Life is full of problems, right? But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Looked at a certain way, every problem is a challenge to be solved – from figuring out how to boost sales to choosing a birthday gift for a colleague. If you have good problem-solving skills, you are well-equipped to deal with anything your career throws at you.
In fact, problem-solving is so fulfilling that we often set ourselves challenges to keep our monkey-minds occupied. Playing a game of chess or making home improvements in your spare time are good examples. You don’t even notice most ‘problems’ as you’re solving them.
But in a professional context, sometimes more complex issues arise that require serious application if you are to find a solution. So how can you improve your problem-solving skills?
First, you need to know what type of problem solver you are. Maybe you approach puzzles systematically, or maybe intuitively, or maybe somewhere in between.
If you’re the type who trusts your gut when approaching a challenge and things usually work out fine – good for you! But it will benefit you to try to frame your good instincts with a bit of professional discipline to minimize the chance of making a serious mistake. You should at least approach a problem by examining it systematically to ensure you’re not missing anything, even if you end up using your intuition to cook up a solution.
And if you’re more systematic to begin with, try using diagrams or even physical props to get you out of your head and into the real world. And be careful not to get so fond of your own problem-solving system that you neglect to try others – such as the CATWOE technique (see below). If you always do things the same way, you’ll never get better results!
We’ve assembled a guide to help you discover which type of problem solver you are and to suggest how you can develop your problem-solving skills. It’s a useful resource even if you’re an ‘inbetweener’ who doesn’t quite consider themselves to be intuitive or instinctive.
Success comes as a result of successfully navigating a diverse series of challenges at every stage in your career. With powerful problem-solving skills, you might even have a little fun along the way.
- Ay Mires, E. (2013). 5 Tips for Lightning-Fast Decision Making. Lifehack.org
- Daum, K. (2014). 8 Things Really Great Problem Solvers Do. businessinsider.com
- Kukhnavets, P. (2017). How to Solve Business Issues With the Help of CATWOE Analysis? ganttpro.com
- Laumm, H. & Trommsdorff, G. (1973). Group versus individual performance on tasks requiring ideational proficiency (brainstorming): A review. wiley.com
- MindTools. (2019). Brainstorming. mindtools.com
- Belyh, A. (2019). How to Use Cause and Effect Analysis to Solve Any Problem. cleverism.com
- Boogaard. K. (2018). Need to Make a Tough Decision? A Decision Matrix Can Help. toggl.com