What is Problem Solving? (Steps, Techniques, Examples)

By Editorial Team on May 7, 2023 — 5 minutes to read

What Is Problem Solving?

Definition and importance.

Problem solving is the process of finding solutions to obstacles or challenges you encounter in your life or work. It is a crucial skill that allows you to tackle complex situations, adapt to changes, and overcome difficulties with ease. Mastering this ability will contribute to both your personal and professional growth, leading to more successful outcomes and better decision-making.

Problem-Solving Steps

The problem-solving process typically includes the following steps:

  • Identify the issue : Recognize the problem that needs to be solved.
  • Analyze the situation : Examine the issue in depth, gather all relevant information, and consider any limitations or constraints that may be present.
  • Generate potential solutions : Brainstorm a list of possible solutions to the issue, without immediately judging or evaluating them.
  • Evaluate options : Weigh the pros and cons of each potential solution, considering factors such as feasibility, effectiveness, and potential risks.
  • Select the best solution : Choose the option that best addresses the problem and aligns with your objectives.
  • Implement the solution : Put the selected solution into action and monitor the results to ensure it resolves the issue.
  • Review and learn : Reflect on the problem-solving process, identify any improvements or adjustments that can be made, and apply these learnings to future situations.

Defining the Problem

To start tackling a problem, first, identify and understand it. Analyzing the issue thoroughly helps to clarify its scope and nature. Ask questions to gather information and consider the problem from various angles. Some strategies to define the problem include:

  • Brainstorming with others
  • Asking the 5 Ws and 1 H (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How)
  • Analyzing cause and effect
  • Creating a problem statement

Generating Solutions

Once the problem is clearly understood, brainstorm possible solutions. Think creatively and keep an open mind, as well as considering lessons from past experiences. Consider:

  • Creating a list of potential ideas to solve the problem
  • Grouping and categorizing similar solutions
  • Prioritizing potential solutions based on feasibility, cost, and resources required
  • Involving others to share diverse opinions and inputs

Evaluating and Selecting Solutions

Evaluate each potential solution, weighing its pros and cons. To facilitate decision-making, use techniques such as:

  • SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
  • Decision-making matrices
  • Pros and cons lists
  • Risk assessments

After evaluating, choose the most suitable solution based on effectiveness, cost, and time constraints.

Implementing and Monitoring the Solution

Implement the chosen solution and monitor its progress. Key actions include:

  • Communicating the solution to relevant parties
  • Setting timelines and milestones
  • Assigning tasks and responsibilities
  • Monitoring the solution and making adjustments as necessary
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the solution after implementation

Utilize feedback from stakeholders and consider potential improvements. Remember that problem-solving is an ongoing process that can always be refined and enhanced.

Problem-Solving Techniques

During each step, you may find it helpful to utilize various problem-solving techniques, such as:

  • Brainstorming : A free-flowing, open-minded session where ideas are generated and listed without judgment, to encourage creativity and innovative thinking.
  • Root cause analysis : A method that explores the underlying causes of a problem to find the most effective solution rather than addressing superficial symptoms.
  • SWOT analysis : A tool used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to a problem or decision, providing a comprehensive view of the situation.
  • Mind mapping : A visual technique that uses diagrams to organize and connect ideas, helping to identify patterns, relationships, and possible solutions.


When facing a problem, start by conducting a brainstorming session. Gather your team and encourage an open discussion where everyone contributes ideas, no matter how outlandish they may seem. This helps you:

  • Generate a diverse range of solutions
  • Encourage all team members to participate
  • Foster creative thinking

When brainstorming, remember to:

  • Reserve judgment until the session is over
  • Encourage wild ideas
  • Combine and improve upon ideas

Root Cause Analysis

For effective problem-solving, identifying the root cause of the issue at hand is crucial. Try these methods:

  • 5 Whys : Ask “why” five times to get to the underlying cause.
  • Fishbone Diagram : Create a diagram representing the problem and break it down into categories of potential causes.
  • Pareto Analysis : Determine the few most significant causes underlying the majority of problems.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis helps you examine the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats related to your problem. To perform a SWOT analysis:

  • List your problem’s strengths, such as relevant resources or strong partnerships.
  • Identify its weaknesses, such as knowledge gaps or limited resources.
  • Explore opportunities, like trends or new technologies, that could help solve the problem.
  • Recognize potential threats, like competition or regulatory barriers.

SWOT analysis aids in understanding the internal and external factors affecting the problem, which can help guide your solution.

Mind Mapping

A mind map is a visual representation of your problem and potential solutions. It enables you to organize information in a structured and intuitive manner. To create a mind map:

  • Write the problem in the center of a blank page.
  • Draw branches from the central problem to related sub-problems or contributing factors.
  • Add more branches to represent potential solutions or further ideas.

Mind mapping allows you to visually see connections between ideas and promotes creativity in problem-solving.

Examples of Problem Solving in Various Contexts

In the business world, you might encounter problems related to finances, operations, or communication. Applying problem-solving skills in these situations could look like:

  • Identifying areas of improvement in your company’s financial performance and implementing cost-saving measures
  • Resolving internal conflicts among team members by listening and understanding different perspectives, then proposing and negotiating solutions
  • Streamlining a process for better productivity by removing redundancies, automating tasks, or re-allocating resources

In educational contexts, problem-solving can be seen in various aspects, such as:

  • Addressing a gap in students’ understanding by employing diverse teaching methods to cater to different learning styles
  • Developing a strategy for successful time management to balance academic responsibilities and extracurricular activities
  • Seeking resources and support to provide equal opportunities for learners with special needs or disabilities

Everyday life is full of challenges that require problem-solving skills. Some examples include:

  • Overcoming a personal obstacle, such as improving your fitness level, by establishing achievable goals, measuring progress, and adjusting your approach accordingly
  • Navigating a new environment or city by researching your surroundings, asking for directions, or using technology like GPS to guide you
  • Dealing with a sudden change, like a change in your work schedule, by assessing the situation, identifying potential impacts, and adapting your plans to accommodate the change.
  • How to Resolve Employee Conflict at Work [Steps, Tips, Examples]
  • How to Write Inspiring Core Values? 5 Steps with Examples
  • 30 Employee Feedback Examples (Positive & Negative)

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Problem Solving - 3 Basic Steps

Don't complicate it.

Problems can be confusing. Your problem-solving process shouldn’t make them more confusing. With a variety of different tools available, it’s common for people in the same company to use different approaches and different terminology. This makes problem solving problematic. It shouldn’t be.

Some companies use 5Whys , some use fishbone diagrams , and some categorize incidents into generic buckets like " human error " and " procedure not followed ." Some problem-solving methods have six steps, some have eight steps and some have 14 steps. It’s easy to understand how employees get confused.

6-sigma is another widely recognized problem-solving tool. It has five steps with its own acronym, DMAIC: define, measure, analyze, improve and control. The first two steps are for defining and measuring the problem . The third step is the analysis . And the fourth and fifth steps are improve and control, and address solutions .

3 Basic Steps of Problem Solving

As the name suggests, problem solving starts with a problem and ends with solutions. The step in the middle is the analysis. The level of detail within a problem changes based on the magnitude of an issue, but the basic steps of problem solving remain the same regardless of the type of problem:

Step 1. Problem

Step 2. analysis, step 3. solutions.

But these steps are not necessarily what everyone does. Some groups jump directly to solutions after a hasty problem definition. The analysis step is regularly neglected. Individuals and organizations don’t dig into the details that are essential to understand the issue. In the Cause Mapping® method, the point of root cause analysis is to reveal what happened within an incident—to do that digging.

Step 1. Problem

A complete problem definition consists of several different questions:

  • What is the problem?
  • When did it happen?
  • Where did it happen?
  • What was the total impact to each of the organization’s overall goals?

These four questions capture what individuals see as a problem, along with the specifics about the setting of the issue (the time and place), and, importantly, the overall consequences to the organization. The traditional approach of writing a problem description as a few sentences doesn’t necessarily capture the information needed for a complete definition. Some organizations see their problem as a single effect, but that doesn’t reflect the nature of an actual issue since different negative outcomes can occur within the same incident. Specific pieces of information are captured within each of the four questions to provide a thorough definition of the problem.

The analysis step provides a clear explanation of an issue by breaking it down into parts. A simple way to organize the details of an incident is to make a timeline . Each piece of the incident in placed in chronological order. A timeline is an effective way to understand what happened and when for an issue.

Ultimately, the objective of problem solving is to turn the negative outcomes defined in step 1 into positive results. To do so, the causes that produced the unwanted outcomes must be identified. These causes provide both the explanation of the issue as well as control points for different solution options. This cause-and-effect approach is the basis of explaining and preventing a problem solving. It’s why cause-and-effect thinking is fundamental for troubleshooting, critical thinking and effective root cause analysis.

Many organizations are under-analyzing their problems because they stop at generic categories like procedure not followed, training less than adequate or management systems . This is a mistake. Learning how to dig a littler further, by asking more Why questions, can reveal significant insight about those chronic problems that people have come to accept as normal operations.

A Cause Map™ diagram provides a way for frontline personnel, technical leads and managers to communicate the details of an issue objectively, accurately and thoroughly. A cause-and-effect analysis can begin as a single, linear path that can be expanded into as much detail as needed to fully understand the issue.

Solutions are specific actions that control specific causes to produce specific outcomes. Both short-term and long-term solutions can be identified from a clear and accurate analysis. It is also important for people to understand that every cause doesn’t need to be solved. Most people believe that 15 causes require 15 solutions. That is not true. Changing just one cause along a causal path breaks that chain of events. Providing solutions on more than one causal path provides additional layers of protection to further reduce the risk of a similar issue occurring in the future.

The Basics of Problem Solving Don't Change

These three steps of problem solving can be applied consistently across an organization from frontline troubleshooters to the executives. First principles should be the foundation of a company’s problem-solving culture. Overlooking these basics erodes critical thinking. Even though the fundamentals of cause-and-effect don’t change, organizations and individuals continue to find special adjectives, algorithms and jargon appealing. Teaching too many tools and using contrived terms such as “true root causal factors” is a symptom of ignoring lean principles. Don’t do that which is unnecessary.

Your problems may be complex, but your problem-solving process should be clear and simple. A scientific approach that objectively explains what happened and why (cause and effect) is sound. It’s the basis for understanding and solving a problem – any problem. It works on the farm, in the power plant, at the manufacturing company and at an airline. It works for the cancer researcher and for the auto mechanic. It also works the same way for safety incidents, production losses and equipment failures. Cause and effect doesn’t change. Just test it.

If you’re interested in seeing one of your problems dissected as a Cause Map diagram, send us an email or call the ThinkReliability office. We’ll arrange a call to step through your issue. You can also learn more about improving the way your organization investigates and prevents problems through one of our upcoming online webinars, short courses or workshops .

Want to learn more? Watch our 28-minute video on problem-solving basics.

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The Art of Effective Problem Solving: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Author: Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is an experienced continuous improvement manager with a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and a Bachelor's degree in Business Management. With more than ten years of experience applying his skills across various industries, Daniel specializes in optimizing processes and improving efficiency. His approach combines practical experience with a deep understanding of business fundamentals to drive meaningful change.

Whether we realise it or not, problem solving skills are an important part of our daily lives. From resolving a minor annoyance at home to tackling complex business challenges at work, our ability to solve problems has a significant impact on our success and happiness. However, not everyone is naturally gifted at problem-solving, and even those who are can always improve their skills. In this blog post, we will go over the art of effective problem-solving step by step.

You will learn how to define a problem, gather information, assess alternatives, and implement a solution, all while honing your critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills. Whether you’re a seasoned problem solver or just getting started, this guide will arm you with the knowledge and tools you need to face any challenge with confidence. So let’s get started!

Problem Solving Methodologies

Individuals and organisations can use a variety of problem-solving methodologies to address complex challenges. 8D and A3 problem solving techniques are two popular methodologies in the Lean Six Sigma framework.

Methodology of 8D (Eight Discipline) Problem Solving:

The 8D problem solving methodology is a systematic, team-based approach to problem solving. It is a method that guides a team through eight distinct steps to solve a problem in a systematic and comprehensive manner.

The 8D process consists of the following steps:

8D Problem Solving2 - Learnleansigma

  • Form a team: Assemble a group of people who have the necessary expertise to work on the problem.
  • Define the issue: Clearly identify and define the problem, including the root cause and the customer impact.
  • Create a temporary containment plan: Put in place a plan to lessen the impact of the problem until a permanent solution can be found.
  • Identify the root cause: To identify the underlying causes of the problem, use root cause analysis techniques such as Fishbone diagrams and Pareto charts.
  • Create and test long-term corrective actions: Create and test a long-term solution to eliminate the root cause of the problem.
  • Implement and validate the permanent solution: Implement and validate the permanent solution’s effectiveness.
  • Prevent recurrence: Put in place measures to keep the problem from recurring.
  • Recognize and reward the team: Recognize and reward the team for its efforts.

Download the 8D Problem Solving Template

A3 Problem Solving Method:

The A3 problem solving technique is a visual, team-based problem-solving approach that is frequently used in Lean Six Sigma projects. The A3 report is a one-page document that clearly and concisely outlines the problem, root cause analysis, and proposed solution.

The A3 problem-solving procedure consists of the following steps:

  • Determine the issue: Define the issue clearly, including its impact on the customer.
  • Perform root cause analysis: Identify the underlying causes of the problem using root cause analysis techniques.
  • Create and implement a solution: Create and implement a solution that addresses the problem’s root cause.
  • Monitor and improve the solution: Keep an eye on the solution’s effectiveness and make any necessary changes.

Subsequently, in the Lean Six Sigma framework, the 8D and A3 problem solving methodologies are two popular approaches to problem solving. Both methodologies provide a structured, team-based problem-solving approach that guides individuals through a comprehensive and systematic process of identifying, analysing, and resolving problems in an effective and efficient manner.

Step 1 – Define the Problem

The definition of the problem is the first step in effective problem solving. This may appear to be a simple task, but it is actually quite difficult. This is because problems are frequently complex and multi-layered, making it easy to confuse symptoms with the underlying cause. To avoid this pitfall, it is critical to thoroughly understand the problem.

To begin, ask yourself some clarifying questions:

  • What exactly is the issue?
  • What are the problem’s symptoms or consequences?
  • Who or what is impacted by the issue?
  • When and where does the issue arise?

Answering these questions will assist you in determining the scope of the problem. However, simply describing the problem is not always sufficient; you must also identify the root cause. The root cause is the underlying cause of the problem and is usually the key to resolving it permanently.

Try asking “why” questions to find the root cause:

  • What causes the problem?
  • Why does it continue?
  • Why does it have the effects that it does?

By repeatedly asking “ why ,” you’ll eventually get to the bottom of the problem. This is an important step in the problem-solving process because it ensures that you’re dealing with the root cause rather than just the symptoms.

Once you have a firm grasp on the issue, it is time to divide it into smaller, more manageable chunks. This makes tackling the problem easier and reduces the risk of becoming overwhelmed. For example, if you’re attempting to solve a complex business problem, you might divide it into smaller components like market research, product development, and sales strategies.

To summarise step 1, defining the problem is an important first step in effective problem-solving. You will be able to identify the root cause and break it down into manageable parts if you take the time to thoroughly understand the problem. This will prepare you for the next step in the problem-solving process, which is gathering information and brainstorming ideas.

Step 2 – Gather Information and Brainstorm Ideas

Brainstorming - Learnleansigma

Gathering information and brainstorming ideas is the next step in effective problem solving. This entails researching the problem and relevant information, collaborating with others, and coming up with a variety of potential solutions. This increases your chances of finding the best solution to the problem.

Begin by researching the problem and relevant information. This could include reading articles, conducting surveys, or consulting with experts. The goal is to collect as much information as possible in order to better understand the problem and possible solutions.

Next, work with others to gather a variety of perspectives. Brainstorming with others can be an excellent way to come up with new and creative ideas. Encourage everyone to share their thoughts and ideas when working in a group, and make an effort to actively listen to what others have to say. Be open to new and unconventional ideas and resist the urge to dismiss them too quickly.

