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

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problem solving training benefits

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

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

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

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

Table of contents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

key problem solving skills to look for when hiring

1. Listening skills

Active listeners are generally great problem solvers. 

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

2. Analytical thinking skills 

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

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

3. Creative thinking skills

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

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

4. Communication skills 

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

5. Decision-making skills 

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

6. Teamwork

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

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

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

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

Why are problem solving skills important?

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

1. Ability to organize their time intelligently 

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

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

2. Ability to prioritize, plan, and execute strategies

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

3. Ability to think outside the box

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

4. Ability to work under pressure

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

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

5. Ability to address risk

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

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

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

Conflict between team members

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

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

How problem solving skills can help: 

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

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

Inefficient processes

Outdated, inefficient processes can reduce productivity and frustrate employees.

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

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

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problem solving training benefits

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technological disruptions 

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

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

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

Insufficient onboarding resources 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How problem solving skills tests work

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

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

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

Creating and adjust schedules

Prioritizing items based on a given set of rules

Interpreting data and applying logic to make decisions

Analyzing textual and numerical information to draw conclusions

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

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

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

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

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What is problem solving and why is it important

problem solving training benefits

By Wayne Stottler , Kepner-Tregoe

  • Problem Solving & Decision Making Over time, developing and refining problem solving skills provides the ability to solve increasingly complex problems Learn More

For over 60 years, Kepner-Tregoe has been helping companies across industries and geographies to develop and mature their problem-solving capabilities through KT’s industry leading approach to training and the implementation of best practice processes. Considering that problem solving is a part of almost every person’s daily life (both at home and in the workplace), it is surprising how often we are asked to explain what problem solving is and why it is important.

Problem solving is at the core of human evolution. It is the methods we use to understand what is happening in our environment, identify things we want to change and then figure out the things that need to be done to create the desired outcome. Problem solving is the source of all new inventions, social and cultural evolution, and the basis for market based economies. It is the basis for continuous improvement, communication and learning.

If this problem-solving thing is so important to daily life, what is it?

Problem-solving is the process of observing what is going on in your environment; identifying things that could be changed or improved; diagnosing why the current state is the way it is and the factors and forces that influence it; developing approaches and alternatives to influence change; making decisions about which alternative to select; taking action to implement the changes; and observing impact of those actions in the environment.

Each step in the problem-solving process employs skills and methods that contribute to the overall effectiveness of influencing change and determine the level of problem complexity that can be addressed. Humans learn how to solve simple problems from a very early age (learning to eat, make coordinated movements and communicate) – and as a person goes through life problem-solving skills are refined, matured and become more sophisticated (enabling them to solve more difficult problems).

Problem-solving is important both to individuals and organizations because it enables us to exert control over our environment.

Fixing things that are broken

Some things wear out and break over time, others are flawed from day-1. Personal and business environments are full of things, activities, interactions and processes that are broken or not operating in the way they are desired to work. Problem-solving gives us a mechanism for identifying these things, figuring out why they are broken and determining a course of action to fix them.

Addressing risk

Humans have learned to identify trends and developed an awareness of cause-and-effect relationships in their environment. These skills not only enable us to fix things when they break but also anticipate what may happen in the future (based on past-experience and current events). Problem-solving can be applied to the anticipated future events and used to enable action in the present to influence the likelihood of the event occurring and/or alter the impact if the event does occur.

Improving performance

Individuals and organizations do not exist in isolation in the environment. There is a complex and ever-changing web of relationships that exist and as a result, the actions of one person will often have either a direct impact on others or an indirect impact by changing the environment dynamics. These interdependencies enable humans to work together to solve more complex problems but they also create a force that requires everyone to continuously improve performance to adapt to improvements by others. Problem-solving helps us understand relationships and implement the changes and improvements needed to compete and survive in a continually changing environment.

Seizing opportunity

Problem solving isn’t just about responding to (and fixing) the environment that exists today. It is also about innovating, creating new things and changing the environment to be more desirable. Problem-solving enables us to identify and exploit opportunities in the environment and exert (some level of) control over the future.

Problem solving skills and the problem-solving process are a critical part of daily life both as individuals and organizations. Developing and refining these skills through training, practice and learning can provide the ability to solve problems more effectively and over time address problems with a greater degree of complexity and difficulty. View KT’s Problem Solving workshop known to be the gold standard for over 60 years.

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20 december, 2022, why problem solving skills matter in the workplace.

problem solving training benefits

Whether you’re an artist, a software developer or a CEO of a multinational conglomerate, problem solving skills are a critical asset in any professional setting.

Closely linked to other cognitive competencies including self-management and critical thinking, problem solving is a key workplace skill that empowers employees to manage change, communicate effectively and bring a fresh perspective to old problems. But to harness the benefits of logical and adaptive thinking in the workplace, organisations must take concerted action to foster problem solving skills in their employees.

What do problem solving skills in the workplace look like?

Workplace problem solving has several prominent distinctions when compared to problem solving in other contexts. This includes the formal and goal-oriented structure of the problem, as well as the critical role of teamwork in reaching a solution. An individual who shows competence in problem solving outside the workplace may not necessarily thrive when confronting a workplace issue.

A lack of problem solving skills in the workplace can be detrimental to businesses. Problem solving skills enable employees to evaluate and effectively resolve daily challenges.  Every job role within a business will face challenges and unexpected situations. Problem solving skills provide employees with the ability to recognise and analyse problems, identify and evaluate a range of potential solutions and then decide on and implement the most effective solution.

A workforce equipped with problem solving skills will be adaptive and ready to face the challenges of the constantly evolving modern workplace. Its employees will demonstrate an ability to:

  • Listen actively
  • Think analytically and creatively
  • Come up with innovative solutions
  • Communicate effectively
  • Make decisions confidently based on evidence
  • Work together as a team

The importance of problem solving skills in the workplace

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

Time and resources are used efficiently

All businesses have limited time and resources. This means that when a problem arises, it must be resolved as quickly as possible leveraging available resources. One of the major benefits of problem solving skills in the workplace is that employees can utilise their innovative thinking to prioritise tasks and focus on pressing challenges facing the business. This will result in them providing effective solutions that utilise available resources within the time frame available.

Improved problem solving skills also lead to improved time management as employees learn to make quick and effective decisions. Problem solving skills become even more critical where employees are expected to  provide solutions to complex or urgent problems.

The business can better respond to changing client needs

One of the primary purposes of a business is to deliver reliable and excellent service to their clients. Satisfied clients buy more goods or services, create positive advertising by word-of-mouth and generate referrals. But businesses operate in a changing world, which leads to changing client needs that must be anticipated as early as possible.

Employees must be able to take the initiative to respond to those changing needs. A workforce equipped with problem solving skills can quickly reposition itself to better meet shifts in client needs and developments in the environment in which those clients operate.

The business stays ahead of the curve

To stay ahead of the curve, a business must be proactive across all levels. Change in the modern workplace is constant and businesses must come up with fast solutions to problems and be prepared to take advantage of new opportunities as they arise.  Employees must be confident to continually challenge the norm and swiftly adapt to changes in the business and the market.

A team that can confidently solve problems will see problems as an opportunity to initiate change and growth, which will help to keep the business ahead of competitors.

The business can anticipate risk

Employees equipped with problem solving skills can handle difficult situations that arise in the workplace. They can expertly deal with challenges that create risk for the business.

A successful business must be able to assess the probability of something going wrong and be able to anticipate the negative consequences if it does. Problem solving skills assist employees to foresee the likely sources of risk to the business and to make considered decisions as to the best way to manage those risks. These skills also play a key role in refining an organisation’s internal talent pipeline.

Strategies for developing problem solving in employees

When developing problem solving in the workplace, it is critical to take a flexible approach that addresses the needs of both current and future employees.

Emphasise problem solving in recruitment and assessment

Whether they are entry level, managers or senior executives, problem solving is a crucial skill for all your employees. Skills that indicate a strong problem solving ability are listening skills, analytical thinking skills, creative thinking skills and communication skills. These skills should be sought out and encouraged in both recruitment and assessment.

One way to identify problem solving skills in interviews is by giving candidates problems that they must solve on the spot within a limited time frame. Interviewers can then assess both the solution that the candidate came up with as well as how they responded to the unexpected challenge.

Self management, not micromanagement

Micromanagement can impede a business’ ability to reach its goals. Instead of raising productivity, micromanagement is more likely to lower the morale of your employees, stifle creativity and damage trust. Employees must have the ability and be given the opportunity to manage their own workflow and productivity without constantly relying on a supervisor.

Problem solving skills will help equip your employees with the ability to self manage their tasks and projects. Through purposeful self management , they will be able to take initiative to solve both the straightforward and complex problems faced in their role.

Give employees goals rather than instructions

Giving employees step-by-step instructions as to how to complete each aspect of their job will not result in an agile and innovative workforce. Rather, it will restrict their ability to seek out new methods and evaluate current contexts.

