From the second you wake up in the morning your mind is alive and constantly solving problems. The problem of turning off your alarm clock comes first, and then the problem of getting breakfast. Once you are awake, problems are inevitable and you need to solve them.
Therefore, problem-solving is not an activity that is reserved strictly for the work in the workplace. It is not a skill reserved for the board room alone. Everyone needs to have some problem-solving skills. These problem-solving skills can be technical or they can be interpersonal skills. None is more important than the other.
Problem-solving abilities assist you in quickly and effectively resolve issues. It’s one of the most important skills that employers look for in job candidates, as employees with these abilities are more self-sufficient. Problem-solving abilities necessitate quickly identifying the underlying problem and putting a solution in place.
What Are Problem-Solving Skills?
Problem-solving is a mental process that involves; identifying a problem or group of problems, accessing available information, finding alternative solutions, and finally picking a solution with the best probable outcome.
We can refer to problem-solving as a skill on its own. However, there are other skills related to problem-solving. These skills help to make problem-solving possible and are therefore referred to as “problem-solving skills”.
Steps To Take In Problem Solving
If you wish to solve a problem, you will need to follow the following prescribed steps;
1. Identify the problem
This is a no-brainer because you cannot solve a problem unless you know it exists. The first step for you is always to identify the problem and try to see the bigger picture. When you know what the problem is, then you can take other active steps towards solving it. To identify a problem, you have the picture the ideal situation, then compare it to reality. The disparity between the ideal and the reality is where the problem lies. Why is reality different from the ideal?
2. Analyze the problem
Here, you will need to look at the problem objectively. Take into consideration all the information available on the present situation and understand the problem at hand better.
Ask yourself what stage the problem is at. Is this problem doing damage now? Will it do even more damage if it goes on? Will it be more expensive to solve now or later? These are questions you need to ask yourself at this stage.
3. Describe the problem
You should be able to describe the problem in a short and simple sentence. Putting the problem in a simple sentence, in writing, will help you analyze it more critically. It helps you communicate the premise of the problem effectively. If your premise is correct then you are on your way to finding the right approach to solving the problem.
4. Look for the root cause
This step involves asking questions like; “What is causing this problem?”, “When did this problem begin?”, “What part of this organization is most affected by this problem?”, “When were the damages caused by this problem noticed?”, “Can we solve this problem permanently?”
When you look at the problem and break it down using these questions, you will have more objectivity and seek alternative solutions to the problem.
5. Develop alternative solutions
Every problem you will ever have to deal with has over one solution. It is best to make a list of all the ways to solve the problem then takeout time to analyze your solutions with your team. Rank your solutions by feasibility, cost-effectiveness, time management, and human resource management, among others. You must also find the solutions that will give a long-lasting resolution to the problem. If you do this right, your next line of action would jump out at you.
6. Implement the solution
This means preparing everyone on your team for the work before them. You need to ensure that everyone knows what you expect of them. You must also consider the next move if things do not work out as planned and make provisions for any other hitches you may encounter. Problem-solving is a continuous process. You may need to adjust your plans on the way as the need arises.
7. Measure the results
Keep track of the results once you are past stage 5. This will help you note if your solution is working, if it was a wonderful decision, and if you should implement other aspects of the plan. You also need to find out if the solution will be effective for other problems.
As you continue to improve your problem-solving skills, these steps will come more naturally to you and your work will flow effortlessly.
Top Problem-Solving Skills
Now that you know how important problem-solving is, we will go through a list of problem-solving skills you may wish to include in your resume. Employers are always looking out for people with great problem-solving skills because they are an asset to any team they are a part of. These skills include;
The first step you must take towards solving any problem is to analyze the information before you. You need to gather information. If you cannot analyze data, it would be nearly impossible to solve your problems. You have to understand the problem, understand the information before you, and how it applies to the problem at hand. Information can serve as bread crumbs and lead you to the solution that you need. If you are to follow these bread crumbs, you need to analyze the data.