Finally, use brainstorming to generate a wide range of potential solutions. This is the place where you can let your imagination run wild. At this stage, don’t worry about the feasibility or practicality of the solutions; instead, focus on generating as many ideas as possible. Write down everything that comes to mind, no matter how ridiculous or unusual it may appear. This can be done individually or in groups.

Once you’ve compiled a list of potential solutions, it’s time to assess them and select the best one. This is the next step in the problem-solving process, which we’ll go over in greater detail in the following section.

Step 3 – Evaluate Options and Choose the Best Solution

Once you’ve compiled a list of potential solutions, it’s time to assess them and select the best one. This is the third step in effective problem solving, and it entails weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each solution, considering their feasibility and practicability, and selecting the solution that is most likely to solve the problem effectively.

To begin, weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each solution. This will assist you in determining the potential outcomes of each solution and deciding which is the best option. For example, a quick and easy solution may not be the most effective in the long run, whereas a more complex and time-consuming solution may be more effective in solving the problem in the long run.

Consider each solution’s feasibility and practicability. Consider the following:

  • Can the solution be implemented within the available resources, time, and budget?
  • What are the possible barriers to implementing the solution?
  • Is the solution feasible in today’s political, economic, and social environment?

You’ll be able to tell which solutions are likely to succeed and which aren’t by assessing their feasibility and practicability.

Finally, choose the solution that is most likely to effectively solve the problem. This solution should be based on the criteria you’ve established, such as the advantages and disadvantages of each solution, their feasibility and practicability, and your overall goals.

It is critical to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to problems. What is effective for one person or situation may not be effective for another. This is why it is critical to consider a wide range of solutions and evaluate each one based on its ability to effectively solve the problem.

Step 4 – Implement and Monitor the Solution

Communication the missing peice from Lean Six Sigma - Learnleansigma

When you’ve decided on the best solution, it’s time to put it into action. The fourth and final step in effective problem solving is to put the solution into action, monitor its progress, and make any necessary adjustments.

To begin, implement the solution. This may entail delegating tasks, developing a strategy, and allocating resources. Ascertain that everyone involved understands their role and responsibilities in the solution’s implementation.

Next, keep an eye on the solution’s progress. This may entail scheduling regular check-ins, tracking metrics, and soliciting feedback from others. You will be able to identify any potential roadblocks and make any necessary adjustments in a timely manner if you monitor the progress of the solution.

Finally, make any necessary modifications to the solution. This could entail changing the solution, altering the plan of action, or delegating different tasks. Be willing to make changes if they will improve the solution or help it solve the problem more effectively.

It’s important to remember that problem solving is an iterative process, and there may be times when you need to start from scratch. This is especially true if the initial solution does not effectively solve the problem. In these situations, it’s critical to be adaptable and flexible and to keep trying new solutions until you find the one that works best.

To summarise, effective problem solving is a critical skill that can assist individuals and organisations in overcoming challenges and achieving their objectives. Effective problem solving consists of four key steps: defining the problem, generating potential solutions, evaluating alternatives and selecting the best solution, and implementing the solution.

You can increase your chances of success in problem solving by following these steps and considering factors such as the pros and cons of each solution, their feasibility and practicability, and making any necessary adjustments. Furthermore, keep in mind that problem solving is an iterative process, and there may be times when you need to go back to the beginning and restart. Maintain your adaptability and try new solutions until you find the one that works best for you.

  • Novick, L.R. and Bassok, M., 2005.  Problem Solving . Cambridge University Press.

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Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is a seasoned continuous improvement manager with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma. With over 10 years of real-world application experience across diverse sectors, Daniel has a passion for optimizing processes and fostering a culture of efficiency. He's not just a practitioner but also an avid learner, constantly seeking to expand his knowledge. Outside of his professional life, Daniel has a keen Investing, statistics and knowledge-sharing, which led him to create the website, a platform dedicated to Lean Six Sigma and process improvement insights.

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What is problem-solving and how to do it right steps, processes, exercises.

The better your problem-solving skills are, the better (and easier!) your life will be. Organized problem-solving is a killer career skill - learn all about it here.

Whether we’re trying to solve a technical problem at work, or trying to navigate around a roadblock that Google Maps doesn’t see – most people are problem-solving every single day . 

But how effective are you at tackling the challenges in your life? Do you have a bullet-proof process you follow that ensures solid outcomes, or... Do you act on a whim of inspiration (or lack thereof) to resolve your pressing problems?

Here’s the thing: the better your problem-solving skills are - the better (and easier!) your life will be (both professionally and personally). Organized problem-solving is a killer career (and life!) skill, so if you want to learn how to do it in the most efficient way possible, you’ve come to the right place.  

Read along to learn more about the steps, techniques and exercises of the problem-solving process.

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What is Problem-Solving?

We’re faced with the reality of having to solve problems every day, both in our private and professional lives. So why do we even need to learn about problem-solving? Aren’t we versed in it well enough already?

Well, what separates problem-solving from dealing with the usual day-to-day issues is that it’s a distinct process that allows you to go beyond the standard approaches to solving a problem and allows you to come up with more effective and efficient solutions. Or in other words, problem-solving allows you to knock out those problems with less effort. 

Just like with any other skill, there’s an efficient way to solve problems, and a non-efficient one. While it might be tempting to go for the quickest fix for your challenge without giving it much thought, it will only end up costing you more time down the road. Quick fixes are rarely (if ever!) effective and end up being massive time wasters. 

What separates problem-solving from dealing with the usual day-to-day issues is that it’s a distinct process that allows you to go beyond the standard approaches to solving a problem and allows you to come up with more effective and efficient solutions.

On the other hand, following a systemized clear process for problem-solving allows you to shortcut inefficiencies and time-wasters, turn your challenges into opportunities, and tackle problems of any scope without the usual stress and hassle. 

What is the process that you need to follow, then? We’re glad you asked...

The Five Stages of Problem-Solving

So what’s the best way to move through the problem-solving process? There’s a 5-step process that you can follow that will allow you to solve your challenges more efficiently and effectively. In short, you need to move through these 5 steps: 

  • Defining a problem
  • Ideating on a solution
  • Committing to a course of action
  • Implementing your solution
  • And finally – analyzing the results. 

The 5 stages of problem-solving

Let’s look at each of those stages in detail.

Step 1: Defining The Problem

The first step might sound obvious, but trust us, you don’t want to skip it! Clearly defining and framing your challenge will help you guide your efforts and make sure you’re focussing on the things that matter, instead of being distracted by a myriad of other options, problems and issues that come up. 

For once, you have to make sure you’re trying to solve the root cause, and not trying to mend the symptoms of it. For instance, if you keep losing users during your app onboarding process, you might jump to the conclusion that you need to tweak the process itself: change the copy, the screens, or the sequence of steps.

But unless you have clear evidence that confirms your hypothesis, your challenge might have an entirely different root cause, e.g. in confusing marketing communication prior to the app download. 

Clearly defining and framing your challenge will help you guide your efforts and make sure you’re focussing on the things that matter, all the while ensuring that you’re trying to solve the root cause, and not trying to mend the symptoms of it

That’s why it’s essential you take a close look at the entire problem, not just at a fraction of it.

There are several exercises that can help you get a broader, more holistic view of the problem, some of our all-time favorites include Expert Interviews, How Might We, or The Map. Check out the step-by-step instructions on how to run them (along with 5 more exercises for framing your challenge!) here. 

When in doubt, map out your challenge, and always try to tackle the bottlenecks that are more upstream - it’s likely that solving them will solve a couple of other challenges down the flow.

You also have to be mindful of how you frame the challenge: resist the urge to include a pre-defined solution into your problem statement. Priming your solutions to a predestined outcome destroys the purpose of following a step-by-step process in the first place!  

Steer clear of formulations like:

We need to change the onboarding process... or We need to improve ad copy to increase conversions. 

Instead, opt for more neutral, problem-oriented statements that don’t include a solution suggestion in them:

The drop off rate during the onboarding process is too high or Our ad conversion rates are below the norm.

Pro tip: Reframing your challenge as a ‘How Might We’ statement is a great way to spark up new ideas, opening your problem to a broader set of solutions, and is just a great way to reframe your problem into a more positive statement (without implying the possible solution!)

For example, following the onboarding drop-off rate problem we mentioned earlier, instead of framing it as a problem, you could opt for:

How Might We decrease the drop-off rate during the onboarding process? 

Find out more about the best exercises for problem framing here!

Now that you have a clear idea of what you’re trying to solve, it’s move on to the next phase of the problem-solving process.

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Step 2: ideating a solution.

Get ready to roll up your sleeves and challenge the status quo! This step of the problem-solving process is all about thinking outside of the box, challenging old assumptions, and thinking laterally. 

This stage is the one that tends to cause the most overwhelm in teams because it requires just the right balance of creativity and critical thinking, which tends to cause a lot of friction.

Our best advice?

Let go of the pressure to produce a polished, thought-through solution at this stage. You can hash out the details at a later point. Our goal right now is to come up with a direction, a prototype if you may, of where we want to move towards. 

Embrace the “quantity over quality” motto, and let your creative juices flow! Now, we’re not saying you should roll with sub-par ideas. But you shouldn’t get too fixated on feasibility and viability just yet . 

Your main goal during this step is to spark ideas, kick off your thinking process in the right direction, venture out of the familiar territories and think outside the box. 

For the ideation to be the most effective your team will have to feel safe to challenge the norm and wide-spread assumptions. So lay judgment by side, there is no space for “that’s the way it’s always been done” in this step.

For your ideation sessions to be as efficient as possible, we highly recommend to run them in a workshop setting: this helps reduce the usual drawbacks of open discussions in teams (i.e. groupthink & team politics!)

Our favorite exercises to run during this phase include Lightning Demos, Sketching, and variations of Brainstorming.  We crafted an entire article on how to run and facilitate these exercises in a separate article, so check it out of you’re going to be running an ideation session anytime soon!

Step 3: Choosing the Best Strategy & Committing

It’s time to decide which of the ideas that you generated in the last step will be the one you’ll implement. 

This step is arguably the hardest one to complete smoothly: groupthink, team politics, differences in opinions and communication styles all make it very hard to align a team on a common course of action. 

If you want to avoid the usual pitfalls of team decision-making, we recommend you steer clear of open unstructured discussion. While it’s useful in some scenarios, it’s a poor choice for when you need to make a decision, because it tends to reward the loudest people in the room, rather than give way to the best ideas. 

It’s crucial you not only commit to a course of action but get full buy-in from the team. If your team members don’t understand the reasons for a decision, or are not fully onboard, the implementation of your decision will be half-hearted, and that’s definitely not what you want! 

To achieve that, opt for anonymized, multi-layered voting, and include guided exercises like Storyboarding to prioritize your ideas. 

We’ve gathered the list of our top-rated decision-making exercises, along with step-by-step instructions on how to run them in this article!

As a bonus tip, we recommend you involve a facilitator throughout the entire process. They will help align the team, and guide them through prioritizing and de-prioritizing solutions, as well as defining the next steps. 

Pro tip : If you’re not the ultimate decision maker on the issue you’re trying to solve, make sure they’re in the room when the call is being made! Having a Decider in the room ensures that the decisions you come to will actually get executed on after, instead of getting shut down by your superiors after. 

Join our FREE community and connect with other Facilitators and Workshoppers

Step 4: implementing your solution.

Here’s a truth that might be hard to swallow: it doesn’t matter how innovative, creative, or original your idea is, if your execution is weak. 

One of our favourite illustrations of how this works in practice comes from the book “ Anything you want ” by Derek Sivers. He reveals that ideas should be treated as multipliers of execution. What this means is that a mediocre, “so-so” idea could be worth millions if executed well, while a “brilliant” idea can completely flop with bad execution. 

That’s why this step is crucial if you want to really master the problem-solving process. 

What do we mean by execution? Everything that happens after the whiteboards are wiped clean and your team starts to action the outcomes of your sessions, be it prototyping, development, or promotion. 

But don’t just take our word for it, look at the example of how execution affected Nintendo’s sales:

In the past few years, Nintendo has come up with 3 products: the Wii, the Wii U and the Switch. Check out their sales figures on the graph below - Wii is the clear-cut leader, followed by Switch, and finally Wii U lagging behind.

Nintendo's sales figure for 2018

The Wii was unbelievably successful - it was a genuinely unique, “brilliant”-level idea and it had a “brilliant” execution (20x $10 million = $200 million). It is  one of the fastest selling game consoles of all time and it completely took over the market.

The next product was called Wii U and it was a “great” concept but the execution was absolutely terrible. So even though this product was very interesting and innovative, the end result was 15x $1,000 = $15,000. 

Finally, Nintendo took the Wii U concept and tried it again with the Switch. The idea was “so so” as it was already done before, but the execution was “brilliant”. So, 5x $10 million = $50 million! Much better.

Excellent execution is more important than a good idea.

Bottom line?  

The same idea can either make no dent in the market and damage your share price OR become a market hit and increase your share price dramatically. The only difference between the two scenarios – execution.

So shift your focus from coming up with crazy, innovative, outlandish ideas that will disrupt the market, and concentrate on really nailing down your execution instead. 

This is likely the least “workshoppy” step out of the entire problem-solving process because it requires less alignment and decision-making and more..well.. Execution!

But hey, we wouldn’t be called “Workshopper” if we didn't offer you at least one way to optimize and workshopify (yup, we’re making it a thing) your execution process. 

Cue in….prototyping. 

We’re huge fans of prototyping all big solutions (and testing them!) The main reason?

This saves us time AND money! Prototyping and testing your solutions (especially if they’re time and investment-demanding) is a great way to make sure you’re creating something that is actually needed. 

The key with prototyping the right way is to keep it simple. Don’t invest too much time, or resources into it. The goal is to gather data for your future decisions, not to create a near-to-perfect mockup of your solution.  

There are LOADS of prototyping forms and techniques, and if you’d like to learn more on the subject you should definitely check out our extensive prototyping guide.  

Step 5: Analyzing the Results

You’re nearly done, woo! Now that you have defined the right problem to tackle, brainstormed the solutions, aligned your team on the course of action, and put your plan into action it’s time to take stock of your efforts. 

Seek feedback from all involved parties, analyze the data you’ve gathered, look at the bottom line of your efforts, and  take a hard look at your problem: did it get solved? And even more than that, did the process feel smoother, easier, and more efficient than it normally is?

Running a retrospective is a great way to highlight things that went well and that you should keep for your next round of problem.solving, as well as pinpoint inefficiencies that you can eliminate.

‍ But which kind of retrospective should you run? There are loads of options, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by them all, so we gathered our favorite retrospective variations in this article.

And there you have it, you just completed the cycle of  problem-solving. We highly recommend you follow through with all the steps, without leaving any out. They all complement and build on each other, and it’s the combination of all 5 of them that makes the process effective. 

Now that you have the problem solving process down, you might be wondering…

Do I need any special skills in order to be able to move through that process?

And the answer is… sort of! More in this in the next section.

Problem-Solving Skills 

While your skill set will need to adapt and change based on the challenges you’ll be working on, most efficient problem-solvers have a solid foundation of these key skills:   

  • Active listening. While you might be the expert in the area of your challenge, there’s not a single person on Earth that knows it all! Being open to others’ perspectives and practicing active listening will come in very handy during step 1 of the process, as you’re trying to define the scope and the exact angle of the problem you’re working on.
  • Analytical approach. Your analytical skills will help you understand problems and effectively develop solutions. You will also need analytical skills during research to help distinguish between effective and ineffective solutions.
  • Communication. Is there a single area of expertise that DOESN’T require strong communication skills? We honestly don’t think so! Just like with any other life area, clear communication can make or break your problem-solving process. Being able to clearly communicate why you need to solve this challenge to your team, as well as align your team on the course of action are crucial for the success of the process. 
  • Decision-making. Ultimately, you will need to make a decision about how to solve problems that arise. A process without outcomes–regardless of how well thought-out and elaborate–is useless! If you want your problem-solving huddles to be effective, you have to come to grips with prioritization techniques and decision-making frameworks. 
  • Facilitation. Problem-solving revolves around being able to guide a group or a team to a common decision, and facilitation skills are essential in making that happen. Knowing how to facilitate will make it easy to keep the group focussed on the challenge, shortcut circular discussions, and make sure you’re moving along to solving the problem instead of just treading waters with fruitless discussions. 