By providing employees with goals rather than limiting instructions, businesses can increase employee engagement and productivity. This in turn can help empower employees to contribute meaningfully to larger business objectives.

Promote a culture of innovation and collaboration

A successful and resilient business supports its employees with a culture that promotes innovation and collaboration. Problem solving skills will allow your employees to build relationships and excel at daily decision making processes.

Good problem solvers possess good communication skills and can collaborate effectively with their team. They can also think laterally and creatively to find innovative solutions to problems and find opportunities for business development.

Ensure employees have the resources to solve problems

In order to identify issues and discover impactful solutions, employees must have access to relevant tools that provide them with in-depth insights into internal and external contexts. Even the most innovative thinker will struggle to fully capitalise on their problem solving skills without the right resources to support them.

Of course, the nature of these resources will depend on the employee’s role and the context in which they work. Resources may include software, subscriptions, technological equipment and specific communication channels. For all of their differences, these resources will ideally assist the employee to integrate root cause analysis into day-to-day processes.

Provide training

Despite common misconception, problem solving skills are not necessarily innate. Rather, analytical and creative thinking skills can be fostered through purposeful training that provides individuals with a toolkit of problem solving techniques. It also offers an open space for employees to build on existing skill sets through hypothetical scenarios that will test their ability to extempromise, communicate proactively and think creatively.

Start building problem solving skills today

All businesses have the power to create proficient problem solvers within their existing and future workforce. Contact our team today to find out how a bespoke DeakinCo. learning solution could help your employees build on their problem solving skill sets through purposeful, relevant training.

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6 Steps To Effective Problem-Solving Training For Managers

What is problem-solving training, why is it essential for managers to learn problem-solving skills, how can managers train for problem-solving skills, how can managers test their problem-solving skills, frequently asked questions.

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  • Increased efficiency:  Managers skilled at problem-solving can identify and address issues before they become major problems, which can help increase efficiency and reduce downtime.
  • Better decision-making:  Effective problem-solving skills can also help managers make better decisions. By analyzing a problem and considering all available options, managers can make informed decisions more likely to lead to positive outcomes.
  • Improved communication:  Problem-solving skills can also improve communication between managers and employees. When managers can identify and solve problems , they can provide clear guidance and direction to their team, which can help improve overall communication and collaboration.
  • Innovation:  Managers skilled at problem-solving can also drive innovation within their teams. By identifying opportunities for improvement and implementing new solutions, managers can help their teams stay ahead of the competition.
  • Identify the skills needed:  The first step in training for problem-solving skills is to identify the specific skills and knowledge that managers need to develop. This could include critical thinking , data analysis, decision-making, creativity, and communication skills.
  • Training and resources:  Once the necessary skills have been identified, managers can enroll in training courses to develop these skills. This could include in-house training sessions, online courses, or workshops.
  • Collaborate:  Problem-solving often requires collaboration and teamwork. Managers can encourage collaboration by creating a culture that values open communication, encourages feedback, and rewards teamwork.
  • Provide practice opportunities:  To develop problem-solving skills, managers need opportunities to practice. Managers can provide employees with real-world scenarios to work through, or they can create simulations that simulate real-world challenges.
  • Feedback:  Finally, managers should take employee feedback as they develop their problem-solving skills. This can include constructive feedback on their performance and coaching on specific skills.
  • Case studies:  Case studies are a great way to test problem-solving skills. Managers can challenge and test themselves by taking up real-world scenarios, analyzing the situation, identifying the problem, and proposing a solution.
  • Simulations:  Simulations are another effective way to test problem-solving skills. Managers can create simulations that simulate real-world challenges, work through the scenario, and propose solutions.
  • Role-playing:  Role-playing is another effective way to test problem-solving skills. Employees can be customers or colleagues and present managers with a problem to solve.
  • Brainstorming sessions:   Brainstorming sessions can also be used to test problem-solving skills. Managers can present themselves with a problem and brainstorm potential solutions. This can help to identify how skilled they are at generating creative solutions.
  • Group projects:  Group projects are a great way to test problem-solving skills, as they require managers to work together to identify and solve problems. Managers can observe how employees work together and identify important problem-solving skills.

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How to improve your problem solving skills and build effective problem solving strategies

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

To truly understand a problem and develop appropriate solutions, you will want to follow a solid process, follow the necessary problem solving steps, and bring all of your problem solving skills to the table.   We’ll forst look at what problem solving strategies you can employ with your team when looking for a way to approach the process. We’ll then discuss the problem solving skills you need to be more effective at solving problems, complete with an activity from the SessionLab library you can use to develop that skill in your team.

Let’s get to it! 

Problem solving strategies

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

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

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

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

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

Use a workshop to lead a team through a group process

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

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

Problem solving workshop

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

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

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

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

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

Run a design sprint

Great for: 

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

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

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

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

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

Break problems down into smaller issues

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

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

Use guiding frameworks or try new methodologies

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

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

LEGO Serious Play

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

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

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

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

Card Decks and Method Kits

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

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

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

Source external advice

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

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

Mastermind Group

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

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

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

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

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

Coaching and mentoring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Problem solving skills checklist

Active listening

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

Some active listening skills include:

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

Analytical skills

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Critical thinking

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

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

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

Data analysis 

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

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

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

Decision making

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

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

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


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

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

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

Emotional intelligence

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Project management

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

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

Record keeping

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

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

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

Research skills

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

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

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

Risk management

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Time management 

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

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

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

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

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

Share best practices

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

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

Ask for help and attend training

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

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

Learn a process 

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

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

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

Create a feedback loop

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

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

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

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

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

Use expert exercises and methods

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

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

Try new ways of thinking and change your mindset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Over to you

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

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

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problem solving training benefits

Effective online tools are a necessity for smooth and engaging virtual workshops and meetings. But how do you choose the right ones? Do you sometimes feel that the good old pen and paper or MS Office toolkit and email leaves you struggling to stay on top of managing and delivering your workshop? Fortunately, there are plenty of great workshop tools to make your life easier when you need to facilitate a meeting and lead workshops. In this post, we’ll share our favorite online tools you can use to make your life easier and run better workshops and meetings. In fact, there are plenty of free online workshop tools and meeting…

problem solving training benefits

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How to train your problem-solving skills

From the hiccups that disrupt your morning routines to the hurdles that define your professional paths, there is always a problem to be solved. 

The good news is that every obstacle is an opportunity to develop problem-solving skills and become the best version of yourself. That’s right: It turns out you can get better at problem-solving, which will help you increase success in daily life and long-term goals.  

Read on to learn how to improve your problem-solving abilities through scientific research and practical strategies.

Understanding problem-solving skills

You may be surprised to learn that your problem-solving skills go beyond just trying to find a solution. Problem-solving skills involve cognitive abilities such as analytical thinking, creativity, decision-making, logical reasoning, and memory. 

Strong problem-solving skills boost critical thinking, spark creativity, and hone decision-making abilities. For you or anyone looking to improve their mental fitness , these skills are necessary for career advancement, personal growth, and positive interpersonal relationships. 

Core components of problem-solving skills training

To effectively train your problem-solving skills, it’s important to practice all of the steps required to solve the problem. Think of it this way: Before attempting to solve a problem, your brain has already been hard at work evaluating the situation and picking the best action plan. After you’ve worked hard preparing, you’ll need to implement your plan and assess the outcome by following these steps:  

  • Identify and define problems: Recognizing and clearly articulating issues is the foundational step in solving them.
  • Generate solutions: Employing brainstorming techniques helps you develop multiple potential solutions.
  • Evaluate and select solutions: Using specific criteria to assess solutions helps you choose the most effective one.
  • Implement solutions: Developing and executing action plans, including preparing for potential obstacles, guides you to positive outcomes.
  • Review and learn from outcomes: Assessing the success of solutions and learning from the results for future improvement facilitates future success. 

Strategies for developing problem-solving skills

There are many practical exercises and activities that can improve problem-solving abilities.

Cultivate a problem-solving mindset

  • Adopt a growth mindset: A growth mindset involves transforming phrases like “I can’t” into “I can’t yet.” Believing in the capacity to improve your skills through effort and perseverance can lead to greater success in problem-solving.
  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness can enhance cognitive flexibility , allowing you to view problems from multiple perspectives and find creative solutions.

Enhance core cognitive skills 

  • Strengthen your memory: Engage in activities that challenge your memory since accurately recalling information is crucial in problem-solving. Techniques such as mnemonic devices or memory palaces can be particularly effective.
  • Build your critical thinking: Regularly question assumptions, evaluate arguments, and engage in activities that require reasoning, such as strategy games or debates.

Apply structured problem-solving techniques

  • Use the STOP method: This stands for Stop , Think , Observe , and Plan . It's a simple yet effective way to approach any problem methodically, ensuring you consider all aspects before taking action.
  • Try reverse engineering: Start with the desired outcome and work backward to understand the steps needed to achieve that result. This approach can be particularly useful for complex problems with unclear starting points.

