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26 Good Examples of Problem Solving (Interview Answers)
By Biron Clark
Published: November 15, 2023
Employers like to hire people who can solve problems and work well under pressure. A job rarely goes 100% according to plan, so hiring managers will be more likely to hire you if you seem like you can handle unexpected challenges while staying calm and logical in your approach.
But how do they measure this?
They’re going to ask you interview questions about these problem solving skills, and they might also look for examples of problem solving on your resume and cover letter. So coming up, I’m going to share a list of examples of problem solving, whether you’re an experienced job seeker or recent graduate.
Then I’ll share sample interview answers to, “Give an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem?”
It is the ability to identify the problem, prioritize based on gravity and urgency, analyze the root cause, gather relevant information, develop and evaluate viable solutions, decide on the most effective and logical solution, and plan and execute implementation.
Problem-solving also involves critical thinking, communication , listening, creativity, research, data gathering, risk assessment, continuous learning, decision-making, and other soft and technical skills.
Solving problems not only prevent losses or damages but also boosts self-confidence and reputation when you successfully execute it. The spotlight shines on you when people see you handle issues with ease and savvy despite the challenges. Your ability and potential to be a future leader that can take on more significant roles and tackle bigger setbacks shine through. Problem-solving is a skill you can master by learning from others and acquiring wisdom from their and your own experiences.
It takes a village to come up with solutions, but a good problem solver can steer the team towards the best choice and implement it to achieve the desired result.
Watch: 26 Good Examples of Problem Solving
Examples of problem solving scenarios in the workplace.
- Correcting a mistake at work, whether it was made by you or someone else
- Overcoming a delay at work through problem solving and communication
- Resolving an issue with a difficult or upset customer
- Overcoming issues related to a limited budget, and still delivering good work through the use of creative problem solving
- Overcoming a scheduling/staffing shortage in the department to still deliver excellent work
- Troubleshooting and resolving technical issues
- Handling and resolving a conflict with a coworker
- Solving any problems related to money, customer billing, accounting and bookkeeping, etc.
- Taking initiative when another team member overlooked or missed something important
- Taking initiative to meet with your superior to discuss a problem before it became potentially worse
- Solving a safety issue at work or reporting the issue to those who could solve it
- Using problem solving abilities to reduce/eliminate a company expense
- Finding a way to make the company more profitable through new service or product offerings, new pricing ideas, promotion and sale ideas, etc.
- Changing how a process, team, or task is organized to make it more efficient
- Using creative thinking to come up with a solution that the company hasn’t used before
- Performing research to collect data and information to find a new solution to a problem
- Boosting a company or team’s performance by improving some aspect of communication among employees
- Finding a new piece of data that can guide a company’s decisions or strategy better in a certain area
Problem Solving Examples for Recent Grads/Entry Level Job Seekers
- Coordinating work between team members in a class project
- Reassigning a missing team member’s work to other group members in a class project
- Adjusting your workflow on a project to accommodate a tight deadline
- Speaking to your professor to get help when you were struggling or unsure about a project
- Asking classmates, peers, or professors for help in an area of struggle
- Talking to your academic advisor to brainstorm solutions to a problem you were facing
- Researching solutions to an academic problem online, via Google or other methods
- Using problem solving and creative thinking to obtain an internship or other work opportunity during school after struggling at first
You can share all of the examples above when you’re asked questions about problem solving in your interview. As you can see, even if you have no professional work experience, it’s possible to think back to problems and unexpected challenges that you faced in your studies and discuss how you solved them.
Interview Answers to “Give an Example of an Occasion When You Used Logic to Solve a Problem”
Now, let’s look at some sample interview answers to, “Give me an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem,” since you’re likely to hear this interview question in all sorts of industries.
Example Answer 1:
At my current job, I recently solved a problem where a client was upset about our software pricing. They had misunderstood the sales representative who explained pricing originally, and when their package renewed for its second month, they called to complain about the invoice. I apologized for the confusion and then spoke to our billing team to see what type of solution we could come up with. We decided that the best course of action was to offer a long-term pricing package that would provide a discount. This not only solved the problem but got the customer to agree to a longer-term contract, which means we’ll keep their business for at least one year now, and they’re happy with the pricing. I feel I got the best possible outcome and the way I chose to solve the problem was effective.
Example Answer 2:
In my last job, I had to do quite a bit of problem solving related to our shift scheduling. We had four people quit within a week and the department was severely understaffed. I coordinated a ramp-up of our hiring efforts, I got approval from the department head to offer bonuses for overtime work, and then I found eight employees who were willing to do overtime this month. I think the key problem solving skills here were taking initiative, communicating clearly, and reacting quickly to solve this problem before it became an even bigger issue.
Example Answer 3:
In my current marketing role, my manager asked me to come up with a solution to our declining social media engagement. I assessed our current strategy and recent results, analyzed what some of our top competitors were doing, and then came up with an exact blueprint we could follow this year to emulate our best competitors but also stand out and develop a unique voice as a brand. I feel this is a good example of using logic to solve a problem because it was based on analysis and observation of competitors, rather than guessing or quickly reacting to the situation without reliable data. I always use logic and data to solve problems when possible. The project turned out to be a success and we increased our social media engagement by an average of 82% by the end of the year.
Answering Questions About Problem Solving with the STAR Method
When you answer interview questions about problem solving scenarios, or if you decide to demonstrate your problem solving skills in a cover letter (which is a good idea any time the job description mention problem solving as a necessary skill), I recommend using the STAR method to tell your story.
STAR stands for:
It’s a simple way of walking the listener or reader through the story in a way that will make sense to them. So before jumping in and talking about the problem that needed solving, make sure to describe the general situation. What job/company were you working at? When was this? Then, you can describe the task at hand and the problem that needed solving. After this, describe the course of action you chose and why. Ideally, show that you evaluated all the information you could given the time you had, and made a decision based on logic and fact.
Finally, describe a positive result you got.
Whether you’re answering interview questions about problem solving or writing a cover letter, you should only choose examples where you got a positive result and successfully solved the issue.
Situation : We had an irate client who was a social media influencer and had impossible delivery time demands we could not meet. She spoke negatively about us in her vlog and asked her followers to boycott our products. (Task : To develop an official statement to explain our company’s side, clarify the issue, and prevent it from getting out of hand). Action : I drafted a statement that balanced empathy, understanding, and utmost customer service with facts, logic, and fairness. It was direct, simple, succinct, and phrased to highlight our brand values while addressing the issue in a logical yet sensitive way. We also tapped our influencer partners to subtly and indirectly share their positive experiences with our brand so we could counter the negative content being shared online. Result : We got the results we worked for through proper communication and a positive and strategic campaign. The irate client agreed to have a dialogue with us. She apologized to us, and we reaffirmed our commitment to delivering quality service to all. We assured her that she can reach out to us anytime regarding her purchases and that we’d gladly accommodate her requests whenever possible. She also retracted her negative statements in her vlog and urged her followers to keep supporting our brand.
What Are Good Outcomes of Problem Solving?
Whenever you answer interview questions about problem solving or share examples of problem solving in a cover letter, you want to be sure you’re sharing a positive outcome.
Below are good outcomes of problem solving:
- Saving the company time or money
- Making the company money
- Pleasing/keeping a customer
- Obtaining new customers
- Solving a safety issue
- Solving a staffing/scheduling issue
- Solving a logistical issue
- Solving a company hiring issue
- Solving a technical/software issue
- Making a process more efficient and faster for the company
- Creating a new business process to make the company more profitable
- Improving the company’s brand/image/reputation
- Getting the company positive reviews from customers/clients
Every employer wants to make more money, save money, and save time. If you can assess your problem solving experience and think about how you’ve helped past employers in those three areas, then that’s a great start. That’s where I recommend you begin looking for stories of times you had to solve problems.
Tips to Improve Your Problem Solving Skills
Throughout your career, you’re going to get hired for better jobs and earn more money if you can show employers that you’re a problem solver. So to improve your problem solving skills, I recommend always analyzing a problem and situation before acting. When discussing problem solving with employers, you never want to sound like you rush or make impulsive decisions. They want to see fact-based or data-based decisions when you solve problems.
Next, to get better at solving problems, analyze the outcomes of past solutions you came up with. You can recognize what works and what doesn’t. Think about how you can get better at researching and analyzing a situation, but also how you can get better at communicating, deciding the right people in the organization to talk to and “pull in” to help you if needed, etc.
Finally, practice staying calm even in stressful situations. Take a few minutes to walk outside if needed. Step away from your phone and computer to clear your head. A work problem is rarely so urgent that you cannot take five minutes to think (with the possible exception of safety problems), and you’ll get better outcomes if you solve problems by acting logically instead of rushing to react in a panic.
You can use all of the ideas above to describe your problem solving skills when asked interview questions about the topic. If you say that you do the things above, employers will be impressed when they assess your problem solving ability.
If you practice the tips above, you’ll be ready to share detailed, impressive stories and problem solving examples that will make hiring managers want to offer you the job. Every employer appreciates a problem solver, whether solving problems is a requirement listed on the job description or not. And you never know which hiring manager or interviewer will ask you about a time you solved a problem, so you should always be ready to discuss this when applying for a job.
Related interview questions & answers:
- How do you handle stress?
- How do you handle conflict?
- Tell me about a time when you failed
About the Author
Read more articles by Biron Clark
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39 Best Problem-Solving Examples
Problem-solving is a process where you’re tasked with identifying an issue and coming up with the most practical and effective solution.
This indispensable skill is necessary in several aspects of life, from personal relationships to education to business decisions.
Problem-solving aptitude boosts rational thinking, creativity, and the ability to cooperate with others. It’s also considered essential in 21st Century workplaces.
If explaining your problem-solving skills in an interview, remember that the employer is trying to determine your ability to handle difficulties. Focus on explaining exactly how you solve problems, including by introducing your thoughts on some of the following frameworks and how you’ve applied them in the past.
1. divergent thinking.
Divergent thinking refers to the process of coming up with multiple different answers to a single problem. It’s the opposite of convergent thinking, which would involve coming up with a singular answer .
The benefit of a divergent thinking approach is that it can help us achieve blue skies thinking – it lets us generate several possible solutions that we can then critique and analyze .
In the realm of problem-solving, divergent thinking acts as the initial spark. You’re working to create an array of potential solutions, even those that seem outwardly unrelated or unconventional, to get your brain turning and unlock out-of-the-box ideas.
This process paves the way for the decision-making stage, where the most promising ideas are selected and refined.
Go Deeper: Divervent Thinking Examples
2. Convergent Thinking
Next comes convergent thinking, the process of narrowing down multiple possibilities to arrive at a single solution.
This involves using your analytical skills to identify the best, most practical, or most economical solution from the pool of ideas that you generated in the divergent thinking stage.
In a way, convergent thinking shapes the “roadmap” to solve a problem after divergent thinking has supplied the “destinations.”
Have a think about which of these problem-solving skills you’re more adept at: divergent or convergent thinking?
Go Deeper: Convergent Thinking Examples
Brainstorming is a group activity designed to generate a multitude of ideas regarding a specific problem. It’s divergent thinking as a group , which helps unlock even more possibilities.
A typical brainstorming session involves uninhibited and spontaneous ideation, encouraging participants to voice any possible solutions, no matter how unconventional they might appear.
It’s important in a brainstorming session to suspend judgment and be as inclusive as possible, allowing all participants to get involved.
By widening the scope of potential solutions, brainstorming allows better problem definition, more creative solutions, and helps to avoid thinking “traps” that might limit your perspective.
Go Deeper: Brainstorming Examples
4. Thinking Outside the Box
The concept of “thinking outside the box” encourages a shift in perspective, urging you to approach problems from an entirely new angle.
Rather than sticking to traditional methods and processes, it involves breaking away from conventional norms to cultivate unique solutions.
In problem-solving, this mindset can bypass established hurdles and bring you to fresh ideas that might otherwise remain undiscovered.
Think of it as going off the beaten track when regular routes present roadblocks to effective resolution.
5. Case Study Analysis
Analyzing case studies involves a detailed examination of real-life situations that bear relevance to the current problem at hand.
For example, if you’re facing a problem, you could go to another environment that has faced a similar problem and examine how they solved it. You’d then bring the insights from that case study back to your own problem.
This approach provides a practical backdrop against which theories and assumptions can be tested, offering valuable insights into how similar problems have been approached and resolved in the past.
See a Broader Range of Analysis Examples Here
6. Action Research
Action research involves a repetitive process of identifying a problem, formulating a plan to address it, implementing the plan, and then analyzing the results. It’s common in educational research contexts.
The objective is to promote continuous learning and improvement through reflection and action. You conduct research into your problem, attempt to apply a solution, then assess how well the solution worked. This becomes an iterative process of continual improvement over time.
For problem-solving, this method offers a way to test solutions in real-time and allows for changes and refinements along the way, based on feedback or observed outcomes. It’s a form of active problem-solving that integrates lessons learned into the next cycle of action.
Go Deeper: Action Research Examples
7. Information Gathering
Fundamental to solving any problem is the process of information gathering.
This involves collecting relevant data , facts, and details about the issue at hand, significantly aiding in the understanding and conceptualization of the problem.
In problem-solving, information gathering underpins every decision you make.
This process ensures your actions are based on concrete information and evidence, allowing for an informed approach to tackle the problem effectively.
8. Seeking Advice
Seeking advice implies turning to knowledgeable and experienced individuals or entities to gain insights on problem-solving.
It could include mentors, industry experts, peers, or even specialized literature.
The value in this process lies in leveraging different perspectives and proven strategies when dealing with a problem. Moreover, it aids you in avoiding pitfalls, saving time, and learning from others’ experiences.
9. Creative Thinking
Creative thinking refers to the ability to perceive a problem in a new way, identify unconventional patterns, or produce original solutions.
It encourages innovation and uniqueness, often leading to the most effective results.
When applied to problem-solving, creative thinking can help you break free from traditional constraints, ideal for potentially complex or unusual problems.
Go Deeper: Creative Thinking Examples
10. Conflict Resolution
Conflict resolution is a strategy developed to resolve disagreements and arguments, often involving communication, negotiation, and compromise.
When employed as a problem-solving technique, it can diffuse tension, clear bottlenecks, and create a collaborative environment.
Effective conflict resolution ensures that differing views or disagreements do not become roadblocks in the process of problem-solving.
Go Deeper: Conflict Resolution Examples
11. Addressing Bottlenecks
Bottlenecks refer to obstacles or hindrances that slow down or even halt a process.
In problem-solving, addressing bottlenecks involves identifying these impediments and finding ways to eliminate them.
This effort not only smooths the path to resolution but also enhances the overall efficiency of the problem-solving process.
For example, if your workflow is not working well, you’d go to the bottleneck – that one point that is most time consuming – and focus on that. Once you ‘break’ this bottleneck, the entire process will run more smoothly.
12. Market Research
Market research involves gathering and analyzing information about target markets, consumers, and competitors.
In sales and marketing, this is one of the most effective problem-solving methods. The research collected from your market (e.g. from consumer surveys) generates data that can help identify market trends, customer preferences, and competitor strategies.
In this sense, it allows a company to make informed decisions, solve existing problems, and even predict and prevent future ones.
13. Root Cause Analysis
Root cause analysis is a method used to identify the origin or the fundamental reason for a problem.
Once the root cause is determined, you can implement corrective actions to prevent the problem from recurring.
As a problem-solving procedure, root cause analysis helps you to tackle the problem at its source, rather than dealing with its surface symptoms.
Go Deeper: Root Cause Analysis Examples
14. Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is a visual tool used to structure information, helping you better analyze, comprehend and generate new ideas.
By laying out your thoughts visually, it can lead you to solutions that might not have been apparent with linear thinking.
In problem-solving, mind mapping helps in organizing ideas and identifying connections between them, providing a holistic view of the situation and potential solutions.
15. Trial and Error
The trial and error method involves attempting various solutions until you find one that resolves the problem.
It’s an empirical technique that relies on practical actions instead of theories or rules.
In the context of problem-solving, trial and error allows you the flexibility to test different strategies in real situations, gaining insights about what works and what doesn’t.
16. SWOT Analysis
SWOT is an acronym standing for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
It’s an analytic framework used to evaluate these aspects in relation to a particular objective or problem.
In problem-solving, SWOT Analysis helps you to identify favorable and unfavorable internal and external factors. It helps to craft strategies that make best use of your strengths and opportunities, whilst addressing weaknesses and threats.
Go Deeper: SWOT Analysis Examples
17. Scenario Planning
Scenario planning is a strategic planning method used to make flexible long-term plans.
It involves imagining, and then planning for, multiple likely future scenarios.
By forecasting various directions a problem could take, scenario planning helps manage uncertainty and is an effective tool for problem-solving in volatile conditions.
18. Six Thinking Hats
The Six Thinking Hats is a concept devised by Edward de Bono that proposes six different directions or modes of thinking, symbolized by six different hat colors.
Each hat signifies a different perspective, encouraging you to switch ‘thinking modes’ as you switch hats. This method can help remove bias and broaden perspectives when dealing with a problem.
19. Decision Matrix Analysis
Decision Matrix Analysis is a technique that allows you to weigh different factors when faced with several possible solutions.
After listing down the options and determining the factors of importance, each option is scored based on each factor.
Revealing a clear winner that both serves your objectives and reflects your values, Decision Matrix Analysis grounds your problem-solving process in objectivity and comprehensiveness.
