you need to carry them out? How much time and, if necessary, who else will you need to put the solution in place?

4. Choose a solution

Your evaluation should clarify which solution best suits the problem. Now it’s time to put that solution into practice.

Before you do, consider:

• Does it solve the problem without creating another?

• Have you reached a group consensus over the solution?

• Is implementing it practical and straightforward?

• Does it fit within company policies and procedures?

5. Put the solution into action

Once you’ve decided on the right solution, it needs to be implemented. Your action plan should include measurable objectives that allow you to monitor its success, as well as timelines and feedback channels your team can use during implementation.

Making sure this plan is communicated to everyone involved will also be key to its success.

6. Assess how effective the solution is

Your work isn’t done just yet! You’ll need to measure how things are progressing to ensure the solution is working as intended. Doing so means you can course-correct should further surprises arise, or else go back to alternative solutions.

How to show problem-solving skills on your CV and at interviews

As we said up top, problem-solving is highly valued by employers, so you’ll want to highlight such abilities on your CV, cover letter and in interviews.

Think back to previous roles for examples of when you used problem-solving skills. It’s not enough to say you’re good at problem-solving; employers will be looking for concrete examples, so be sure to mention them in your cover letter and use bullet points on your CV with specifics.

In interviews, you might be called on to describe times when you encountered problems in previous roles. Here, you should mention the processes you followed to address these issues, the skills you used, and the outcomes achieved.

Likewise, you may be asked hypothetical questions to show how you would solve problems. Base your answers on the steps above, and use the STARR method in conjunction with previous instances of problem-solving to give a detailed yet concise response.

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Problem-Solving Skills: 5 Ways to Evaluate Them When Hiring

Post Author - Juste Semetaite

Knowing how to hire employees with strong problem-solving skills can make all the difference in becoming the next Netflix – or Blockbuster.

Because every role, from the penthouse corner office to the high street, involves a degree of problem-solving. Whether managing a team, developing a web page, or resolving a customer complaint, what matters is how people deal with the problems they face .

To ensure your company is prepared to tackle even the most challenging situations, we’ll first look at what problem solving skills are, using some real-life applications, before walking you through 5 of the best ways to test for them.

TL;DR – Key Takeaways

  • Problem-solving skills encompass all the skills that employees use in the workplace to analyze problems and come up with solutions .
  • Examples of typical problem-solving skills include good communication skills , active listening skills, decision-making skills, analytical skills, creativity, and collaboration.
  • Different problem-solving skills are required from a manager compared to an individual contributor, so hiring managers should look for different competencies according to the seniority of the role.
  • There are several ways to assess a candidate’s problem-solving skills when hiring, such as asking behavioral interview questions, running assessment tests or job simulations , conducting reference checks, and asking cultural fit questions.
  • Toggl Hire has an impressive library of customizable skills tests and homework assignments that hiring managers can plug into their hiring pipeline to help identify the best problem-solvers right from the start.

What are problem-solving skills?

“Problem solving skills” refers to someone’s ability to identify problems , analyze possible solutions , and think through the steps required to solve those problems. For example, an HR specialist faced with the problem of filling a new position might first analyze whether it would be best filled internally or externally before posting a job description .

Problem solving skills are critical for every possible industry, role, and level of seniority, because at the bottom of each job is solving some type of problem.

improving problem solving skills at work

Examples of typical problems in the workplace include:

  • Finding out the reason behind increased customer complaints
  • Improving the efficiency of outbound cold calls for your sales team
  • Overhauling a landing page so that it drives more people to subscribe to a software

As you can see, every possible role that exists requires people to solve problems effectively.

What skills make up the problem-solving competency?

“Problem solving skills” is an umbrella term that covers a wide variety of different skills . Here are some examples of typical problem solving abilities that an employee may need for any given role:

  • Communication skills
  • Decision-making skills
  • Research skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Collaboration
  • Active listening skills

Not all of them are necessary for every role, but these examples of hard and soft skills are a great starting point if you’re putting together a job description for your next role.

skills that make up problem solving competence

Problem-solving skills examples at different levels

In addition to the variety of skills that fall under the term “problem-solving”, there are also different competency levels of problem-solving.