Incorporate technology into your training with fun brain games

  • Engage with online courses and workshops: Many platforms offer courses specifically designed to enhance problem-solving skills, ranging from critical thinking to creative problem-solving techniques.
  • Use cognitive training apps: Apps like Elevate provide targeted, research-backed games and workouts to improve cognitive skills including attention, processing speed, and more. 

Practice with real-world applications and learn from experience

  • Tackle daily challenges: Use everyday issues as opportunities to practice problem-solving. Whether figuring out a new recipe or managing a tight budget, applying your skills in real-world situations can reinforce learning.
  • Keep a problem-solving journal: Record the challenges you face, the strategies you employ, and the outcomes you achieve. Reflecting on your problem-solving process over time can provide insights into your strengths and areas for improvement.

Embracing problem-solving as a lifelong journey

Since problems arise daily, it’s important to feel confident in solving them. 

And you can do just that by downloading the Elevate brain training app. Elevate offers 40+ games and activities designed to improve problem-solving, communication, and other cognitive skills in a personalized way that’s backed by science. Pretty cool, right? 

Consider downloading the Elevate app on Android or iOS now—it’ll be the easiest problem you solve all day. 

How problem-solving games can boost your brain

  • Discover why problem-solving games are fun and effective ways to train your brain. 

Improving your problem-solving skills

  • Discover how to improve your problem-solving skills and make logical, informed decisions.  

Best ways to boost your mental fitness

  • Mental fitness refers to your ability to sustain your overall well-being. Learn tips to improve yours.  

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Learn Problem Solving to Eliminate the Causes for Failures and Overload

Problem solving training for result-driven managers and functional specialists to effectively eliminate the root causes of variability, gaps, defects, frustrations, and stress., cases, when to use:.

  • Frustration from never-ending fire-fighting
  • Excessive defects, uncontrolled variability
  • Stress from unhappy boss, customer, spouse
  • Working too hard, too late, risking burnout

Clients, for whom:

  • Department managers and team leaders
  • Functional specialists, engineers, controllers
  • Consultants and improvement champions
  • Anyone struggling with too many problems

Process, how it works:

  • Online training course with personal coaching
  • Apply 5 shifts to successfully address any problem
  • Eliminate causes at physical, human, system root
  • Learn proven strategies; practical templates included

Benefits, what to gain:

  • Status and recognition as expert problem solver
  • Become indispensable to the organization
  • Free time to spend with family, friends, hobby
  • Strategy for better pay and career advancement

Course Content - What You Will Learn

  • Systematically solve safety, quality, reliability issues
  • Define issue statements based on data, observations
  • Learn proven tools and techniques to tackle deviations
  • Use basic PDCA and 5-Why analysis for simple issues
  • Use Causal Factor Analysis (CFA) for disasters, accidents
  • Use Fault Tree Analysis (FTA) for rule-based problems
  • Identify cause-effect relationships between factors
  • Provide evidence to confirm or reject assumptions
  • Drill down causes at the physical, human, latent root
  • Develop actions to remove, reduce, control causes

Why Did the Titanic Sink?

Titanic root-cause analysis poster for problem-solving training.

The 13 Reasons for Formal Problem Solving

  • Undesirable condition
  • Deviation, defect, failure
  • Safety accident, incident, major risk
  • Product failure due to strength, performance, reliability
  • Line stop event
  • Regulatory non-compliance
  • Customer dissatisfaction or request
  • Cost overrun
  • Equipment breakdown
  • Process failure
  • Behavioral issue, noncompliant, disengaged
  • Repetitive or transferable problem
  • Detection failure

Ineffective Trouble Shooting

Ineffective Problem Solving

  • Fire fighting
  • Going from crisis to crisis
  • Stagnant or declining performance
  • No time for deeper analysis
  • Look for the guilty party: ”Who did that?”
  • Jumping from problem into actions
  • Generate laundry list of actions to firefight symptoms
  • Sub-optimizing one area, spot scope
  • Focus on lagging metrics (yield, sales, profits) and hope processes will improve as a result

Effective Problem Solving

Effective Problem Solving

  • Systems thinking
  • Continuous improvement
  • Systematic root cause elimination
  • Better performance after each problem
  • Allocate time to analyze, dialogue, conclude
  • Seek deep understanding: “How did that happen?”
  • Acting after understanding cause-effect relationships
  • Addressing all factors of the failure tree
  • Optimizing the value stream, enterprise scope
  • Focus on improving processes (capability) that effect actual performance metrics

The Problem Solving Training Gets You Certified

The  Beginner Problem Solving Training helps anyone to get started with systematic problem solving. Within a few days, you will learn the basic methods and tools, and apply them to solve a difficult situation in five steps: (1) Describe Gap, (2) Analyze Issues, (3) Identify Causes, (4) Address Causes, (5) Evaluate Results. Quizzes and self-evaluation forms help you to test your skills and evaluate solution the effectiveness of your solutions. 

The Advanced Problem Solving Training is for managers, supervisors, and functional specialists to build their their problem-solving skills. The course focuses on systematic root-cause analysis and developing countermeasures to effectively contain, correct, and prevent failures from reoccurring. The advanced course is supported by a coach, helping students through the process, while providing feedback to get the analysis right.

The Expert Problem Solving Training is for engineers, managers, and quality professionals to build expert skills in systematic problem solving. The course covers the deep analysis of event-based problems, rule-based problems and human failures. The expert toolkit allows you tackling deviations and defects at the system level by eliminating, reducing, and controlling the entire set of causes, identified on the logic tree – assisted by an experienced coach.

Problem Solving Training Certificate for Beginner Level

Problem Solver | Basic Skills

Online course for beginners to build foundational skills to identify, describe, contain, correct, and prevent simple problems from reoccurring.

Problem Solving Training Certificate for Advanced Level

Problem Solver | Advanced Skills

Coaching-supported advanced course to strengthen problem-solving skills, to deeply analyze and effectively address identified root causes.

Problem Solving Training Certificate for Expert Level

Problem Solver | Expert Skills

Coaching-supported expert course to solve complex problems by systematically reducing, eliminating, or controlling direct causes and root causes.

Basic Problem Solver

  • 100% online and self-certified, without coaching
  • Build basic skills in systematic problem solving
  • Ideal for beginners from any function, any level
  • Formally analyze and solve a basic problem
  • Takes 2-5 days effort during a 1-month period
  • Get access to basic videos, templates, toolkit
  • Apply multi-5-why to identify root causes
  • Formally implement a solution using PDCA
  • Create financial benefits; typ. $3k or more
  • Get your certificate "Problem Solver"

Advanced Problem Solver

  • Coaching sessions for business case and impact
  • Build advanced skills in problem-solving
  • Ideal for managers, supervisors, specialists
  • Solve an advanced problem and get feedback
  • Takes 5-10 days effort during a 2-month period
  • Get access to advanced videos, templates, tools
  • Perform root cause analysis and test robustness
  • Formally implement solutions, test effectiveness
  • Create financial benefits; typ. $30k or more
  • Get your certificate "Advanced Problem Solver"

Expert Problem Solver

  • Coaching sessions, expert validation, live support
  • Build expert skills in systematic problem solving
  • For engineers. managers, quality professionals
  • Solve a major problem, supported by a coach
  • Takes 10-20 days effort during a 3-month period
  • Get access to expert videos, templates, toolkit
  • Identify physical, human, and latent causes
  • Formally eliminate, reduce, control causes
  • Create financial benefits; typ. $60k or more
  • Get your certificate "Expert Problem Solver"

problem solving training benefits

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Creative Thinking: Innovative Solutions to Complex Challenges

Learn how to grow a culture of creativity to innovate competitive solutions.

October 16, 2024

8:30 AM – 4:30 PM ET

2 consecutive days

$2,990 Programs fill quickly — free cancellation up to 14 days prior

Registration Deadline

October 8, 2024

Overview: Creative Thinking Skills Course

The tech breakthrough that makes smartphones irrelevant, a new viral ad campaign, your company’s next big revenue generator — ideas like these could be sitting in your brain; all you need are the creative thinking skills and strategies to pull them out.

This interactive program focuses explicitly on the creative thinking skills you need to solve complex problems and design innovative solutions. Learn how to transform your thinking from the standard “why can’t we” to the powerful “how might we.” Crack the code on how to consistently leverage your team’s creative potential in order to drive innovation within your organization. Explore how to build a climate for innovation, remove barriers to creativity, cultivate courage, and create more agile, proactive, and inspired teams.

You will leave this program with new ideas about how to think more productively and how to introduce creative thinking skills into your organization. You can apply key takeaways immediately to implement a new leadership vision, inspire renewed enthusiasm, and enjoy the skills and tools to tackle challenges and seize opportunities.

Innovation experts Anne Manning and Susan Robertson bring to this highly-interactive and powerful program their decades of experience promoting corporate innovation, teaching the art of creative problem solving, and applying the principles of brain science to solve complex challenges.

Who Should Take Creative Thinking Skills Training?