Not checking every single skill of your list just yet? Not to worry, the next section will give you practical tools on how to level up and improve your problem-solving skills.

How to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills

Just like with any other skill, problem-solving is not an innate talent that you either have or you don’t.  There are concrete steps you can take to improve your skills. 

Here are some things that will get you closer to mastering the problem-solving process:

  • Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice makes perfect, and problem-solving skills are no exception! Seek opportunities to utilize and develop these skills any time you can. 

If you don’t know where or how to start just yet, here’s a suggestion that will get you up and running in no time: run a quick problem-solving session on a challenge that has been bothering your team for a while now. 

It doesn’t need to be the big strategic decision or the issue defining the future of the company. Something easy and manageable (like optimizing office space or improving team communication) will do. 

As you start feeling more comfortable with the problem-solving techniques, you can start tackling bigger challenges. Before you know it, you’ll master the art of creative problem-solving!

  • Use a tried and tested problem-solving workshop

Facilitation is one of the essential skills for problem-solving. But here’s the thing… Facilitation skills on their own won’t lead you to a solved challenge.

While being able to shortcut aimless discussions is a great skill, you have to make sure your problem-solving session has tangible outcomes. Using a tried and tested method, a workshop, is one of the easiest ways to do that. 

Our best advice is to get started with a tried and tested problem-solving workshop like the Lightning Decision Jam . The LDJ has all the right ingredients for quick, effective problem solving that leads to tangible outcomes. Give it a go!

  • Learn from your peers

You may have colleagues who are skilled problem solvers. Observing how those colleagues solve problems can help you improve your own skills. 

If possible, ask one of your more experienced colleagues if you can observe their techniques. Ask them relevant questions and try to apply as many of the new found skills i your career as possible. 

  • Learn & Practice the best problem-solving exercises

Having a toolbox of problem-solving exercises to pull from that can fit any type of challenge will make you a more versatile problem-solver and will make solving challenges that much easier for you! 

Once you get used to the groove of learning how to combine them into effective sessions or workshops, there’ll be no stopping you. What are some of the most effective problem-solving exercises? Glad you asked! We’ve gathered our favorite ones here, check it out! 

And there you have it, you’re now fully equipped for running creative problem-sessions with confidence and ease! Whichever method or exercise you choose, remember to keep track of your wins, and learn as much as you can from your losses! 

Anastasia Ushakova

Brand Strategist, Digital Marketer, and a Workshopper.

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A guide to problem-solving techniques, steps, and skills

what are 3 steps of problem solving

You might associate problem-solving with the math exercises that a seven-year-old would do at school. But problem-solving isn’t just about math — it’s a crucial skill that helps everyone make better decisions in everyday life or work.

A guide to problem-solving techniques, steps, and skills

Problem-solving involves finding effective solutions to address complex challenges, in any context they may arise.

Unfortunately, structured and systematic problem-solving methods aren’t commonly taught. Instead, when solving a problem, PMs tend to rely heavily on intuition. While for simple issues this might work well, solving a complex problem with a straightforward solution is often ineffective and can even create more problems.

In this article, you’ll learn a framework for approaching problem-solving, alongside how you can improve your problem-solving skills.

The 7 steps to problem-solving

When it comes to problem-solving there are seven key steps that you should follow: define the problem, disaggregate, prioritize problem branches, create an analysis plan, conduct analysis, synthesis, and communication.

1. Define the problem

Problem-solving begins with a clear understanding of the issue at hand. Without a well-defined problem statement, confusion and misunderstandings can hinder progress. It’s crucial to ensure that the problem statement is outcome-focused, specific, measurable whenever possible, and time-bound.

Additionally, aligning the problem definition with relevant stakeholders and decision-makers is essential to ensure efforts are directed towards addressing the actual problem rather than side issues.

2. Disaggregate

Complex issues often require deeper analysis. Instead of tackling the entire problem at once, the next step is to break it down into smaller, more manageable components.

Various types of logic trees (also known as issue trees or decision trees) can be used to break down the problem. At each stage where new branches are created, it’s important for them to be “MECE” – mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. This process of breaking down continues until manageable components are identified, allowing for individual examination.

The decomposition of the problem demands looking at the problem from various perspectives. That is why collaboration within a team often yields more valuable results, as diverse viewpoints lead to a richer pool of ideas and solutions.

3. Prioritize problem branches

The next step involves prioritization. Not all branches of the problem tree have the same impact, so it’s important to understand the significance of each and focus attention on the most impactful areas. Prioritizing helps streamline efforts and minimize the time required to solve the problem.

what are 3 steps of problem solving

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what are 3 steps of problem solving

4. Create an analysis plan

For prioritized components, you may need to conduct in-depth analysis. Before proceeding, a work plan is created for data gathering and analysis. If work is conducted within a team, having a plan provides guidance on what needs to be achieved, who is responsible for which tasks, and the timelines involved.

5. Conduct analysis

Data gathering and analysis are central to the problem-solving process. It’s a good practice to set time limits for this phase to prevent excessive time spent on perfecting details. You can employ heuristics and rule-of-thumb reasoning to improve efficiency and direct efforts towards the most impactful work.

6. Synthesis

After each individual branch component has been researched, the problem isn’t solved yet. The next step is synthesizing the data logically to address the initial question. The synthesis process and the logical relationship between the individual branch results depend on the logic tree used.

7. Communication

The last step is communicating the story and the solution of the problem to the stakeholders and decision-makers. Clear effective communication is necessary to build trust in the solution and facilitates understanding among all parties involved. It ensures that stakeholders grasp the intricacies of the problem and the proposed solution, leading to informed decision-making.

Exploring problem-solving in various contexts

While problem-solving has traditionally been associated with fields like engineering and science, today it has become a fundamental skill for individuals across all professions. In fact, problem-solving consistently ranks as one of the top skills required by employers.

Problem-solving techniques can be applied in diverse contexts:

  • Individuals — What career path should I choose? Where should I live? These are examples of simple and common personal challenges that require effective problem-solving skills
  • Organizations — Businesses also face many decisions that are not trivial to answer. Should we expand into new markets this year? How can we enhance the quality of our product development? Will our office accommodate the upcoming year’s growth in terms of capacity?
  • Societal issues — The biggest world challenges are also complex problems that can be addressed with the same technique. How can we minimize the impact of climate change? How do we fight cancer?

Despite the variation in domains and contexts, the fundamental approach to solving these questions remains the same. It starts with gaining a clear understanding of the problem, followed by decomposition, conducting analysis of the decomposed branches, and synthesizing it into a result that answers the initial problem.

Real-world examples of problem-solving

Let’s now explore some examples where we can apply the problem solving framework.

Problem: In the production of electronic devices, you observe an increasing number of defects. How can you reduce the error rate and improve the quality?

Electric Devices

Before delving into analysis, you can deprioritize branches that you already have information for or ones you deem less important. For instance, while transportation delays may occur, the resulting material degradation is likely negligible. For other branches, additional research and data gathering may be necessary.

Once results are obtained, synthesis is crucial to address the core question: How can you decrease the defect rate?

While all factors listed may play a role, their significance varies. Your task is to prioritize effectively. Through data analysis, you may discover that altering the equipment would bring the most substantial positive outcome. However, executing a solution isn’t always straightforward. In prioritizing, you should consider both the potential impact and the level of effort needed for implementation.

By evaluating impact and effort, you can systematically prioritize areas for improvement, focusing on those with high impact and requiring minimal effort to address. This approach ensures efficient allocation of resources towards improvements that offer the greatest return on investment.

Problem : What should be my next job role?

Next Job

When breaking down this problem, you need to consider various factors that are important for your future happiness in the role. This includes aspects like the company culture, our interest in the work itself, and the lifestyle that you can afford with the role.

However, not all factors carry the same weight for us. To make sense of the results, we can assign a weight factor to each branch. For instance, passion for the job role may have a weight factor of 1, while interest in the industry may have a weight factor of 0.5, because that is less important for you.

By applying these weights to a specific role and summing the values, you can have an estimate of how suitable that role is for you. Moreover, you can compare two roles and make an informed decision based on these weighted indicators.

Key problem-solving skills

This framework provides the foundation and guidance needed to effectively solve problems. However, successfully applying this framework requires the following:

  • Creativity — During the decomposition phase, it’s essential to approach the problem from various perspectives and think outside the box to generate innovative ideas for breaking down the problem tree
  • Decision-making — Throughout the process, decisions must be made, even when full confidence is lacking. Employing rules of thumb to simplify analysis or selecting one tree cut over another requires decisiveness and comfort with choices made
  • Analytical skills — Analytical and research skills are necessary for the phase following decomposition, involving data gathering and analysis on selected tree branches
  • Teamwork — Collaboration and teamwork are crucial when working within a team setting. Solving problems effectively often requires collective effort and shared responsibility
  • Communication — Clear and structured communication is essential to convey the problem solution to stakeholders and decision-makers and build trust

How to enhance your problem-solving skills

Problem-solving requires practice and a certain mindset. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. Here are some strategies to enhance your skills:

  • Practice structured thinking in your daily life — Break down problems or questions into manageable parts. You don’t need to go through the entire problem-solving process and conduct detailed analysis. When conveying a message, simplify the conversation by breaking the message into smaller, more understandable segments
  • Regularly challenging yourself with games and puzzles — Solving puzzles, riddles, or strategy games can boost your problem-solving skills and cognitive agility.
  • Engage with individuals from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints — Conversing with people who offer different perspectives provides fresh insights and alternative solutions to problems. This boosts creativity and helps in approaching challenges from new angles

Final thoughts

Problem-solving extends far beyond mathematics or scientific fields; it’s a critical skill for making informed decisions in every area of life and work. The seven-step framework presented here provides a systematic approach to problem-solving, relevant across various domains.

Now, consider this: What’s one question currently on your mind? Grab a piece of paper and try to apply the problem-solving framework. You might uncover fresh insights you hadn’t considered before.

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Problem-Solving Strategies and Obstacles

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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Sean is a fact-checker and researcher with experience in sociology, field research, and data analytics.

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From deciding what to eat for dinner to considering whether it's the right time to buy a house, problem-solving is a large part of our daily lives. Learn some of the problem-solving strategies that exist and how to use them in real life, along with ways to overcome obstacles that are making it harder to resolve the issues you face.

What Is Problem-Solving?

In cognitive psychology , the term 'problem-solving' refers to the mental process that people go through to discover, analyze, and solve problems.

A problem exists when there is a goal that we want to achieve but the process by which we will achieve it is not obvious to us. Put another way, there is something that we want to occur in our life, yet we are not immediately certain how to make it happen.

Maybe you want a better relationship with your spouse or another family member but you're not sure how to improve it. Or you want to start a business but are unsure what steps to take. Problem-solving helps you figure out how to achieve these desires.

The problem-solving process involves:

  • Discovery of the problem
  • Deciding to tackle the issue
  • Seeking to understand the problem more fully
  • Researching available options or solutions
  • Taking action to resolve the issue

Before problem-solving can occur, it is important to first understand the exact nature of the problem itself. If your understanding of the issue is faulty, your attempts to resolve it will also be incorrect or flawed.

Problem-Solving Mental Processes

Several mental processes are at work during problem-solving. Among them are:

  • Perceptually recognizing the problem
  • Representing the problem in memory
  • Considering relevant information that applies to the problem
  • Identifying different aspects of the problem
  • Labeling and describing the problem

Problem-Solving Strategies

There are many ways to go about solving a problem. Some of these strategies might be used on their own, or you may decide to employ multiple approaches when working to figure out and fix a problem.

An algorithm is a step-by-step procedure that, by following certain "rules" produces a solution. Algorithms are commonly used in mathematics to solve division or multiplication problems. But they can be used in other fields as well.

In psychology, algorithms can be used to help identify individuals with a greater risk of mental health issues. For instance, research suggests that certain algorithms might help us recognize children with an elevated risk of suicide or self-harm.

One benefit of algorithms is that they guarantee an accurate answer. However, they aren't always the best approach to problem-solving, in part because detecting patterns can be incredibly time-consuming.

There are also concerns when machine learning is involved—also known as artificial intelligence (AI)—such as whether they can accurately predict human behaviors.

Heuristics are shortcut strategies that people can use to solve a problem at hand. These "rule of thumb" approaches allow you to simplify complex problems, reducing the total number of possible solutions to a more manageable set.

If you find yourself sitting in a traffic jam, for example, you may quickly consider other routes, taking one to get moving once again. When shopping for a new car, you might think back to a prior experience when negotiating got you a lower price, then employ the same tactics.

While heuristics may be helpful when facing smaller issues, major decisions shouldn't necessarily be made using a shortcut approach. Heuristics also don't guarantee an effective solution, such as when trying to drive around a traffic jam only to find yourself on an equally crowded route.

Trial and Error

A trial-and-error approach to problem-solving involves trying a number of potential solutions to a particular issue, then ruling out those that do not work. If you're not sure whether to buy a shirt in blue or green, for instance, you may try on each before deciding which one to purchase.

This can be a good strategy to use if you have a limited number of solutions available. But if there are many different choices available, narrowing down the possible options using another problem-solving technique can be helpful before attempting trial and error.

In some cases, the solution to a problem can appear as a sudden insight. You are facing an issue in a relationship or your career when, out of nowhere, the solution appears in your mind and you know exactly what to do.

Insight can occur when the problem in front of you is similar to an issue that you've dealt with in the past. Although, you may not recognize what is occurring since the underlying mental processes that lead to insight often happen outside of conscious awareness .

Research indicates that insight is most likely to occur during times when you are alone—such as when going on a walk by yourself, when you're in the shower, or when lying in bed after waking up.

How to Apply Problem-Solving Strategies in Real Life

If you're facing a problem, you can implement one or more of these strategies to find a potential solution. Here's how to use them in real life:

  • Create a flow chart . If you have time, you can take advantage of the algorithm approach to problem-solving by sitting down and making a flow chart of each potential solution, its consequences, and what happens next.
  • Recall your past experiences . When a problem needs to be solved fairly quickly, heuristics may be a better approach. Think back to when you faced a similar issue, then use your knowledge and experience to choose the best option possible.
  • Start trying potential solutions . If your options are limited, start trying them one by one to see which solution is best for achieving your desired goal. If a particular solution doesn't work, move on to the next.
  • Take some time alone . Since insight is often achieved when you're alone, carve out time to be by yourself for a while. The answer to your problem may come to you, seemingly out of the blue, if you spend some time away from others.

Obstacles to Problem-Solving

Problem-solving is not a flawless process as there are a number of obstacles that can interfere with our ability to solve a problem quickly and efficiently. These obstacles include:

  • Assumptions: When dealing with a problem, people can make assumptions about the constraints and obstacles that prevent certain solutions. Thus, they may not even try some potential options.
  • Functional fixedness : This term refers to the tendency to view problems only in their customary manner. Functional fixedness prevents people from fully seeing all of the different options that might be available to find a solution.
  • Irrelevant or misleading information: When trying to solve a problem, it's important to distinguish between information that is relevant to the issue and irrelevant data that can lead to faulty solutions. The more complex the problem, the easier it is to focus on misleading or irrelevant information.
  • Mental set: A mental set is a tendency to only use solutions that have worked in the past rather than looking for alternative ideas. A mental set can work as a heuristic, making it a useful problem-solving tool. However, mental sets can also lead to inflexibility, making it more difficult to find effective solutions.