20. Pareto Analysis
Also known as the 80/20 rule, Pareto Analysis is a decision-making technique.
It’s based on the principle that 80% of problems are typically caused by 20% of the causes, making it a handy tool for identifying the most significant issues in a situation.
Using this analysis, you’re likely to direct your problem-solving efforts more effectively, tackling the root causes producing most of the problem’s impact.
21. Critical Thinking
Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze facts to form a judgment objectively.
It involves logical, disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.
For problem-solving, critical thinking helps evaluate options and decide the most effective solution. It ensures your decisions are grounded in reason and facts, and not biased or irrational assumptions.
Go Deeper: Critical Thinking Examples
22. Hypothesis Testing
Hypothesis testing usually involves formulating a claim, testing it against actual data, and deciding whether to accept or reject the claim based on the results.
In problem-solving, hypotheses often represent potential solutions. Hypothesis testing provides verification, giving a statistical basis for decision-making and problem resolution.
Usually, this will require research methods and a scientific approach to see whether the hypothesis stands up or not.
Go Deeper: Types of Hypothesis Testing
23. Cost-Benefit Analysis
A cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is a systematic process of weighing the pros and cons of different solutions in terms of their potential costs and benefits.
It allows you to measure the positive effects against the negatives and informs your problem-solving strategy.
By using CBA, you can identify which solution offers the greatest benefit for the least cost, significantly improving efficacy and efficiency in your problem-solving process.
Go Deeper: Cost-Benefit Analysis Examples
24. Simulation and Modeling
Simulations and models allow you to create a simplified replica of real-world systems to test outcomes under controlled conditions.
In problem-solving, you can broadly understand potential repercussions of different solutions before implementation.
It offers a cost-effective way to predict the impacts of your decisions, minimizing potential risks associated with various solutions.
25. Delphi Method
The Delphi Method is a structured communication technique used to gather expert opinions.
The method involves a group of experts who respond to questionnaires about a problem. The responses are aggregated and shared with the group, and the process repeats until a consensus is reached.
This method of problem solving can provide a diverse range of insights and solutions, shaped by the wisdom of a collective expert group.
26. Cross-functional Team Collaboration
Cross-functional team collaboration involves individuals from different departments or areas of expertise coming together to solve a common problem or achieve a shared goal.
When you bring diverse skills, knowledge, and perspectives to a problem, it can lead to a more comprehensive and innovative solution.
In problem-solving, this promotes communal thinking and ensures that solutions are inclusive and holistic, with various aspects of the problem being addressed.
Benchmarking involves comparing one’s business processes and performance metrics to the best practices from other companies or industries.
In problem-solving, it allows you to identify gaps in your own processes, determine how others have solved similar problems, and apply those solutions that have proven to be successful.
It also allows you to compare yourself to the best (the benchmark) and assess where you’re not as good.
28. Pros-Cons Lists
A pro-con analysis aids in problem-solving by weighing the advantages (pros) and disadvantages (cons) of various possible solutions.
This simple but powerful tool helps in making a balanced, informed decision.
When confronted with a problem, a pro-con analysis can guide you through the decision-making process, ensuring all possible outcomes and implications are scrutinized before arriving at the optimal solution. Thus, it helps to make the problem-solving process both methodical and comprehensive.
29. 5 Whys Analysis
The 5 Whys Analysis involves repeatedly asking the question ‘why’ (around five times) to peel away the layers of an issue and discover the root cause of a problem.
As a problem-solving technique, it enables you to delve into details that you might otherwise overlook and offers a simple, yet powerful, approach to uncover the origin of a problem.
For example, if your task is to find out why a product isn’t selling your first answer might be: “because customers don’t want it”, then you ask why again – “they don’t want it because it doesn’t solve their problem”, then why again – “because the product is missing a certain feature” … and so on, until you get to the root “why”.
30. Gap Analysis
Gap analysis entails comparing current performance with potential or desired performance.
You’re identifying the ‘gaps’, or the differences, between where you are and where you want to be.
In terms of problem-solving, a Gap Analysis can help identify key areas for improvement and design a roadmap of how to get from the current state to the desired one.
31. Design Thinking
Design thinking is a problem-solving approach that involves empathy, experimentation, and iteration.
The process focuses on understanding user needs, challenging assumptions , and redefining problems from a user-centric perspective.
In problem-solving, design thinking uncovers innovative solutions that may not have been initially apparent and ensures the solution is tailored to the needs of those affected by the issue.
32. Analogical Thinking
Analogical thinking involves the transfer of information from a particular subject (the analogue or source) to another particular subject (the target).
In problem-solving, you’re drawing parallels between similar situations and applying the problem-solving techniques used in one situation to the other.
Thus, it allows you to apply proven strategies to new, but related problems.
33. Lateral Thinking
Lateral thinking requires looking at a situation or problem from a unique, sometimes abstract, often non-sequential viewpoint.
Unlike traditional logical thinking methods, lateral thinking encourages you to employ creative and out-of-the-box techniques.
In solving problems, this type of thinking boosts ingenuity and drives innovation, often leading to novel and effective solutions.
Go Deeper: Lateral Thinking Examples
Flowcharting is the process of visually mapping a process or procedure.
This form of diagram can show every step of a system, process, or workflow, enabling an easy tracking of the progress.
As a problem-solving tool, flowcharts help identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies in a process, guiding improved strategies and providing clarity on task ownership and process outcomes.
Multivoting, or N/3 voting, is a method where participants reduce a large list of ideas to a prioritized shortlist by casting multiple votes.
This voting system elevates the most preferred options for further consideration and decision-making.
As a problem-solving technique, multivoting allows a group to narrow options and focus on the most promising solutions, ensuring more effective and democratic decision-making.
36. Force Field Analysis
Force Field Analysis is a decision-making technique that identifies the forces for and against change when contemplating a decision.
The ‘forces’ represent the differing factors that can drive or hinder change.
In problem-solving, Force Field Analysis allows you to understand the entirety of the context, favoring a balanced view over a one-sided perspective. A comprehensive view of all the forces at play can lead to better-informed problem-solving decisions.
TRIZ, which stands for “The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving,” is a problem-solving, analysis, and forecasting methodology.
It focuses on finding contradictions inherent in a scenario. Then, you work toward eliminating the contraditions through finding innovative solutions.
So, when you’re tackling a problem, TRIZ provides a disciplined, systematic approach that aims for ideal solutions and not just acceptable ones. Using TRIZ, you can leverage patterns of problem-solving that have proven effective in different cases, pivoting them to solve the problem at hand.
38. A3 Problem Solving
A3 Problem Solving, derived from Lean Management, is a structured method that uses a single sheet of A3-sized paper to document knowledge from a problem-solving process.
Named after the international paper size standard of A3 (or 11-inch by 17-inch paper), it succinctly records all key details of the problem-solving process from problem description to the root cause and corrective actions.
Used in problem-solving, this provides a straightforward and logical structure for addressing the problem, facilitating communication between team members, ensuring all critical details are included, and providing a record of decisions made.
39. Scenario Analysis
Scenario Analysis is all about predicting different possible future events depending upon your decision.
To do this, you look at each course of action and try to identify the most likely outcomes or scenarios down the track if you take that course of action.
This technique helps forecast the impacts of various strategies, playing each out to their (logical or potential) end. It’s a good strategy for project managers who need to keep a firm eye on the horizon at all times.
When solving problems, Scenario Analysis assists in preparing for uncertainties, making sure your solution remains viable, regardless of changes in circumstances.
How to Answer “Demonstrate Problem-Solving Skills” in an Interview
When asked to demonstrate your problem-solving skills in an interview, the STAR method often proves useful. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result.
Situation: Begin by describing a specific circumstance or challenge you encountered. Make sure to provide enough detail to allow the interviewer a clear understanding. You should select an event that adequately showcases your problem-solving abilities.
For instance, “In my previous role as a project manager, we faced a significant issue when our key supplier abruptly went out of business.”
Task: Explain what your responsibilities were in that situation. This serves to provide context, allowing the interviewer to understand your role and the expectations placed upon you.
For instance, “It was my task to ensure the project remained on track despite this setback. Alternative suppliers needed to be found without sacrificing quality or significantly increasing costs.”
Action: Describe the steps you took to manage the problem. Highlight your problem-solving process. Mention any creative approaches or techniques that you used.
For instance, “I conducted thorough research to identify potential new suppliers. After creating a shortlist, I initiated contact, negotiated terms, assessed samples for quality and made a selection. I also worked closely with the team to re-adjust the project timeline.”
Result: Share the outcomes of your actions. How did the situation end? Did your actions lead to success? It’s particularly effective if you can quantify these results.
For instance, “As a result of my active problem solving, we were able to secure a new supplier whose costs were actually 10% cheaper and whose quality was comparable. We adjusted the project plan and managed to complete the project just two weeks later than originally planned, despite the major vendor setback.”
Remember, when you’re explaining your problem-solving skills to an interviewer, what they’re really interested in is your approach to handling difficulties, your creativity and persistence in seeking a resolution, and your ability to carry your solution through to fruition. Tailoring your story to highlight these aspects will help exemplify your problem-solving prowess.
Go Deeper: STAR Interview Method Examples
Benefits of Problem-Solving
Problem-solving is beneficial for the following reasons (among others):
- It can help you to overcome challenges, roadblocks, and bottlenecks in your life.
- It can save a company money.
- It can help you to achieve clarity in your thinking.
- It can make procedures more efficient and save time.
- It can strengthen your decision-making capacities.
- It can lead to better risk management.
Whether for a job interview or school, problem-solving helps you to become a better thinking, solve your problems more effectively, and achieve your goals. Build up your problem-solving frameworks (I presented over 40 in this piece for you!) and work on applying them in real-life situations.
Chris Drew (PhD)
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ What is Embedded Phonics? - A Simple Explanation
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ What is Synthetic Phonics? - A Simple Explanation
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ What is Analytic Phonics? - A Simple Explanation
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ The 4 Types of Phonics, Explained!
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From Dilemmas to Solutions: Problem-Solving Examples to Learn From
- October 14, 2023
Introduction to Problem-Solving
Life is full of challenges and dilemmas, both big and small. But if there’s one skill that can help you navigate these, it’s problem-solving . So, what exactly is problem-solving? And why is it such a crucial skill in daily life?
Understanding the Concept of Problem-Solving
Problem-solving is a mental process that involves identifying, analyzing, and resolving challenges or difficulties. It’s like a journey that starts with a problem and ends with a solution. It’s a skill that’s not just used in the field of psychology but in all aspects of life. Whether you’re trying to decide on the best route to work, dealing with a disagreement with a friend, or figuring out how to fix a leaky faucet, you’re using your problem-solving skills.
When you’re faced with a problem, your brain goes through a series of steps to find a solution. This process can be conscious or unconscious and can involve logical thinking, creativity, and prior knowledge. Effective problem-solving can lead to better decisions and outcomes, making it a valuable tool in your personal and professional life.
Importance of Problem-Solving in Daily Life
Why is problem-solving so important in daily life? Well, it’s simple. Problems are a part of life. They arise in different shapes and sizes, and in different areas of life, including work, relationships, health, and personal growth. Having strong problem-solving skills can help you navigate these challenges effectively and efficiently.
In your personal life, problem-solving can help you manage stress and conflict, make better decisions, and achieve your goals. In the workplace, it can help you navigate complex projects, improve processes, and foster innovation. Problem-solving is also a key skill in many professions and industries, from engineering and science to healthcare and customer service.
Moreover, problem-solving can contribute to your overall mental well-being. It can give you a sense of control and agency, reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and foster a positive attitude. It’s also a key component of resilience, the ability to bounce back from adversity.
In conclusion, problem-solving is a fundamental skill in life. It’s a tool you can use to tackle challenges, make informed decisions, and drive change. By understanding the concept of problem-solving and recognizing its importance in daily life, you’re taking the first step toward becoming a more effective problem solver. As we delve deeper into this topic, you’ll discover practical problem-solving examples, learn about different problem-solving techniques, and gain insights on how to improve your own problem-solving skills. So, stay tuned and continue your exploration of introduction to psychology with us.
Stages of Problem-Solving
The process of problem-solving can be broken down into three key stages: identifying the problem , developing possible solutions , and implementing the best solution . Each stage requires a different set of skills and strategies. By understanding these stages, you can enhance your problem-solving abilities and tackle various challenges more effectively.
Identifying the Problem
The first step in problem-solving is recognizing that a problem exists. This involves defining the issue clearly and understanding its root cause. You might need to gather information, ask questions, and analyze the situation from multiple perspectives. It can be helpful to write down the problem and think about how it impacts you or others involved.
For instance, if you’re struggling with time management, the problem might be that you have too many obligations and not enough time. Or perhaps your methods of organizing your tasks aren’t effective. It’s important to be as specific as possible when identifying the problem, as this will guide the rest of the problem-solving process.
Developing Possible Solutions
Once you’ve identified the problem, the next step is to brainstorm possible solutions. This is where creativity comes into play. Don’t limit yourself; even ideas that seem unrealistic or out of the box can lead to effective solutions.
Consider different strategies and approaches. You could try using techniques like mind mapping, listing pros and cons, or consulting with others for fresh perspectives. Remember, the goal is to generate a variety of options, not to choose a solution at this stage.
Implementing the Best Solution
The final stage of problem-solving is to select the best solution and put it into action. Review the options you’ve developed, evaluate their potential effectiveness, and make a decision. Keep in mind that the “best” solution isn’t necessarily the perfect one (as there might not be a perfect solution), but rather the one that seems most likely to achieve your desired outcome given the circumstances.
Once you’ve chosen a solution, plan out the steps needed to implement it and then take action. Monitor the results and adjust your approach as necessary. If the problem persists, don’t be discouraged; return to the previous stages, reassess the problem and your potential solutions, and try again.
Remember, problem-solving is a dynamic process that often involves trial and error. It’s an essential skill in many areas of life, from everyday challenges to workplace dilemmas. To learn more about the psychology behind problem-solving and decision-making, check out our introduction to psychology article.
Understanding the concept of problem-solving is one thing, but seeing it in action is another. To help you grasp the practical application of problem-solving strategies, let’s explore three different problem-solving examples from daily life, the workplace, and relationships.
Daily Life Problem-Solving Example
Imagine you’re trying to lose weight but struggle with late-night snacking. The issue isn’t uncommon, but it’s hindering your progress towards your weight loss goal.
- Identifying the Problem : Late-night snacking is causing you to consume extra calories, preventing weight loss.
- Developing Possible Solutions : You could consider eating an earlier dinner, having a healthier snack option, or practicing mindful eating.
- Implementing the Best Solution : After trying out different solutions, you find that preparing a healthy snack in advance minimizes your calorie intake and satisfies your late-night cravings, helping you stay on track with your weight loss goal.
Workplace Problem-Solving Example
Let’s consider a scenario where a team at work is failing to meet project deadlines consistently.
- Identifying the Problem : The team is not completing projects on time, causing delays in the overall project timeline.
- Developing Possible Solutions : The team could consider improving their time management skills, using project management tools, or redistributing tasks among team members.
- Implementing the Best Solution : After trying out different strategies, the team finds that using a project management tool helps them stay organized, delegate tasks effectively, and complete projects within the given timeframe.
For more insights on effective management styles that can help in problem-solving at the workplace, check out our articles on autocratic leadership , democratic leadership style , and laissez faire leadership .
Relationship Problem-Solving Example
In a romantic relationship, conflicts can occasionally arise. Let’s imagine a common issue where one partner feels the other isn’t spending enough quality time with them.
- Identifying the Problem : One partner feels neglected due to a lack of quality time spent together.
- Developing Possible Solutions : The couple could consider scheduling regular date nights, engaging in shared hobbies, or setting aside a specific time each day for undisturbed conversation.
- Implementing the Best Solution : The couple decides to implement a daily “unplugged” hour where they focus solely on each other without distractions. This results in improved relationship satisfaction.
For more on navigating relationship challenges, check out our articles on anxious avoidant attachment and emotional awareness .
These problem-solving examples illustrate how the process of identifying a problem, developing possible solutions, and implementing the best solution can be applied to various situations. By understanding and applying these strategies, you can improve your problem-solving skills and navigate challenges more effectively.
Techniques for Effective Problem-Solving
As you navigate the world of problem-solving, you’ll find that there are multiple techniques you can use to arrive at a solution. Each technique offers a unique approach to identifying issues, generating potential solutions, and choosing the best course of action. In this section, we’ll explore three common techniques: Brainstorming , Root Cause Analysis , and SWOT Analysis .
Brainstorming is a free-thinking method used to generate a large number of ideas related to a specific problem. You do this by suspending criticism and allowing your creativity to flow. The aim is to produce as many ideas as possible, even if they seem far-fetched. You then evaluate these ideas to identify the most beneficial solutions. By using brainstorming, you can encourage out-of-the-box thinking and possibly discover innovative solutions to challenging problems.
Root Cause Analysis
Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a method used to identify the underlying causes of a problem. The goal is to address these root causes rather than the symptoms of the problem. This technique helps to prevent the same issue from recurring in the future. There are several RCA methods, such as the “5 Whys” technique, where you ask “why” multiple times until you uncover the root cause of the problem. By identifying and addressing the root cause, you tackle the problem at its source, which can lead to more effective and long-lasting solutions.
SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning technique that helps you identify your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats related to a problem. This approach encourages you to examine the problem from different angles, helping you understand the resources you have at your disposal (Strengths), the areas where you could improve (Weaknesses), the external factors that could benefit you (Opportunities), and the external factors that could cause problems (Threats). With this comprehensive understanding, you can develop a well-informed strategy to solve the problem.
Each of these problem-solving techniques provides a distinct approach to identifying and resolving issues. By understanding and utilizing these methods, you can enhance your problem-solving skills and increase your effectiveness in dealing with challenges. For more insights into effective problem-solving and other psychological topics, explore our introduction to psychology .
Improving Your Problem-Solving Skills
Learning to solve problems effectively is a skill that can be honed with time and practice. The following are some ways to enhance your problem-solving capabilities.
Practice Makes Perfect
The saying “practice makes perfect” holds true when it comes to problem-solving. The more problems you tackle, the better you’ll become at devising and implementing effective solutions. Seek out opportunities to practice your problem-solving skills both in everyday life and in more complex situations. This could involve resolving a dispute at work, figuring out a puzzle, or even strategizing in a board game. Each problem you encounter is a new opportunity to apply and refine your skills.
Learning from Others’ Experiences
There’s much to be gained from observing how others approach problem-solving. Whether it’s reading about problem solving examples from renowned psychologists or discussing strategies with colleagues, you can learn valuable techniques and perspectives from the experiences of others. Consider participating in group activities that require problem-solving, such as escape rooms or team projects. Observe how team members identify problems, brainstorm solutions, and decide on the best course of action.
Embracing a Growth Mindset
A key component of effective problem-solving is adopting a growth mindset. This mindset, coined by psychologist Carol Dweck, is the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work. When you embrace a growth mindset, you view challenges as opportunities to learn and grow rather than as insurmountable obstacles.
Believing in your ability to develop and enhance your problem-solving skills over time can make the process less daunting and more rewarding. So, when you encounter a problem, instead of thinking, “I can’t do this,” try thinking, “I can’t do this yet, but with effort and practice, I can learn.”
For more on the growth mindset, you might want to check out our article on what is intrinsic motivation which includes how a growth mindset can fuel your motivation to improve.
By practicing regularly, learning from others, and embracing a growth mindset, you can continually improve your problem-solving skills and become more adept at overcoming challenges you encounter.
Daria Burnett is an author and numerologist. She has written several books on numerology and astrology, including the recent Amazon bestseller " Angel Numbers Explained ."
Daria has also been studying astrology, the Tarot, and natural healing practices for many years, and has written widely on these topics.
She is a gifted intuitive who is able to help her clients make the best choices for their lives. She has a deep understanding of spirituality, and uses her knowledge to help others find their true purpose in life.
You can also find Daria on Twitter , YouTube , Instagram , Facebook , Medium , MuckRack , and Amazon .
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35 problem-solving techniques and methods for solving complex problems
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All teams and organizations encounter challenges as they grow. There are problems that might occur for teams when it comes to miscommunication or resolving business-critical issues . You may face challenges around growth , design , user engagement, and even team culture and happiness. In short, problem-solving techniques should be part of every team’s skillset.
Problem-solving methods are primarily designed to help a group or team through a process of first identifying problems and challenges , ideating possible solutions , and then evaluating the most suitable .
Finding effective solutions to complex problems isn’t easy, but by using the right process and techniques, you can help your team be more efficient in the process.
So how do you develop strategies that are engaging, and empower your team to solve problems effectively?
In this blog post, we share a series of problem-solving tools you can use in your next workshop or team meeting. You’ll also find some tips for facilitating the process and how to enable others to solve complex problems.
Let’s get started!
How do you identify problems?
How do you identify the right solution.
- Tips for more effective problem-solving
Complete problem-solving methods
- Problem-solving techniques to identify and analyze problems
- Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions
Problem-solving warm-up activities
Closing activities for a problem-solving process.
Before you can move towards finding the right solution for a given problem, you first need to identify and define the problem you wish to solve.
Here, you want to clearly articulate what the problem is and allow your group to do the same. Remember that everyone in a group is likely to have differing perspectives and alignment is necessary in order to help the group move forward.
Identifying a problem accurately also requires that all members of a group are able to contribute their views in an open and safe manner. It can be scary for people to stand up and contribute, especially if the problems or challenges are emotive or personal in nature. Be sure to try and create a psychologically safe space for these kinds of discussions.
Remember that problem analysis and further discussion are also important. Not taking the time to fully analyze and discuss a challenge can result in the development of solutions that are not fit for purpose or do not address the underlying issue.
Successfully identifying and then analyzing a problem means facilitating a group through activities designed to help them clearly and honestly articulate their thoughts and produce usable insight.
With this data, you might then produce a problem statement that clearly describes the problem you wish to be addressed and also state the goal of any process you undertake to tackle this issue.
Finding solutions is the end goal of any process. Complex organizational challenges can only be solved with an appropriate solution but discovering them requires using the right problem-solving tool.
After you’ve explored a problem and discussed ideas, you need to help a team discuss and choose the right solution. Consensus tools and methods such as those below help a group explore possible solutions before then voting for the best. They’re a great way to tap into the collective intelligence of the group for great results!
Remember that the process is often iterative. Great problem solvers often roadtest a viable solution in a measured way to see what works too. While you might not get the right solution on your first try, the methods below help teams land on the most likely to succeed solution while also holding space for improvement.
Every effective problem solving process begins with an agenda . A well-structured workshop is one of the best methods for successfully guiding a group from exploring a problem to implementing a solution.
In SessionLab, it’s easy to go from an idea to a complete agenda . Start by dragging and dropping your core problem solving activities into place . Add timings, breaks and necessary materials before sharing your agenda with your colleagues.
The resulting agenda will be your guide to an effective and productive problem solving session that will also help you stay organized on the day!
Tips for more effective problem solving
Problem-solving activities are only one part of the puzzle. While a great method can help unlock your team’s ability to solve problems, without a thoughtful approach and strong facilitation the solutions may not be fit for purpose.
Let’s take a look at some problem-solving tips you can apply to any process to help it be a success!
Clearly define the problem
Jumping straight to solutions can be tempting, though without first clearly articulating a problem, the solution might not be the right one. Many of the problem-solving activities below include sections where the problem is explored and clearly defined before moving on.
This is a vital part of the problem-solving process and taking the time to fully define an issue can save time and effort later. A clear definition helps identify irrelevant information and it also ensures that your team sets off on the right track.
Don’t jump to conclusions
It’s easy for groups to exhibit cognitive bias or have preconceived ideas about both problems and potential solutions. Be sure to back up any problem statements or potential solutions with facts, research, and adequate forethought.
The best techniques ask participants to be methodical and challenge preconceived notions. Make sure you give the group enough time and space to collect relevant information and consider the problem in a new way. By approaching the process with a clear, rational mindset, you’ll often find that better solutions are more forthcoming.
Try different approaches
Problems come in all shapes and sizes and so too should the methods you use to solve them. If you find that one approach isn’t yielding results and your team isn’t finding different solutions, try mixing it up. You’ll be surprised at how using a new creative activity can unblock your team and generate great solutions.
Don’t take it personally
Depending on the nature of your team or organizational problems, it’s easy for conversations to get heated. While it’s good for participants to be engaged in the discussions, ensure that emotions don’t run too high and that blame isn’t thrown around while finding solutions.
You’re all in it together, and even if your team or area is seeing problems, that isn’t necessarily a disparagement of you personally. Using facilitation skills to manage group dynamics is one effective method of helping conversations be more constructive.
Get the right people in the room
Your problem-solving method is often only as effective as the group using it. Getting the right people on the job and managing the number of people present is important too!
If the group is too small, you may not get enough different perspectives to effectively solve a problem. If the group is too large, you can go round and round during the ideation stages.
Creating the right group makeup is also important in ensuring you have the necessary expertise and skillset to both identify and follow up on potential solutions. Carefully consider who to include at each stage to help ensure your problem-solving method is followed and positioned for success.
The best solutions can take refinement, iteration, and reflection to come out. Get into a habit of documenting your process in order to keep all the learnings from the session and to allow ideas to mature and develop. Many of the methods below involve the creation of documents or shared resources. Be sure to keep and share these so everyone can benefit from the work done!
Bring a facilitator
Facilitation is all about making group processes easier. With a subject as potentially emotive and important as problem-solving, having an impartial third party in the form of a facilitator can make all the difference in finding great solutions and keeping the process moving. Consider bringing a facilitator to your problem-solving session to get better results and generate meaningful solutions!
Develop your problem-solving skills
It takes time and practice to be an effective problem solver. While some roles or participants might more naturally gravitate towards problem-solving, it can take development and planning to help everyone create better solutions.
You might develop a training program, run a problem-solving workshop or simply ask your team to practice using the techniques below. Check out our post on problem-solving skills to see how you and your group can develop the right mental process and be more resilient to issues too!
Design a great agenda
Workshops are a great format for solving problems. With the right approach, you can focus a group and help them find the solutions to their own problems. But designing a process can be time-consuming and finding the right activities can be difficult.
Check out our workshop planning guide to level-up your agenda design and start running more effective workshops. Need inspiration? Check out templates designed by expert facilitators to help you kickstart your process!
In this section, we’ll look at in-depth problem-solving methods that provide a complete end-to-end process for developing effective solutions. These will help guide your team from the discovery and definition of a problem through to delivering the right solution.
If you’re looking for an all-encompassing method or problem-solving model, these processes are a great place to start. They’ll ask your team to challenge preconceived ideas and adopt a mindset for solving problems more effectively.
- Six Thinking Hats
- Lightning Decision Jam
- Problem Definition Process
- Discovery & Action Dialogue
Design Sprint 2.0
- Open Space Technology
1. Six Thinking Hats
Individual approaches to solving a problem can be very different based on what team or role an individual holds. It can be easy for existing biases or perspectives to find their way into the mix, or for internal politics to direct a conversation.
Six Thinking Hats is a classic method for identifying the problems that need to be solved and enables your team to consider them from different angles, whether that is by focusing on facts and data, creative solutions, or by considering why a particular solution might not work.
Like all problem-solving frameworks, Six Thinking Hats is effective at helping teams remove roadblocks from a conversation or discussion and come to terms with all the aspects necessary to solve complex problems.
2. Lightning Decision Jam
Featured courtesy of Jonathan Courtney of AJ&Smart Berlin, Lightning Decision Jam is one of those strategies that should be in every facilitation toolbox. Exploring problems and finding solutions is often creative in nature, though as with any creative process, there is the potential to lose focus and get lost.
Unstructured discussions might get you there in the end, but it’s much more effective to use a method that creates a clear process and team focus.
In Lightning Decision Jam, participants are invited to begin by writing challenges, concerns, or mistakes on post-its without discussing them before then being invited by the moderator to present them to the group.
From there, the team vote on which problems to solve and are guided through steps that will allow them to reframe those problems, create solutions and then decide what to execute on.
By deciding the problems that need to be solved as a team before moving on, this group process is great for ensuring the whole team is aligned and can take ownership over the next stages.
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
3. Problem Definition Process
While problems can be complex, the problem-solving methods you use to identify and solve those problems can often be simple in design.
By taking the time to truly identify and define a problem before asking the group to reframe the challenge as an opportunity, this method is a great way to enable change.
Begin by identifying a focus question and exploring the ways in which it manifests before splitting into five teams who will each consider the problem using a different method: escape, reversal, exaggeration, distortion or wishful. Teams develop a problem objective and create ideas in line with their method before then feeding them back to the group.
This method is great for enabling in-depth discussions while also creating space for finding creative solutions too!
Problem Definition #problem solving #idea generation #creativity #online #remote-friendly A problem solving technique to define a problem, challenge or opportunity and to generate ideas.
4. The 5 Whys
Sometimes, a group needs to go further with their strategies and analyze the root cause at the heart of organizational issues. An RCA or root cause analysis is the process of identifying what is at the heart of business problems or recurring challenges.
The 5 Whys is a simple and effective method of helping a group go find the root cause of any problem or challenge and conduct analysis that will deliver results.
By beginning with the creation of a problem statement and going through five stages to refine it, The 5 Whys provides everything you need to truly discover the cause of an issue.
The 5 Whys #hyperisland #innovation This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. As the title suggests, the group defines a problems, then asks the question “why” five times, often using the resulting explanation as a starting point for creative problem solving.
5. World Cafe
World Cafe is a simple but powerful facilitation technique to help bigger groups to focus their energy and attention on solving complex problems.
World Cafe enables this approach by creating a relaxed atmosphere where participants are able to self-organize and explore topics relevant and important to them which are themed around a central problem-solving purpose. Create the right atmosphere by modeling your space after a cafe and after guiding the group through the method, let them take the lead!
Making problem-solving a part of your organization’s culture in the long term can be a difficult undertaking. More approachable formats like World Cafe can be especially effective in bringing people unfamiliar with workshops into the fold.
World Cafe #hyperisland #innovation #issue analysis World Café is a simple yet powerful method, originated by Juanita Brown, for enabling meaningful conversations driven completely by participants and the topics that are relevant and important to them. Facilitators create a cafe-style space and provide simple guidelines. Participants then self-organize and explore a set of relevant topics or questions for conversation.
6. Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)
One of the best approaches is to create a safe space for a group to share and discover practices and behaviors that can help them find their own solutions.
With DAD, you can help a group choose which problems they wish to solve and which approaches they will take to do so. It’s great at helping remove resistance to change and can help get buy-in at every level too!
This process of enabling frontline ownership is great in ensuring follow-through and is one of the methods you will want in your toolbox as a facilitator.
Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD) #idea generation #liberating structures #action #issue analysis #remote-friendly DADs make it easy for a group or community to discover practices and behaviors that enable some individuals (without access to special resources and facing the same constraints) to find better solutions than their peers to common problems. These are called positive deviant (PD) behaviors and practices. DADs make it possible for people in the group, unit, or community to discover by themselves these PD practices. DADs also create favorable conditions for stimulating participants’ creativity in spaces where they can feel safe to invent new and more effective practices. Resistance to change evaporates as participants are unleashed to choose freely which practices they will adopt or try and which problems they will tackle. DADs make it possible to achieve frontline ownership of solutions.
7. Design Sprint 2.0
Want to see how a team can solve big problems and move forward with prototyping and testing solutions in a few days? The Design Sprint 2.0 template from Jake Knapp, author of Sprint, is a complete agenda for a with proven results.
Developing the right agenda can involve difficult but necessary planning. Ensuring all the correct steps are followed can also be stressful or time-consuming depending on your level of experience.
Use this complete 4-day workshop template if you are finding there is no obvious solution to your challenge and want to focus your team around a specific problem that might require a shortcut to launching a minimum viable product or waiting for the organization-wide implementation of a solution.
8. Open space technology
Open space technology- developed by Harrison Owen – creates a space where large groups are invited to take ownership of their problem solving and lead individual sessions. Open space technology is a great format when you have a great deal of expertise and insight in the room and want to allow for different takes and approaches on a particular theme or problem you need to be solved.
Start by bringing your participants together to align around a central theme and focus their efforts. Explain the ground rules to help guide the problem-solving process and then invite members to identify any issue connecting to the central theme that they are interested in and are prepared to take responsibility for.
Once participants have decided on their approach to the core theme, they write their issue on a piece of paper, announce it to the group, pick a session time and place, and post the paper on the wall. As the wall fills up with sessions, the group is then invited to join the sessions that interest them the most and which they can contribute to, then you’re ready to begin!
Everyone joins the problem-solving group they’ve signed up to, record the discussion and if appropriate, findings can then be shared with the rest of the group afterward.
Open Space Technology #action plan #idea generation #problem solving #issue analysis #large group #online #remote-friendly Open Space is a methodology for large groups to create their agenda discerning important topics for discussion, suitable for conferences, community gatherings and whole system facilitation
Techniques to identify and analyze problems
Using a problem-solving method to help a team identify and analyze a problem can be a quick and effective addition to any workshop or meeting.
While further actions are always necessary, you can generate momentum and alignment easily, and these activities are a great place to get started.
We’ve put together this list of techniques to help you and your team with problem identification, analysis, and discussion that sets the foundation for developing effective solutions.
Let’s take a look!
- The Creativity Dice
- Fishbone Analysis
- Problem Tree
- SWOT Analysis
- Agreement-Certainty Matrix
- The Journalistic Six
- LEGO Challenge
- What, So What, Now What?
Individual and group perspectives are incredibly important, but what happens if people are set in their minds and need a change of perspective in order to approach a problem more effectively?
Flip It is a method we love because it is both simple to understand and run, and allows groups to understand how their perspectives and biases are formed.
Participants in Flip It are first invited to consider concerns, issues, or problems from a perspective of fear and write them on a flip chart. Then, the group is asked to consider those same issues from a perspective of hope and flip their understanding.
No problem and solution is free from existing bias and by changing perspectives with Flip It, you can then develop a problem solving model quickly and effectively.
Flip It! #gamestorming #problem solving #action Often, a change in a problem or situation comes simply from a change in our perspectives. Flip It! is a quick game designed to show players that perspectives are made, not born.
10. The Creativity Dice
One of the most useful problem solving skills you can teach your team is of approaching challenges with creativity, flexibility, and openness. Games like The Creativity Dice allow teams to overcome the potential hurdle of too much linear thinking and approach the process with a sense of fun and speed.