Just like the difference between hiring an intern , a manager , and a director, choosing the right level of problem-solving competency will depend on the role you’re hiring for.

To explain this further, let’s dig into the 3 basic levels of problem-solving skills.

Entry-level problem-solving skills

A candidate with entry-level problem-solving skills is capable of identifying what the problem is and considering the potential solution. However, they struggle to move beyond this point. These types of skills are suitable if you’re looking to hire for a junior position.

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Intermediate-level problem-solving skills

At an intermediate level, the candidate not only identifies problems and finds potential solutions for them, but also uses different types of problem-solving skills and strategies to tackle them from different angles.

However, for more complex problems, they might struggle to implement the solution and will look for assistance from other team members.

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Expert-level problem-solving skills

At an expert level, a candidate is capable of solving problems from beginning to end . They are skilled in different problem-solving strategies, including how to gather and analyze relevant information. They are able to see creative solutions where others do not and can anticipate potential obstacles before they happen.

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Why are problem-solving skills so important at work?

The modern workplace is full of problems that need solving. Solution-focused employees are a valuable asset to any company in any possible role. They help your company save money , keep customers happy , and inspire colleagues by coming up with new ways to solve old problems .

Employers like to see good problem-solving skills because it also helps to show them you have a range of other competencies such as logic, creativity, resilience, imagination, lateral thinking, and determination.

Here are some of the benefits amazing problem solvers bring to an organization and those around them: 

Problem-Solvers Work Well Under Pressure

When a problem arises, it needs to be fixed quickly. Employees with amazing problem-solving skills roll with the punches and tight deadlines to deliver when it matters. 

To do this, expert problem-solvers react quickly to short-term situations while thinking proactively about future problems. That ability to act fast and effectively exuberates confidence, creating a sense of calm across the wider team.

They Create Amazing New Ideas

Problem-solving and creative thinking go hand-in-hand. The best problem-solvers don’t just put bandaids over an issue, they fix them in a dynamic, value-adding way. 

Exciting, out-of-the-box thinking isn’t just good in the moment but creates an exciting, innovative culture across the organization. That helps organizations stay ahead of the curve and attracts other expert problem-solvers to join the organization, improving the workforce’s capability over time. 

Problems Create Risk, and Problem-Solvers Fix Problems

From an organizational perspective, problems create risk. Even if a business process is slightly off-kilter, it can become a much greater issue. 

Problem-solvers help organizations reduce risk in the moment while mitigating future risks before they even occur. That helps everyone sleep sounder at night and also removes financial liability from the C-suite. 

Problem-Solvers Beat The Competition

Ultimately, excellent problem-solvers help organizations stay ahead of their competition. Whether through creative ideas, faster outputs, or reduced risk, organizations with awesome problem solvers deliver better products and services to their clients. 

As we all know, it’s the people that make an organization great, and problem-solvers are some of the best people out there! 

Next, let’s take a closer look at how problem-solving skills may differ between individual contributors and managers.

Example of using problem-solving skills in the workplace: manager vs individual contributor

While their approaches may differ, both the manager and the individual contributor go through the same stages of the problem-solving process.

Managers look at the broader perspective of solving a problem and the different ways of coordinating their team and the organization. Their focus is the long-term success of their team and the company.

The individual contributor, on the other hand, is more concerned with individual tasks and technical problems, as well as instant solutions to a problem at hand.

Both sides of the coin are important if you want to succeed at problem solving in the long run and thrive as a team and as a company.

Step 1 – Problem definition

Quick example – A Sales Exec goes to their manager with a problem – they’re struggling to hit their sales target. The Sales Manager sits down with them to understand the situation, where they are with their sales, and the gap to the target.

Step 2 – Problem analysis

Quick example – The Sales Manager goes away and gathers some information about the Sales Exec. They look at their CRM notes, speak with other team members, and shadow the Sales Exec on the job.