How to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills

In the end, if your goal is to become a better problem-solver, it's helpful to remember that this is a process. Thus, if you want to improve your problem-solving skills, following these steps can help lead you to your solution:

  • Recognize that a problem exists . If you are facing a problem, there are generally signs. For instance, if you have a mental illness , you may experience excessive fear or sadness, mood changes, and changes in sleeping or eating habits. Recognizing these signs can help you realize that an issue exists.
  • Decide to solve the problem . Make a conscious decision to solve the issue at hand. Commit to yourself that you will go through the steps necessary to find a solution.
  • Seek to fully understand the issue . Analyze the problem you face, looking at it from all sides. If your problem is relationship-related, for instance, ask yourself how the other person may be interpreting the issue. You might also consider how your actions might be contributing to the situation.
  • Research potential options . Using the problem-solving strategies mentioned, research potential solutions. Make a list of options, then consider each one individually. What are some pros and cons of taking the available routes? What would you need to do to make them happen?
  • Take action . Select the best solution possible and take action. Action is one of the steps required for change . So, go through the motions needed to resolve the issue.
  • Try another option, if needed . If the solution you chose didn't work, don't give up. Either go through the problem-solving process again or simply try another option.

You can find a way to solve your problems as long as you keep working toward this goal—even if the best solution is simply to let go because no other good solution exists.

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Rosenbusch H, Soldner F, Evans AM, Zeelenberg M. Supervised machine learning methods in psychology: A practical introduction with annotated R code . Soc Personal Psychol Compass . 2021;15(2):e12579. doi:10.1111/spc3.12579

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Csikszentmihalyi M, Sawyer K. Creative insight: The social dimension of a solitary moment . In: The Systems Model of Creativity . 2015:73-98. doi:10.1007/978-94-017-9085-7_7

Chrysikou EG, Motyka K, Nigro C, Yang SI, Thompson-Schill SL. Functional fixedness in creative thinking tasks depends on stimulus modality .  Psychol Aesthet Creat Arts . 2016;10(4):425‐435. doi:10.1037/aca0000050

Huang F, Tang S, Hu Z. Unconditional perseveration of the short-term mental set in chunk decomposition .  Front Psychol . 2018;9:2568. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02568

National Alliance on Mental Illness. Warning signs and symptoms .

Mayer RE. Thinking, problem solving, cognition, 2nd ed .

Schooler JW, Ohlsson S, Brooks K. Thoughts beyond words: When language overshadows insight. J Experiment Psychol: General . 1993;122:166-183. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.2.166

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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The 5 steps of the solving problem process

August 17, 2023 by MindManager Blog

Whether you run a business, manage a team, or work in an industry where change is the norm, it may feel like something is always going wrong. Thankfully, becoming proficient in the problem solving process can alleviate a great deal of the stress that business issues can create.

Understanding the right way to solve problems not only takes the guesswork out of how to deal with difficult, unexpected, or complex situations, it can lead to more effective long-term solutions.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the 5 steps of problem solving, and help you explore a few examples of problem solving scenarios where you can see the problem solving process in action before putting it to work.

Understanding the problem solving process

When something isn’t working, it’s important to understand what’s at the root of the problem so you can fix it and prevent it from happening again. That’s why resolving difficult or complex issues works best when you apply proven business problem solving tools and techniques – from soft skills, to software.

The problem solving process typically includes:

  • Pinpointing what’s broken by gathering data and consulting with team members.
  • Figuring out why it’s not working by mapping out and troubleshooting the problem.
  • Deciding on the most effective way to fix it by brainstorming and then implementing a solution.

While skills like active listening, collaboration, and leadership play an important role in problem solving, tools like visual mapping software make it easier to define and share problem solving objectives, play out various solutions, and even put the best fit to work.

Before you can take your first step toward solving a problem, you need to have a clear idea of what the issue is and the outcome you want to achieve by resolving it.

For example, if your company currently manufactures 50 widgets a day, but you’ve started processing orders for 75 widgets a day, you could simply say you have a production deficit.

However, the problem solving process will prove far more valuable if you define the start and end point by clarifying that production is running short by 25 widgets a day, and you need to increase daily production by 50%.

Once you know where you’re at and where you need to end up, these five steps will take you from Point A to Point B:

  • Figure out what’s causing the problem . You may need to gather knowledge and evaluate input from different documents, departments, and personnel to isolate the factors that are contributing to your problem. Knowledge visualization software like MindManager can help.
  • Come up with a few viable solutions . Since hitting on exactly the right solution – right away – can be tough, brainstorming with your team and mapping out various scenarios is the best way to move forward. If your first strategy doesn’t pan out, you’ll have others on tap you can turn to.
  • Choose the best option . Decision-making skills, and software that lets you lay out process relationships, priorities, and criteria, are invaluable for selecting the most promising solution. Whether it’s you or someone higher up making that choice, it should include weighing costs, time commitments, and any implementation hurdles.
  • Put your chosen solution to work . Before implementing your fix of choice, you should make key personnel aware of changes that might affect their daily workflow, and set up benchmarks that will make it easy to see if your solution is working.
  • Evaluate your outcome . Now comes the moment of truth: did the solution you implemented solve your problem? Do your benchmarks show you achieved the outcome you wanted? If so, congratulations! If not, you’ll need to tweak your solution to meet your problem solving goal.

In practice, you might not hit a home-run with every solution you execute. But the beauty of a repeatable process like problem solving is that you can carry out steps 4 and 5 again by drawing from the brainstorm options you documented during step 2.

Examples of problem solving scenarios

The best way to get a sense of how the problem solving process works before you try it for yourself is to work through some simple scenarios.

Here are three examples of how you can apply business problem solving techniques to common workplace challenges.

Scenario #1: Manufacturing

Building on our original manufacturing example, you determine that your company is consistently short producing 25 widgets a day and needs to increase daily production by 50%.

Since you’d like to gather data and input from both your manufacturing and sales order departments, you schedule a brainstorming session to discover the root cause of the shortage.

After examining four key production areas – machines, materials, methods, and management – you determine the cause of the problem: the material used to manufacture your widgets can only be fed into your equipment once the machinery warms up to a specific temperature for the day.

Your team comes up with three possible solutions.

  • Leave your machinery running 24 hours so it’s always at temperature.
  • Invest in equipment that heats up faster.
  • Find an alternate material for your widgets.

After weighing the expense of the first two solutions, and conducting some online research, you decide that switching to a comparable but less expensive material that can be worked at a lower temperature is your best option.

You implement your plan, monitor your widget quality and output over the following week, and declare your solution a success when daily production increases by 100%.

Scenario #2: Service Delivery

Business training is booming and you’ve had to onboard new staff over the past month. Now you learn that several clients have expressed concern about the quality of your recent training sessions.

After speaking with both clients and staff, you discover there are actually two distinct factors contributing to your quality problem:

  • The additional conference room you’ve leased to accommodate your expanding training sessions has terrible acoustics
  • The AV equipment you’ve purchased to accommodate your expanding workforce is on back-order – and your new hires have been making do without

You could look for a new conference room or re-schedule upcoming training sessions until after your new equipment arrives. But your team collaboratively determines that the best way to mitigate both issues at once is by temporarily renting the high-quality sound and visual system they need.

Using benchmarks that include several weeks of feedback from session attendees, and random session spot-checks you conduct personally, you conclude the solution has worked.

Scenario #3: Marketing

You’ve invested heavily in product marketing, but still can’t meet your sales goals. Specifically, you missed your revenue target by 30% last year and would like to meet that same target this year.

After collecting and examining reams of information from your sales and accounting departments, you sit down with your marketing team to figure out what’s hindering your success in the marketplace.

Determining that your product isn’t competitively priced, you map out two viable solutions.

  • Hire a third-party specialist to conduct a detailed market analysis.
  • Drop the price of your product to undercut competitors.

Since you’re in a hurry for results, you decide to immediately reduce the price of your product and market it accordingly.

When revenue figures for the following quarter show sales have declined even further – and marketing surveys show potential customers are doubting the quality of your product – you revert back to your original pricing, revisit your problem solving process, and implement the market analysis solution instead.

With the valuable information you gain, you finally arrive at just the right product price for your target market and sales begin to pick up. Although you miss your revenue target again this year, you meet it by the second quarter of the following year.

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  • Miles Anthony Smith
  • Sep 12, 2022
  • 12 min read

The Ultimate Problem-Solving Process Guide: 31 Steps and Resources

Updated: Jan 24, 2023


prob·lem-solv·ing noun -the process of finding solutions to difficult or complex issues. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But in reality problem-solving is hard. It's almost always more complex than it seems. That's why problem-solving can be so frustrating sometimes. You can feel like you’re spinning your wheels, arguing in circles, or just failing to find answers that actually work. And when you've got a group working on a problem, it can get even muddier …differences of opinions, viewpoints colored by different backgrounds, history, life experiences, you name it. We’re all looking at life and work from different angles, and that often means disagreement. Sometimes sharp disagreement. That human element, figuring out how to take ourselves out of the equation and make solid, fact-based decisions , is precisely why there’s been so much written on problem-solving. Which creates its own set of problems. Whose method is best? How can you possibly sift through them all? Are we to have one person complete the entire problem-solving process by themselves or rely on a larger team to find answers to our most vexing challenges in the workplace ? Today, we’re going to make sense of it all. We’ll take a close look at nine top problem-solving methods. Then we’ll grab the best elements of all of them to give you a process that will have your team solving problems faster, with better results , and maybe with less sharp disagreement. Ready to dive in? Let’s go!


While there are loads of methods to choose from, we are going to focus on nine of the more common ones. You can use some of these problem-solving techniques reactively to solve a known issue or proactively to find more efficient or effective ways of performing tasks. If you want to explore other methods, check out this resource here . A helpful bit of advice here is to reassure people that you aren’t here to identify the person that caused the problem . You’re working to surface the issue, solve it and make sure it doesn’t happen again, regardless of the person working on the process. It can’t be understated how important it is to continually reassure people of this so that you get unfiltered access to information. Without this, people will often hide things to protect themselves . After all, nobody wants to look bad, do they? With that said, let’s get started...


Alex Osborn coined the term “Creative Problem Solving” in the 1940s with this simple four-step process:

Clarify : Explore the vision, gather data, and formulate questions.

Ideate : This stage should use brainstorming to generate divergent thinking and ideas rather than the random ideas normally associated with brainstorming.

Develop : Formulate solutions as part of an overall plan.

Implement : Put the plan into practice and communicate it to all parties.


Appreciative Inquiry 4D Cycle

Source: This method seeks, first and foremost, to identify the strengths in people and organizations and play to that “positive core” rather than focus our energies on improving weaknesses . It starts with an “affirmative topic,” followed by the “positive core (strengths).” Then this method delves into the following stages:

Discovery (fact-finding)

Dream (visioning the future)

Design (strategic purpose)

Destiny (continuous improvement)


This method simply suggests that we ask “Why” at least five times during our review of the problem and in search of a fix. This helps us dig deeper to find the the true reason for the problem, or the root cause. Now, this doesn’t mean we just keeping asking the same question five times. Once we get an answer to our first “why”, we ask why to that answer until we get to five “whys”.

Using the “five whys” is part of the “Analyze” phase of Six Sigma but can be used with or without the full Six Sigma process.

Review this simple Wikipedia example of the 5 Whys in action:

The vehicle will not start. (the problem)

Why? - The battery is dead. (First why)

Why? - The alternator is not functioning. (Second why)

Why? - The alternator belt has broken. (Third why)

Why? - The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and not replaced. (Fourth why)

Why? - The vehicle was not maintained according to the recommended service schedule. (Fifth why, a root cause)


Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify

While many people have at least heard of Lean or Six Sigma, do we know what it is? Like many problem-solving processes, it has five main steps to follow.

Define : Clearly laying out the problem and soliciting feedback from those who are customers of the process is necessary to starting off on the right foot.

Measure : Quantifying the current state of the problem is a key to measuring how well the fix performed once it was implemented.

Analyze : Finding out the root cause of the problem (see number 5 “Root Cause Analysis” below) is one of the hardest and least explored steps of Six Sigma.

Improve : Crafting, executing, and testing the solution for measureable improvement is key. What doesn’t get implemented and measured really won’t make a difference.

Control : Sustaining the fix through a monitoring plan will ensure things continue to stay on track rather than being a short-lived solution.


Compared to other methods, you’ll more often find this technique in a reactive problem-solving mode, but it is helpful nonetheless. Put simply, it requires a persistent approach to finding the highest-level cause, since most reasons you’ll uncover for a problem don’t tell the whole story.

Most of the time, there are many factors that contributed to an issue. The main reason is often shrouded in either intentional or unintentional secrecy. Taking the time to drill down to the root of the issue is key to truly solving the problem.


Named for W. Edwards Deming and Walter A. Shewhart, this model follows a four-step process:

Plan: Establish goals and objectives at the outset to gain agreement. It’s best to start on a small scale in order to test results and get a quick win.

Do: This step is all about the implementation and execution of the solution.

Check: Study and compare actual to expected results. Chart this data to identify trends.

Act/Adjust: If the check phase showed different results, then adjust accordingly. If worse than expected, then try another fix. If the same or better than expected, then use that as the new baseline for future improvements.


Man Drawing 8 Circles in a Circle

While this is named “8D” for eight disciplines, there are actually nine , because the first is listed as step zero. Each of the disciplines represents a phase of this process. Its aim is to implement a quick fix in the short term while working on a more permanent solution with no recurring issues.

Prepare and Plan : Collecting initial information from the team and preparing your approach to the process is a necessary first step.

Form a Team : Select a cross-functional team of people, one leader to run meetings and the process, and one champion/sponsor who will be the final decision-maker.

Describe the Problem : Using inductive and deductive reasoning approaches, lay out the precise issue to be corrected.

Interim Containment Action : Determine if an interim solution needs to be implemented or if it can wait until the final fix is firmed up. If necessary, the interim action is usually removed once the permanent solution is ready for implementation.

Root Cause Analysis and Escape Point : Finding the root of the issue and where in the process it could’ve been found but was not will help identify where and why the issue happened.

Permanent Corrective Action : Incorporating key criteria into the solution, including requirements and wants, will help ensure buy-in from the team and your champion.

Implement and Validate the Permanent Corrective Action : Measuring results from the fix implemented validates it or sends the team back to the drawing board to identity a more robust solution.

Prevent Recurrence : Updating work procedure documents and regular communication about the changes are important to keep old habits in check.

Closure and Team Celebration : Taking time to praise the team for their efforts in resolving the problem acknowledges the part each person played and offers a way to move forward.


The US Army has been solving problems for more than a couple of centuries , so why not take a look at the problem-solving process they’ve refined over many years? They recommend this five step process:

Identify the Problem : Take time to understand the situation and define a scope and limitations before moving forward.

Gather Information : Uncover facts, assumptions, and opinions about the problem, and challenge them to get to the truth.

Develop Screening and Evaluation Criteria :

Five screening items should be questioned. Is it feasible, acceptable, distinguishable, and complete?

Evaluation criteria should have these 5 elements: short title, definition, unit of measure, benchmark, and formula.

Generate, Analyze, and Compare Possible Solutions : Most fixes are analyzed, but do you compare yours to one another as a final vetting method?

Choose a Solution and Implement : Put the fix into practice and follow up to ensure it is being followed consistently and having the desired effect.


Thinking Man

Tim Hurson introduced this model in 2007 with his book, Think Better. It consists of the following six actions.

Ask "What is going on?" : Define the impact of the problem and the aim of its solution.

Ask "What is success?" : Spell out the expected outcome, what should not be in fix, values to be considered, and how things will be evaluated.

Ask "What is the question?" : Tailor questions to the problem type. Valuable resources can be wasted asking questions that aren’t truly relevant to the issue.

Generate answers : Prioritize answers that are the most relevant to solutions, without excluding any suggestion to present to the decision-makers.

Forge the solution : Refine the raw list of prioritized fixes, looking for ways to combine them for a more powerful solution or eliminate fixes that don’t fit the evaluation criteria.

Align resources: Identify resources, team, and stakeholders needed to implement and maintain the solution.