In The Creativity Dice, participants are organized around a topic and roll a dice to determine what they will work on for a period of 3 minutes at a time. They might roll a 3 and work on investigating factual information on the chosen topic. They might roll a 1 and work on identifying the specific goals, standards, or criteria for the session.
Encouraging rapid work and iteration while asking participants to be flexible are great skills to cultivate. Having a stage for idea incubation in this game is also important. Moments of pause can help ensure the ideas that are put forward are the most suitable.
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.
11. Fishbone Analysis
Organizational or team challenges are rarely simple, and it’s important to remember that one problem can be an indication of something that goes deeper and may require further consideration to be solved.
Fishbone Analysis helps groups to dig deeper and understand the origins of a problem. It’s a great example of a root cause analysis method that is simple for everyone on a team to get their head around.
Participants in this activity are asked to annotate a diagram of a fish, first adding the problem or issue to be worked on at the head of a fish before then brainstorming the root causes of the problem and adding them as bones on the fish.
Using abstractions such as a diagram of a fish can really help a team break out of their regular thinking and develop a creative approach.
Fishbone Analysis #problem solving ##root cause analysis #decision making #online facilitation A process to help identify and understand the origins of problems, issues or observations.
12. Problem Tree
Encouraging visual thinking can be an essential part of many strategies. By simply reframing and clarifying problems, a group can move towards developing a problem solving model that works for them.
In Problem Tree, groups are asked to first brainstorm a list of problems – these can be design problems, team problems or larger business problems – and then organize them into a hierarchy. The hierarchy could be from most important to least important or abstract to practical, though the key thing with problem solving games that involve this aspect is that your group has some way of managing and sorting all the issues that are raised.
Once you have a list of problems that need to be solved and have organized them accordingly, you’re then well-positioned for the next problem solving steps.
Problem tree #define intentions #create #design #issue analysis A problem tree is a tool to clarify the hierarchy of problems addressed by the team within a design project; it represents high level problems or related sublevel problems.
13. SWOT Analysis
Chances are you’ve heard of the SWOT Analysis before. This problem-solving method focuses on identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is a tried and tested method for both individuals and teams.
Start by creating a desired end state or outcome and bare this in mind – any process solving model is made more effective by knowing what you are moving towards. Create a quadrant made up of the four categories of a SWOT analysis and ask participants to generate ideas based on each of those quadrants.
Once you have those ideas assembled in their quadrants, cluster them together based on their affinity with other ideas. These clusters are then used to facilitate group conversations and move things forward.
SWOT analysis #gamestorming #problem solving #action #meeting facilitation The SWOT Analysis is a long-standing technique of looking at what we have, with respect to the desired end state, as well as what we could improve on. It gives us an opportunity to gauge approaching opportunities and dangers, and assess the seriousness of the conditions that affect our future. When we understand those conditions, we can influence what comes next.
14. Agreement-Certainty Matrix
Not every problem-solving approach is right for every challenge, and deciding on the right method for the challenge at hand is a key part of being an effective team.
The Agreement Certainty matrix helps teams align on the nature of the challenges facing them. By sorting problems from simple to chaotic, your team can understand what methods are suitable for each problem and what they can do to ensure effective results.
If you are already using Liberating Structures techniques as part of your problem-solving strategy, the Agreement-Certainty Matrix can be an invaluable addition to your process. We’ve found it particularly if you are having issues with recurring problems in your organization and want to go deeper in understanding the root cause.
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.
Organizing and charting a team’s progress can be important in ensuring its success. SQUID (Sequential Question and Insight Diagram) is a great model that allows a team to effectively switch between giving questions and answers and develop the skills they need to stay on track throughout the process.
Begin with two different colored sticky notes – one for questions and one for answers – and with your central topic (the head of the squid) on the board. Ask the group to first come up with a series of questions connected to their best guess of how to approach the topic. Ask the group to come up with answers to those questions, fix them to the board and connect them with a line. After some discussion, go back to question mode by responding to the generated answers or other points on the board.
It’s rewarding to see a diagram grow throughout the exercise, and a completed SQUID can provide a visual resource for future effort and as an example for other teams.
SQUID #gamestorming #project planning #issue analysis #problem solving When exploring an information space, it’s important for a group to know where they are at any given time. By using SQUID, a group charts out the territory as they go and can navigate accordingly. SQUID stands for Sequential Question and Insight Diagram.
16. Speed Boat
To continue with our nautical theme, Speed Boat is a short and sweet activity that can help a team quickly identify what employees, clients or service users might have a problem with and analyze what might be standing in the way of achieving a solution.
Methods that allow for a group to make observations, have insights and obtain those eureka moments quickly are invaluable when trying to solve complex problems.
In Speed Boat, the approach is to first consider what anchors and challenges might be holding an organization (or boat) back. Bonus points if you are able to identify any sharks in the water and develop ideas that can also deal with competitors!
Speed Boat #gamestorming #problem solving #action Speedboat is a short and sweet way to identify what your employees or clients don’t like about your product/service or what’s standing in the way of a desired goal.
17. The Journalistic Six
Some of the most effective ways of solving problems is by encouraging teams to be more inclusive and diverse in their thinking.
Based on the six key questions journalism students are taught to answer in articles and news stories, The Journalistic Six helps create teams to see the whole picture. By using who, what, when, where, why, and how to facilitate the conversation and encourage creative thinking, your team can make sure that the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the are covered exhaustively and thoughtfully. Reporter’s notebook and dictaphone optional.
The Journalistic Six – Who What When Where Why How #idea generation #issue analysis #problem solving #online #creative thinking #remote-friendly A questioning method for generating, explaining, investigating ideas.
18. LEGO Challenge
Now for an activity that is a little out of the (toy) box. LEGO Serious Play is a facilitation methodology that can be used to improve creative thinking and problem-solving skills.
The LEGO Challenge includes giving each member of the team an assignment that is hidden from the rest of the group while they create a structure without speaking.
What the LEGO challenge brings to the table is a fun working example of working with stakeholders who might not be on the same page to solve problems. Also, it’s LEGO! Who doesn’t love LEGO!
LEGO Challenge #hyperisland #team A team-building activity in which groups must work together to build a structure out of LEGO, but each individual has a secret “assignment” which makes the collaborative process more challenging. It emphasizes group communication, leadership dynamics, conflict, cooperation, patience and problem solving strategy.
19. What, So What, Now What?
If not carefully managed, the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the problem-solving process can actually create more problems and misunderstandings.
The What, So What, Now What? problem-solving activity is designed to help collect insights and move forward while also eliminating the possibility of disagreement when it comes to identifying, clarifying, and analyzing organizational or work problems.
Facilitation is all about bringing groups together so that might work on a shared goal and the best problem-solving strategies ensure that teams are aligned in purpose, if not initially in opinion or insight.
Throughout the three steps of this game, you give everyone on a team to reflect on a problem by asking what happened, why it is important, and what actions should then be taken.
This can be a great activity for bringing our individual perceptions about a problem or challenge and contextualizing it in a larger group setting. This is one of the most important problem-solving skills you can bring to your organization.
W³ – What, So What, Now What? #issue analysis #innovation #liberating structures You can help groups reflect on a shared experience in a way that builds understanding and spurs coordinated action while avoiding unproductive conflict. It is possible for every voice to be heard while simultaneously sifting for insights and shaping new direction. Progressing in stages makes this practical—from collecting facts about What Happened to making sense of these facts with So What and finally to what actions logically follow with Now What . The shared progression eliminates most of the misunderstandings that otherwise fuel disagreements about what to do. Voila!
Problem analysis can be one of the most important and decisive stages of all problem-solving tools. Sometimes, a team can become bogged down in the details and are unable to move forward.
Journalists is an activity that can avoid a group from getting stuck in the problem identification or problem analysis stages of the process.
In Journalists, the group is invited to draft the front page of a fictional newspaper and figure out what stories deserve to be on the cover and what headlines those stories will have. By reframing how your problems and challenges are approached, you can help a team move productively through the process and be better prepared for the steps to follow.
Journalists #vision #big picture #issue analysis #remote-friendly This is an exercise to use when the group gets stuck in details and struggles to see the big picture. Also good for defining a vision.
Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions
The success of any problem-solving process can be measured by the solutions it produces. After you’ve defined the issue, explored existing ideas, and ideated, it’s time to narrow down to the correct solution.
Use these problem-solving techniques when you want to help your team find consensus, compare possible solutions, and move towards taking action on a particular problem.
- Improved Solutions
- Four-Step Sketch
- 15% Solutions
- How-Now-Wow matrix
- Impact Effort Matrix
Brainstorming is part of the bread and butter of the problem-solving process and all problem-solving strategies benefit from getting ideas out and challenging a team to generate solutions quickly.
With Mindspin, participants are encouraged not only to generate ideas but to do so under time constraints and by slamming down cards and passing them on. By doing multiple rounds, your team can begin with a free generation of possible solutions before moving on to developing those solutions and encouraging further ideation.
This is one of our favorite problem-solving activities and can be great for keeping the energy up throughout the workshop. Remember the importance of helping people become engaged in the process – energizing problem-solving techniques like Mindspin can help ensure your team stays engaged and happy, even when the problems they’re coming together to solve are complex.
MindSpin #teampedia #idea generation #problem solving #action A fast and loud method to enhance brainstorming within a team. Since this activity has more than round ideas that are repetitive can be ruled out leaving more creative and innovative answers to the challenge.
22. Improved Solutions
After a team has successfully identified a problem and come up with a few solutions, it can be tempting to call the work of the problem-solving process complete. That said, the first solution is not necessarily the best, and by including a further review and reflection activity into your problem-solving model, you can ensure your group reaches the best possible result.
One of a number of problem-solving games from Thiagi Group, Improved Solutions helps you go the extra mile and develop suggested solutions with close consideration and peer review. By supporting the discussion of several problems at once and by shifting team roles throughout, this problem-solving technique is a dynamic way of finding the best solution.
Improved Solutions #creativity #thiagi #problem solving #action #team You can improve any solution by objectively reviewing its strengths and weaknesses and making suitable adjustments. In this creativity framegame, you improve the solutions to several problems. To maintain objective detachment, you deal with a different problem during each of six rounds and assume different roles (problem owner, consultant, basher, booster, enhancer, and evaluator) during each round. At the conclusion of the activity, each player ends up with two solutions to her problem.
23. Four Step Sketch
Creative thinking and visual ideation does not need to be confined to the opening stages of your problem-solving strategies. Exercises that include sketching and prototyping on paper can be effective at the solution finding and development stage of the process, and can be great for keeping a team engaged.
By going from simple notes to a crazy 8s round that involves rapidly sketching 8 variations on their ideas before then producing a final solution sketch, the group is able to iterate quickly and visually. Problem-solving techniques like Four-Step Sketch are great if you have a group of different thinkers and want to change things up from a more textual or discussion-based approach.
Four-Step Sketch #design sprint #innovation #idea generation #remote-friendly The four-step sketch is an exercise that helps people to create well-formed concepts through a structured process that includes: Review key information Start design work on paper, Consider multiple variations , Create a detailed solution . This exercise is preceded by a set of other activities allowing the group to clarify the challenge they want to solve. See how the Four Step Sketch exercise fits into a Design Sprint
24. 15% Solutions
Some problems are simpler than others and with the right problem-solving activities, you can empower people to take immediate actions that can help create organizational change.
Part of the liberating structures toolkit, 15% solutions is a problem-solving technique that focuses on finding and implementing solutions quickly. A process of iterating and making small changes quickly can help generate momentum and an appetite for solving complex problems.
Problem-solving strategies can live and die on whether people are onboard. Getting some quick wins is a great way of getting people behind the process.
It can be extremely empowering for a team to realize that problem-solving techniques can be deployed quickly and easily and delineate between things they can positively impact and those things they cannot change.
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.
25. How-Now-Wow Matrix
The problem-solving process is often creative, as complex problems usually require a change of thinking and creative response in order to find the best solutions. While it’s common for the first stages to encourage creative thinking, groups can often gravitate to familiar solutions when it comes to the end of the process.
When selecting solutions, you don’t want to lose your creative energy! The How-Now-Wow Matrix from Gamestorming is a great problem-solving activity that enables a group to stay creative and think out of the box when it comes to selecting the right solution for a given problem.
Problem-solving techniques that encourage creative thinking and the ideation and selection of new solutions can be the most effective in organisational change. Give the How-Now-Wow Matrix a go, and not just for how pleasant it is to say out loud.
How-Now-Wow Matrix #gamestorming #idea generation #remote-friendly When people want to develop new ideas, they most often think out of the box in the brainstorming or divergent phase. However, when it comes to convergence, people often end up picking ideas that are most familiar to them. This is called a ‘creative paradox’ or a ‘creadox’. The How-Now-Wow matrix is an idea selection tool that breaks the creadox by forcing people to weigh each idea on 2 parameters.
26. Impact and Effort Matrix
All problem-solving techniques hope to not only find solutions to a given problem or challenge but to find the best solution. When it comes to finding a solution, groups are invited to put on their decision-making hats and really think about how a proposed idea would work in practice.
The Impact and Effort Matrix is one of the problem-solving techniques that fall into this camp, empowering participants to first generate ideas and then categorize them into a 2×2 matrix based on impact and effort.
Activities that invite critical thinking while remaining simple are invaluable. Use the Impact and Effort Matrix to move from ideation and towards evaluating potential solutions before then committing to them.
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.
If you’ve followed each of the problem-solving steps with your group successfully, you should move towards the end of your process with heaps of possible solutions developed with a specific problem in mind. But how do you help a group go from ideation to putting a solution into action?
Dotmocracy – or Dot Voting -is a tried and tested method of helping a team in the problem-solving process make decisions and put actions in place with a degree of oversight and consensus.
One of the problem-solving techniques that should be in every facilitator’s toolbox, Dot Voting is fast and effective and can help identify the most popular and best solutions and help bring a group to a decision effectively.
Dotmocracy #action #decision making #group prioritization #hyperisland #remote-friendly Dotmocracy is a simple method for group prioritization or decision-making. It is not an activity on its own, but a method to use in processes where prioritization or decision-making is the aim. The method supports a group to quickly see which options are most popular or relevant. The options or ideas are written on post-its and stuck up on a wall for the whole group to see. Each person votes for the options they think are the strongest, and that information is used to inform a decision.
All facilitators know that warm-ups and icebreakers are useful for any workshop or group process. Problem-solving workshops are no different.
Use these problem-solving techniques to warm up a group and prepare them for the rest of the process. Activating your group by tapping into some of the top problem-solving skills can be one of the best ways to see great outcomes from your session.
- Doodling Together
- Show and Tell
- Draw a Tree
28. Check-in / Check-out
Solid processes are planned from beginning to end, and the best facilitators know that setting the tone and establishing a safe, open environment can be integral to a successful problem-solving process.
Check-in / Check-out is a great way to begin and/or bookend a problem-solving workshop. Checking in to a session emphasizes that everyone will be seen, heard, and expected to contribute.
If you are running a series of meetings, setting a consistent pattern of checking in and checking out can really help your team get into a groove. We recommend this opening-closing activity for small to medium-sized groups though it can work with large groups if they’re disciplined!
Check-in / Check-out #team #opening #closing #hyperisland #remote-friendly Either checking-in or checking-out is a simple way for a team to open or close a process, symbolically and in a collaborative way. Checking-in/out invites each member in a group to be present, seen and heard, and to express a reflection or a feeling. Checking-in emphasizes presence, focus and group commitment; checking-out emphasizes reflection and symbolic closure.
29. Doodling Together
Thinking creatively and not being afraid to make suggestions are important problem-solving skills for any group or team, and warming up by encouraging these behaviors is a great way to start.
Doodling Together is one of our favorite creative ice breaker games – it’s quick, effective, and fun and can make all following problem-solving steps easier by encouraging a group to collaborate visually. By passing cards and adding additional items as they go, the workshop group gets into a groove of co-creation and idea development that is crucial to finding solutions to problems.
Doodling Together #collaboration #creativity #teamwork #fun #team #visual methods #energiser #icebreaker #remote-friendly Create wild, weird and often funny postcards together & establish a group’s creative confidence.
30. Show and Tell
You might remember some version of Show and Tell from being a kid in school and it’s a great problem-solving activity to kick off a session.
Asking participants to prepare a little something before a workshop by bringing an object for show and tell can help them warm up before the session has even begun! Games that include a physical object can also help encourage early engagement before moving onto more big-picture thinking.
By asking your participants to tell stories about why they chose to bring a particular item to the group, you can help teams see things from new perspectives and see both differences and similarities in the way they approach a topic. Great groundwork for approaching a problem-solving process as a team!
Show and Tell #gamestorming #action #opening #meeting facilitation Show and Tell taps into the power of metaphors to reveal players’ underlying assumptions and associations around a topic The aim of the game is to get a deeper understanding of stakeholders’ perspectives on anything—a new project, an organizational restructuring, a shift in the company’s vision or team dynamic.
Who doesn’t love stars? Constellations is a great warm-up activity for any workshop as it gets people up off their feet, energized, and ready to engage in new ways with established topics. It’s also great for showing existing beliefs, biases, and patterns that can come into play as part of your session.