Step 3 – Generating the possible solutions

Quick example – The Sales Manager comes up with some solutions to help their  Sales Exec. Options on the table include additional training, a structured work plan, and re-prioritizing their workload.

Step 4 – Implementing the best solution(s)

Quick example – The Sales Manager lays out the next steps with the Sales Exec, explaining the proposed solutions. The Sales Exec will do some re-training on the sales process and will re-prioritize their workload to focus on particular, high-value customers.

5 Ways to Evaluate Problem-Solving Skills When Hiring

There are many practical ways to evaluate how people solve problems during the hiring process. Depending on your needs, you can use one, more, or all of these in combination.

#1 – Behavioral interview questions

These are questions you ask candidates to find out how they solved problems in the past and behaved in a certain situation. Here are some examples:

  • How do you handle setbacks at work?
  • A customer came back to you with a complaint and the fault is on your company’s end. How do you resolve the issue?
  • Your employees have a conflict and you need to resolve it without taking sides. How do you go about this?
  • You have a certain timeframe to complete a complex task. How do you prioritize the work to ensure you meet the deadline and not burn out?

30 Behavioral Interview Questions to Ask Candidates (With Answers)

You can use the STAR method to assess how they solve problems in specific situations:

S – Situation: how well did they explain the situation they faced?

T – Task: what was the task they had to complete in that situation?

A – Action: did they clearly show the action they took to resolve the problem?

R – Result: how did they explain the result, and measure success?

With the right set of questions and the application of the STAR method, you can see if your candidates have good problem solving skills or not. However, this method is not 100% reliable as your candidates could be less than honest in their responses, which brings us to the other methods.

#2 – Job simulation exercises

Instead of asking candidates to think of past experiences, you can put them in a real-life situation to judge how they think and react in real time. And see for yourself how analytical, creative, and competent they are. The best way to do this is with a simulation exercise .

Note that these job simulation tasks only resemble what the candidate will be doing in their job but shouldn’t include real data or customers to protect your business.

One such example is our Homework assessments . Designed as an assessment tool for hiring managers, Homework assessments offer 500 pre-built tasks you can give to potential candidates before inviting them for an interview or extending an offer.

Get a jumpstart on your selection process with easy-to-use homework assignment templates.

Candidates can do these tasks on their own and in their free time. In our library, you can choose from a variety of tasks where candidates can show off their analytical skills and proficiency in solving problems.

Once they’re done, you can review the tasks and create shared notes for your entire team to review. Just like that, you’re one step closer to making a more confident hiring decision, and your candidates can practice solving problems without causing risks for your ongoing work.

7 Benefits of Using Job Simulations in Your Hiring Process

#3 – Assessment tools

Putting candidates in different situations is a solid way to find out more about their problem solving skills. However, another fantastic way to see how they solve problems is by using skills assessment tools .

Tools like Toggl Hire allow you to create pre-employment tests often used in the first step of the hiring process. That way, you can tell early on how good someone is at solving problems and whether they have the key skills to meet the requirements for the job .

You can pick from different types of questions that already exist in Toggl Hire - or add your own, custom ones.

In our problem-solving skills test, we test for four crucial skills:

  • Problem solving
  • Innovative thinking
  • Logical reasoning
  • Decision making

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Problem solving assessment template

The assessment takes only 15 minutes , making it a great alternative to submitting a resume and cover letter. Applicants love Toggl Hire because they get feedback rapidly, and know within minutes of completing the test if they are a good fit for the role. [ Grab the template here ]

problem solving skills test template

#4 – References and past performance

Reference checking is a simple but effective way to evaluate the skills of potential candidates. To understand if someone has the right problem-solving skills for the job, simply ring up their past employers and ask!

The more specific your questions, the better. Ask about objectives and goals that they completed that stand out during their time with the company. Moreover, you need to make sure that they have a pattern in their performance. In other words, were they consistent in finding new ways to solve problems and tackle complex issues?

A word of caution.

References are not always reliable. Past employers may refuse to comment on an employee’s performance, or they could be forbidden from doing so by their contracts. Sometimes, you may be unable to get ahold of the point of contact. Other times, their feedback can be overly positive.