This program is ideal for leaders with at least 3 years of management experience. It is designed for leaders who want to develop new strategies, frameworks, and tools for creative problem solving. Whether you are a team lead, project manager, sales director, or executive, you’ll learn powerful tools to lead your team and your organization to create innovative solutions to complex challenges.

All participants will earn a Certificate of Participation from the Harvard Division of Continuing Education.

Benefits of Creative Thinking Skills Training

The goal of this creative thinking program is to help you develop the strategic concepts and tactical skills to lead creative problem solving for your team and your organization. You will learn to:

  • Retrain your brain to avoid negative cognitive biases and long-held beliefs and myths that sabotage creative problem solving and innovation
  • Become a more nimble, proactive, and inspired thinker and leader
  • Create the type of organizational culture that supports collaboration and nurtures rather than kills ideas
  • Gain a practical toolkit for solving the “unsolvable” by incorporating creative thinking into day-to-day processes
  • Understand cognitive preferences (yours and others’) to adapt the creative thinking process and drive your team’s success
  • Develop techniques that promote effective brainstorming and enable you to reframe problems in a way that inspires innovative solutions

The curriculum in this highly interactive program utilizes research-based methodologies and techniques to build creative thinking skills and stimulate creative problem solving.

Through intensive group discussions and small-group exercises, you will focus on topics such as:

  • The Creative Problem Solving process: a researched, learnable, repeatable process for uncovering new and useful ideas. This process includes a “how to” on clarifying, ideating, developing, and implementing new solutions to intractable problems
  • The cognitive preferences that drive how we approach problems, and how to leverage those cognitive preferences for individual and team success
  • How to develop—and implement— a methodology that overcomes barriers to innovative thinking and fosters the generation of new ideas, strategies, and techniques
  • The role of language, including asking the right questions, in reframing problems, challenging assumptions, and driving successful creative problem solving
  • Fostering a culture that values, nurtures, and rewards creative solutions

Considering this program?

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Related Programs

  • Design Thinking: Creating Better Customer Experiences
  • Agile Leadership: Transforming Mindsets and Capabilities in Your Organization

October Schedule

  • Creative Challenges: A Team Sport
  • The Place to Begin: Reframe the Challenge
  • Ideas on Demand
  • Building a Creative Organization


Anne manning, susan robertson, certificates of leadership excellence.

The Certificates of Leadership Excellence (CLE) are designed for leaders with the desire to enhance their business acumen, challenge current thinking, and expand their leadership skills.

This program is one of several CLE qualifying programs. Register today and get started earning your certificate.

Harvard Division of Continuing Education

The Division of Continuing Education (DCE) at Harvard University is dedicated to bringing rigorous academics and innovative teaching capabilities to those seeking to improve their lives through education. We make Harvard education accessible to lifelong learners from high school to retirement.

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What Is Problem-Solving Therapy?

Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of The Anxiety Workbook and founder of the website About Social Anxiety. She has a Master's degree in clinical psychology.

problem solving training benefits

Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania.

problem solving training benefits

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Problem-Solving Therapy Techniques

How effective is problem-solving therapy, things to consider, how to get started.

Problem-solving therapy is a brief intervention that provides people with the tools they need to identify and solve problems that arise from big and small life stressors. It aims to improve your overall quality of life and reduce the negative impact of psychological and physical illness.

Problem-solving therapy can be used to treat depression , among other conditions. It can be administered by a doctor or mental health professional and may be combined with other treatment approaches.

At a Glance

Problem-solving therapy is a short-term treatment used to help people who are experiencing depression, stress, PTSD, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and other mental health problems develop the tools they need to deal with challenges. This approach teaches people to identify problems, generate solutions, and implement those solutions. Let's take a closer look at how problem-solving therapy can help people be more resilient and adaptive in the face of stress.

Problem-solving therapy is based on a model that takes into account the importance of real-life problem-solving. In other words, the key to managing the impact of stressful life events is to know how to address issues as they arise. Problem-solving therapy is very practical in its approach and is only concerned with the present, rather than delving into your past.

This form of therapy can take place one-on-one or in a group format and may be offered in person or online via telehealth . Sessions can be anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours long. 

Key Components

There are two major components that make up the problem-solving therapy framework:

  • Applying a positive problem-solving orientation to your life
  • Using problem-solving skills

A positive problem-solving orientation means viewing things in an optimistic light, embracing self-efficacy , and accepting the idea that problems are a normal part of life. Problem-solving skills are behaviors that you can rely on to help you navigate conflict, even during times of stress. This includes skills like:

  • Knowing how to identify a problem
  • Defining the problem in a helpful way
  • Trying to understand the problem more deeply
  • Setting goals related to the problem
  • Generating alternative, creative solutions to the problem
  • Choosing the best course of action
  • Implementing the choice you have made
  • Evaluating the outcome to determine next steps

Problem-solving therapy is all about training you to become adaptive in your life so that you will start to see problems as challenges to be solved instead of insurmountable obstacles. It also means that you will recognize the action that is required to engage in effective problem-solving techniques.

Planful Problem-Solving

One problem-solving technique, called planful problem-solving, involves following a series of steps to fix issues in a healthy, constructive way:

  • Problem definition and formulation : This step involves identifying the real-life problem that needs to be solved and formulating it in a way that allows you to generate potential solutions.
  • Generation of alternative solutions : This stage involves coming up with various potential solutions to the problem at hand. The goal in this step is to brainstorm options to creatively address the life stressor in ways that you may not have previously considered.
  • Decision-making strategies : This stage involves discussing different strategies for making decisions as well as identifying obstacles that may get in the way of solving the problem at hand.
  • Solution implementation and verification : This stage involves implementing a chosen solution and then verifying whether it was effective in addressing the problem.

Other Techniques

Other techniques your therapist may go over include:

  • Problem-solving multitasking , which helps you learn to think clearly and solve problems effectively even during times of stress
  • Stop, slow down, think, and act (SSTA) , which is meant to encourage you to become more emotionally mindful when faced with conflict
  • Healthy thinking and imagery , which teaches you how to embrace more positive self-talk while problem-solving

What Problem-Solving Therapy Can Help With

Problem-solving therapy addresses life stress issues and focuses on helping you find solutions to concrete issues. This approach can be applied to problems associated with various psychological and physiological symptoms.

Mental Health Issues

Problem-solving therapy may help address mental health issues, like:

  • Chronic stress due to accumulating minor issues
  • Complications associated with traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Emotional distress
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Problems associated with a chronic disease like cancer, heart disease, or diabetes
  • Self-harm and feelings of hopelessness
  • Substance use
  • Suicidal ideation

Specific Life Challenges

This form of therapy is also helpful for dealing with specific life problems, such as:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Dissatisfaction at work
  • Everyday life stressors
  • Family problems
  • Financial difficulties
  • Relationship conflicts

Your doctor or mental healthcare professional will be able to advise whether problem-solving therapy could be helpful for your particular issue. In general, if you are struggling with specific, concrete problems that you are having trouble finding solutions for, problem-solving therapy could be helpful for you.

Benefits of Problem-Solving Therapy

The skills learned in problem-solving therapy can be helpful for managing all areas of your life. These can include:

  • Being able to identify which stressors trigger your negative emotions (e.g., sadness, anger)
  • Confidence that you can handle problems that you face
  • Having a systematic approach on how to deal with life's problems
  • Having a toolbox of strategies to solve the issues you face
  • Increased confidence to find creative solutions
  • Knowing how to identify which barriers will impede your progress
  • Knowing how to manage emotions when they arise
  • Reduced avoidance and increased action-taking
  • The ability to accept life problems that can't be solved
  • The ability to make effective decisions
  • The development of patience (realizing that not all problems have a "quick fix")

Problem-solving therapy can help people feel more empowered to deal with the problems they face in their lives. Rather than feeling overwhelmed when stressors begin to take a toll, this therapy introduces new coping skills that can boost self-efficacy and resilience .

Other Types of Therapy

Other similar types of therapy include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) . While these therapies work to change thinking and behaviors, they work a bit differently. Both CBT and SFBT are less structured than problem-solving therapy and may focus on broader issues. CBT focuses on identifying and changing maladaptive thoughts, and SFBT works to help people look for solutions and build self-efficacy based on strengths.

This form of therapy was initially developed to help people combat stress through effective problem-solving, and it was later adapted to address clinical depression specifically. Today, much of the research on problem-solving therapy deals with its effectiveness in treating depression.

Problem-solving therapy has been shown to help depression in: 

  • Older adults
  • People coping with serious illnesses like cancer

Problem-solving therapy also appears to be effective as a brief treatment for depression, offering benefits in as little as six to eight sessions with a therapist or another healthcare professional. This may make it a good option for someone unable to commit to a lengthier treatment for depression.

Problem-solving therapy is not a good fit for everyone. It may not be effective at addressing issues that don't have clear solutions, like seeking meaning or purpose in life. Problem-solving therapy is also intended to treat specific problems, not general habits or thought patterns .