Little Girl Reaching For Strawberries On The Counter

Now that we’ve reviewed a number of problem-solving methods, we’ve compiled the various steps into a straightforward, yet in-depth, s tep-by-step process to use the best of all methods.


“Elementary, my dear Watson,” you might say.

This is true, but we often forget the fundamentals before trying to solve a problem. So take some time to gain understanding of critical stakeholder’s viewpoints to clarify the problem and cement consensus behind what the issue really is.

Sometimes it feels like you’re on the same page, but minor misunderstandings mean you’re not really in full agreement.. It’s better to take the time to drill down on an issue before you get too far into solving a problem that may not be the exact problem . Which leads us to…


Root Cause Analysis

This part of the process involves identifying these three items :

What happened?

Why did it happen?

What process do we need to employ to significantly reduce the chances of it happening again ?

You’ll usually need to sort through a series of situations to find the primary cause. So be careful not to stop at the first cause you uncover . Dig further into the situation to expose the root of the issue. We don’t want to install a solution that only fixes a surface-level issue and not the root. T here are typically three types of causes :

Physical: Perhaps a part failed due to poor design or manufacturing.

Human error: A person either did something wrong or didn’t do what needed to be done.

Organizational: This one is mostly about a system, process, or policy that contributed to the error .

When searching for the root cause, it is important to ensure people that you aren’t there to assign blame to a person but rather identify the problem so a fix can prevent future issues.


So far, you’ve approached the problem as a data scientist, searching for clues to the real issue. Now, it’s important to keep your eyes and ears open, in case you run across a fix suggested by one of those involved in the process failure. Because they are closest to the problem, they will often have an idea of how to fix things. In other cases, they may be too close, and unable to see how the process could change.

The bottom line is to solicit solution ideas from a variety of sources , both close to and far away from the process you’re trying to improve.

You just never know where the top fix might come from!


"Time To Evaluate" Written on a Notepad with Pink Glasses & Pen

Evaluating solutions to a defined problem can be tricky since each one will have cost, political, or other factors associated with it. Running each fix through a filter of cost and impact is a vital step toward identifying a solid solution and hopefully settling on the one with the highest impact and low or acceptable cost.

Categorizing each solution in one of these four categoriescan help teams sift through them:

High Cost/Low Impact: Implement these last, if at all, since t hey are expensive and won’t move the needle much .

Low Cost/Low Impact: These are cheap, but you won’t get much impact.

High Cost/High Impact: These can be used but should be second to the next category.

Low Cost/High Impact: Getting a solid “bang for your buck” is what these fixes are all about. Start with these first .


Formalize a document that all interested parties (front-line staff, supervisors, leadership, etc.) agree to follow. This will go a long way towards making sure everyone fully understands what the new process looks like, as well as what success will look like .

While it might seem tedious, try to be overly descriptive in the explanation of the solution and how success will be achieved. This is usually necessary to gain full buy-in and commitment to continually following the solution. We often assume certain things that others may not know unless we are more explicit with our communications.


Execution Etched In to a Gear

Arriving at this stage in the process only to forget to consistently apply the solution would be a waste of time, yet many organizations fall down in the execution phase . Part of making sure that doesn’t happen is to communicate the fix and ask for questions multiple times until all parties have a solid grasp on what is now required of them.

One often-overlooked element of this is the politics involved in gaining approval for your solution. Knowing and anticipating objections of those in senior or key leadership positions is central to gaining buy-in before fix implementation.


Next, doing check-ins with the new process will ensure that the solution is working (or identity if further reforms are necessary) . You’ll also see if the measure of predefined success has been attained (or is making progress in that regard).

Without regularly monitoring the fix, you can only gauge the success or failure of the solution by speculation and hearsay. And without hard data to review, most people will tell their own version of the story.


Man Looking Up at a Success Roadmap

Going into any problem-solving process, we should take note that we will not be done once the solution is implemented (or even if it seems to be working better at the moment). Any part of any process will always be subject to the need for future iterations and course corrections . To think otherwise would be either foolish or naive.

There might need to be slight, moderate, or wholesale changes to the solution previously implemented as new information is gained, new technologies are discovered, etc.


Resources | People Working Together At A Large Table With Laptops, Tablets & Paperwork Everywhere

Want to test your problem-solving skills?

Take a look at these twenty case study scenario exercises to see how well you can come up with solutions to these problems.

Still have a desire to discover more about solving problems?

Check out these 14 articles and books...


This book is like a Bible for Lean Six Sigma , all in a pocket-sized package.


Hands Holding Up a Comment Bubble That Says "Advice"

The American Society for Quality has a short article on how it’s important to focus on the problem before searching for a solution.


Wondering if you are solving the right problems? Check out this Harvard Business Review article.


Looking for a fun and easy problem-solving book that was written by a McKinsey consultant? Take a look!


A Drawn Lightbulb Where The Lightbulb is a Crumbled Piece Of Yellow Paper

If you want a deeper dive into the seven steps of Creative Problem Solving , see this article.


Appreciative Inquiry has been proven effective in organizations ranging from Roadway Express and British Airways to the United Nations and the United States Navy. Review this book to join the positive revolution.


The Seattle Police Department has put together nine case studies that you can practice solving . While they are about police work, they have practical application in the sleuthing of work-related problems.


Need a resource to delve further into Root Cause Analysis? Look no further than this book for answers to your most vexing questions .


Business Team Looking At Multi-Colored Sticky Notes On A Wall

This solid case study illustrates the complexities of solving problems in business.


Learn all about the “8Ds” with this concise primer.


Need to reduce groupthink in your organization’s problem-solving process ? Check out this article from the Harvard Business Review.


Woman Thinking Against A Yellow Wall

Tim Hurson details his own Productive Thinking Model at great length in this book from the author.


This simple five-step process will help you break down the problem, analyze it, prioritize solutions, and sell them internally.



There's a lot to take in here, but following some of these methods are sure to improve your problem-solving process. However, if you really want to take problem-solving to the next level, InitiativeOne can come alongside your team to help you solve problems much faster than you ever have before.

There are several parts to this leadership transformation process provided by InitiativeOne, including a personal profile assessment, cognitive learning, group sessions with real-world challenges, personal discovery, and a toolkit to empower leaders to perform at their best.

There are really only two things stopping good teams from being great. One is how they make decisions and two is how they solve problems. Contact us today to grow your team’s leadership performance by making decisions and solving problems more swiftly than ever before!

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What is an example of problem-solving?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

1. Identify the problem

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

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

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

2. Break the problem down 

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

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

3. Generate potential solutions

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

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

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

4. Evaluate the possible solutions

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

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

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


5. Implement and monitor the solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s break each of these down.

1. Use a solution that worked before

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

2. Brainstorming

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

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

3. Work backward

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

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

4. Use the Kipling method

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

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

Answering these questions can help you identify possible solutions.

5. Draw the problem

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

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


6. Use trial-and-error

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

7. Sleep on it

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

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

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

8. Get advice from your peers

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

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

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

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

9. Use the Pareto principle

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

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

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

10. Add successful solutions to your toolkit

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

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


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

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

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

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

1. Build your problem-solving skills

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

2. Practice

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

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

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

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

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


4. Ask for feedback

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

5. Learn new approaches and methodologies

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

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

6. Experiment

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

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

7. Analyze the success of your competitors

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

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

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

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

Use problem-solving strategies to uplevel your business

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

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

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

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

Boost your productivity

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

Elizabeth Perry, ACC

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

8 creative solutions to your most challenging problems

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7 Steps To Problem-Solving

The 7 steps to problem-solving is a disciplined and methodical approach to identifying and then addressing the root cause of problems. Instead, a more robust approach involves working through a problem using the hypothesis-driven framework of the scientific method. Each viable hypothesis is tested using a range of specific diagnostics and then recommendations are made.

– is a systematic approach to addressing complex challenges and making informed decisions. It provides a structured framework for , , and problems in various contexts, including , , , and everyday life.
– The primary purpose of the 7 Steps is to in a logical and organized manner, increasing the likelihood of finding . It helps individuals and teams tackle problems , making the process more efficient and reducing the risk of overlooking critical factors.
– : Begin by the problem or challenge. Understand its , its impact on stakeholders, and the .
– : and relevant information to and causes. Use various sources and to obtain insights.
– : Explore potential solutions and . Encourage and to produce a wide range of options.
– : Evaluate the pros and cons of each solution. Consider factors such as feasibility, cost, impact, and potential risks.
– : Choose the solution that aligns best with your problem definition and analysis. solutions based on their potential to address the problem effectively.
– : Develop an for implementing the chosen solution. Assign responsibilities, allocate resources, and establish a timeline.
– : After implementation, assess the results. against predefined criteria and make adjustments if necessary. Document the lessons learned for future reference.
– While the 7 Steps provide a structured approach, they are not strictly linear. and can be incorporated, allowing for at any stage based on new insights or changing circumstances. The framework is adaptable to various problem types and complexities.
– The 7 Steps to Problem-Solving can be applied to a wide range of challenges, including , , , , and . Its versatility makes it a valuable tool in both professional and personal contexts.
– Challenges in problem-solving may include that affect decision-making, , and about outcomes. Being aware of these challenges and applying critical thinking skills can help avoid pitfalls and improve the quality of problem-solving efforts.
– Effective problem-solving often involves and with others. , such as , , and , play a crucial role in the success of the 7 Steps, especially when problems involve multiple stakeholders.
– Documenting each step of the problem-solving process is valuable for and . It allows organizations and individuals to learn from past experiences and apply insights to future challenges.
– The integration of and can enhance problem-solving by providing and of certain tasks. These tools can assist in , , and , improving the efficiency of the 7 Steps.
– Considerations related to , , and should be part of the problem-solving process. ensures that solutions align with values, respect diverse perspectives, and consider the broader impact on society and stakeholders.

Table of Contents

Understanding the 7 steps to problem-solving

The core argument of this approach is that the most obvious solutions to a problem are often not the best solutions. 

Good problem-solving in business is a skill that must be learned. Businesses that are adept at problem-solving take responsibility for their own decisions and have courage and confidence in their convictions. Ultimately, this removes doubt which can impede the growth of businesses and indeed employees alike.

Moving through the 7 steps to problem-solving

Although many versions of the 7-step approach exist, the McKinsey approach is the most widely used in business settings. Here is how decision makers can move through each of the steps systematically.

Step 1 – Define the problem

First, the scope and extent of the problem must be identified. Actions and behaviors of individuals must be the focus – instead of a focus on the individuals themselves. Whatever the case, the problem must be clearly defined and be universally accepted by all relevant parties.

Step 2 – Disaggregate the problem

In the second step, break down the problem (challenge) into smaller parts using logic trees and develop an early hypothesis. Here, economic and scientific principles can be useful in brainstorming potential solutions. Avoid cognitive biases, such as deciding that a previous solution should be used again because it worked last time.

Step 3 – Prioritize issues

Which constituent parts could be key driving factors of the problem? Prioritize each according to those which have the biggest impact on the problem. Eliminate parts that have negligible impact. This step helps businesses use their resources wisely.

Step 4 – Plan the analyses

Before testing each hypothesis, develop a work and process plan for each. Staff should be assigned to analytical tasks with unique output and completion dates. Hypothesis testing should also be reviewed at regular intervals to measure viability and adjust strategies accordingly.

Step 5 – Conduct the analyses

In step five, gather the critical data required to accept or reject each hypothesis. Data analysis methods will vary according to the nature of the project, but each business must understand the reasons for implementing specific methods. In question-based problem solving, the Five Whys or Fishbone method may be used. More complicated problems may require the use of statistical analysis . In any case, this is often the longest and most complex step of the process. 

Step 6 – Synthesise the results

Once the results have been determined, they must be synthesized in such a way that they can be tested for validity and logic. In a business context, assess the implications of the findings for a business moving forward. Does it solve the problem? 

Step 7 – Communicate

In the final step, the business must present the solutions in such a way that they link back to the original problem statement. When presenting to clients, this is vital. It shows that the business understands the problem and has a solution supported by facts or hard data. Above all, the data should be woven into a convincing story that ends with recommendations for future action.

Key takeaways

  • 7 steps to problem-solving is a methodical approach to problem-solving based on the scientific method.
  • Although a somewhat rigorous approach, the strategy can be learned by any business willing to devote the time and resources.
  • Fundamentally, the 7 steps to problem-solving method involves formulating and then testing hypotheses. Through the process of elimination, a business can narrow its focus to the likely root cause of a problem.