Evaluation is a skill that enables you to assess situations, results, and outcomes. With evaluation, you are considering value, merit, significance, and quality. You will need to constantly evaluate a thousand different situations. Results of this evaluation will add to the long lineup of information that you will eventually require to solve your problem.
Proper evaluation will also help you decide on the best path that would produce the highest yield.
Communication is an essential addition to any skill. With problem-solving, it would go a long way if you can effectively communicate ideas and solutions to your team.
4. Decision making
Problem-solving is deciding to take steps towards fixing problems. You need to be decisive about the next move to make towards achieving various goals. In problem-solving, when feasible solutions are brought to the table you have to decide on what the best move is. This decision will be guided by analysis and evaluation did earlier. However, make a choice between two variables and trust your decision. You also need to take responsibility for decisions that you have taken.
Out-of-the-box thinking makes an organization stand out. Creativity enables you to think out of the box. Creativity is both a skill and a talent. You can learn to think outside the box by keeping your mind open. Be open to a variety of people, ideas, and situations. A lot of great problem solvers are very creative with coming up with solutions that will get the job done.
Ways to improve your Problem-Solving Skills
If you are not very confident in your problem-solving skills, it is not an entirely hopeless situation. Like everything else, problem-solving skills can be gained and improved over time. It is important to search within yourself and figure out what specific aspects you need improvement in and work on them specifically.
Problem-solving is a skill you learn by doing. You can improve your communication skill by trying to engage people more often and share your ideas with them. You learn by practicing. There are many books online that discuss communication and give helpful tips.
For creativity, keeping your mind open to near ideas helps to improve. When you spend a lot of time trying out extra activities, reading books, and exploring the world, your creativity will increase.
Below are a few fun activities that can also improve your problem-solving skills:
Physical activities like dancing have a positive impact on neural processing and the development of new neural pathways. When you engage in a structured form of dance like salsa, it improves your convergent thinking and makes you a better problem solver.
2. Logic puzzles and games
Playing games like sudoku, chess, and the Rubix cube is mentally stimulating. They can improve your ability to think quickly on your feet and come up with objective solutions in a short time.
A human being cannot live over 11 days without sleep. This shows how important sleep is to sustaining life. When the body is asleep, the brain gets time to detoxify and rest. Without this recommended rest, your mind will not function optimally. An adult should get at least 8 hours of sleep every day.
Exercise improves blood circulation and overall wellness. We must house a sharp mind in a healthy body. No cognitive improvements will be effective without a sound body, so it is important you adapt to a regular exercise routine. The World Health Organization recommends at least 15 minutes of exercise 3 times a week to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
5. Draw a mind map to visualize the problem
Take a pen and a piece of paper and draw a map around the central idea, which is the problem. Include the many causes of the problem you have discovered. Draw in sub-branches that suggest workable solutions, then calmly analyze them and pick the best option. You find that the mind makes remarkable progress when it can visualize a problem in pictorial form.
6. Always be willing to learn
Never feel you are too good to be taught. Every additional problem is an opportunity to learn something different. That is why experience is so important. It is also essential that you learn a bit about different expertise from people on your team.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can list some skills like evaluation, analysis, communication skills, and creativity as special skills on your resume. Several employers may take those into consideration.
Problem-solving in programming is like problem-solving in the cooperate world and should be handled the same way. You should apply the steps listed above. Do not be afraid to seek help from colleagues.
Most cooperate firms, business owners and public organizations are looking out for individuals with the right attitude towards problem-solving. You will always have an edge at the workplace if you fully understand problem-solving.
Some exciting jobs for critical thinkers include; air traffic controller, computer programmer, accountant, police officer, marketing director, etc. However, most professions need you to have some problem-solving skills.
Problem-solving is an essential skill for everyone now. If you have mastered this skill, it is only a matter of time before your true worth shows in the workplace. Top cooperate organizations do not compromise on this skill. They ensure that everyone in managerial positions has this skill. Perfecting your problem-solving skill is a very rewarding venture.