Using warm-up games that help build trust and connection while also allowing for non-verbal responses can be great for easing people into the problem-solving process and encouraging engagement from everyone in the group. Constellations is great in large spaces that allow for movement and is definitely a practical exercise to allow the group to see patterns that are otherwise invisible.
Constellations #trust #connection #opening #coaching #patterns #system Individuals express their response to a statement or idea by standing closer or further from a central object. Used with teams to reveal system, hidden patterns, perspectives.
32. Draw a Tree
Problem-solving games that help raise group awareness through a central, unifying metaphor can be effective ways to warm-up a group in any problem-solving model.
Draw a Tree is a simple warm-up activity you can use in any group and which can provide a quick jolt of energy. Start by asking your participants to draw a tree in just 45 seconds – they can choose whether it will be abstract or realistic.
Once the timer is up, ask the group how many people included the roots of the tree and use this as a means to discuss how we can ignore important parts of any system simply because they are not visible.
All problem-solving strategies are made more effective by thinking of problems critically and by exposing things that may not normally come to light. Warm-up games like Draw a Tree are great in that they quickly demonstrate some key problem-solving skills in an accessible and effective way.
Draw a Tree #thiagi #opening #perspectives #remote-friendly With this game you can raise awarness about being more mindful, and aware of the environment we live in.
Each step of the problem-solving workshop benefits from an intelligent deployment of activities, games, and techniques. Bringing your session to an effective close helps ensure that solutions are followed through on and that you also celebrate what has been achieved.
Here are some problem-solving activities you can use to effectively close a workshop or meeting and ensure the great work you’ve done can continue afterward.
- One Breath Feedback
- Who What When Matrix
- Response Cards
How do I conclude a problem-solving process?
All good things must come to an end. With the bulk of the work done, it can be tempting to conclude your workshop swiftly and without a moment to debrief and align. This can be problematic in that it doesn’t allow your team to fully process the results or reflect on the process.
At the end of an effective session, your team will have gone through a process that, while productive, can be exhausting. It’s important to give your group a moment to take a breath, ensure that they are clear on future actions, and provide short feedback before leaving the space.
The primary purpose of any problem-solving method is to generate solutions and then implement them. Be sure to take the opportunity to ensure everyone is aligned and ready to effectively implement the solutions you produced in the workshop.
Remember that every process can be improved and by giving a short moment to collect feedback in the session, you can further refine your problem-solving methods and see further success in the future too.
33. One Breath Feedback
Maintaining attention and focus during the closing stages of a problem-solving workshop can be tricky and so being concise when giving feedback can be important. It’s easy to incur “death by feedback” should some team members go on for too long sharing their perspectives in a quick feedback round.
One Breath Feedback is a great closing activity for workshops. You give everyone an opportunity to provide feedback on what they’ve done but only in the space of a single breath. This keeps feedback short and to the point and means that everyone is encouraged to provide the most important piece of feedback to them.
One breath feedback #closing #feedback #action This is a feedback round in just one breath that excels in maintaining attention: each participants is able to speak during just one breath … for most people that’s around 20 to 25 seconds … unless of course you’ve been a deep sea diver in which case you’ll be able to do it for longer.
34. Who What When Matrix
Matrices feature as part of many effective problem-solving strategies and with good reason. They are easily recognizable, simple to use, and generate results.
The Who What When Matrix is a great tool to use when closing your problem-solving session by attributing a who, what and when to the actions and solutions you have decided upon. The resulting matrix is a simple, easy-to-follow way of ensuring your team can move forward.
Great solutions can’t be enacted without action and ownership. Your problem-solving process should include a stage for allocating tasks to individuals or teams and creating a realistic timeframe for those solutions to be implemented or checked out. Use this method to keep the solution implementation process clear and simple for all involved.
Who/What/When Matrix #gamestorming #action #project planning With Who/What/When matrix, you can connect people with clear actions they have defined and have committed to.
35. Response cards
Group discussion can comprise the bulk of most problem-solving activities and by the end of the process, you might find that your team is talked out!
Providing a means for your team to give feedback with short written notes can ensure everyone is head and can contribute without the need to stand up and talk. Depending on the needs of the group, giving an alternative can help ensure everyone can contribute to your problem-solving model in the way that makes the most sense for them.
Response Cards is a great way to close a workshop if you are looking for a gentle warm-down and want to get some swift discussion around some of the feedback that is raised.
Response Cards #debriefing #closing #structured sharing #questions and answers #thiagi #action It can be hard to involve everyone during a closing of a session. Some might stay in the background or get unheard because of louder participants. However, with the use of Response Cards, everyone will be involved in providing feedback or clarify questions at the end of a session.
Save time and effort discovering the right solutions
A structured problem solving process is a surefire way of solving tough problems, discovering creative solutions and driving organizational change. But how can you design for successful outcomes?
With SessionLab, it’s easy to design engaging workshops that deliver results. Drag, drop and reorder blocks to build your agenda. When you make changes or update your agenda, your session timing adjusts automatically , saving you time on manual adjustments.
Collaborating with stakeholders or clients? Share your agenda with a single click and collaborate in real-time. No more sending documents back and forth over email.
Explore how to use SessionLab to design effective problem solving workshops or watch this five minute video to see the planner in action!
Over to you
The problem-solving process can often be as complicated and multifaceted as the problems they are set-up to solve. With the right problem-solving techniques and a mix of creative exercises designed to guide discussion and generate purposeful ideas, we hope we’ve given you the tools to find the best solutions as simply and easily as possible.
Is there a problem-solving technique that you are missing here? Do you have a favorite activity or method you use when facilitating? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!
thank you very much for these excellent techniques
Certainly wonderful article, very detailed. Shared!
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What is Problem Solving? (Steps, Techniques, Examples)
By Status.net Editorial Team on May 7, 2023 — 5 minutes to read
What Is Problem Solving?
Definition and importance.
Problem solving is the process of finding solutions to obstacles or challenges you encounter in your life or work. It is a crucial skill that allows you to tackle complex situations, adapt to changes, and overcome difficulties with ease. Mastering this ability will contribute to both your personal and professional growth, leading to more successful outcomes and better decision-making.
The problem-solving process typically includes the following steps:
- Identify the issue : Recognize the problem that needs to be solved.
- Analyze the situation : Examine the issue in depth, gather all relevant information, and consider any limitations or constraints that may be present.
- Generate potential solutions : Brainstorm a list of possible solutions to the issue, without immediately judging or evaluating them.
- Evaluate options : Weigh the pros and cons of each potential solution, considering factors such as feasibility, effectiveness, and potential risks.
- Select the best solution : Choose the option that best addresses the problem and aligns with your objectives.
- Implement the solution : Put the selected solution into action and monitor the results to ensure it resolves the issue.
- Review and learn : Reflect on the problem-solving process, identify any improvements or adjustments that can be made, and apply these learnings to future situations.
Defining the Problem
To start tackling a problem, first, identify and understand it. Analyzing the issue thoroughly helps to clarify its scope and nature. Ask questions to gather information and consider the problem from various angles. Some strategies to define the problem include:
- Brainstorming with others
- Asking the 5 Ws and 1 H (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How)
- Analyzing cause and effect
- Creating a problem statement
Once the problem is clearly understood, brainstorm possible solutions. Think creatively and keep an open mind, as well as considering lessons from past experiences. Consider:
- Creating a list of potential ideas to solve the problem
- Grouping and categorizing similar solutions
- Prioritizing potential solutions based on feasibility, cost, and resources required
- Involving others to share diverse opinions and inputs
Evaluating and Selecting Solutions
Evaluate each potential solution, weighing its pros and cons. To facilitate decision-making, use techniques such as:
- SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
- Decision-making matrices
- Pros and cons lists
- Risk assessments
After evaluating, choose the most suitable solution based on effectiveness, cost, and time constraints.
Implementing and Monitoring the Solution
Implement the chosen solution and monitor its progress. Key actions include:
- Communicating the solution to relevant parties
- Setting timelines and milestones
- Assigning tasks and responsibilities
- Monitoring the solution and making adjustments as necessary
- Evaluating the effectiveness of the solution after implementation
Utilize feedback from stakeholders and consider potential improvements. Remember that problem-solving is an ongoing process that can always be refined and enhanced.
During each step, you may find it helpful to utilize various problem-solving techniques, such as:
- Brainstorming : A free-flowing, open-minded session where ideas are generated and listed without judgment, to encourage creativity and innovative thinking.
- Root cause analysis : A method that explores the underlying causes of a problem to find the most effective solution rather than addressing superficial symptoms.
- SWOT analysis : A tool used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to a problem or decision, providing a comprehensive view of the situation.
- Mind mapping : A visual technique that uses diagrams to organize and connect ideas, helping to identify patterns, relationships, and possible solutions.
When facing a problem, start by conducting a brainstorming session. Gather your team and encourage an open discussion where everyone contributes ideas, no matter how outlandish they may seem. This helps you:
- Generate a diverse range of solutions
- Encourage all team members to participate
- Foster creative thinking
When brainstorming, remember to:
- Reserve judgment until the session is over
- Encourage wild ideas
- Combine and improve upon ideas
Root Cause Analysis
For effective problem-solving, identifying the root cause of the issue at hand is crucial. Try these methods:
- 5 Whys : Ask “why” five times to get to the underlying cause.
- Fishbone Diagram : Create a diagram representing the problem and break it down into categories of potential causes.
- Pareto Analysis : Determine the few most significant causes underlying the majority of problems.
SWOT analysis helps you examine the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats related to your problem. To perform a SWOT analysis:
- List your problem’s strengths, such as relevant resources or strong partnerships.
- Identify its weaknesses, such as knowledge gaps or limited resources.
- Explore opportunities, like trends or new technologies, that could help solve the problem.
- Recognize potential threats, like competition or regulatory barriers.
SWOT analysis aids in understanding the internal and external factors affecting the problem, which can help guide your solution.
A mind map is a visual representation of your problem and potential solutions. It enables you to organize information in a structured and intuitive manner. To create a mind map:
- Write the problem in the center of a blank page.
- Draw branches from the central problem to related sub-problems or contributing factors.
- Add more branches to represent potential solutions or further ideas.
Mind mapping allows you to visually see connections between ideas and promotes creativity in problem-solving.
Examples of Problem Solving in Various Contexts
In the business world, you might encounter problems related to finances, operations, or communication. Applying problem-solving skills in these situations could look like:
- Identifying areas of improvement in your company’s financial performance and implementing cost-saving measures
- Resolving internal conflicts among team members by listening and understanding different perspectives, then proposing and negotiating solutions
- Streamlining a process for better productivity by removing redundancies, automating tasks, or re-allocating resources
In educational contexts, problem-solving can be seen in various aspects, such as:
- Addressing a gap in students’ understanding by employing diverse teaching methods to cater to different learning styles
- Developing a strategy for successful time management to balance academic responsibilities and extracurricular activities
- Seeking resources and support to provide equal opportunities for learners with special needs or disabilities
Everyday life is full of challenges that require problem-solving skills. Some examples include:
- Overcoming a personal obstacle, such as improving your fitness level, by establishing achievable goals, measuring progress, and adjusting your approach accordingly
- Navigating a new environment or city by researching your surroundings, asking for directions, or using technology like GPS to guide you
- Dealing with a sudden change, like a change in your work schedule, by assessing the situation, identifying potential impacts, and adapting your plans to accommodate the change.
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Problem-Solving Strategies and Obstacles
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."
Sean is a fact-checker and researcher with experience in sociology, field research, and data analytics.
JGI / Jamie Grill / Getty Images
From deciding what to eat for dinner to considering whether it's the right time to buy a house, problem-solving is a large part of our daily lives. Learn some of the problem-solving strategies that exist and how to use them in real life, along with ways to overcome obstacles that are making it harder to resolve the issues you face.
What Is Problem-Solving?
In cognitive psychology , the term 'problem-solving' refers to the mental process that people go through to discover, analyze, and solve problems.
A problem exists when there is a goal that we want to achieve but the process by which we will achieve it is not obvious to us. Put another way, there is something that we want to occur in our life, yet we are not immediately certain how to make it happen.
Maybe you want a better relationship with your spouse or another family member but you're not sure how to improve it. Or you want to start a business but are unsure what steps to take. Problem-solving helps you figure out how to achieve these desires.
The problem-solving process involves:
- Discovery of the problem
- Deciding to tackle the issue
- Seeking to understand the problem more fully
- Researching available options or solutions
- Taking action to resolve the issue
Before problem-solving can occur, it is important to first understand the exact nature of the problem itself. If your understanding of the issue is faulty, your attempts to resolve it will also be incorrect or flawed.
Problem-Solving Mental Processes
Several mental processes are at work during problem-solving. Among them are:
- Perceptually recognizing the problem
- Representing the problem in memory
- Considering relevant information that applies to the problem
- Identifying different aspects of the problem
- Labeling and describing the problem
There are many ways to go about solving a problem. Some of these strategies might be used on their own, or you may decide to employ multiple approaches when working to figure out and fix a problem.
An algorithm is a step-by-step procedure that, by following certain "rules" produces a solution. Algorithms are commonly used in mathematics to solve division or multiplication problems. But they can be used in other fields as well.
In psychology, algorithms can be used to help identify individuals with a greater risk of mental health issues. For instance, research suggests that certain algorithms might help us recognize children with an elevated risk of suicide or self-harm.
One benefit of algorithms is that they guarantee an accurate answer. However, they aren't always the best approach to problem-solving, in part because detecting patterns can be incredibly time-consuming.
There are also concerns when machine learning is involved—also known as artificial intelligence (AI)—such as whether they can accurately predict human behaviors.
Heuristics are shortcut strategies that people can use to solve a problem at hand. These "rule of thumb" approaches allow you to simplify complex problems, reducing the total number of possible solutions to a more manageable set.
If you find yourself sitting in a traffic jam, for example, you may quickly consider other routes, taking one to get moving once again. When shopping for a new car, you might think back to a prior experience when negotiating got you a lower price, then employ the same tactics.
While heuristics may be helpful when facing smaller issues, major decisions shouldn't necessarily be made using a shortcut approach. Heuristics also don't guarantee an effective solution, such as when trying to drive around a traffic jam only to find yourself on an equally crowded route.
Trial and Error
A trial-and-error approach to problem-solving involves trying a number of potential solutions to a particular issue, then ruling out those that do not work. If you're not sure whether to buy a shirt in blue or green, for instance, you may try on each before deciding which one to purchase.
This can be a good strategy to use if you have a limited number of solutions available. But if there are many different choices available, narrowing down the possible options using another problem-solving technique can be helpful before attempting trial and error.
In some cases, the solution to a problem can appear as a sudden insight. You are facing an issue in a relationship or your career when, out of nowhere, the solution appears in your mind and you know exactly what to do.
Insight can occur when the problem in front of you is similar to an issue that you've dealt with in the past. Although, you may not recognize what is occurring since the underlying mental processes that lead to insight often happen outside of conscious awareness .
Research indicates that insight is most likely to occur during times when you are alone—such as when going on a walk by yourself, when you're in the shower, or when lying in bed after waking up.
How to Apply Problem-Solving Strategies in Real Life
If you're facing a problem, you can implement one or more of these strategies to find a potential solution. Here's how to use them in real life:
- Create a flow chart . If you have time, you can take advantage of the algorithm approach to problem-solving by sitting down and making a flow chart of each potential solution, its consequences, and what happens next.
- Recall your past experiences . When a problem needs to be solved fairly quickly, heuristics may be a better approach. Think back to when you faced a similar issue, then use your knowledge and experience to choose the best option possible.
- Start trying potential solutions . If your options are limited, start trying them one by one to see which solution is best for achieving your desired goal. If a particular solution doesn't work, move on to the next.
- Take some time alone . Since insight is often achieved when you're alone, carve out time to be by yourself for a while. The answer to your problem may come to you, seemingly out of the blue, if you spend some time away from others.
Obstacles to Problem-Solving
Problem-solving is not a flawless process as there are a number of obstacles that can interfere with our ability to solve a problem quickly and efficiently. These obstacles include:
- Assumptions: When dealing with a problem, people can make assumptions about the constraints and obstacles that prevent certain solutions. Thus, they may not even try some potential options.
- Functional fixedness : This term refers to the tendency to view problems only in their customary manner. Functional fixedness prevents people from fully seeing all of the different options that might be available to find a solution.
- Irrelevant or misleading information: When trying to solve a problem, it's important to distinguish between information that is relevant to the issue and irrelevant data that can lead to faulty solutions. The more complex the problem, the easier it is to focus on misleading or irrelevant information.
- Mental set: A mental set is a tendency to only use solutions that have worked in the past rather than looking for alternative ideas. A mental set can work as a heuristic, making it a useful problem-solving tool. However, mental sets can also lead to inflexibility, making it more difficult to find effective solutions.
How to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills
In the end, if your goal is to become a better problem-solver, it's helpful to remember that this is a process. Thus, if you want to improve your problem-solving skills, following these steps can help lead you to your solution:
- Recognize that a problem exists . If you are facing a problem, there are generally signs. For instance, if you have a mental illness , you may experience excessive fear or sadness, mood changes, and changes in sleeping or eating habits. Recognizing these signs can help you realize that an issue exists.
- Decide to solve the problem . Make a conscious decision to solve the issue at hand. Commit to yourself that you will go through the steps necessary to find a solution.
- Seek to fully understand the issue . Analyze the problem you face, looking at it from all sides. If your problem is relationship-related, for instance, ask yourself how the other person may be interpreting the issue. You might also consider how your actions might be contributing to the situation.