This is why it’s important to consider other possible solutions for assessing problem solving skills in combination with reference checks.

#5 – Cultural fit

When you have all of this information in one place, it’s time to find the last piece of the puzzle. In other words, to see if the way a candidate solves problems aligns with your values and company culture.

evidence of problem solving skills in candidates

For example, you may have a customer who has a problem with their account and wants a full subscription refund. One approach to problem-solving, in this case, would be to give the full refund because the customer is right – no matter what.

On the other hand, someone else might try and talk to the customer and get them to stay. You can come up with different problem solving skills examples to inquire about during the interview stage.

The candidate should be able not just to solve problems, but also do it in a way that matches your company culture .

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Wrapping up

Employees with great problem-solving skills will always be in demand, no matter the profession or seniority level. However, testing for those skills can present a challenge for recruiters.

With the right tools, problem solving interview questions , and reference checks, you can determine if a candidate is a good problem solver or not.

If you need a bit more guidance on how to test for problem solving skills, try a ready-made Toggl Hire skills test to quickly screen candidates and determine who will continue to the job interview.

Juste Semetaite

Juste loves investigating through writing. A copywriter by trade, she spent the last ten years in startups, telling stories and building marketing teams. She works at Toggl Hire and writes about how businesses can recruit really great people.

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improving problem solving skills at work

These skills can help you save your job

“I think, therefore I am” is one of the most profound statements by mathematician and philosopher Descartes. It speaks about finding truth in the midst of doubt and uncertainty — a skill that is getting increasingly more valuable today.

From an interview to the latest job talk, you might often be asked to demonstrate your skills around two terms that help you navigate towards the truth through uncertainty — critical thinking and problem solving.

Why are these skills needed today?

Given the rapid advances in technology and the way the future of work and jobs are unfolding, there is definitely more uncertainty today.

In fact, children studying in schools today may grow up to work in jobs we may not even recognise today. Jobs also are shape-shifting in some cases with newer jobs getting discovered as we adapt to working with machines.

Hence, instead of just preparing for short-term need-based jobs, inculcating the skills of critical thinking and problem solving can stand a person in good stead for newer challenges we might face.

What does critical thinking and problem solving look like in action?

Imagine going through vast amounts of information and being able to synthesise that, make logical and evidence-based conclusions. That’s the essence of critical thinking.

Continuing further to problem solving, it helps us find possible answers to a problem and work on the intended solutions.

Logic plays a key role in critical thinking. Daniel Kahneman in his seminal book “Thinking Fast and Slow” spoke about two kinds of thinking that we as humans do: Immediate, gut-based thinking that is often intuitive; and deep, deliverable, thinking.

Both kinds of thinking are required to make different kinds of decisions and to attack different kinds of problems that we will face in our work life.

From a logical point of view, there are two ways to approach this: Deductive logic and inductive logic

In a deductive logic and reasoning approach, we start from individual data points. We try to stitch the patterns we see from that and then arrive at the conclusion.

In inductive logic, we start from a possible hypothesis about the problem we are addressing. This hypothesis could be the result of our intuitive systems. Based on that, we are able to use data in a more streamlined way to either prove or disprove our hypothesis.

At every step, it is important to be aware of the possibility of bias creeping in.

Let’s look at a couple of real-life situations.

Say the customer satisfaction numbers for a company are reducing over time. How can you find a way to improve that situation? Such a problem might require both critical thinking and problem solving.

Using deductive logic, you might start looking at multiple data points across customer touch points to understand the key causes for concern.

On the other hand, using inductive logic, you might first create a hypothesis, like “this is due to customer service levels dropping in channel x.” Then, you start looking at data to see how the picture unfolds.

While both are valid approaches, the second one can save time in an urgent business situation.

Another example. These situations are often tested during interviews. Imagine you are asked “how do you estimate the market demand for petrol pumps in the city?”

Now that you know the two approaches, you can apply a similar logic and get to the possible approaches. The interviewer is looking at your thinking process, not at the exact answer.