In general, it's also important to remember that problem-solving therapy is not a primary treatment for mental disorders. If you are living with the symptoms of a serious mental illness such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia , you may need additional treatment with evidence-based approaches for your particular concern.

Problem-solving therapy is best aimed at someone who has a mental or physical issue that is being treated separately, but who also has life issues that go along with that problem that has yet to be addressed.

For example, it could help if you can't clean your house or pay your bills because of your depression, or if a cancer diagnosis is interfering with your quality of life.

Your doctor may be able to recommend therapists in your area who utilize this approach, or they may offer it themselves as part of their practice. You can also search for a problem-solving therapist with help from the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Society of Clinical Psychology .

If receiving problem-solving therapy from a doctor or mental healthcare professional is not an option for you, you could also consider implementing it as a self-help strategy using a workbook designed to help you learn problem-solving skills on your own.

During your first session, your therapist may spend some time explaining their process and approach. They may ask you to identify the problem you’re currently facing, and they’ll likely discuss your goals for therapy .

Keep In Mind

Problem-solving therapy may be a short-term intervention that's focused on solving a specific issue in your life. If you need further help with something more pervasive, it can also become a longer-term treatment option.

Get Help Now

We've tried, tested, and written unbiased reviews of the best online therapy programs including Talkspace, BetterHelp, and ReGain. Find out which option is the best for you.

Shang P, Cao X, You S, Feng X, Li N, Jia Y. Problem-solving therapy for major depressive disorders in older adults: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials .  Aging Clin Exp Res . 2021;33(6):1465-1475. doi:10.1007/s40520-020-01672-3

Cuijpers P, Wit L de, Kleiboer A, Karyotaki E, Ebert DD. Problem-solving therapy for adult depression: An updated meta-analysis . Eur Psychiatry . 2018;48(1):27-37. doi:10.1016/j.eurpsy.2017.11.006

Nezu AM, Nezu CM, D'Zurilla TJ. Problem-Solving Therapy: A Treatment Manual . New York; 2013. doi:10.1891/9780826109415.0001

Owens D, Wright-Hughes A, Graham L, et al. Problem-solving therapy rather than treatment as usual for adults after self-harm: a pragmatic, feasibility, randomised controlled trial (the MIDSHIPS trial) .  Pilot Feasibility Stud . 2020;6:119. doi:10.1186/s40814-020-00668-0

Sorsdahl K, Stein DJ, Corrigall J, et al. The efficacy of a blended motivational interviewing and problem solving therapy intervention to reduce substance use among patients presenting for emergency services in South Africa: A randomized controlled trial . Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy . 2015;10(1):46. doi:doi.org/10.1186/s13011-015-0042-1

Margolis SA, Osborne P, Gonzalez JS. Problem solving . In: Gellman MD, ed. Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine . Springer International Publishing; 2020:1745-1747. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-39903-0_208

Kirkham JG, Choi N, Seitz DP. Meta-analysis of problem solving therapy for the treatment of major depressive disorder in older adults . Int J Geriatr Psychiatry . 2016;31(5):526-535. doi:10.1002/gps.4358

Garand L, Rinaldo DE, Alberth MM, et al. Effects of problem solving therapy on mental health outcomes in family caregivers of persons with a new diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment or early dementia: A randomized controlled trial . Am J Geriatr Psychiatry . 2014;22(8):771-781. doi:10.1016/j.jagp.2013.07.007

Noyes K, Zapf AL, Depner RM, et al. Problem-solving skills training in adult cancer survivors: Bright IDEAS-AC pilot study .  Cancer Treat Res Commun . 2022;31:100552. doi:10.1016/j.ctarc.2022.100552

Albert SM, King J, Anderson S, et al. Depression agency-based collaborative: effect of problem-solving therapy on risk of common mental disorders in older adults with home care needs . The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry . 2019;27(6):619-624. doi:10.1016/j.jagp.2019.01.002

By Arlin Cuncic, MA Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of The Anxiety Workbook and founder of the website About Social Anxiety. She has a Master's degree in clinical psychology.

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What Is Creative Problem-Solving & Why Is It Important?

Business team using creative problem-solving

  • 01 Feb 2022

One of the biggest hindrances to innovation is complacency—it can be more comfortable to do what you know than venture into the unknown. Business leaders can overcome this barrier by mobilizing creative team members and providing space to innovate.

There are several tools you can use to encourage creativity in the workplace. Creative problem-solving is one of them, which facilitates the development of innovative solutions to difficult problems.

Here’s an overview of creative problem-solving and why it’s important in business.

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What Is Creative Problem-Solving?

Research is necessary when solving a problem. But there are situations where a problem’s specific cause is difficult to pinpoint. This can occur when there’s not enough time to narrow down the problem’s source or there are differing opinions about its root cause.

In such cases, you can use creative problem-solving , which allows you to explore potential solutions regardless of whether a problem has been defined.

Creative problem-solving is less structured than other innovation processes and encourages exploring open-ended solutions. It also focuses on developing new perspectives and fostering creativity in the workplace . Its benefits include:

  • Finding creative solutions to complex problems : User research can insufficiently illustrate a situation’s complexity. While other innovation processes rely on this information, creative problem-solving can yield solutions without it.
  • Adapting to change : Business is constantly changing, and business leaders need to adapt. Creative problem-solving helps overcome unforeseen challenges and find solutions to unconventional problems.
  • Fueling innovation and growth : In addition to solutions, creative problem-solving can spark innovative ideas that drive company growth. These ideas can lead to new product lines, services, or a modified operations structure that improves efficiency.

Design Thinking and Innovation | Uncover creative solutions to your business problems | Learn More

Creative problem-solving is traditionally based on the following key principles :

1. Balance Divergent and Convergent Thinking

Creative problem-solving uses two primary tools to find solutions: divergence and convergence. Divergence generates ideas in response to a problem, while convergence narrows them down to a shortlist. It balances these two practices and turns ideas into concrete solutions.

2. Reframe Problems as Questions

By framing problems as questions, you shift from focusing on obstacles to solutions. This provides the freedom to brainstorm potential ideas.

3. Defer Judgment of Ideas

When brainstorming, it can be natural to reject or accept ideas right away. Yet, immediate judgments interfere with the idea generation process. Even ideas that seem implausible can turn into outstanding innovations upon further exploration and development.

4. Focus on "Yes, And" Instead of "No, But"

Using negative words like "no" discourages creative thinking. Instead, use positive language to build and maintain an environment that fosters the development of creative and innovative ideas.

Creative Problem-Solving and Design Thinking

Whereas creative problem-solving facilitates developing innovative ideas through a less structured workflow, design thinking takes a far more organized approach.

Design thinking is a human-centered, solutions-based process that fosters the ideation and development of solutions. In the online course Design Thinking and Innovation , Harvard Business School Dean Srikant Datar leverages a four-phase framework to explain design thinking.

The four stages are:

The four stages of design thinking: clarify, ideate, develop, and implement

  • Clarify: The clarification stage allows you to empathize with the user and identify problems. Observations and insights are informed by thorough research. Findings are then reframed as problem statements or questions.
  • Ideate: Ideation is the process of coming up with innovative ideas. The divergence of ideas involved with creative problem-solving is a major focus.
  • Develop: In the development stage, ideas evolve into experiments and tests. Ideas converge and are explored through prototyping and open critique.
  • Implement: Implementation involves continuing to test and experiment to refine the solution and encourage its adoption.

Creative problem-solving primarily operates in the ideate phase of design thinking but can be applied to others. This is because design thinking is an iterative process that moves between the stages as ideas are generated and pursued. This is normal and encouraged, as innovation requires exploring multiple ideas.

Creative Problem-Solving Tools

While there are many useful tools in the creative problem-solving process, here are three you should know:

Creating a Problem Story

One way to innovate is by creating a story about a problem to understand how it affects users and what solutions best fit their needs. Here are the steps you need to take to use this tool properly.

1. Identify a UDP

Create a problem story to identify the undesired phenomena (UDP). For example, consider a company that produces printers that overheat. In this case, the UDP is "our printers overheat."

2. Move Forward in Time

To move forward in time, ask: “Why is this a problem?” For example, minor damage could be one result of the machines overheating. In more extreme cases, printers may catch fire. Don't be afraid to create multiple problem stories if you think of more than one UDP.

3. Move Backward in Time

To move backward in time, ask: “What caused this UDP?” If you can't identify the root problem, think about what typically causes the UDP to occur. For the overheating printers, overuse could be a cause.

Following the three-step framework above helps illustrate a clear problem story:

  • The printer is overused.
  • The printer overheats.
  • The printer breaks down.

You can extend the problem story in either direction if you think of additional cause-and-effect relationships.

4. Break the Chains

By this point, you’ll have multiple UDP storylines. Take two that are similar and focus on breaking the chains connecting them. This can be accomplished through inversion or neutralization.