- Research potential options . Using the problem-solving strategies mentioned, research potential solutions. Make a list of options, then consider each one individually. What are some pros and cons of taking the available routes? What would you need to do to make them happen?
- Take action . Select the best solution possible and take action. Action is one of the steps required for change . So, go through the motions needed to resolve the issue.
- Try another option, if needed . If the solution you chose didn't work, don't give up. Either go through the problem-solving process again or simply try another option.
You can find a way to solve your problems as long as you keep working toward this goal—even if the best solution is simply to let go because no other good solution exists.
Sarathy V. Real world problem-solving . Front Hum Neurosci . 2018;12:261. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00261
Dunbar K. Problem solving . A Companion to Cognitive Science . 2017. doi:10.1002/9781405164535.ch20
Stewart SL, Celebre A, Hirdes JP, Poss JW. Risk of suicide and self-harm in kids: The development of an algorithm to identify high-risk individuals within the children's mental health system . Child Psychiat Human Develop . 2020;51:913-924. doi:10.1007/s10578-020-00968-9
Rosenbusch H, Soldner F, Evans AM, Zeelenberg M. Supervised machine learning methods in psychology: A practical introduction with annotated R code . Soc Personal Psychol Compass . 2021;15(2):e12579. doi:10.1111/spc3.12579
Mishra S. Decision-making under risk: Integrating perspectives from biology, economics, and psychology . Personal Soc Psychol Rev . 2014;18(3):280-307. doi:10.1177/1088868314530517
Csikszentmihalyi M, Sawyer K. Creative insight: The social dimension of a solitary moment . In: The Systems Model of Creativity . 2015:73-98. doi:10.1007/978-94-017-9085-7_7
Chrysikou EG, Motyka K, Nigro C, Yang SI, Thompson-Schill SL. Functional fixedness in creative thinking tasks depends on stimulus modality . Psychol Aesthet Creat Arts . 2016;10(4):425‐435. doi:10.1037/aca0000050
Huang F, Tang S, Hu Z. Unconditional perseveration of the short-term mental set in chunk decomposition . Front Psychol . 2018;9:2568. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02568
National Alliance on Mental Illness. Warning signs and symptoms .
Mayer RE. Thinking, problem solving, cognition, 2nd ed .
Schooler JW, Ohlsson S, Brooks K. Thoughts beyond words: When language overshadows insight. J Experiment Psychol: General . 1993;122:166-183. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.2.166
By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."
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7 Problem-Solving Skills That Can Help You Be a More Successful Manager
Discover what problem-solving is, and why it's important for managers. Understand the steps of the process and learn about seven problem-solving skills.
1Managers oversee the day-to-day operations of a particular department, and sometimes a whole company, using their problem-solving skills regularly. Managers with good problem-solving skills can help ensure companies run smoothly and prosper.
If you're a current manager or are striving to become one, read this guide to discover what problem-solving skills are and why it's important for managers to have them. Learn the steps of the problem-solving process, and explore seven skills that can help make problem-solving easier and more effective.
What is problem-solving?
Problem-solving is both an ability and a process. As an ability, problem-solving can aid in resolving issues faced in different environments like home, school, abroad, and social situations, among others. As a process, problem-solving involves a series of steps for finding solutions to questions or concerns that arise throughout life.
The importance of problem-solving for managers
Managers deal with problems regularly, whether supervising a staff of two or 100. When people solve problems quickly and effectively, workplaces can benefit in a number of ways. These include:
Increased job fulfillment
Satisfied clients or customers
Better cooperation and cohesion
Improved environments for employees and customers
7 skills that make problem-solving easier
Companies depend on managers who can solve problems adeptly. 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.
As a manager , you'll solve each problem by assessing the situation first. Then, you’ll use analytical skills to distinguish between ineffective and effective solutions.
Effective communication plays a significant role in problem-solving, particularly when others are involved. Some skills that can help enhance communication at work include active listening, speaking with an even tone and volume, and supporting verbal information with written communication.
3. Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage emotions in any situation. People with emotional intelligence usually solve problems calmly and systematically, which often yields better results.
Emotional intelligence and resilience are closely related traits. Resiliency is the ability to cope with and bounce back quickly from difficult situations. Those who possess resilience are often capable of accurately interpreting people and situations, which can be incredibly advantageous when difficulties arise.
When brainstorming solutions to problems, creativity can help you to think outside the box. Problem-solving strategies can be enhanced with the application of creative techniques. You can use creativity to:
Approach problems from different angles
Improve your problem-solving process
Spark creativity in your employees and peers
Adaptability is the capacity to adjust to change. When a particular solution to an issue doesn't work, an adaptable person can revisit the concern to think up another one without getting frustrated.
Finding a solution to a problem regularly involves working in a team. Good teamwork requires being comfortable working with others and collaborating with them, which can result in better problem-solving overall.
Steps of the problem-solving process
Effective problem-solving involves five essential steps. One way to remember them is through the IDEAL model created in 1984 by psychology professors John D. Bransford and Barry S. Stein [ 1 ]. The steps to solving problems in this model include: identifying that there is a problem, defining the goals you hope to achieve, exploring potential solutions, choosing a solution and acting on it, and looking at (or evaluating) the outcome.
1. Identify that there is a problem and root out its cause.
To solve a problem, you must first admit that one exists to then find its root cause. Finding the cause of the problem may involve asking questions like:
Can the problem be solved?
How big of a problem is it?
Why do I think the problem is occurring?
What are some things I know about the situation?
What are some things I don't know about the situation?
Are there any people who contributed to the problem?
Are there materials or processes that contributed to the problem?
Are there any patterns I can identify?
2. Define the goals you hope to achieve.
Every problem is different. The goals you hope to achieve when problem-solving depend on the scope of the problem. Some examples of goals you might set include:
Gather as much factual information as possible.
Brainstorm many different strategies to come up with the best one.
Be flexible when considering other viewpoints.
Articulate clearly and encourage questions, so everyone involved is on the same page.
Be open to other strategies if the chosen strategy doesn't work.
Stay positive throughout the process.
3. Explore potential solutions.
Once you've defined the goals you hope to achieve when problem-solving , it's time to start the process. This involves steps that often include fact-finding, brainstorming, prioritizing solutions, and assessing the cost of top solutions in terms of time, labor, and money.
4. Choose a solution and act on it.
Evaluate the pros and cons of each potential solution, and choose the one most likely to solve the problem within your given budget, abilities, and resources. Once you choose a solution, it's important to make a commitment and see it through. Draw up a plan of action for implementation, and share it with all involved parties clearly and effectively, both verbally and in writing. Make sure everyone understands their role for a successful conclusion.
5. Look at (or evaluate) the outcome.
Evaluation offers insights into your current situation and future problem-solving. When evaluating the outcome, ask yourself questions like:
Did the solution work?
Will this solution work for other problems?
Were there any changes you would have made?
Would another solution have worked better?
As a current or future manager looking to build your problem-solving skills, it is often helpful to take a professional course. Consider Improving Communication Skills offered by the University of Pennsylvania on Coursera. You'll learn how to boost your ability to persuade, ask questions, negotiate, apologize, and more.
You might also consider taking Emotional Intelligence: Cultivating Immensely Human Interactions , offered by the University of Michigan on Coursera. You'll explore the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills common to people with emotional intelligence, and you'll learn how emotional intelligence is connected to team success and leadership.
Tennessee Tech. “ The Ideal Problem Solver (2nd ed.) , https://www.tntech.edu/cat/pdf/useful_links/idealproblemsolver.pdf.” Accessed December 6, 2022.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.
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How to Solve Problems
- Laura Amico
To bring the best ideas forward, teams must build psychological safety.
Teams today aren’t just asked to execute tasks: They’re called upon to solve problems. You’d think that many brains working together would mean better solutions, but the reality is that too often problem-solving teams fall victim to inefficiency, conflict, and cautious conclusions. The two charts below will help your team think about how to collaborate better and come up with the best solutions for the thorniest challenges.
- Laura Amico is a former senior editor at Harvard Business Review.
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Public Speaking Tips & Speech Topics
Problem-Solution Speech [Topics, Outline, Examples]
Jim Peterson has over 20 years experience on speech writing. He wrote over 300 free speech topic ideas and how-to guides for any kind of public speaking and speech writing assignments at My Speech Class.
In this article:
Problem-solution examples, criminal justice, environment, relationships, teen issues.
What to include in your problem-solution speech or essay?
Problem-solution papers employ a nonfiction text structure, and typically contain the following elements:
Introduction: Introduce the problem and explain why the audience should be concerned about it.
Cause/Effect : Inform the audience on what causes the problem. In some cases, you may also need to take time to dispel common misconceptions people have about the real cause.
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Thesis Statement: The thesis typically lays out the problem and solution in the form of a question and answer. See examples below.
Solution : Explain the solution clearly and in detail, your problem-solving strategy, and reasons why your solution will work. In this section, be sure to answer common objections, such as “there is a better solution,” “your solution is too costly,” and “there are more important problems to solve.”
Call to Action: Summarize the problem and solution, and paint a picture of what will happen if your final solution is adopted. Also, let the reader know what steps they should take to help solve the problem.
These are the most used methods of developing and arranging:
Problem Solution Method Recommended if you have to argue that there is a social and current issue at stake and you have convince the listeners that you have the best solution. Introduce and provide background information to show what is wrong now.
List the best and ideal conditions and situations. Show the options. Analyze the proper criteria. And present your plan to solve the not wanted situation.
Problem Cause Solution Method Use this pattern for developing and identifying the source and its causes.
Analyze the causes and propose elucidations to the causes.
Problem Cause-Effect Method Use this method to outline the effects of the quandary and what causes it all. Prove the connection between financial, political, social causes and their effects.
Comparative Advantage Method Use this organizational public speaking pattern as recommendation in case everyone knows of the impasse and the different fixes and agrees that something has to be done.
Here are some examples of problems you could write about, with a couple of potential solutions for each one:
Marriage Problem: How do we reduce the divorce rate?
Solution 1: Change the laws to make it more difficult for couples to divorce.
Solution 2: Impose a mandatory waiting period on couples before they can get married.
Environmental Problem: What should we do to reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?
Solution 1: Use renewable energy to fuel your home and vehicles.
Solution 2: Make recycling within local communities mandatory.
Technical Problem: How do we reduce Windows error reporting issues on PCs?
Solution 1: Learn to use dialogue boxes and other command prompt functions to keep your computer system clean.
Solution 2: Disable error reporting by making changes to the registry.
Some of the best problems to write about are those you have personal experience with. Think about your own world; the town you live in, schools you’ve attended, sports you’ve played, places you’ve worked, etc. You may find that you love problem-solution papers if you write them on a topic you identify with. To get your creativity flowing, feel free to browse our comprehensive list of problem-solution essay and paper topics and see if you can find one that interests you.
Problem-Solution Topics for Essays and Papers
- How do we reduce murder rates in the inner cities?
- How do we stop police brutality?
- How do we prevent those who are innocent from receiving the death penalty?
- How do we deal with the problem of gun violence?
- How do we stop people from driving while intoxicated?
- How do we prevent people from texting while driving?
- How do we stop the growing child trafficking problem?
- What is the best way to deal with domestic violence?
- What is the best way to rehabilitate ex-cons?
- How do we deal with the problem of overcrowded prisons?
- How do we reduce binge drinking on college campuses?
- How do we prevent sexual assaults on college campuses?
- How do we make college tuition affordable?
- What can students do to get better grades in college?
- What is the best way for students to effectively balance their classes, studies, work, and social life?
- What is the best way for college students to deal with a problem roommate?
- How can college students overcome the problem of being homesick?
- How can college students manage their finances more effectively?
- What is the best way for college students to decide on a major?
- What should be done about the problem of massive student loan debts?
- How do we solve the global debt crisis?
- How do we keep countries from employing child labor?
- How do we reduce long-term unemployment?
- How do we stop businesses from exploiting consumers?
- How do we reduce inflation and bring down the cost of living?
- How do we reduce the home foreclosure rate?
- What should we do to discourage consumer debt?
- What is the best way to stimulate economic growth?
- How do we lower the prime cost of manufacturing raw materials?
- How can book retailers deal with rising bookseller inventory costs and stay competitive with online sellers?
- How do we prevent kids from cheating on exams?
- How do we reduce the illiteracy rate?
- How do we successfully integrate English as a Second Language (ESL) students into public schools?
- How do we put an end to the problem of bullying in schools?
- How do we effectively teach students life management skills?
- How do we give everyone access to a quality education?
- How do we develop a system to increase pay for good teachers and get rid of bad ones?
- How do we teach kids to problem solve?
- How should schools deal with the problem of disruptive students?
- What can schools do to improve reading comprehension on standardized test scores?
- What is the best way to teach sex education in public schools?
- How do we teach students to recognize a noun clause?
- How do we teach students the difference between average speed and average velocity?
- How do we teach math students to use sign charts?
- How can we make public education more like the Webspiration Classroom?
- How do we stop pollution in major population centers?
- How do we reduce the negative effects of climate change?
- How do we encourage homeowners to lower their room temperature in the winter to reduce energy consumption?
- What is the best way to preserve our precious natural resources?
- How do we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels?
- What is the best way to preserve the endangered wildlife?
- What is the best way to ensure environmental justice?
- How can we reduce the use of plastic?
- How do we make alternative energy affordable?
- How do we develop a sustainable transportation system?
- How can we provide quality health care to all our citizens?
- How do we incentivize people to stop smoking?
- How do we address the growing doctor shortage?
- How do we curb the growing obesity epidemic?
- How do we reduce dependence on prescription drugs?
- How do we reduce consumption of harmful substances like phosphoric acid and acetic acid?
- How can we reduce the number of fatal hospital errors?
- How do we handle the health costs of people living longer?
- How can we encourage people to live healthier lifestyles?
- How do we educate consumers on the risk of laxatives like magnesium hydroxide?
- How do we end political corruption?
- How do we address the problem of election fraud?
- What is the best way to deal with rogue nations that threaten our survival?
- What can our leaders do to bring about world peace?
- How do we encourage students to become more active in the political process?
- What can be done to encourage bipartisanship?
- How can we prevent terrorism?
- How do we protect individual privacy while keeping the country safe?
- How can we encourage better candidates to run for office?
- How do we force politicians to live by the rules they impose on everyone else?
- What is the best way to get out of a bad relationship?
- How do we prevent cyberbullying?
- What is the best solution for depression?
- How do you find out where you stand in a relationship?
- What is the best way to help people who make bad life choices?
- How can we learn to relate to people of different races and cultures?
- How do we discourage humans from using robots as a substitute for relationships?
- What is the best way to deal with a long-distance relationship?
- How do we eliminate stereotypical thinking in relationships?
- How do you successfully navigate the situation of dating a co-worker?
- How do we deal with America’s growing drug problem?
- How do we reduce food waste in restaurants?
- How do we stop race and gender discrimination?
- How do we stop animal cruelty?
- How do we ensure that all citizens earn a livable wage?
- How do we end sexual harassment in the workplace?
- How do we deal with the water scarcity problem?
- How do we effectively control the world’s population?
- How can we put an end to homelessness?
- How do we solve the world hunger crisis?
- How do we address the shortage of parking spaces in downtown areas?
- How can our cities be made more bike- and pedestrian-friendly?
- How do we balance the right of free speech and the right not to be abused?
- How can we encourage people to use public transportation?
- How do we bring neighborhoods closer together?
- How can we eliminate steroid use in sports?
- How do we protect players from serious injuries?
- What is the best way to motivate young athletes?
- What can be done to drive interest in local sports?
- How do players successfully prepare for a big game or match?
- How should the revenue from professional sports be divided between owners and players?
- What can be done to improve local sports venues?
- What can be done to ensure parents and coaches are not pushing kids too hard in sports?
- How can student athletes maintain high academic standards while playing sports?
- What can athletes do to stay in shape during the off-season?
- How do we reduce teen pregnancy?
- How do we deal with the problem of teen suicide?
- How do we keep teens from dropping out of high school?
- How do we train teens to be safer drivers?
- How do we prevent teens from accessing pornography on the Internet?
- What is the best way to help teens with divorced parents?
- How do we discourage teens from playing violent video games?
- How should parents handle their teens’ cell phone and social media use?
- How do we prepare teens to be better workers?
- How do we provide a rational decision-making model for teens?
- How do we keep companies from mining our private data online and selling it for profit?
- How do we prevent artificial intelligence robots from taking over society?
- How do we make high-speed internet accessible in rural areas?
- How do we stop hackers from breaking into our systems and networks?
- How do we make digital payments more secure?
- How do we make self-driving vehicles safer?
- What is the best way to improve the battery life of mobile devices?
- How can we store energy gleaned from solar and wind power?
- What is the best way to deal with information overload?
- How do we stop computer makers from pre-installing Internet Explorer?
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Composition Type: Problem-Solution Essays
- An Introduction to Punctuation
- Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
- M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
- B.A., English, State University of New York
In composition , using a problem-solution format is a method for analyzing and writing about a topic by identifying a problem and proposing one or more solutions. A problem-solution essay is a type of argument. "This sort of essay involves argumentation in that the writer seeks to convince the reader to take a particular course of action. In explaining the problem, it may also need to persuade the reader concerning specific causes" (Dave Kemper et al., "Fusion: Integrated Reading and Writing," 2016).