There are tools such as structured thinking that take us through a step-by-step approach to focus on insights and problem solving. And reading is another way in which we can keep building our critical thinking skills.

This is also the reason why aptitude in reading, writing, mathematics and logical reasoning is tested in many competitive examinations.

The only difference is that the need for these skills may not end with clearing the exams. These need to be honed lifelong.

One of Coursera’s most popular courses is “learning how to learn.” That constant learnability can be our best guard against certain uncertainty.

For more news like this visit The Economic Times .

These skills can help you save your job

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  2. 15 Importance of Problem Solving Skills in the Workplace

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COMMENTS

  1. Problem-Solving Skills: What They Are and How to Improve Yours

    Problem-solving skills are skills that allow individuals to efficiently and effectively find solutions to issues. This attribute is a primary skill that employers look for in job candidates and is essential in a variety of careers. This skill is considered to be a soft skill, or an individual strength, as opposed to a learned hard skill.

  2. 19 Ways to Improve Your Problem Solving Skills at Work

    Choosing the best option. Developing an action plan/Execution strategy. Implementing the solution/Taking action. Monitoring progress. Evaluating the results. If the solution does not work. Problem solving mistakes. Ways to increase your problem solving skills. Challenges and obstacles in problem solving.

  3. 10 Problem-solving strategies to turn challenges on their head

    One of the best ways to improve your problem-solving skills is to learn from experts. Consider enrolling in organizational training, shadowing a mentor, or working with a coach. 2. Practice. Practice using your new problem-solving skills by applying them to smaller problems you might encounter in your daily life.

  4. Your Guide to Problem-Solving Skills at Work

    "Problem-solving skills are skills that allow you to identify and define a situation that needs changing," says Doug Noll, an attorney and adjunct faculty member at the Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University's Caruso School of Law, where he teaches graduate-level classes in decision-making and problem-solving.Once you identify what needs changing, problem-solving ...

  5. 7 Problem-Solving Skills That Can Help You Be a More ...

    Although problem-solving is a skill in its own right, a subset of seven skills can help make the process of problem-solving easier. These include analysis, communication, emotional intelligence, resilience, creativity, adaptability, and teamwork. 1. Analysis. As a manager, you'll solve each problem by assessing the situation first.

  6. How To Put Problem-Solving Skills To Work in 6 Steps

    Here are the basic steps involved in problem-solving: 1. Define the problem. The first step is to analyze the situation carefully to learn more about the problem. A single situation may solve multiple problems. Identify each problem and determine its cause. Try to anticipate the behavior and response of those affected by the problem.

  7. Problem Solving Strategies for the Workplace [2024] • Asana

    4 steps to better problem solving. While it might be tempting to dive into a problem head first, take the time to move step by step. Here's how you can effectively break down the problem-solving process with your team: 1. Identify the problem that needs to be solved. One of the easiest ways to identify a problem is to ask questions.

  8. How to improve your problem solving skills and strategies

    6. Solution implementation. This is what we were waiting for! All problem solving strategies have the end goal of implementing a solution and solving a problem in mind. Remember that in order for any solution to be successful, you need to help your group through all of the previous problem solving steps thoughtfully.

  9. 8 Steps to Improve Problem-Solving Skills for the Workplace

    Try the simple activities below to become a problem-solving pro. 1. Play Games That Stimulate the Brain. Challenge your brain with logic puzzles, sudoku, chess, or a Rubik's cube. These brain teasers require both analysis and lateral thinking. Lateral thinking means solving problems with a more creative approach.

  10. How to Develop Problem Solving Skills: 4 Tips

    Learning problem-solving techniques is a must for working professionals in any field. No matter your title or job description, the ability to find the root cause of a difficult problem and formulate viable solutions is a skill that employers value. Learning the soft skills and critical thinking techniques that good problem solvers use can help ...

  11. Problem solving skills and how to improve them (with examples)

    Example 1:Project manager with a proven track record of solving complex operational challenges. Skilled in identifying root causes, developing innovative solutions and leading teams to successful project completion. Example 2: Detail-oriented data analyst with strong problem solving skills.