  • Inversion: Inversion changes the relationship between two UDPs so the cause is the same but the effect is the opposite. For example, if the UDP is "the more X happens, the more likely Y is to happen," inversion changes the equation to "the more X happens, the less likely Y is to happen." Using the printer example, inversion would consider: "What if the more a printer is used, the less likely it’s going to overheat?" Innovation requires an open mind. Just because a solution initially seems unlikely doesn't mean it can't be pursued further or spark additional ideas.
  • Neutralization: Neutralization completely eliminates the cause-and-effect relationship between X and Y. This changes the above equation to "the more or less X happens has no effect on Y." In the case of the printers, neutralization would rephrase the relationship to "the more or less a printer is used has no effect on whether it overheats."

Even if creating a problem story doesn't provide a solution, it can offer useful context to users’ problems and additional ideas to be explored. Given that divergence is one of the fundamental practices of creative problem-solving, it’s a good idea to incorporate it into each tool you use.


Brainstorming is a tool that can be highly effective when guided by the iterative qualities of the design thinking process. It involves openly discussing and debating ideas and topics in a group setting. This facilitates idea generation and exploration as different team members consider the same concept from multiple perspectives.

Hosting brainstorming sessions can result in problems, such as groupthink or social loafing. To combat this, leverage a three-step brainstorming method involving divergence and convergence :

  • Have each group member come up with as many ideas as possible and write them down to ensure the brainstorming session is productive.
  • Continue the divergence of ideas by collectively sharing and exploring each idea as a group. The goal is to create a setting where new ideas are inspired by open discussion.
  • Begin the convergence of ideas by narrowing them down to a few explorable options. There’s no "right number of ideas." Don't be afraid to consider exploring all of them, as long as you have the resources to do so.

Alternate Worlds

The alternate worlds tool is an empathetic approach to creative problem-solving. It encourages you to consider how someone in another world would approach your situation.

For example, if you’re concerned that the printers you produce overheat and catch fire, consider how a different industry would approach the problem. How would an automotive expert solve it? How would a firefighter?

Be creative as you consider and research alternate worlds. The purpose is not to nail down a solution right away but to continue the ideation process through diverging and exploring ideas.

Which HBS Online Entrepreneurship and Innovation Course is Right for You? | Download Your Free Flowchart

Continue Developing Your Skills

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, marketer, or business leader, learning the ropes of design thinking can be an effective way to build your skills and foster creativity and innovation in any setting.

If you're ready to develop your design thinking and creative problem-solving skills, explore Design Thinking and Innovation , one of our online entrepreneurship and innovation courses. If you aren't sure which course is the right fit, download our free course flowchart to determine which best aligns with your goals.

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5 Advantages and Disadvantages of Problem-Based Learning [+ Activity Design Steps]

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Written by Marcus Guido

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Advantages of Problem-Based Learning

Disadvantages of problem-based learning, steps to designing problem-based learning activities.

Used since the 1960s, many teachers express concerns about the effectiveness of problem-based learning (PBL) in certain classroom settings.

Whether you introduce the student-centred pedagogy as a one-time activity or mainstay exercise, grouping students together to solve open-ended problems can present pros and cons.

Below are five advantages and disadvantages of problem-based learning to help you determine if it can work in your classroom.

If you decide to introduce an activity, there are also design creation steps and a downloadable guide to keep at your desk for easy reference.

1. Development of Long-Term Knowledge Retention

Students who participate in problem-based learning activities can improve their abilities to retain and recall information, according to a literature review of studies about the pedagogy .

The literature review states “elaboration of knowledge at the time of learning” -- by sharing facts and ideas through discussion and answering questions -- “enhances subsequent retrieval.” This form of elaborating reinforces understanding of subject matter , making it easier to remember.

Small-group discussion can be especially beneficial -- ideally, each student will get chances to participate.

But regardless of group size, problem-based learning promotes long-term knowledge retention by encouraging students to discuss -- and answer questions about -- new concepts as they’re learning them.

2. Use of Diverse Instruction Types

problem solving training benefits

You can use problem-based learning activities to the meet the diverse learning needs and styles of your students, effectively engaging a diverse classroom in the process. In general, grouping students together for problem-based learning will allow them to:

  • Address real-life issues that require real-life solutions, appealing to students who struggle to grasp abstract concepts
  • Participate in small-group and large-group learning, helping students who don’t excel during solo work grasp new material
  • Talk about their ideas and challenge each other in a constructive manner, giving participatory learners an avenue to excel
  • Tackle a problem using a range of content you provide -- such as videos, audio recordings, news articles and other applicable material -- allowing the lesson to appeal to distinct learning styles

Since running a problem-based learning scenario will give you a way to use these differentiated instruction approaches , it can be especially worthwhile if your students don’t have similar learning preferences.

3. Continuous Engagement

problem solving training benefits

Providing a problem-based learning challenge can engage students by acting as a break from normal lessons and common exercises.

It’s not hard to see the potential for engagement, as kids collaborate to solve real-world problems that directly affect or heavily interest them.

Although conducted with post-secondary students, a study published by the Association for the Study of Medical Education reported increased student attendance to -- and better attitudes towards -- courses that feature problem-based learning.

These activities may lose some inherent engagement if you repeat them too often, but can certainly inject excitement into class.

4. Development of Transferable Skills

Problem-based learning can help students develop skills they can transfer to real-world scenarios, according to a 2015 book that outlines theories and characteristics of the pedagogy .

The tangible contexts and consequences presented in a problem-based learning activity “allow learning to become more profound and durable.” As you present lessons through these real-life scenarios, students should be able to apply learnings if they eventually face similar issues.

For example, if they work together to address a dispute within the school, they may develop lifelong skills related to negotiation and communicating their thoughts with others.

As long as the problem’s context applies to out-of-class scenarios, students should be able to build skills they can use again.

5. Improvement of Teamwork and Interpersonal Skills

problem solving training benefits

Successful completion of a problem-based learning challenge hinges on interaction and communication, meaning students should also build transferable skills based on teamwork and collaboration . Instead of memorizing facts, they get chances to present their ideas to a group, defending and revising them when needed.

What’s more, this should help them understand a group dynamic. Depending on a given student, this can involve developing listening skills and a sense of responsibility when completing one’s tasks. Such skills and knowledge should serve your students well when they enter higher education levels and, eventually, the working world.

1. Potentially Poorer Performance on Tests

problem solving training benefits

Devoting too much time to problem-based learning can cause issues when students take standardized tests, as they may not have the breadth of knowledge needed to achieve high scores. Whereas problem-based learners develop skills related to collaboration and justifying their reasoning, many tests reward fact-based learning with multiple choice and short answer questions. Despite offering many advantages, you could spot this problem develop if you run problem-based learning activities too regularly.

2. Student Unpreparedness

problem solving training benefits

Problem-based learning exercises can engage many of your kids, but others may feel disengaged as a result of not being ready to handle this type of exercise for a number of reasons. On a class-by-class and activity-by-activity basis, participation may be hindered due to:

  • Immaturity  -- Some students may not display enough maturity to effectively work in a group, not fulfilling expectations and distracting other students.
  • Unfamiliarity  -- Some kids may struggle to grasp the concept of an open problem, since they can’t rely on you for answers.
  • Lack of Prerequisite Knowledge  -- Although the activity should address a relevant and tangible problem, students may require new or abstract information to create an effective solution.

You can partially mitigate these issues by actively monitoring the classroom and distributing helpful resources, such as guiding questions and articles to read. This should keep students focused and help them overcome knowledge gaps. But if you foresee facing these challenges too frequently, you may decide to avoid or seldom introduce problem-based learning exercises.

3. Teacher Unpreparedness

If supervising a problem-based learning activity is a new experience, you may have to prepare to adjust some teaching habits . For example, overtly correcting students who make flawed assumptions or statements can prevent them from thinking through difficult concepts and questions. Similarly, you shouldn’t teach to promote the fast recall of facts. Instead, you should concentrate on:

  • Giving hints to help fix improper reasoning
  • Questioning student logic and ideas in a constructive manner
  • Distributing content for research and to reinforce new concepts
  • Asking targeted questions to a group or the class, focusing their attention on a specific aspect of the problem

Depending on your teaching style, it may take time to prepare yourself to successfully run a problem-based learning lesson.

4. Time-Consuming Assessment

problem solving training benefits

If you choose to give marks, assessing a student’s performance throughout a problem-based learning exercise demands constant monitoring and note-taking. You must take factors into account such as:

  • Completed tasks
  • The quality of those tasks
  • The group’s overall work and solution
  • Communication among team members
  • Anything you outlined on the activity’s rubric

Monitoring these criteria is required for each student, making it time-consuming to give and justify a mark for everyone.

5. Varying Degrees of Relevancy and Applicability

It can be difficult to identify a tangible problem that students can solve with content they’re studying and skills they’re mastering. This introduces two clear issues. First, if it is easy for students to divert from the challenge’s objectives, they may miss pertinent information. Second, you could veer off the problem’s focus and purpose as students run into unanticipated obstacles. Overcoming obstacles has benefits, but may compromise the planning you did. It can also make it hard to get back on track once the activity is complete. Because of the difficulty associated with keeping activities relevant and applicable, you may see problem-based learning as too taxing.