Key Highlights

  • Definition : The 7 Steps to Problem-Solving is a structured methodology rooted in the scientific method. It emphasizes systematic hypothesis testing and data analysis to identify and address the root cause of problems, avoiding surface-level solutions.
  • Problem-Solving Skill : Effective problem-solving is a learned skill that fosters responsible decision-making, boosts confidence, and supports business growth .
  • Define the Problem : Clearly outline the problem’s scope and impact, focusing on actions and behaviors rather than individuals.
  • Disaggregate the Problem : Break down the problem into smaller parts using logic trees and form early hypotheses. Avoid biases from past solutions.
  • Prioritize Issues : Identify key driving factors of the problem and prioritize them by impact. Eliminate parts with minimal impact to allocate resources efficiently.
  • Plan the Analyses : Develop work and process plans for hypothesis testing, assigning staff and setting completion dates. Regularly review and adjust strategies.
  • Conduct the Analyses : Gather critical data to accept or reject hypotheses. Use methods like Five Whys, Fishbone diagrams, or statistical analysis .
  • Synthesize the Results : Combine and analyze results to determine their validity and implications for the business . Assess if the problem is solved.
  • Communicate : Present solutions that link back to the original problem statement, supported by facts. Create a compelling story ending with recommendations.
  • The 7 Steps to Problem-Solving is based on the scientific method.
  • It requires a structured approach to formulating and testing hypotheses.
  • Businesses willing to invest time and resources can learn and apply this method effectively.
Related ConceptsDescriptionWhen to Apply
The is a systematic approach used to address complex issues, make informed decisions, and find effective solutions to problems. These steps typically include: 1. : Clearly define the issue or challenge that needs to be resolved. 2. : Collect relevant data, facts, and insights to understand the problem’s underlying causes and implications. 3. : Brainstorm potential solutions or approaches to address the problem, considering various perspectives and creative alternatives. 4. : Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each solution based on feasibility, effectiveness, and alignment with goals and constraints. 5. : Choose the most promising solution or combination of solutions that best address the problem and achieve the desired outcomes. 6. : Develop a plan of action and execute the chosen solution, allocating resources, assigning responsibilities, and monitoring progress. 7. : Assess the effectiveness of the implemented solution by measuring outcomes, gathering feedback, and identifying lessons learned for future problem-solving endeavors. provide a structured framework for systematic thinking, collaboration, and decision-making, facilitating the resolution of complex problems and the achievement of desired objectives.– When faced with complex challenges, issues, or decisions that require a structured approach to problem-solving and decision-making.
encompass a variety of approaches and techniques used to analyze problems, devise solutions, and overcome obstacles effectively. These strategies may include: 1. : Break down complex problems into smaller, more manageable tasks or components to facilitate analysis and problem-solving. 2. : Generate ideas, solutions, and alternatives through open-ended discussion, creativity, and collaboration with others. 3. : Identify the underlying causes or contributing factors of a problem to address its fundamental source rather than just treating symptoms. 4. : Construct visual diagrams or flowcharts to map out decision-making processes, options, and potential outcomes to guide informed choices. 5. : Experiment with different approaches, solutions, or strategies through iterative testing and learning from failures to refine problem-solving efforts. 6. : Apply logical reasoning, analysis, and evaluation skills to assess information, identify patterns, and draw well-founded conclusions to solve problems effectively. 7. : Engage with diverse perspectives, expertise, and stakeholders to leverage collective knowledge, insights, and resources in addressing complex problems collaboratively. enable individuals and teams to approach problems systematically, creatively, and efficiently, leading to innovative solutions and improved decision-making outcomes.– When encountering challenges, obstacles, or issues that require analytical thinking, creativity, and strategic problem-solving to develop effective solutions and achieve desired outcomes.
The is a systematic approach used to evaluate options, make choices, and take action in various personal, professional, and organizational contexts. It typically involves the following steps: 1. : Clarify the decision to be made and its significance in achieving objectives or addressing concerns. 2. : Collect relevant data, facts, and insights to understand the decision context, alternatives, and potential consequences. 3. : Assess the strengths, weaknesses, risks, and implications of available options or courses of action using criteria and decision-making tools. 4. : Evaluate the information and analysis to make a choice or commitment based on informed judgment, intuition, or consensus among decision-makers. 5. : Develop a plan of action and execute the chosen decision, allocating resources, setting timelines, and monitoring progress towards desired outcomes. 6. : Review the decision’s outcomes, impacts, and effectiveness, gathering feedback, and adjusting course if needed to improve future decision-making processes. The provides a structured framework for thoughtful analysis, evaluation, and action to make sound decisions and achieve desired objectives effectively.– When confronted with choices, dilemmas, or opportunities that require careful consideration, analysis, and evaluation to make informed decisions and take appropriate actions.
is a problem-solving technique used to identify the underlying causes or factors contributing to a problem or issue, rather than just addressing its symptoms. It involves the following steps: 1. : Clearly articulate the problem or issue that needs to be investigated and resolved. 2. : Gather relevant information, data, and evidence to understand the problem’s context, history, and impacts. 3. : Brainstorm and list possible causes or factors that may contribute to the problem’s occurrence or persistence. 4. : Analyze and prioritize the potential causes based on their likelihood, impact, and relevance to the problem at hand. 5. : Investigate each potential cause in depth, using techniques such as interviews, observations, or data analysis to determine its validity and significance. 6. : Determine the primary or underlying cause(s) that directly lead to the problem’s occurrence or recurrence, considering systemic, human, and organizational factors. 7. : Generate corrective actions or interventions to address the root cause(s) and prevent the problem from reoccurring in the future. helps organizations and individuals address problems systematically, improve processes, and enhance performance by addressing underlying issues rather than treating symptoms.– When encountering recurring problems, issues, or failures that require deeper investigation and understanding to identify their underlying causes and develop effective solutions.
is a holistic approach to problem-solving and decision-making that considers the interrelationships, dynamics, and feedback loops within complex systems. It involves the following principles: 1. : Recognize and explore the connections and interactions among components, elements, or variables within a system. 2. : Analyze the feedback mechanisms and loops that influence system behavior and outcomes over time. 3. : Evaluate the dynamic behavior, patterns, and emergent properties that arise from interactions within the system. 4. : Define the boundaries and scope of the system under study, including its inputs, outputs, and external influences. 5. : Identify key leverage points or intervention opportunities within the system where small changes can lead to significant impacts or outcomes. 6. : Foster a systemic mindset and awareness among stakeholders to recognize the interconnectedness of issues, anticipate unintended consequences, and collaborate effectively in addressing complex challenges. enables individuals and organizations to understand complex systems, anticipate their behavior, and leverage leverage points for effective problem-solving and decision-making.– When dealing with complex, interconnected problems or challenges that involve multiple stakeholders, variables, and feedback loops, requiring a holistic understanding and approach to address effectively.
is a cognitive process of analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing information to form reasoned judgments, make informed decisions, and solve problems effectively. It involves the following components: 1. : Challenge assumptions, biases, and preconceptions to gain a deeper understanding of issues and perspectives. 2. : Collect relevant evidence, data, and arguments to support logical reasoning and informed decision-making. 3. : Evaluate diverse viewpoints, opinions, and interpretations to gain insights and consider alternative solutions. 4. : Identify patterns, trends, and connections within information or data to discern underlying relationships and implications. 5. : Make reasoned inferences and draw logical conclusions based on available evidence, analysis, and critical thinking. 6. : Reflect on personal biases, assumptions, and cognitive limitations that may influence thinking and decision-making processes. skills are essential for analyzing complex issues, evaluating evidence, and making informed decisions in various personal, academic, and professional contexts.– When facing complex problems, ambiguous situations, or conflicting information that require rigorous analysis, logical reasoning, and informed judgment to arrive at well-founded conclusions and effective solutions.
is an approach that emphasizes generating innovative solutions to challenges by thinking outside the box, exploring unconventional ideas, and embracing experimentation. It involves the following elements: 1. : Clearly articulate the problem or opportunity that requires creative solutions and identify desired outcomes. 2. : Encourage brainstorming and creative thinking techniques to generate a wide range of ideas, alternatives, and possibilities. 3. : Evaluate and explore unconventional or unexpected solutions that may diverge from traditional approaches or assumptions. 4. : Test and refine potential solutions through experimentation, prototyping, or pilot projects to assess feasibility and effectiveness. 5. : Embrace failure as part of the creative process and iterate on ideas based on feedback, insights, and lessons learned. 6. : Collaborate with diverse stakeholders, perspectives, and disciplines to stimulate creativity, innovation, and synergy in problem-solving efforts. fosters a culture of innovation, experimentation, and continuous improvement, enabling individuals and teams to address complex challenges with fresh perspectives and imaginative solutions.– When seeking to break through conventional thinking, explore new possibilities, and develop innovative solutions to complex problems or opportunities that require creativity, imagination, and out-of-the-box thinking.
is an approach derived from Lean principles and methodologies, focusing on identifying and eliminating waste, inefficiencies, and non-value-added activities in processes or systems. It involves the following principles: 1. : Identify the value desired by customers or stakeholders and prioritize efforts to deliver value-added outcomes. 2. : Visualize and map out the current state of processes or workflows to identify bottlenecks, redundancies, and areas for improvement. 3. : Analyze problems systematically to identify underlying causes and factors contributing to inefficiencies or defects. 4. : Develop and implement targeted solutions or countermeasures to address root causes and streamline processes. 5. : Establish standardized work practices, procedures, or guidelines to sustain improvements and prevent recurrence of problems. 6. : Foster a culture of continuous learning, experimentation, and adaptation to drive ongoing improvements and optimize performance over time. emphasizes efficiency, effectiveness, and customer value, enabling organizations to enhance productivity, quality, and competitiveness in their operations.– When aiming to improve operational performance, streamline processes, and eliminate waste or inefficiencies in workflows or systems by applying Lean principles and problem-solving methodologies to identify and address root causes effectively.
is a human-centered approach to innovation and problem-solving that emphasizes empathy, creativity, and iterative prototyping to develop solutions that meet users’ needs and preferences. It involves the following stages: 1. : Understand users’ needs, motivations, and pain points through observation, interviews, and immersion in their experiences. 2. : Define the problem or opportunity based on insights gathered from empathizing with users and identifying their challenges or aspirations. 3. : Generate a wide range of creative ideas, concepts, and solutions to address the defined problem or opportunity, leveraging divergent thinking techniques. 4. : Develop rapid prototypes or representations of potential solutions to test and refine ideas, gathering feedback from users and stakeholders. 5. : Evaluate prototypes with users to validate assumptions, gather insights, and iteratively refine solutions based on feedback and observations. 6. : Implement and scale solutions that have been iteratively developed and validated through the design thinking process, ensuring they address users’ needs effectively. fosters innovation, collaboration, and user-centricity, enabling organizations to develop products, services, and experiences that resonate with users and create meaningful impact.– When seeking to develop innovative solutions, products, or services that are user-centric, intuitive, and impactful by applying a human-centered approach to problem-solving and design.
is an iterative, collaborative approach to addressing complex problems and adapting to changing circumstances in dynamic environments. It aligns with Agile principles and methodologies used in software development and project management. Key aspects include: 1. : Break down problems into smaller, manageable tasks or iterations that can be tackled incrementally and adaptively. 2. : Form cross-functional teams that collaborate closely, share knowledge, and work iteratively to solve problems and deliver value. 3. : Embrace feedback, experimentation, and reflection to learn from experiences, iterate on solutions, and improve outcomes over time. 4. : Respond quickly and flexibly to changes, uncertainties, and emerging insights by adjusting plans, priorities, and approaches as needed. 5. : Maintain transparency and visibility into progress, challenges, and decision-making processes to foster trust and alignment among team members and stakeholders. promotes flexibility, responsiveness, and resilience, enabling teams to navigate complexity and deliver value effectively in dynamic environments.– When confronting complex, rapidly evolving problems or projects that require adaptive, collaborative approaches to problem-solving, decision-making, and value delivery in uncertain or changing conditions.

Connected Decision-Making Frameworks

Cynefin Framework


SWOT Analysis


Personal SWOT Analysis


Pareto Analysis


Failure Mode And Effects Analysis


Blindspot Analysis


Comparable Company Analysis


Cost-Benefit Analysis


Agile Business Analysis


SOAR Analysis


STEEPLE Analysis


Pestel Analysis


DESTEP Analysis


Paired Comparison Analysis


Related Strategy Concepts:  Go-To-Market Strategy ,  Marketing Strategy ,  Business Models ,  Tech Business Models ,  Jobs-To-Be Done ,  Design Thinking ,  Lean Startup Canvas ,  Value Chain ,  Value Proposition Canvas ,  Balanced Scorecard ,  Business Model Canvas ,  SWOT Analysis ,  Growth Hacking ,  Bundling ,  Unbundling ,  Bootstrapping ,  Venture Capital ,  Porter’s Five Forces ,  Porter’s Generic Strategies ,  Porter’s Five Forces ,  PESTEL Analysis ,  SWOT ,  Porter’s Diamond Model ,  Ansoff ,  Technology Adoption Curve ,  TOWS ,  SOAR ,  Balanced

Read Next:  Mental Models ,  Biases ,  Bounded Rationality ,  Mandela Effect ,  Dunning-Kruger Effect ,  Lindy Effect ,  Crowding Out Effect ,  Bandwagon Effect ,  Decision-Making Matrix .

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  • The Three Stages of the Problem-Solving Cycle

Essentially every problem-solving heuristic in mathematics goes back to George Polya’s How to Solve It ; my approach is no exception. However, this cyclic description might help to keep the process cognitively present.

A few months ago, I produced a video describing this the three stages of the problem-solving cycle: Understand, Strategize, and Implement. That is, we must first understand the problem, then we think of strategies that might help solve the problem, and finally we implement those strategies and see where they lead us. During two decades of observing myself and others in the teaching and learning process, I’ve noticed that the most neglected phase is often the first one—understanding the problem.


The Three Stages Explained

  • What am I looking for?
  • What is the unknown?
  • Do I understand every word and concept in the problem?
  • Am I familiar with the units in which measurements are given?
  • Is there information that seems missing?
  • Is there information that seems superfluous?
  • Is the source of information bona fide? (Think about those instances when a friend gives you a puzzle to solve and you suspect there’s something wrong with the way the puzzle is posed.)
  • Logical reasoning
  • Pattern recognition
  • Working backwards
  • Adopting a different point of view
  • Considering extreme cases
  • Solving a simpler analogous problem
  • Organizing data
  • Making a visual representation
  • Accounting for all possibilities
  • Intelligent guessing and testing

I have produced videos explaining each one of these strategies individually using problems we have solved at the Chapel Hill Math Circle.

  • Implementing : We now implement our strategy or set of strategies. As we progress, we check our reasoning and computations (if any). Many novice problem-solvers make the mistake of “doing something” before understanding (or at least thinking they understand) the problem. For instance, if you ask them “What are you looking for?”, they might not be able to answer. Certainly, it is possible to have an incorrect understanding of the problem, but that is different from not even realizing that we have to understand the problem before we attempt to solve it!

As we implement our strategies, we might not be able to solve the problem, but we might refine our understanding of the problem. As we refine our understanding of the problem, we can refine our strategy. As we refine our strategy and implement a new approach, we get closer to solving the problem, and so on. Of course, even after several iterations of this cycle spanning across hours, days, or even years, one may still not be able to solve a particular problem. That’s part of the enchanting beauty of mathematics.

I invite you to observe your own thinking—and that of your students—as you move along the problem-solving cycle!

[1] Problem-Solving Strategies in Mathematics , Posamentier and Krulik, 2015.

About the author: You may contact Hector Rosario at [email protected].

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

what are 3 steps of problem solving

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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.

Want to design better group processes?

what are 3 steps of problem solving

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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what are 3 steps of problem solving

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3 Steps to Successfully Solve Any Problem

A person is standing in front of a stack of boxes, holding them in their hands. The person is wearing jeans and a bright smile. The boxes have a bright green letter on a black background, and a white letter on a grey background. There is also black and white text in the background. The person is confidently holding the stack of boxes, and the boxes look to be of various shapes and sizes. The lighting is bright and the image has a clear and vibrant color. The person appears to be focused and intent on holding the stack of boxes.

Step Description Key Considerations
Step 1: Gathering InformationUnderstand the problem in-depth by collecting relevant information.Collect the right kind of data, Interpret the data effectively, Break down the problem into smaller components.
Step 2: Developing SolutionsBrainstorm and devise potential solutions to the problem.Think creatively, Consider potential outcomes for each solution, Weigh the pros and cons of each option.
Step 3: Evaluating SolutionsAssess potential solutions and select the best one.Conduct research, Consult with experts, Run tests, Consider risks and feasibility of the solution.
Key Mindset: PersistenceRemain tenacious and dedicated in your problem-solving endeavor.Maintain focus and do not give up, Approach the problem from different angles, Practice patience.
Key Mindset: CreativityApproach problems with innovative thinking.Think outside the box, Do not restrict your ideas, Use imagination as a tool.
Key Skill: AnalysisBreak down problems to understand its root causes.Avoid assuming, Identify cause and effect relationships, Use logical reasoning.
Key Skill: CommunicationDiscuss with colleagues or experts for input or advice.Listen actively, Articulate your ideas clearly, Facilitate open discussions.
Key Skill: Risk ManagementAssess the potential risks associated with each solution.Identify potential risks, Assess impact and probability of risks, Develop a risk mitigation plan.
Key Success Factor: Right MindsetMaintain a positive and proactive approach in problem-solving.Be proactive, Believe in your abilities, Stay positive.
Key Success Factor: Accurate InformationEffective problem-solving requires accurate and relevant information.Verify the source and reliability of information, Understand the relevance and context of the information, Continuously update your knowledge base.

At its core, problem-solving is simply the process of identifying and addressing a challenge or obstacle that stands in the way of achieving a goal. While many different strategies and techniques can be used to solve problems effectively, three key steps are essential for any successful problem-solving process: gathering information, developing possible solutions, and evaluating potential solutions.

Whether you are facing a workplace challenge, tackling a personal problem, or working to overcome a difficult obstacle, the key to success is assessing the situation thoroughly, gathering all of the necessary information, and carefully evaluate your options.

This may involve brainstorming potential solutions with colleagues or seeking input from experts, as well as carefully considering the possible outcomes of each option. Ultimately, the key is to be persistent and remain focused on finding a solution that works for you. With the right mindset and approach, any problem can be successfully solved.

Are you tired of wasting time on problems that you can't solve? This guide will systematically show you how to solve any problem in just three steps.

Whether you are facing a work challenge, tackling a personal problem, or struggling to overcome an obstacle, the key to success has the right mindset and approach to problem-solving. At its core, problem-solving involves:

Identifying the challenge or obstacle that stands in your way.

Gathering information to understand the situation entirely.

Considering all of your possible solutions before deciding on the best course of action.

To solve a problem, you need to be able to gather enough and the right kind of information.

To successfully solve a problem, you must have accurate information about that problem. This involves being able to gather the right kind of data, as well as having the knowledge and skills needed to interpret it effectively. One essential part of problem-solving is analyzing the problem, which requires you to break it down into smaller components to understand its root causes better.

Once you have gathered enough data and understand the problem, you can begin considering possible solutions and selecting the best ones based on your available resources. Ultimately, analyzing a problem and gathering relevant information is crucial for achieving effective problem-solving results.

Developing possible solutions is an essential step in the problem-solving process steps.