  12. How to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills

    Problem-solving skills examples. Problem-solving requires multiple skills to get to a solution. These skills are all vital professional skills that employers desire in the immediate and future workplace.. 1. Decision-making. You'll need to develop your decision-making skills if you want to excel at problem-solving. No problem can be solved without making important decisions, including what ...

  13. Problem-solving skills: definitions and examples

    Problem-solving skills are skills that enable people to handle unexpected situations or difficult challenges at work. Organisations need people who can accurately assess problems and come up with effective solutions. In this article, we explain what problem-solving skills are, provide some examples of these skills and outline how to improve them.

  14. The Importance of Problem Solving Skills in the Workplace

    Thinking outside of the box is an important problem-solving skill in the workplace, because it can often lead to better outcomes than the originally expected ones. 4. Ability to work under pressure. This is often one of the most important benefits of problem-solving skills in the workplace.

  15. How to Improve Problem Solving Skills at Work

    Here are five tips to help develop your problem solving skills and become an efficient problem solver. Hopefully, they'll also help you look at problem solving from a different, solutions focused perspective. 1. Identity and understand the right problem. "If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem ...

  16. Problem-solving skills at the workplace

    What are some tips for improving problem-solving skills at work. Improving problem-solving skills is essential for businesses looking to stay competitive in the modern market. Identifying and swiftly addressing issues can mean the difference between success and failure. Fortunately, several steps can help anyone in the workplace improve their ...

  17. Six Steps to Becoming a Better Problem Solver

    So again, take the time to investigate the situation. Collect information, analyze your findings, and refine your diagnosis. 3. Find Multiple Solutions. Being a good problem-solver means thinking innovatively and that means thinking outside the box. Do not settle for the first solution you find. Push the boat out.

  18. Why is problem-solving important in the workplace? (And tips)

    Tips for improving problem-solving skills Regardless if you're a natural problem solver or you develop this skill through hard work, there are some steps you may take to improve your problem-solving abilities at work. Here are some tips you may consider to develop qualities that help you effectively address problems: Analyse and understand the ...

  19. 5 Ways to Sharpen Your Problem-Solving Skills

    Keep going until you dig into the root cause. 2. Draw a Mind Map to Visualize the Problem. Take out a piece of paper, a few colored pens, and draw a mind map of the problem at hand. Make sure that ...

  20. What Are Problem-Solving Skills? Definitions and Examples

    Communication. Decision-making. Team-building. Problem-solving skills are important in every career at every level. As a result, effective problem-solving may also require industry or job-specific technical skills. For example, a registered nurse will need active listening and communication skills when interacting with patients but will also ...

  21. Improving Problem-Solving at Work

    In coming up with alternatives, consider the following: • Weigh up what might slow down solving the problem. • Ensure your ideas align with goals and objectives. • Identify long and short-term solutions. • Write down the solutions you come up with. 3. Evaluate your solutions.

  22. WHY PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS MATTER IN THE WORKPLACE

    The importance of problem solving skills in the workplace. Problem solving is a vital skill in the workplace. The ability to think logically and creatively empowers individuals to tackle challenges and seize opportunities in all levels of business. This in turn helps to achieve the following benefits of problem solving skills in the workplace:

  23. Problem-Solving Skills: 5 Ways to Evaluate Them When Hiring

    Problem-solving skills encompass all the skills that employees use in the workplace to analyze problems and come up with solutions. Examples of typical problem-solving skills include good communication skills, active listening skills, decision-making skills, analytical skills, creativity, and collaboration. Different problem-solving skills are ...

  24. Boost Problem-Solving Skills for Client Success

    Here's how you can improve problem-solving skills to impress clients with high-quality work. Powered by AI and the LinkedIn community. 1. Understand Issues. 2. Generate Ideas. Be the first to add ...

  25. These skills can help you save your job

    The skills of critical thinking and problem solving are increasingly valuable as technology advances and the future of work remains uncertain. In addition to short-term job preparation, these ...