The Thesis Statement
In many types of report writing, the thesis statement is posed front and center, in one sentence. Author Derek Soles writes about how the thesis statement in a problem-solution paper differs from a straight "report of findings" type of text:
"[One] expository mode is the problem-solution essay, topics for which are typically framed in the form of questions. Why did fourth-graders from poor families score low on a nationwide math test, and how can educators improve math education for this group? Why is Iran a threat to our national security, and how can we reduce this threat? Why did it take the Democratic Party so long to select a candidate for the 2008 presidential election, and what can the party do to make the process more efficient in the future? These essays have two parts: a full explanation of the nature of the problem, followed by an analysis of solutions and their likelihood of success."
("The Essentials of Academic Writing," 2nd ed. Wadsworth, Cengage, 2010)
Readers need additional context before you get to your thesis, but that is not to say that the thesis has to be posed as a question in the introduction:
"In a problem-solution essay, the thesis statement usually proposes the solution. Because readers must first understand the problem, the thesis statement usually comes after a description of the problem. The thesis statement does not have to give details about the solution. Instead, it summarizes the solution. It should also lead naturally to the body of the essay, preparing your reader for a discussion of how your solution would work."
(Dorothy Zemach and Lynn Stafford-Yilmaz, "Writers at Work: The Essay." Cambridge University Press, 2008)
It can be helpful to see completed examples before writing in order to examine what makes for an effective piece. See how these introductions give some context before posing the topic and lead naturally into the body paragraphs, where the evidence will be listed. You can imagine how the author has organized the rest of the piece.
"We buried my cousin last summer. He was 32 when he hanged himself from a closet coat rack in the throes of alcoholism, the fourth of my blood relatives to die prematurely from this deadly disease. If America issued drinking licenses, those four men—including my father, who died at 54 of liver failure—might be alive today."
(Mike Brake, "Needed: A License to Drink." Newsweek , March 13, 1994)
"America is suffering from overwork. Too many of us are too busy, trying to squeeze more into each day while having less to show for it. Although our growing time crunch is often portrayed as a personal dilemma, it is, in fact, a major social problem that has reached crisis proportions over the past twenty years."
(Barbara Brandt, "Whole Life Economics: Revaluing Daily Life." New Society, 1995)
"The modern-day apartment dweller is faced with a most annoying problem: paper-thin walls and sound-amplifying ceilings. To live with this problem is to live with the invasion of privacy. There is nothing more distracting than to hear your neighbors' every function. Although the source of the noise cannot be eliminated, the problem can be solved."
(Maria B. Dunn, "One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor: The Problem of Noise")
In "Passages: A Writer's Guide, " how to organize a problem-solution paper is explained:
"Though to some extent [your organization of the paper] depends on your topic, do make sure that you include the following information:
Introduction: Identify the problem in a nutshell. Explain why this is a problem, and mention who should be concerned about it.
Problem Paragraph(s): Explain the problem clearly and specifically. Demonstrate that this is not just a personal complaint, but a genuine problem that affects many people.
"Solution Paragraph(s): Offer a concrete solution to the problem, and explain why this is the best one available. You may want to point out why other possible solutions are inferior to yours. If your solution calls for a series of steps or actions to be followed, present these steps in a logical order.
"Conclusion: Reemphasize the importance of the problem and the value of your solution. Choose a problem that you have experienced and thought about—one that you have solved or are in the process of solving. Then, in the essay itself, you may use your own experience to illustrate the problem. However, don't focus all the attention on yourself and on your troubles. Instead, direct the essay at others who are experiencing a similar problem. In other words, don't write an I essay ('How I Cure the Blues'); write a you essay ('How You Can Cure the Blues')."
(Richard Nordquist, Passages: A Writer's Guide , 3rd ed. St. Martin's Press, 1995)
- What Is Expository Writing?
- How to Teach Topic Sentences Using Models
- What an Essay Is and How to Write One
- Definition and Examples of Analysis in Composition
- How to Write a Solid Thesis Statement
- Definition and Examples of Body Paragraphs in Composition
- Examples of Great Introductory Paragraphs
- An Introduction to Academic Writing
- Thesis: Definition and Examples in Composition
- Beef Up Critical Thinking and Writing Skills: Comparison Essays
- 2020-21 Common Application Essay Option 4—Solving a Problem
- Topical Organization Essay
- Understanding Organization in Composition and Speech
- How to Write a Good Thesis Statement
- How to Structure an Essay
- The Ultimate Guide to the 5-Paragraph Essay
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Check Your Understanding
Answer: d = 1720 m
Answer: a = 8.10 m/s/s
Answers: d = 33.1 m and v f = 25.5 m/s
Answers: a = 11.2 m/s/s and d = 79.8 m
Answer: t = 1.29 s
Answers: a = 243 m/s/s
Answer: a = 0.712 m/s/s
Answer: d = 704 m
Answer: d = 28.6 m
Answer: v i = 7.17 m/s
Answer: v i = 5.03 m/s and hang time = 1.03 s (except for in sports commericals)
Answer: a = 1.62*10 5 m/s/s
Answer: d = 48.0 m
Answer: t = 8.69 s
Answer: a = -1.08*10^6 m/s/s
Answer: d = -57.0 m (57.0 meters deep)
Answer: v i = 47.6 m/s
Answer: a = 2.86 m/s/s and t = 30. 8 s
Answer: a = 15.8 m/s/s
Answer: v i = 94.4 mi/hr
Solutions to Above Problems
d = (0 m/s)*(32.8 s)+ 0.5*(3.20 m/s 2 )*(32.8 s) 2
Return to Problem 1
110 m = (0 m/s)*(5.21 s)+ 0.5*(a)*(5.21 s) 2
110 m = (13.57 s 2 )*a
a = (110 m)/(13.57 s 2 )
a = 8.10 m/ s 2
Return to Problem 2
d = (0 m/s)*(2.60 s)+ 0.5*(-9.8 m/s 2 )*(2.60 s) 2
d = -33.1 m (- indicates direction)
v f = v i + a*t
v f = 0 + (-9.8 m/s 2 )*(2.60 s)
v f = -25.5 m/s (- indicates direction)
Return to Problem 3
a = (46.1 m/s - 18.5 m/s)/(2.47 s)
a = 11.2 m/s 2
d = v i *t + 0.5*a*t 2
d = (18.5 m/s)*(2.47 s)+ 0.5*(11.2 m/s 2 )*(2.47 s) 2
d = 45.7 m + 34.1 m
(Note: the d can also be calculated using the equation v f 2 = v i 2 + 2*a*d)
Return to Problem 4
-1.40 m = (0 m/s)*(t)+ 0.5*(-1.67 m/s 2 )*(t) 2
-1.40 m = 0+ (-0.835 m/s 2 )*(t) 2
(-1.40 m)/(-0.835 m/s 2 ) = t 2
1.68 s 2 = t 2
Return to Problem 5
a = (444 m/s - 0 m/s)/(1.83 s)
a = 243 m/s 2
d = (0 m/s)*(1.83 s)+ 0.5*(243 m/s 2 )*(1.83 s) 2
d = 0 m + 406 m
Return to Problem 6
(7.10 m/s) 2 = (0 m/s) 2 + 2*(a)*(35.4 m)
50.4 m 2 /s 2 = (0 m/s) 2 + (70.8 m)*a
(50.4 m 2 /s 2 )/(70.8 m) = a
a = 0.712 m/s 2
Return to Problem 7
(65 m/s) 2 = (0 m/s) 2 + 2*(3 m/s 2 )*d
4225 m 2 /s 2 = (0 m/s) 2 + (6 m/s 2 )*d
(4225 m 2 /s 2 )/(6 m/s 2 ) = d
Return to Problem 8
d = (22.4 m/s + 0 m/s)/2 *2.55 s
d = (11.2 m/s)*2.55 s
Return to Problem 9
(0 m/s) 2 = v i 2 + 2*(-9.8 m/s 2 )*(2.62 m)
0 m 2 /s 2 = v i 2 - 51.35 m 2 /s 2
51.35 m 2 /s 2 = v i 2
v i = 7.17 m/s
Return to Problem 10
(0 m/s) 2 = v i 2 + 2*(-9.8 m/s 2 )*(1.29 m)
0 m 2 /s 2 = v i 2 - 25.28 m 2 /s 2
25.28 m 2 /s 2 = v i 2
v i = 5.03 m/s
To find hang time, find the time to the peak and then double it.
0 m/s = 5.03 m/s + (-9.8 m/s 2 )*t up
-5.03 m/s = (-9.8 m/s 2 )*t up
(-5.03 m/s)/(-9.8 m/s 2 ) = t up
t up = 0.513 s
hang time = 1.03 s
Return to Problem 11
(521 m/s) 2 = (0 m/s) 2 + 2*(a)*(0.840 m)
271441 m 2 /s 2 = (0 m/s) 2 + (1.68 m)*a
(271441 m 2 /s 2 )/(1.68 m) = a
a = 1.62*10 5 m /s 2
Return to Problem 12
- (NOTE: the time required to move to the peak of the trajectory is one-half the total hang time - 3.125 s.)
First use: v f = v i + a*t
0 m/s = v i + (-9.8 m/s 2 )*(3.13 s)
0 m/s = v i - 30.7 m/s
v i = 30.7 m/s (30.674 m/s)
Now use: v f 2 = v i 2 + 2*a*d
(0 m/s) 2 = (30.7 m/s) 2 + 2*(-9.8 m/s 2 )*(d)
0 m 2 /s 2 = (940 m 2 /s 2 ) + (-19.6 m/s 2 )*d
-940 m 2 /s 2 = (-19.6 m/s 2 )*d
(-940 m 2 /s 2 )/(-19.6 m/s 2 ) = d
Return to Problem 13
-370 m = (0 m/s)*(t)+ 0.5*(-9.8 m/s 2 )*(t) 2
-370 m = 0+ (-4.9 m/s 2 )*(t) 2
(-370 m)/(-4.9 m/s 2 ) = t 2
75.5 s 2 = t 2
Return to Problem 14
(0 m/s) 2 = (367 m/s) 2 + 2*(a)*(0.0621 m)
0 m 2 /s 2 = (134689 m 2 /s 2 ) + (0.1242 m)*a
-134689 m 2 /s 2 = (0.1242 m)*a
(-134689 m 2 /s 2 )/(0.1242 m) = a
a = -1.08*10 6 m /s 2
(The - sign indicates that the bullet slowed down.)
Return to Problem 15
d = (0 m/s)*(3.41 s)+ 0.5*(-9.8 m/s 2 )*(3.41 s) 2
d = 0 m+ 0.5*(-9.8 m/s 2 )*(11.63 s 2 )
d = -57.0 m
(NOTE: the - sign indicates direction)
Return to Problem 16
(0 m/s) 2 = v i 2 + 2*(- 3.90 m/s 2 )*(290 m)
0 m 2 /s 2 = v i 2 - 2262 m 2 /s 2
2262 m 2 /s 2 = v i 2
v i = 47.6 m /s
Return to Problem 17
( 88.3 m/s) 2 = (0 m/s) 2 + 2*(a)*(1365 m)
7797 m 2 /s 2 = (0 m 2 /s 2 ) + (2730 m)*a
7797 m 2 /s 2 = (2730 m)*a
(7797 m 2 /s 2 )/(2730 m) = a
a = 2.86 m/s 2
88.3 m/s = 0 m/s + (2.86 m/s 2 )*t
(88.3 m/s)/(2.86 m/s 2 ) = t
t = 30. 8 s
Return to Problem 18
( 112 m/s) 2 = (0 m/s) 2 + 2*(a)*(398 m)
12544 m 2 /s 2 = 0 m 2 /s 2 + (796 m)*a
12544 m 2 /s 2 = (796 m)*a
(12544 m 2 /s 2 )/(796 m) = a
a = 15.8 m/s 2
Return to Problem 19
v f 2 = v i 2 + 2*a*d
(0 m/s) 2 = v i 2 + 2*(-9.8 m/s 2 )*(91.5 m)
0 m 2 /s 2 = v i 2 - 1793 m 2 /s 2
1793 m 2 /s 2 = v i 2
v i = 42.3 m/s
Now convert from m/s to mi/hr:
v i = 42.3 m/s * (2.23 mi/hr)/(1 m/s)
v i = 94.4 mi/hr
Return to Problem 20
25+ Good Examples of Problem Solving in the Workplace
Problem-solving is a necessary skill for success in any workplace situation, but it’s especially important when you’re working with other people.
However, this skill seems to be a lost art nowadays. More and more employees— even some leaders —find it difficult to efficiently solve problems and navigate challenging situations.
According to professionals, here are good examples of problem-solving in the workplace:
Lisa Bahar, MA, LMFT, LPCC
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Philosophy of Global Leadership and Change Ph.D. Student, Pepperdine University
How are workplace environment problems assessed and evaluated?
Workplace environments problems are assessed and evaluated by completing an environmental scan conducted by an internal or external consultant .
The consultant assesses the workspace, employee interaction, culture, and leadership approaches to identify the problem and the elements supporting the issue.
There are methods and models associated with environmental scans that change experts and problem solvers use to conduct a thorough analysis of the organization for the purposes of change.
Using the effective method of Change Models
The consultant determines effective methods defined as “Change Models,” selected based on the organization’s objectives and strategic goals.
The consultant considers results from an evaluation process that provides a greater understanding of the organization on a micro-level by reviewing social, political, economic, legal, intercultural, and technology elements of the organization SPELIT (Schmeider-Ramirez and Mallette, 2007).
Implement the appropriate Change Model
SPELIT is one of several methods to use in the evaluation process of an organization. Once the consultant completes the evaluation and the problem(s) are identified, the next step is implementing the appropriate Change Model.
For example, an eight-step change model by Kotter is an easy-to-understand approach to identifying change steps in an organization (Kotter, 1996).
The Kotter model can be combined with a training approach, for example, Kirkpatrick’s four levels of training (Kirkpatrick, J.D., and Kirkpatrick, W.K., 2016).
Learn and identify the problem
An example of a learning problem could be a clinical setting needing to transition to electronic notes for client care and experiencing resistance to the change by the organization’s employees.
The evaluation is to identify if it is a:
- Reaction problem
- Learning problem
- Behavior problem
- Result problem
A consultant may start interviewing leadership, team manager, and workers to gain knowledge and comprehension of the problem.
Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom, 1972) can be used as a tool by the consultant to evaluate and identify the learning problem and the objectives that need to be implemented to create change.
The consultant will assess with surveys, interviews, discussions and design and implement training that supports the organization’s staff goals using electronic notes versus handwritten notes to maintain compliance with regulatory standards.
Bloom, B. S. (1972). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Kirkpatrick, J. D., & Kirkpatrick, W. K. (2016). Kirkpatrick’s four levels of training evaluation. Association for Talent Development. Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading change. Harvard Business Press. Schmieder-Ramirez, J. H., D., J. S., & Mallette, L. A. (2007). The Spelit power matrix: Untangling the organizational environment with the Spelit leadership tool. Createspace Independent Pub.
Safety and Health Specialist, Nick to the Plus
As a Safety and Health Specialist in a million square foot warehouse with 200 material handling equipment on the floor, we have reduced our OSHA Recordable Injuries by over 70% in four years.
I would say keep it simple , trust your team , and know your leading indicators .
Keep it simple and trust your team — don’t overcomplicate problems and solutions
Many new “Leaders” in the workplace want to make an impression. While they are trying to make this impression, they overcomplicate problems and solutions.
They try to reinvent the wheel. Many times this will cause confusion, frustration, and double work.
An example of keeping it simple is (if you are a new Leader in a workplace):
- Know that your team are the experts and have seen many of you come through.
- Ask your team what we can do to make your process more accessible or better.
- Let your team know that you trust them by giving them ownership in their process, and that will foster trust in you.
- When your team comes to you with suggestions and/or problems, make sure you follow through with their requests.
- Crowdsource or mastermind the problem, let the team solve the problem, and provide the resources.
Know your leading indicators and how to measure them
A VP told me one time that you can improve something if you aren’t measuring. To solve problems in the workplace , you first need to know the issues and how to measure them.
For example, in safety, I know my leading indicators are:
- Have a Safety Team that meets regularly with a structured outline to follow.
- Are we up to date with safety training?
- Do we have leadership commitment? What are our follow up and follow through ratings?
- Are employees engaged in safety? Do they feel comfortable reporting hazards or injuries?
- Are we tracking near-miss incidents and correcting the hazards before it becomes an incident?
- Do we have consistent and clean housekeeping?
So in closing, keep it simple, trust your team, and know your leading indicators to solve problems in the workplace.
Attorney, Inc and Go
Give your good employees more face time with clients. Not all problems relate to clients or customers, but many of them do.
Give your workers the presence and authority to fix client problems
The first step to solving those as they come up is to give your trusted workers the presence and authority to fix client problems.
That means making your worker the company’s “face” to a particular client and giving them the latitude to make decisions. That can empower both the worker and the client to solve problems before getting involved.
Of course, you still need to be on hand for big issues, but those should lessen as time goes on.
Have fewer formal meetings
Nothing stifles creativity faster than another boring all-hands meeting. Throw in a PowerPoint Presentation and a long agenda, and your workers have completely checked out.
Sometimes meetings are necessary, but real problem-solving more often takes place in smaller, unstructured brainstorming sessions with the most personally invested in a problem.