Once you clearly understand the problem, your next step is to start thinking creatively about possible solutions. This may involve brainstorming ideas with colleagues or seeking input from experts, as well as considering potential outcomes for each option and weighing the pros and cons of each solution before making a final decision.

In many cases, trying out different solutions to see what works best can also be helpful. Then, with persistence, focus, and creativity, you can develop practical solutions that will allow you to overcome any challenge or obstacle that stands in your way.

Evaluating potential solutions is key to ensuring that you choose the right approach to solve your problem.

Before making a final decision about the best course of action, it is essential to evaluate your potential solutions and consider the possible outcomes carefully. This may involve conducting research, consulting with subject matter experts, or running tests to determine which solution will most effectively address your challenge or obstacle. It is also essential to consider any risks associated with each option and how feasible it will be to implement the chosen solution based on your available resources.

With a clear understanding of the problem, the right mindset and approach for problem-solving, and a willingness to explore different options, you can successfully overcome any challenge or obstacle that stands in your way. In addition, adopting these essential problem-solving skills will enable you to achieve your goals and live a more fulfilling and successful life at work or in your personal life.

Don't let problems hold you back any longer. With this simple three-step process, you will be able to quickly and effectively solve any problem that comes your way. The first step is gathering enough information about the issue at hand. Once you have a good understanding of what the problem is, you can begin developing possible solutions.

After narrowing down your options, it's essential to evaluate each potential solution to ensure that you choose the best option for solving your problem. Join our course on problem-solving today and learn how to overcome any obstacle life throws your way.

Step 1: Gathering Information, Understand the problem in-depth by collecting relevant information, Collect the right kind of data, Interpret the data effectively,  Break down the problem into smaller components, Step 2: Developing Solutions, Brainstorm and devise potential solutions to the problem, Think creatively, Consider potential outcomes for each solution, Weigh the pros and cons of each option, Step 3: Evaluating Solutions, Assess potential solutions and select the best one, Conduct research, Consult with experts, Run tests, Consider risks and feasibility of the solution, Key Mindset: Persistence, Remain tenacious and dedicated in your problem-solving endeavor, Maintain focus and do not give up, Approach the problem from different angles, Practice patience, Key Mindset: Creativity, Approach problems with innovative thinking, Think outside the box, Do not restrict your ideas, Use imagination as a tool, Key Skill: Analysis, Break down problems to understand its root causes, Avoid assuming, Identify cause and effect relationships, Use logical reasoning, Key Skill: Communication, Discuss with colleagues or experts for input or advice, Listen actively, Articulate your ideas clearly, Facilitate open discussions, Key Skill: Risk Management, Assess the potential risks associated with each solution, Identify potential risks, Assess impact and probability of risks, Develop a risk mitigation plan, Key Success Factor: Right Mindset, Maintain a positive and proactive approach in problem-solving, Be proactive, Believe in your abilities, Stay positive, Key Success Factor: Accurate Information, Effective problem-solving requires accurate and relevant information, Verify the source and reliability of information, Understand the relevance and context of the information, Continuously update your knowledge base

What's your favorite problem-solving technique?

My favorite problem-solving technique is breaking down the problem into smaller parts and then attacking each piece individually. This involves understanding the problem, devising a plan of action, implementing the program, and checking to ensure the solution solves the problem.

This technique works well because it helps you focus on one task at a time and prevents you from getting overwhelmed by the size or complexity of the problem. It also allows you to test different solutions and see which works best. And finally, it helps you ensure that your solution solves the problem.

Problem-solving is an essential skill in both personal and professional spheres, and my preferred technique is a systematic approach that divides complex issues into more manageable components. This strategy is effective because it clarifies the problem and facilitates methodical, step-by-step resolution. Here's how I implement this technique:1. **Understanding the Problem**: The first step is to define the problem accurately. Without a clear understanding, it's easy to waste time solving the wrong issue. I gather as much information as possible and try to determine the root cause. Is the problem a symptom of a larger issue? Understanding the full context is crucial.2. **Breaking It Down**: Once I have a comprehensive understanding of the problem, I break it down into smaller, more manageable parts. This modular approach helps to prevent feelings of being overwhelmed and allows for a focused analysis of each segment of the problem. Each piece becomes a mini-problem that requires a solution.3. **Devising a Plan**: With all the smaller problems outlined, I create a plan of action for each one. This plan includes setting goals, prioritizing tasks, and identifying resources. It's important to outline the steps needed to address each part of the broader issue. During this phase, I might use techniques like mind mapping or flowcharts to chart a path forward.4. **Implementing the Program**: Action is key in problem-solving. I tackle each part of the problem according to the plan, taking care to adjust my approach if necessary. Sometimes, solving one part of the problem can have an effect on another, so being flexible is important. This iterative process helps refine solutions until they are effective.5. **Checking the Solution**: Finally, after implementing a solution, I review it to make sure it solves the original problem. This may involve testing, seeking feedback, or applying the solution to real-world scenarios. In this step, critical thinking and evaluation are key. The solution should not only fix the immediate problem but should also be sustainable over time.An example of this approach is often seen in the educational services provided by institutions like IIENSTITU, which offer online courses to address specific learning needs. By breaking down the broader goal of education into specific skill sets and subjects, learners can tackle one module at a time, ensuring a comprehensive grasp of the material before moving on to the next challenge.In conclusion, breaking down problems into smaller parts for individual resolution is a powerful technique that encourages thorough analysis, targeted action, and verified solutions. It provides a roadmap for navigating complex problems efficiently, ensuring that each step taken is towards the ultimate goal of a fully resolved issue.

Do you prefer to work on problems alone or with others?

I prefer to work on problems with others. I think it's essential to have different perspectives when solving problems. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, so it's helpful to have as many different viewpoints as possible when trying to solve a problem. Plus, working with others can be a lot of fun!

When it comes to problem-solving, collaboration is often the key to success. By preferring to work on problems with others, you open yourself up to a diversity of ideas, expertise, and experiences that can significantly enhance the problem-solving process.One of the major advantages of group problem-solving is the pooling of knowledge. Each member brings their own unique background, which can include various educational disciplines, professional experiences, and personal insights. This amalgamation of knowledge can lead to more comprehensive solutions that take multiple aspects of a problem into account.Moreover, when working with others, challenges can be approached from different angles. Every individual may interpret the problem distinctively and propose different tactics for resolution. This creates an environment where creative and innovative solutions can emerge. Collective brainstorming sessions often unearth solutions that may remain undiscovered if one were to tackle the problem alone.Another significant benefit of team-based problem solving is the ability to distribute the workload. Complex problems can have different facets that require detailed attention. By dividing responsibilities among team members based on respective strengths, the burden is lessened and tasks become more manageable. For example, someone with strong analytical skills might handle data analysis, while another team member with excellent communication skills could be responsible for coordinating with stakeholders.The social aspect of working with others cannot be overlooked. It can be motivating and more enjoyable to work alongside colleagues. This can lead to increased productivity and a positive work atmosphere. Comradery built through team problem-solving can also foster a strong sense of camaraderie and can improve relationships within a team, leading to better outcomes in future collaborative efforts.However, effective group problem-solving depends on good communication and conflict resolution skills. It’s imperative to establish clear goals, roles, and processes to avoid confusion and ensure productive discussions. Building consensus can be challenging, and it's crucial to create a safe environment for all voices to be heard and valued. This leads to a more inclusive solution that is more likely to be embraced by all stakeholders.Education platforms like IIENSTITU offer courses, workshops, and trainings that emphasize the importance of teamwork and collaboration in professional contexts. By adopting these skills, professionals can enhance their ability to work effectively in groups. These platforms understand the evolving landscape of the modern workplace where teamwork and cross-functional collaboration are indispensable.In conclusion, preferring to work with others on problem-solving endeavors comes with numerous benefits that can lead to more efficient, innovative, and inclusive solutions. While it is important to recognize and cultivate individual talents, harnessing the collective intelligence of a group often yields the best results. The key to successful group work is good communication, respect for diverse viewpoints, and a coordinated strategy that leverages the strengths of each team member.

Have you ever had a problem that you couldn't solve? If so, how did you go about finding a solution?

I have had a problem that I couldn't solve. If so, how did you go about it?

First, I would try to narrow the problem as much as possible. Then, I would research the problem and try to find any potential solutions. After that, I would test those potential solutions to see if they worked.

If none of the possible solutions worked, I would start from scratch and develop a new plan of action. Finally, I would execute that plan of action and hope for the best.

When facing an intractable problem, the initial reaction may often be one of frustration or confusion. It's a situation many of us have encountered at some point in our lives, and it requires a strategic approach to navigate. Let’s delve into a systematic method that can assist in resolving such challenging issues.The outset of tackling a difficult problem is defining it with precision. To understand the problem thoroughly, one must scrutinize the details and context. This stage involves asking questions like What exactly is not working?, When does the issue occur?, and Who is affected by this problem? The aim here is to strip down the issue to its core components, avoiding any irrelevant or peripheral factors that might cloud judgement.Once the problem is succinctly defined, the next step is to embark on a research phase. The pursuit of knowledge is pivotal. In this day and age, we have access to a vast cosmos of information at our fingerprints; however, it's vital to look for credible sources. Resources to consider may include academic journals, technical manuals, expert forums, or platforms dedicated to professional development like IIENSTITU. Such platforms offer specialized courses and expert insights that might shed light on the particular challenge you are facing. Collating information from a mix of trusted resources can uncover potential solutions previously not considered.Following extensive research, compile all the potential solutions discovered. The logical course of action is to experiment with these solutions one at a time, keenly observing the outcomes. It is crucial during this phase to document the process diligently. Recording what has been tried, what modifications were made, and the effects of these changes can provide valuable insights, whether they yield success or not.In instances where the solutions investigated do not render the desired outcome, it might be necessary to strip the problem down once more, this time with the additional knowledge gained from your initial attempts. It is also a prime opportunity to solicit external opinions. Consulting with peers, mentors, or subject matter experts can introduce fresh perspectives and ideas that one might have overlooked.Formulating a fresh plan of action is the culmination of all previous steps taken. This plan should integrate all the lessons learned during the problem-solving process, leveraging new insights and strategies. Armed with a more refined approach, it’s essential to deploy this new plan systematically, all while being open to making adjustments as new information or feedback becomes available.In conclusion, addressing a problem with no apparent solution demands a structured approach that includes defining the problem, conducting thorough research from credible sources like IIENSTITU, testing potential solutions methodically, and if needed, revisiting the issue with a revised plan based on insights garnered. Throughout this process, perseverance, adaptability, and patience are indispensable virtues. Resolving such a challenge, especially a rare or unique one, is seldom straightforward, but with persistence and the right strategy, a solution is generally attainable.

Is there a problem-solving method that you're particularly interested in but haven't had the opportunity to try yet?

I'm interested in the problem-solving process itself. The problem-solving process entails breaking a problem into smaller and smaller manageable parts. Then, once the smaller pieces are understood, the solution to the original problem can be found.

This approach is often called "Divide and Conquer." And it's a very effective way of solving problems. The key is to break the problem into manageable chunks and take one step at a time.

Of course, if you try to solve the entire problem simultaneously, you will likely become overwhelmed and frustrated. But taking it one step at a time can slowly but surely work toward a solution.

The Divide and Conquer approach to problem-solving is a time-tested method that applies across various fields, from computer science to business management, and even in everyday tasks. Its power lies in its simplicity and its ability to make complex or overwhelming problems more manageable.The first step in the Divide and Conquer strategy is to identify the problem. This means clearly defining what needs to be solved without ambiguity. Once the problem is identified, the dividing phase begins. This involves breaking down the large problem into smaller, more manageable sub-problems. The idea is that these smaller problems will be easier to understand, less complex, and, because of this, easier to solve.For instance, if a company is struggling with decreased productivity, the Divide and Conquer method would start by splitting this broad problem into several components such as employee satisfaction, workflow inefficiencies, and resource allocation. Each of these areas would then be further dissected until actionable items emerge.The next phase is to conquer each sub-problem one at a time. This allows for a focused approach where each solution can be crafted with due attention to detail. It also makes the process less overwhelming and increases the likelihood of finding effective solutions, since tackling smaller issues can often yield quick wins that build momentum toward solving the larger problem.Once solutions for the sub-problems have been found, they are integrated into a comprehensive strategy designed to tackle the initial, larger problem. The process may involve iteration, with the problem-solver cycling back to divide further or reconquer as new information and understanding emerge.An example of Divide and Conquer in action is IIENSTITU's approach to educational content. IIENSTITU may split the creation process into research, writing, and production. Each section is then handled meticulously to ensure high-quality output. In research, they may further divide the work into data collection, fact-checking, and sourcing relevant information, ensuring the material is both accurate and rare.While the Divide and Conquer method is widely known, its practical applications can yield unique insights. For instance, in software development, this approach is the backbone of algorithms that efficiently sort and search through data. It's also behind strategic business decisions that break down market expansion into stages like regional analysis, product adaptation, and gradual rollouts.The efficacy of Divide and Conquer lies in its adaptability. Individuals can apply this method to personal goals, such as weight loss or learning a new skill, by breaking these goals into daily or weekly actions. It's a method that fosters control over a situation, reduces anxiety, and provides a clear roadmap towards a solution.Revisiting the earlier example, after the company identifies and implements solutions for employee satisfaction, workflow inefficiencies, and resource allocation, it should see an uptick in productivity. Each solution, when combined, addresses the overarching problem in a controlled and deliberate manner.In summary, the Divide and Conquer approach is a powerful method for dissecting and tackling problems. It allows for a systematic breakdown of issues into elements that are more manageable and less daunting. By dealing with smaller components and gradually integrating their solutions, one can often find a clear path to overcoming what first seemed like an insurmountable challenge.

Do you think there's always a solution to every problem, or are some problems unsolvable?

There is never a simple solution to every problem. Many problems don't have a definitive answer. What is important is how we approach problem-solving.

The first step in any problem-solving process is to identify the problem. This cannot be easy because sometimes we are so close to a situation that we can't see it objectively. However, once the issue is identified, we can look for potential solutions.

Not all solutions are viable, and some may even worsen; therefore, it is a problem. It's essential to evaluate all potential solutions and choose the best one. Sometimes this means trying multiple solutions until one works.

When grappling with the complexities of problem-solving, the premise that every issue has a definitive solution is often a topic of debate. Indeed, the nature of problems varies widely - from the mathematical, where solutions are either proven or disproven, to the philosophical, where answers may be open to interpretation and subjective value judgments. Some problems, particularly those dealing with complex systems or human behavior, may never have clear-cut solutions due to the myriad of variables involved.The initial step in tackling any problem is precise identification. This can be a nuanced process, as problems often present themselves as symptoms of more profound issues. It's not uncommon for true problem identification to require a deep dive into the underlying causes, which can be obscured by various factors, including but not limited to, cognitive biases, lack of information, or the complexity of the problem itself.Once the problem has been identified, generating potential solutions is the next course of action. It is worth noting that not all solutions are created equal. Some may offer a temporary fix or address only a surface-level aspect of the problem. The matrix of evaluating solutions is predicated on their feasibility, sustainability, and potential unintended consequences. The process often involves a strategic analysis using criteria such as cost, time, resources, and potential impact to weigh each solution's merits.In some scenarios, the solution may involve a series of incremental steps rather than a single, monumental change. This iterative approach to problem-solving acknowledges that some problems are too complex to be solved in one fell swoop. Instead, they may require a progressive series of adaptations and improvements to move towards a resolution.Furthermore, the role of creativity in problem-solving cannot be overstated. Sometimes, the most intractable problems necessitate thinking outside conventional paradigms and employing lateral thinking techniques to arrive at innovative solutions.There is also the school of thought that considers the solvability of a problem in relation to the scope and scale of the issue at hand. Problems of a global or existential nature, such as climate change or the question of human suffering, pose challenges that are not readily solvable by individual actors or simple solutions; they require coordinated and sustained efforts over time, and even then, complete resolution may be more aspirational than practical.Conclusively, approaching problems with the mindset that there is always a perfect solution may lead to frustration. Instead, adopting a mindset geared towards progress, adaptive learning, and resilience can be more effective. The ethos of problem-solving resides not just in seeking solutions but in the process of dialogue, collaboration, and continuous learning that we engage in along the way.Institutes like IIENSTITU, specializing in education and learning, play a vital role in equipping individuals with the critical thinking, analytical, and creative skills necessary to tackle a wide array of problems. Through their courses and seminars, learners are provided with the tools to approach issues methodically, considering the complexities and intricacies that characterize modern challenges.