If the advantages outweigh the disadvantages -- or you just want to give problem-based learning a shot -- follow these steps:

1. Identify an Applicable Real-Life Problem

problem solving training benefits

Find a tangible problem that’s relevant to your students, allowing them to easily contextualize it and hopefully apply it to future challenges. To identify an appropriate real-world problem, look at issues related to your:

  • Students’ shared interests

You must also ensure that students understand the problem and the information around it. So, not all problems are appropriate for all grade levels.

2. Determine the Overarching Purpose of the Activity

Depending on the problem you choose, determine what you want to accomplish by running the challenge. For example, you may intend to help your students improve skills related to:

  • Collaboration
  • Problem-solving
  • Curriculum-aligned topics
  • Processing diverse content

A more precise example, you may prioritize collaboration skills by assigning specific tasks to pairs of students within each team. In doing so, students will continuously develop communication and collaboration abilities by working as a couple and part of a small group. By defining a clear purpose, you’ll also have an easier time following the next step.

3. Create and Distribute Helpful Material

problem solving training benefits

Handouts and other content not only act as a set of resources, but help students stay focused on the activity and its purpose. For example, if you want them to improve a certain math skill , you should make material that highlights the mathematical aspects of the problem. You may decide to provide items such as:

  • Data that helps quantify and add context to the problem
  • Videos, presentations and other audio-visual material
  • A list of preliminary questions to investigate

Providing a range of resources can be especially important for elementary students and struggling students in higher grades, who may not have self-direction skills to work without them.

4. Set Goals and Expectations for Your Students

Along with the aforementioned materials, give students a guide or rubric that details goals and expectations. It will allow you to further highlight the purpose of the problem-based learning exercise, as you can explain what you’re looking for in terms of collaboration, the final product and anything else. It should also help students stay on track by acting as a reference throughout the activity.

5. Participate

problem solving training benefits

Although explicitly correcting students may be discouraged, you can still help them and ask questions to dig into their thought processes. When you see an opportunity, consider if it’s worthwhile to:

  • Fill gaps in knowledge
  • Provide hints, not answers
  • Question a student’s conclusion or logic regarding a certain point, helping them think through tough spots

By participating in these ways, you can provide insight when students need it most, encouraging them to effectively analyze the problem.

6. Have Students Present Ideas and Findings

If you divided them into small groups, requiring students to present their thoughts and results in front the class adds a large-group learning component to the lesson. Encourage other students to ask questions, allowing the presenting group to elaborate and provide evidence for their thoughts. This wraps up the activity and gives your class a final chance to find solutions to the problem.

Wrapping Up

The effectiveness of problem-based learning may differ between classrooms and individual students, depending on how significant specific advantages and disadvantages are to you. Evaluative research consistently shows value in giving students a question and letting them take control of their learning. But the extent of this value can depend on the difficulties you face.It may be wise to try a problem-based learning activity, and go forward based on results.

Create or log into your teacher account on Prodigy -- an adaptive math game that adjusts content to accommodate player trouble spots and learning speeds. Aligned to US and Canadian curricula, it’s used by more than 350,000 teachers and 10 million students. It may be wise to try a problem-based learning activity, and go forward based on results.

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Discover the benefits of leadership training: Why you need it

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What is leadership training?

Who can undergo leadership training, 5 benefits of leadership training, why is leadership development important, for the future: looking at different approaches.

We need leaders everywhere. 

Someone needs to show us how to stay organized, build confidence , or complete a project. When things get rough, we need someone reliable and trustworthy to turn to for guidance. 

Great leaders create a positive impact on those around them, so why do some workplaces still underestimate the benefits of leadership training?

Not everyone has natural leadership characteristics , but that's OK. Effective leaders undergo years of training that demand dedication, a growth mindset , and attention to detail. 

Some people need a bit extra help honing their leadership skills, and that's what we're here to help with. We'll explain the key benefits of leadership training , what it is, why it's important for our work environment, and how we go about achieving it.

Leadership training usually refers to programs or courses that work to improve employees' leadership skills, like decision-making, communicating, problem-solving, and adaptability. 

Becoming a leader means evaluating your current abilities and learning how to improve them. In leadership training programs, people evaluate leadership strategies, review examples of strong and poor leadership, and analyze how to do better. 

The goal of leadership training is to build these skills — or sharpen team members' existing skills —  to help them become future leaders. And, whenever there's a leadership challenge , trained team members can step in for guidance and support. 

If you’re just starting your leadership training, you must develop your self-awareness . Being a great leader isn’t just about knowing a lot about your industry. It demands you to understand your needs, strengths, and weaknesses to learn how to best support your team.

Knowing your own faults and increasing your interpersonal skills helps you identify similar traits in your team to empower them.

Training for leadership skills takes time, but it's a worthwhile investment. Successful leaders uplift a company and help them stay on track toward its common goals. 

Research has found that great leaders help build trust between employees and managers , creating a company culture where people feel comfortable and welcome. Employees feel welcome to make suggestions or share their perspectives, which boosts the creative ideas and innovation flowing in the office.

But employees can’t undergo leadership training alone. To be effective, this training demands a coach who's already a successful leader to pass on this information. Even if it’s done virtually or asynchronously, it still requires an experienced teacher or mentor.

If you're looking for someone to help you through this journey, consider meeting with a BetterUp coach. They'll be your biggest cheerleader as you sharpen your leadership skills and guide you toward a future full of confidence.

Being a leader isn't reserved for certain positions. Leadership for development in any position will help anyone improve their skills and level up. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in the industry for one year, five years, or more. But it’s especially helpful to get started if you want to become a leader without prior experience.

Plus, most leadership roles are constantly evolving.  And just when you think you know everything about a position, you'll encounter a new challenge. It might be your team growing, shrinking, or taking on new responsibilities — but it’ll demand that you adapt. Everyone can learn something new about leadership, regardless of their career stage.

Here are a few employee positions at a variety of career levels and how you might benefit from leadership training:

  • New leaders: This is when you're starting your first leadership position and need all the leadership and new manager training you can get. You might not have prior leadership experience and feel like an imposter , but you've been given the opportunity to be a leader. That means it’s time to learn. It's when you learn leadership’s basic do's and don'ts and how to start off on the right foot.
  • Early to mid-career professionals: After gaining experience in your role and industry, you're probably ready to move up. But you’ll need to build on your existing knowledge to reach your full potential as a leader. Or, you might not want to secure a management position, but having those new skills would be helpful for your current job.
  • Executives and directors: You've been in a leadership position for a while now, but it's time to improve your leadership style. Your industry is always changing, and you want to continue to be a role model. This is when you develop skills to help with mentoring and inspiring others. 


One of the main things to remember when talking about the benefits of leadership training is that it's not all about you. Sure, it helps make your resume stand out and builds your confidence, but your leadership skills are invaluable for your team. 

Here are five key benefits of leadership training:

1. Helps with employee retention

A business can't run without engaged employees. Studies have found that team members who work with inspirational and strong leaders are more likely to be engaged and stay at their current job .

Workplaces with a higher employee turnover rate aren't engaging their staff enough or providing the support they need. That's where a strong leader comes in: to keep team members engaged and motivated at work.

2. Manages challenging situations

Problems and issues can arise in any work environment. Things like being short-staffed during someone’s vacation or your technology failing to work all happen at any time . And when nobody knows how to handle them, even the smallest challenges derail an entire office. 

'But with an effective leader, problem-solving isn’t an issue. In the face of adversity, a great leader will empower team members to work through problems — not jump to feeling stress or giving up.

3. Work as a Whole Person

What does it mean to be a leader who shows up as a Whole Person ? It means you'll bring all of your values to work, not just leave them at home. Your leadership training will improve your Whole Self in areas like your emotional regulation, how you interact with others, and the quality of your work.

Plus, what you learn at work will transfer to your personal life. Navigating conflict with your friends or family will be easier with improved patience, empathy, and creative problem-solving skills.


4. Boosts overall productivity

A great leader ensures that everyone knows how to do their job well. You'll make sure that everyone feels comfortable with and has clarity about their roles. Soon enough, team members won't need to stop and ask questions or look for clarification and can work more efficiently.

And when your team members are doing their best, your team will have higher enjoyment, productivity, and satisfaction.

5. Increases everyone's confidence

Poor leaders fill team members with self-doubt and lower their self-esteem. These leaders don't make team members feel capable or successful. But as a strong leader, you’ll empower others and make a positive impact on the work environment.

Employees will be calm and motivated due to your confidence and patience while searching for solutions and motivate others to keep working toward their goals. 

Studies have found that teams with leaders who take the time to teach their employees new things are more resilient . You'll all see that you've gained new skills that allow you to set more ambitious goals and be bolder.

Why is leadership training important? Businesses crumble without effective leadership. Individuals, teams, and companies can’t meet their goals. And when they don’t meet their goals, it’ll make them question their abilities and self-worth, negatively impacting their well-being. Your workplace needs quality leadership, and that’s harder to do without training.