It’s essential that you maintain personal relationships with your workers. If they are having trouble with a particular project or presentation, you can stop by their office for a few minutes to hash out a solution.
Give your ideas time to marinate
In today’s business environment, we often prize speed above all else. After you have brainstormed a solution, it’s often good to get it on paper and then let it sit for a night before coming back with a clear head .
That’s not usually a good recipe for creativity.
If your project is time-sensitive, at least take an hour before returning to it . Creative problem-solving often needs time to work, so when you give ideas time to marinate, you and your clients will probably be happier with the solutions.
Meet with your boss to evaluate the problem before it worsens
Problem-solving skills help you find the cause of a problem and an effective solution . In any case, how to reliably perceive problem-solving is very similar to its limitations, and the other related skills are significantly increased.
Problem-solving is a system that involves understanding tests and finding valuable solutions in the workplace. In everything that matters, every ally needs a worker with these qualities to consider their problem-solving skills and aid in a pleasant cycle in their everyday work.
Following are some skills for problem-solving in the workplace:
- Fully fixed duty skill
- Evaluation skill
- Research skill
- Imagination/implementation skill
Following are some examples of problem-solving in the workplace:
- Whether it be you or someone else, it promotes bad things .
- Overcoming management delays through problem-solving and response.
- Troubleshooting problematic or dissatisfied customers
- Overcome the problems associated with limited spending plans and now use creative problem solving to devise unusual action plans.
- Overcome the need to prepare/complete your workplace to deliver great work anyway.
- Exploring and solving apparent problems.
- Supervision and Dispute Resolution through Assistants.
- Solve all problems related to cash, settlement with customers, accounting, etc.
- Be truthful when other assistants miss or miss something important.
- Go ahead and meet with your boss to evaluate the problem before it worsens.
Christopher Liew, CFA
Creator, Wealth Awesome
Surprisingly, approximately 85% of American employees have experienced conflicts with peers and colleagues in their workplace.
It’s why we need to teach people problem-solving techniques in the workplace efficiently and effectively.
Use the consensus decision-making technique frequently
This type of problem-solving technique allows everyone to agree that a particular problem needs to be discussed thoroughly and needs to be solved immediately .
Ideas, opinions, suggestions, solutions, or violent reactions are voiced freely. The goal of this problem-solving technique is to make a list of recommendations that are acceptable to all members of the company.
After that, they further develop the best solution from one of the recommendations that they have all agreed on previously.
It can significantly increase group cohesion and team unity since the consensus decision-making technique allows everyone to participate freely without being judged harshly .
Use the devil’s advocate decision-making technique accordingly and moderately
This type of problem-solving technique allows the business organization to form a panel that will thoroughly scrutinize a group’s ideas and suggestions within the company.
The goal is to uncover weaknesses in the ideas and suggestions presented instantly.
However, this type of decision-making technique can only be implemented efficiently and effectively if the group presenting an idea, suggestion, or solution is open to receiving feedback and constructive criticisms.
It should be used moderately as this decision-making technique could sometimes add tension among group members within the company.
Senior HR Business Partner, Zety
Make the current process faster, more efficient, or more accurate
One of my all-time favorite ways of problem-solving in the workplace is making the current process faster, more efficient, or more accurate.
Personally, I call this “operation consolidation,” and despite the corny nickname, trust me, when completed, everyone will be appreciative (at least in the long term).
The level of inefficiency and room for improvement is never-ending .
Every dashboard, database, or process often grows in size and complexity over time as everyone is interested in adding that extra field, messing with that new factor without stopping and thinking, “Do we still need and are we using some of the original ones?”
Evolution is constant and makes sense ; however, as the new fields are populated, and processes added, it makes sense to stop and do some much-needed spring cleaning.
This is similar to Coca-Cola’s recent culling of almost half of its portfolio (which only accounted for 5% of its sales). Likewise, every organization looks to subtract before adding on new ones.
So always look to simplify , cut in half , and get rid of the excess fat , whether meetings, overblown dashboards, or processes with too many layers and stakeholders – triage ruthlessly and watch the magic happen.
Founder, Assisted Living Center
Allow each party to voice their solutions to the problem through brain dumping
Brain dumping allows each party to voice their solutions to the problem. Most conflicts involve an offender , defender , and mediator who decides on a resolution.
But opening the floor to suggestions helps implicated employees feel heard and understood, even if you don’t settle for their idea in the end.
Some people prefer to express their preferences in private, so you may want to conduct individual discussions before regrouping to resolve the issue.
All suggestions can remain anonymous to avoid the appearance of bias
From there, all suggestions can remain anonymous to avoid the appearance of bias. Hash out each option with everyone and decide upon a compromise that works best for the majority.
Implement the 5-whys technique
Problem resolution can also take a coach’s approach by implementing the 5-whys technique. The 5-whys allows employees to discover the root of their conflict without directly involving the mediator.
Start the conversation by asking one party why they reacted to the situation offensively. Then, follow up their response by inquiring why they felt or thought that way.
By the time you get to the fifth “why,” everyone should have a clearer picture of how things unraveled.
It can transform the conflict into a collaboration development exercise
This technique can transform the conflict into a collaboration development exercise by allowing colleagues to understand each other’s points of view.
Overall, it encourages more empathy and reasoning in the problem-solving process.
Marketing Manager, Zenzero
Make meaningful time to interact with your staff
Set a high standard for communication to solve this problem. Face-to-face communication is preferable whenever possible.
Phone conversations, emails, and texts are acceptable in an emergency, but they are insufficient to replace an utterly present dialogue.
Set suitable objectives and expectations
Make sure your staff grasps the essentials by referring to job descriptions. Convene a brainstorming session for unique initiatives and auxiliary goals, and define goals as a team .
Your staff could surprise you by establishing more challenging goals for themselves than you do.
Demonstrate your worth to a new team or yourself
Share your work description with your staff to solve the problem. Seriously, if you don’t already have one, make one .
It might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Communicate your priorities, and follow through on what you say you’ll do.
Founder, The Impact Investor
Implementing workplace synchrony
This concept that I call workplace synchrony is something that other forms of working may not offer. For example, it is something that the newly introduced remote work culture cannot sufficiently prove to be an alternative.
Workplace synchrony is the impeccable order of operations in which specific departments in the workplace run their proceedings.
For example, I want you to consider this; the production team in a textile factory ensures that the conveyor belt functions correctly, products are manufactured in an orderly manner, and the daily target is met.
However, if it were not for the quality control department, there would be no one to approve of the items’ standards.
Alternatively, as is self-explanatory, there is no job left for quality control inspection teams to do without the production line workers.
This is a testament to the synchrony and flow of how multiple teams get together to solve problems in a sequence and help workplaces flourish.
Brainstorming as a group regarding challenges that the company may face
Another affordance that in-person, and to some extent its remote work counterpart, also provides is the ability to brainstorm as a group regarding challenges that the company may face.
For example, there may be a demand by the labor union to increase wage rates, and also a potential that there may be a strike or a peaceful protest for the same reason.
Group meetings in workplaces allow all the potential stakeholders to be impacted by a possible decision, to be present at one moment, and put their needs, demands, and terms forward.
Hence, in the case that wages are considered to be increased , production costs are going to be deemed to increase .
Managers may talk about possible increases in price. In contrast, customer relations department employees might want to chip in to negotiate on the matter with the managers, not compromise the needs of consumers.
This is how all stakeholders walkout in content, knowing their needs are recognized.
Manage the problem with patience and tact
Emotions and perspectives like self-importance, overconfidence, and arrogance can arise even in our best coworkers, clients, and people we report to.
These people may be very good at their job, but everyone occasionally gets it wrong . Stress, burnout, ill health, fear, and feelings of insecurity can be the causes of underlying disputes, poor judgment, and mistakes in the workplace.
It is important not to lose respect for them and remember they are not only as good as their last job. You can build trust by weathering the storm with them.
If you come out the other side together as partners because you managed the problem with patience and tact, the relationship will be strengthened, and cooperation will hopefully improve.
Some problems become unmanageable, and a person’s stubbornness and refusal to cooperate seem insurmountable. Money matters can be some of the most explosive issues of all.
One thing that can be done is to draw the person’s attention to the critical facts that decide the way forward in terms of financial concerns, rather than anyone enforcing a decision on others.
Talent Acquisition Specialist, Tidio
Implementing a goal-setting system
Problem : Goal-setting and expectations-management.
No doubt, sometimes it’s hard for individual employees and whole teams to set appropriate goals and make relevant expectations.
This can be solved by implementing a goal-setting system (e.g., OKRs) for every employee individually or at least team-wide.
Using a time management system
Problem : Poor time management.
It’s a very common work problem with many solutions working for everyone individually.
A good example would be using a time management system (e.g., Pomodoro), keeping track of all tasks in a project management tool like Jira, and adding all meetings and appointments to the calendar.
Related: 42 Best Productivity and Time Management Books
Identify a mentor that you can turn to for advice and help
Problem : Asking for help.
Unfortunately, it’s challenging for many people to ask for help even if the team encourages them.
An excellent solution to this would be to identify a mentor or a buddy – the person you can turn to for advice and help.
This will be a mutually valuable relationship. You will receive the help you need, and the person will gain experience in mentoring someone.
Related: How to Ask Someone to Be Your Mentor
CEO, Champion Leadership Group LLC
Managers and coworkers will regard you as a valuable resource if you can efficiently address challenges at work. Problem-solving may draw together teams, expedite processes, create a more efficient workplace, and boost productivity.
It could also help you save expenses and raise income — two crucial areas where your boss will be pleased to see improvement.
Require a robust business-wide interaction
To guarantee that you can perform correctly every day, you require a robust business-wide interaction. It’s necessary for long-term development .
When adequate linkages are not present, processes might fall through the cracks, resulting in significant performance concerns.
Addressing communication challenges at work entails guaranteeing a two-way approach to help build a culture of accountability and transparency.
Ensure that employees are treated fairly
Extroverts with a lot of confidence are usually correlated with business success. More extroverted business owners may find it difficult to comprehend their more reserved personnel.
Some may even see the scenario as having introvert issues at work, which is a drawback in some businesses but a valuable asset.
So keep in mind that individuals with more introspective personality qualities bring various aspects to their positions, especially in creative contexts .
You must ensure that employees are treated fairly . Don’t show favoritism to anybody. Also, keep an eye out for nepotism.
Senior Job Data Content Producer, Virtual Vocations
Prioritize open communication and employee feedback
Solving workplace problems should be a goal for every business, but the process starts with understanding which workplace stressors affect employees most.
Virtual Vocations surveyed 1,158 U.S. workers and found that the biggest workplace confidence killer, which also negatively impacts productivity and employee well-being, is a micromanager boss .
Related: How to Deal With Micromanagers
Micromanaging and other common workplace problems like poor company culture , lack of transparency , and unrealistic performance expectations can be solved by prioritizing open communication and employee feedback .
Conducting employee surveys, holding the regular team and individual meetings, demonstrating respect for employees, and showing an interest in employees beyond work are all ways to keep employees engaged and ensure their ideas are heard.
When employees have a say in how they work and how they are managed, they are much more likely to perform well and stay longer .
Ahren A. Tiller, Esq.
Founder and Supervising Attorney, Bankruptcy Law Center
Confront the conflict but actively listen to what the other person says
Communication is very important to any relationship or team. Many issues arise due to lack or absence of communication .
When there is conflict, my staff doesn’t like to beat around the bush. Good problem-solvers don’t act based on their emotions. They confront the conflict but actively listen to what the other person says.
Understand the situation and consider the options to make up for the errors
It doesn’t matter whether one employee or another is at fault; correcting a mistake comes naturally to good problem-solvers.
Self-reflection is an excellent way to assess your own actions—were they helpful?
Look at your own point of view, and the other person’s to understand the situation and consider the options to make up for the errors. Rectifying a mistake requires strategy and creativity .
CEO and Founder, WinIt
Use your creative side to identify new or unusual alternatives
Using your creative side to identify new or unusual alternatives is an excellent way to problem-solve in the workplace.
Too often, you can get stuck in a pattern of thinking about what has been successful in the past, but when you are faced with a new problem , you may find it challenging to generate new ideas.
If you have a problem that seems to have no solution, try out some different techniques. Play “What if” games, for example:
“What if money was no object? How would that change the solution?”
You may find an answer you weren’t thinking of. Permit yourself to think of ideas that may seem outlandish or appear to break the rules; you may end up having a stroke of genius.
CEO and Founder, The Upper Ranks
Raise the bar for effective communication
Making meaningful time to speak with your staff is a common concern. The best way to resolve this issue is to raise the bar for effective communication . Face-to-face communication is the best way to get things done.
There is no alternative to a face-to-face conversation, yet phone conversations, emails, and messages are okay in a pinch. Online aptitude, psychometric, and ability tests are a few examples of the exams that companies could administer to see how well you solve problems.
These are often administered as part of the application process, although they may be given again at an assessment center. Situational judgment assessments and logic tests like inductive reasoning or diagrammatic reasoning will probably gauge how well you solve problems.
Effective issue resolution indeed takes both time and attention . A problem that hasn’t been solved requires more time and attention. Taking the time to slow down is all that is necessary for success .
There are no straight lines in life. You’ll be in good shape on the next straightaway if you get this one correctly. You may not be in the best shape if you move too rapidly .
Employees can weather the storm by planning for the worst-case scenario in every situation. There are a variety of approaches you may take, but the most critical is learning how to overcome the obstacle.
A workplace may be prepared for both the best and worst of times, whether a common cold or an overflowing workload.
Sales Director, VEM Tooling
It is common to face many problems in your organization several times. But what is not common is how to deal with that problem to rise above your previous self.
When we talk about a workplace, there are several difficulties that a person needs to deal with in it. Here is one of my examples of problem-solving at the workplace that I find perfect.
Observe which is more important for your business
Problem : Balance between growth and quality
When I first encountered this problem at the end of 2021. I thought it would be a lot difficult to deal with. But as time passed and I gave my thoughts on this problem repeatedly.
I found a way to deal with it. First, I need to see which is more important for my business, growth or quality.
As we all know, nothing in this world is perfect, but as a new developing firm in the market, I need to ensure my business provides quality to its customers.
When I figured it all out, I found that I would grow my organization if I could provide my customers with good quality satisfaction. That’s how I learned how to balance growth and quality to solve the problem.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can i improve my problem-solving skills.
To improve your problem-solving skills, you need to practice and be intentional. Here are some things you can do to strengthen this skill:
Identify and analyze problems as soon as possible. Once you identify a problem, try to understand it thoroughly, gather information from reliable sources, and consider possible solutions.
Think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to approach problems in unconventional ways. Draw inspiration from unrelated fields or industries.
Collaborate. Work with your colleagues to find solutions. Two heads are better than one!
Learn from your experiences. Take time to reflect on how you solved problems in the past and learn from your successes and mistakes.
Can I be a successful problem solver without being creative?
Yes, you can be a successful problem solver without being creative. While creativity can help you develop unique solutions to problems, it is not the only skill needed for problem-solving.
Logical thinking, research, analytical skills, and collaboration can also help you solve problems successfully.
These skills require a deep understanding of the problem, identifying the cause and origin of the problem, gathering information, analyzing it, and finally developing a solution based on the information gathered.
A successful problem solver is one who can objectively analyze a problem and derive optimal and workable solutions that are reasonable and achievable. Thinking outside the box and being creative can be an advantage, but it is not an essential requirement for solving problems in the workplace.
How can I encourage my team to engage in problem-solving activities?
Encouraging your team to engage in problem-solving activities can help foster a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. Some ways to encourage problem-solving in the workplace include:
– Scheduling time for team brainstorming sessions or problem-solving workshops – Encouraging team members to share their ideas and perspectives – Providing opportunities for skill-building and professional development – Recognizing and rewarding team members who contribute to problem-solving efforts – Leading by example and demonstrating a commitment to problem-solving
How can I convince my employer that I have problem-solving skills?
To convince your employer that you have problem-solving skills, you need to demonstrate them in action. Here are some tips to help you showcase your skills:
Point out instances where you have successfully solved a problem: In your resume or interview, cite specific examples of difficult workplace problems you faced and solved. Explain the steps you took, the approach you used, and the results you achieved.
Explain your problem-solving approach: Employers are looking for a systematic approach to problem-solving that will help them achieve their goals. Describe the steps you take when confronted with a problem and how you use data and other resources to determine the root cause of the problem.
Quantify your successes: Be as specific as possible about the results you achieved in solving a problem. Did you increase the company’s revenue or save them money? Provide data that shows the impact of your solution.
Market yourself as a lifelong learner: Employers know that not every problem has a defined solution. Therefore, it is valuable to have a candidate who is willing to learn and adapt to changes in the company.
Highlight this by talking about additional training or certifications you are pursuing to further enhance your problem-solving skills.
How can I tell if my problem-solving efforts are successful?
The success of a problem-solving effort can be measured in different ways, depending on the problem you’re trying to solve. However, there are some signs that your problem-solving is on the right track:
Clarity: You have a clear understanding of the problem and what you’re trying to accomplish.
Solution: You have found a solution that is effective and has already been implemented.
Feedback: You have received feedback from colleagues, supervisors, or customers that the problem has been solved.
Continuous improvement: You continuously reflect on and improve your problem-solving tactics and approaches.
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