The Global Leadership Forecast found that U.S. companies spent about 160 billion dollars on employee training and education, but not all of it is paying off. 


Here are a few key findings from the report:

  • Around 77% of organizations report they’re experiencing a leadership gap
  • Leaders who spend more time managing than interacting with employees on a personal level are 32% less engaged
  • Leaders are feeling less confident in helping team members avoid burnout and making hiring decisions
  • There's a 40% drop in how leaders rate their effectiveness in virtual leadership and empathy toward others

If you’re still not convinced, here are five other ways that leadership training benefits workplaces:

  • Sharpens everyone's communication skills so that people have a better understanding of how to work as a team, boosting teamwork and collaboration
  • Helps guide a business toward success and growth opportunities
  • Helps to manage change and demonstrates what adaptability looks like
  • Demonstrates confidence and authority in project leadership
  • Promotes an educating, empowering, and encouraging company culture

Experiencing the benefits of leadership training is exciting for you and your team . Your newly developed self-awareness will help other team members flourish and be more productive while you learn what's most important to you. 

Seeing how effective leadership impacts the workplace makes it hard to settle for anything less. You'll know what type of leadership you want to exude, and leadership building will help you achieve that.


The format will depend on things like the group’s size and needs. Here are a few different ways leadership training might be offered:

  • Leadership workshops: This is the most common way of going through leadership training, focusing on one topic at a time. Workshops usually involve hands-on activities or example scenarios. 
  • Leadership seminars: Seminars are for larger groups of people and offer an interactive way for teams to learn together and network with other professionals.
  • Online courses: If you’re looking to learn at your own pace, an online leadership course is best for you. Everyone works independently with the same resources and materials, and it’s great for people starting out as leaders.
  • Leadership conferences: Conferences help those already in leadership positions strengthen existing skills, share what they’ve learned, and listen to other people’s experiences.

Your leadership training format might look different than expected since it's not usually sitting in a classroom and listening to someone speak. Keep an open mind when adopting new learning styles and your skills will only get stronger.

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Maggie Wooll, MBA

Maggie Wooll is a researcher, author, and speaker focused on the evolving future of work. Formerly the lead researcher at the Deloitte Center for the Edge, she holds a Bachelor of Science in Education from Princeton University and an MBA from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. Maggie is passionate about creating better work and greater opportunities for all.

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Why Every Educator Needs to Teach Problem-Solving Skills

Strong problem-solving skills will help students be more resilient and will increase their academic and career success .

Want to learn more about how to measure and teach students’ higher-order skills, including problem solving, critical thinking, and written communication?

Problem-solving skills are essential in school, careers, and life.

Problem-solving skills are important for every student to master. They help individuals navigate everyday life and find solutions to complex issues and challenges. These skills are especially valuable in the workplace, where employees are often required to solve problems and make decisions quickly and effectively.

Problem-solving skills are also needed for students’ personal growth and development because they help individuals overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. By developing strong problem-solving skills, students can improve their overall quality of life and become more successful in their personal and professional endeavors.

problem solving training benefits

Problem-Solving Skills Help Students…

   develop resilience.

Problem-solving skills are an integral part of resilience and the ability to persevere through challenges and adversity. To effectively work through and solve a problem, students must be able to think critically and creatively. Critical and creative thinking help students approach a problem objectively, analyze its components, and determine different ways to go about finding a solution.  

This process in turn helps students build self-efficacy . When students are able to analyze and solve a problem, this increases their confidence, and they begin to realize the power they have to advocate for themselves and make meaningful change.

When students gain confidence in their ability to work through problems and attain their goals, they also begin to build a growth mindset . According to leading resilience researcher, Carol Dweck, “in a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”


    Set and Achieve Goals

Students who possess strong problem-solving skills are better equipped to set and achieve their goals. By learning how to identify problems, think critically, and develop solutions, students can become more self-sufficient and confident in their ability to achieve their goals. Additionally, problem-solving skills are used in virtually all fields, disciplines, and career paths, which makes them important for everyone. Building strong problem-solving skills will help students enhance their academic and career performance and become more competitive as they begin to seek full-time employment after graduation or pursue additional education and training.

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  Resolve Conflicts

In addition to increased social and emotional skills like self-efficacy and goal-setting, problem-solving skills teach students how to cooperate with others and work through disagreements and conflicts. Problem-solving promotes “thinking outside the box” and approaching a conflict by searching for different solutions. This is a very different (and more effective!) method than a more stagnant approach that focuses on placing blame or getting stuck on elements of a situation that can’t be changed.

While it’s natural to get frustrated or feel stuck when working through a conflict, students with strong problem-solving skills will be able to work through these obstacles, think more rationally, and address the situation with a more solution-oriented approach. These skills will be valuable for students in school, their careers, and throughout their lives.


    Achieve Success

We are all faced with problems every day. Problems arise in our personal lives, in school and in our jobs, and in our interactions with others. Employers especially are looking for candidates with strong problem-solving skills. In today’s job market, most jobs require the ability to analyze and effectively resolve complex issues. Students with strong problem-solving skills will stand out from other applicants and will have a more desirable skill set.

In a recent opinion piece published by The Hechinger Report , Virgel Hammonds, Chief Learning Officer at KnowledgeWorks, stated “Our world presents increasingly complex challenges. Education must adapt so that it nurtures problem solvers and critical thinkers.” Yet, the “traditional K–12 education system leaves little room for students to engage in real-world problem-solving scenarios.” This is the reason that a growing number of K–12 school districts and higher education institutions are transforming their instructional approach to personalized and competency-based learning, which encourage students to make decisions, problem solve and think critically as they take ownership of and direct their educational journey.


Problem-Solving Skills Can Be Measured and Taught

Research shows that problem-solving skills can be measured and taught. One effective method is through performance-based assessments which require students to demonstrate or apply their knowledge and higher-order skills to create a response or product or do a task.

What Are Performance-Based Assessments?

problem solving training benefits

With the No Child Left Behind Act (2002), the use of standardized testing became the primary way to measure student learning in the U.S. The legislative requirements of this act shifted the emphasis to standardized testing, and this led to a  decline in nontraditional testing methods .

But   many educators, policy makers, and parents have concerns with standardized tests. Some of the top issues include that they don’t provide feedback on how students can perform better, they don’t value creativity, they are not representative of diverse populations, and they can be disadvantageous to lower-income students.

While standardized tests are still the norm, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona is encouraging states and districts to move away from traditional multiple choice and short response tests and instead use performance-based assessment, competency-based assessments, and other more authentic methods of measuring students abilities and skills rather than rote learning. 

Performance-based assessments  measure whether students can apply the skills and knowledge learned from a unit of study. Typically, a performance task challenges students to use their higher-order skills to complete a project or process. Tasks can range from an essay to a complex proposal or design.

Preview a Performance-Based Assessment

Want a closer look at how performance-based assessments work?  Preview CAE’s K–12 and Higher Education assessments and see how CAE’s tools help students develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and written communication skills.

Performance-Based Assessments Help Students Build and Practice Problem-Solving Skills

In addition to effectively measuring students’ higher-order skills, including their problem-solving skills, performance-based assessments can help students practice and build these skills. Through the assessment process, students are given opportunities to practically apply their knowledge in real-world situations. By demonstrating their understanding of a topic, students are required to put what they’ve learned into practice through activities such as presentations, experiments, and simulations. 

This type of problem-solving assessment tool requires students to analyze information and choose how to approach the presented problems. This process enhances their critical thinking skills and creativity, as well as their problem-solving skills. Unlike traditional assessments based on memorization or reciting facts, performance-based assessments focus on the students’ decisions and solutions, and through these tasks students learn to bridge the gap between theory and practice.

Performance-based assessments like CAE’s College and Career Readiness Assessment (CRA+) and Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+) provide students with in-depth reports that show them which higher-order skills they are strongest in and which they should continue to develop. This feedback helps students and their teachers plan instruction and supports to deepen their learning and improve their mastery of critical skills.

problem solving training benefits

Explore CAE’s Problem-Solving Assessments

CAE offers performance-based assessments that measure student proficiency in higher-order skills including problem solving, critical thinking, and written communication.

  • College and Career Readiness Assessment (CCRA+) for secondary education and
  • Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+) for higher education.

Our solution also includes instructional materials, practice models, and professional development.

We can help you create a program to build students’ problem-solving skills that includes:

  • Measuring students’ problem-solving skills through a performance-based assessment    
  • Using the problem-solving assessment data to inform instruction and tailor interventions
  • Teaching students problem-solving skills and providing practice opportunities in real-life scenarios
  • Supporting educators with quality professional development

Get started with our problem-solving assessment tools to measure and build students’ problem-solving skills today! These skills will be invaluable to students now and in the future.

problem solving training benefits

Ready to Get Started?

Learn more about cae’s suite of products and let’s get started measuring and teaching students important higher-order skills like problem solving..

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7 Advantages of Team Problem-Solving

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