Are there any tricks or tactics to help you solve problems more efficiently?

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to solve problems will vary depending on the situation. However, a general process that can be useful for solving many types of issues is illustrated in the diagram below.

The first step is to identify and understand the problem. This may involve identifying the problem's root cause and understanding all the relevant facts and figures. Once you have a good understanding of the problem, you can then begin brainstorming possible solutions. After you have a few potential solutions, evaluating them carefully and selecting the best one is essential. 

When it comes to solving problems efficiently, the importance of using structured methods cannot be overstated. While many organizations and educational platforms, such as IIENSTITU, emphasize the significance of various problem-solving techniques, there are specific tricks and tactics that could enhance your problem-solving skills.**Understanding the Problem**Before you can solve a problem, you must thoroughly understand it. This involves breaking down the problem into more manageable parts. Here are the steps to get a deeper insight into the issue:- Define the problem in clear, specific terms.- Gather all relevant information and data about the problem.- Distinguish between cause and effect. This often involves asking why multiple times until you reach the root cause.- Map out how the problem affects other areas or systems that might not be immediately apparent. **Idea Generation**The next phase of problem-solving involves generating a variety of potential solutions. Creative thinking here is key. Here are ways to foster this:- Apply brainstorming techniques. Write down all the ideas, even those that seem far-fetched.- Use lateral thinking to approach the problem from different perspectives.- Encourage diversity of thought by drawing on the knowledge and experience of a varied group of people.**Critical Evaluation**Once a list of potential solutions has been generated, critical analysis is essential to evaluate the viability and potential impact of each option. Follow these tactics:- Develop criteria for judging solutions such as cost, time, resources, and alignment with organizational goals.- Use a scoring system to rate how well each solution meets your criteria.- Assess the risks associated with each potential solution.**Decision Making**Selecting the best solution is a crucial step that involves considering the evaluations conducted in the previous phase. The following considerations could assist in the decision-making process:- Foresee possible outcomes through scenarios or simulations.- Consider if the solution is scalable and sustainable over time.- Make a decision based on a mix of data-driven analysis and intuitive judgment.**Implementation and Review**Implementing the chosen solution involves careful planning and management. Here are key tips for effective implementation:- Create an action plan that outlines each step necessary to implement the solution.- Communicate the plan clearly to all involved parties, ensuring that everyone understands their role.- Set benchmarks and a timeline for implementation.Remember to regularly review and assess the progress:- Monitor the implementation to ensure that it's going according to the plan.- Be flexible and ready to make adjustments as necessary.- After the issue is resolved, conduct a retrospective analysis to understand what worked and what didn't.**Where IIENSTITU Fits In**Education platforms like IIENSTITU can bolster problem-solving skills by providing courses and resources focused on critical thinking, creativity, and strategy. Such institutions are integral in shaping individuals equipped for various problem-solving scenarios, incorporating the latest tools, theories, and real-world applications to enhance learning and development.In conclusion, efficient problem-solving is an art that combines understanding, creativity, critical evaluation, and decision-making, coupled with effective implementation and continual review. By adopting these practices and strategies, you can approach problems with a methodical and innovative mindset that's essential for devising successful solutions.

What are the three main steps of problem-solving?

Solving Problems Step-by-Step The initial phase in problem-solving involves Identifying and Understanding the Problem. This crucial starting point requires to clearly defining the issue. This step necessitates a thorough analysis of what the actual problem is, its contextual elements, and its potential implications. Following the identification is the Developing Possible Solutions stage. You need to brainstorm various strategies to handle the identified problem in this second step. The emphasis here is on generating a wide array of potential solutions. These strategies must be carefully assessed and selected in order to come up with the most effective solution. After you have identified potential solutions, the final step is Implementing the Chosen Solution. This phase requires action. A decision needs to be made on which solution or combination of solutions will be executed. After that, you must follow through by initiating efforts that will lead to the resolution of the problem. In conclusion, the three main steps of problem-solving include Identifying and Understanding the Problem, Developing Possible Solutions, and Implementing the Chosen Solution. These steps equip individuals with the necessary methodologies to navigate through any issue in a systematic and logical manner.

Problem-solving is an essential skill that enables us to navigate through life’s challenges effectively. The process can broadly be broken down into three main steps: identification and understanding of the problem, development of possible solutions, and implementation of the chosen solution.Step 1: Identifying and Understanding the ProblemThe journey to problem-solving begins with accurately identifying and comprehending the problem at hand. This step goes beyond mere recognition; it requires a deep dive into the specifics of the issue. One must discern the underlying causes of the problem, establish its boundaries, and understand its scale and scope. This step may involve gathering data, consulting stakeholders, analyzing existing systems, and employing critical thinking to clarify the nature of the problem. A clear understanding forms the foundation for finding a viable solution.Step 2: Developing Possible SolutionsOnce the problem is fully understood, the second step involves brainstorming and generating a variety of potential solutions. This is a creative phase where multiple ideas are encouraged without immediate judgement or evaluation. Techniques such as mind mapping, listing pros and cons, and conducting thought experiments can facilitate this process. A key aspect of this stage is considering the resources available, potential obstacles, and the impact of proposed solutions. It is important to think both logically and laterally to generate options that are both innovative and practical.Step 3: Implementing the Chosen SolutionThe final step is about taking action. From the selection of feasible solutions compiled in the previous stage, the best course of action needs to be chosen based on criteria such as effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability, and cost. This potentially involves making difficult decisions, as it may require weighing trade-offs between the benefits and downsides of each option. Once a decision is made, the solution must be operationalized through careful planning and execution. This step can include setting timelines, assigning responsibilities, and establishing metrics for success. It’s crucial to monitor the implementation and be willing to make adjustments as needed to ensure the problem is adequately addressed.In conclusion, effective problem-solving is a structured process that encompasses the sequential steps of identifying and understanding the problem, developing possible solutions, and implementing the chosen solution. Each stage is as critical as the next and requires a different set of skills and approaches. Mastering these steps is key to achieving successful outcomes in various contexts ranging from everyday life to complex organizational environments. Whether it is in a personal capacity or within institutions like IIENSTITU, adept problem-solving remains an invaluable competency.

How does future problem-solving differ from traditional problem-solving approaches?

Proactive Approach of Future Problem-Solving Traditional problem-solving methods mainly focus on resolving issues as they arise. This involves identifying a problem, determining its cause, examining potential strategies, implementing a solution, and assessing its effectiveness. They are more reactive in nature, tackling problems that have already occurred. On the contrary, future problem-solving is more about anticipation. Instead of waiting for problems to occur, it assumes probable issues to arise in the future. It then engages in creating strategies to prevent those problems or mitigate their impact. This proactive approach of preemptively addressing potential problems is a key characteristic of future problem-solving. Use of Foresight in Future Problem-Solving In addition to anticipating problems, future problem-solving often uses foresight techniques, such as forecasting or scenario planning. These methods enable a better understanding of potential future environments and how current decisions might impact them. Hence, future problem-solving is not only about solving problems but also about crafting the future. Systems Thinking in Future Problem-Solving Another aspect that sets future problem-solving apart is the use of systems thinking. Instead of looking at problems in isolation, it sees them as part of a larger system. This approach helps in grasping the big picture and understanding the complex interdependence between various elements. In conclusion, future problem-solving surpasses traditional problem-solving just from being reactive to proactive. It is not only about dealing with present realities but also preparing for prospective issues. It leverages foresight tools and systems thinking to understand and shape the future, making it a more comprehensive and strategic approach to problem-solving.

Future problem-solving represents a paradigm shift from how we've traditionally approached challenges in our personal lives, businesses, or even global affairs. It distinguishes itself through a proactive and systemic methodology, which sets the stage for innovation and sustainable progress.Incorporating Predictive AnalysisOne of the main differentiators in future problem-solving is the incorporation of predictive analysis. By making educated guesses about the future, practitioners of future problem-solving can identify potential obstacles ahead of time and develop plans to either avoid them altogether or minimize their negative effects. This forward-looking approach utilizes data, trends, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to forecast future scenarios. Interdisciplinary CollaborationFuture problem-solving often calls for interdisciplinary collaboration. This sort of approach garners insights from a range of fields—be it technology, sociology, economics, or environmental science—to inform a more holistic understanding of potential challenges. By bringing together diverse perspectives, solutions can be crafted that are robust and multifaceted, preempting a wider array of potential future problems.Cultivating Agility and ResilienceMoreover, future problem-solving instills an organizational culture that values agility and resilience. Businesses and individuals that anticipate future challenges are more likely to have flexible strategies in place, which allows them to pivot and adapt rapidly when unforeseen issues emerge. This nimbleness is essential in a fast-paced, ever-changing world and a stark contrast to more traditional, rigid problem-solving frameworks.Ethical Considerations and Long-term ImpactFuture problem-solving also places a stronger emphasis on ethical considerations and the long-term impact of decisions. As we move further into the 21st century, it's become increasingly clear that today's solutions can become tomorrow's problems if not thought through carefully—be it through unintended consequences or through neglecting the sustainability angle. Future problem-solving advocates for choices that are equitable and will serve generations to come, rather than opting for quick, myopic fixes.In summary, future problem-solving is an advanced, dynamic approach that contrasts with traditional problem-solving by forecasting potential issues, incorporating multidisciplinary thought, fostering adaptability, and emphasizing sustainability and ethical action. Rather than responding to the immediate, it involves crafting long-term solutions that are resilient to the tests of time and change. This paradigm is essential for a world facing complex and interrelated challenges where the decisions of today will unquestionably shape the landscapes of tomorrow.

In the context of future problem-solving, how does one identify potential long-term consequences of a solution?

Identification of Potential Long-Term Consequences In foreseeing the long-term outcomes of a solution, certain strategies can be observed. First and foremost, one must understand the problem comprehensively. By doing so, they position themselves to anticipate the impacts of the solution better. Analyzing Current Trends Analyzing trends associated with the problem helps to predict potential challenges. It involves looking at current patterns within the system and using them to envisage probable impacts. Implementing Scenario Planning Scenario planning avails one with multiple hypothetical situations, giving an array of potential outcomes. It allows decision-makers to examine a diverse range of scenarios and anticipate possible effects. Modeling and Simulation Additionally, the use of modeling and simulation is essential. These tactics offer a visual representation of the likely consequences, making it easier to discern long-term effects. Integration of Diverse Perspectives Involving a diverse group of stakeholders is also helpful. They provide unique insights into potential outcomes, assisting one to perceive the long-term consequences from a more holistic approach. Use of Decision-Making Tools and Techniques Further, one can employ various decision-making tools and techniques. Techniques such as Risk Analysis, SWOT Analysis, and Decision Trees help in predicting long-term consequences, highlighting potential risks and benefits. Continuous Review and Evaluation Finally, a continuous review and evaluation process allows for early identification of the long-term implications. Regular assessments help in detecting unforeseen consequences, aiding in corrective measures. True tailoring of future problem-solving demands imaginative and strategic thinking. Taking steps to identify long-term consequences, as discussed above, is central in developing sustainable solutions. Utilizing these strategies promotes robust, adaptable problem-solving, instrumental in navigating the ever-evolving complexities of the future.

When tackling any problem with long-term implications, it is essential to consider and try to predict the future consequences of potential solutions. Identifying these consequences requires a multi-faceted approach that blends both analytical and creative thinking strategies. Below are the key strategies one should employ to effectively identify potential long-term consequences of a solution:### Comprehensive Problem UnderstandingUnderstanding the problem in-depth is the foundation for identifying the long-term consequences of any solution put forward. This understanding encompasses the causes, context, and the stakeholder that are affected by the problem and its potential solutions.### Analyzing Current TrendsIn-depth analysis of current trends related to the problem can provide insights into future developments. When a solution is projected forward, it should be tested against these trends to gauge its long-term viability and potential repercussions.### Implementing Scenario PlanningScenario planning is a strategic method used to make flexible long-term plans. By creating detailed narratives about various future states, organizations can explore different potential outcomes and prepare for a range of possibilities.### Modeling and SimulationUtilizing computer models and simulations can offer a glimpse into the future effects of a solution. By modeling different variables and their interactions, one can better understand how a solution might scale or evolve over time.### Integration of Diverse PerspectivesIncluding diverse perspectives in the problem-solving process ensures that a broad spectrum of potential outcomes is considered. Stakeholders from various disciplines and backgrounds can highlight consequences that may not be immediately apparent.### Use of Decision-Making Tools and TechniquesEmploying tools such as Risk Analysis can help quantify the likelihood and impact of potential risks associated with a solution. SWOT Analysis provides a structured approach to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Decision Trees can help envision and compare the paths and outcomes of different choices.### Continuous Review and EvaluationContinuous review and assessment of the implemented solution ensure that it can be adjusted as needed. Monitoring allows for the early detection of any side effects or unintended consequences, which is crucial for mitigating long-term negative impacts.In conclusion, the identification of potential long-term consequences necessitates a diligent and comprehensive approach to problem-solving. By understanding current trends, employing scenario planning, modeling and simulation, integrating diverse perspectives, using decision-making tools, and continuously reviewing outcomes, future problems can be addressed with a keen eye on sustainability and adaptability. This strategic foresight is key to minimizing unintended negative consequences and ensuring that solutions are resilient in the face of future uncertainties.

She describes himself as someone who loves to write about digital marketing, social media and public relations. His personal development special interest lies in self-improvement through reading books on the subject of human behavior; she also has an eye for how these topics apply outside just business or career settings too!

A man wearing glasses and a beard is standing in front of a glass wall. He is holding a black tablet in one hand and several sticky notes in the other. The sticky notes are yellow and white in color and have black text written on them. On the glass wall behind him, there is a white letter on a black background and a black and white tree with circles and dots. In the foreground, there is a close-up of a hand holding a tablet and a close-up of a tie. The man appears to be concentrating intently, likely studying the notes and the tablet screen.

Definition of Problem-Solving With Examples

A woman with long brown hair, wearing a white turtleneck and black jacket, holds her head with both hands. She is looking at something, her face filled with concentration. Behind her, a chair handle is visible in the background. In the upper left corner of the image, a white letter on a black background can be seen. In the lower right corner, another letter, this time a white letter o on a grey background, is visible. These letters provide a contrast to the otherwise neutral colors in the image.

How To Become a Great Problem Solver?

A close-up of a hand is pictured, holding a white cube with yellow and red squares on each of its six faces. The cube has a black border around it, and the yellow square also has a black border. In the background, a black surface can be seen, with a yellow square in the center of it. In the lower right corner of the image, a man wearing glasses is visible. The image has a bright, vibrant color palette, with a strong focus on the hand and the cube it is holding.

Need a New Problem-Solving Strategy? Try These!

A man is sitting at a desk, looking at a laptop and papers scattered across the surface. He is wearing a white collared shirt and black pants. His hands are resting on the laptop and papers. A green cup is in the foreground, with a close-up of it visible. A woman is in the background, her face in a close-up but her body out of focus. A calculator is also seen on the desk, next to the laptop and papers. The man is holding a piece of paper in his hand. On the wall behind him is a white letter P on a grey background, and a white letter O on a black background. He looks focused and intently studying the documents.

10 Things You Need to Know About Problem Solving

A man is standing on a ladder, wearing a suit. He looks up, with a confident expression on his face. His hands are on the ladder's rungs, and he is wearing a pair of black leather dress shoes. In the background, there is a yellow letter ‘O’ on a black background, and to the right a white letter ‘O’ on a black background. In the foreground, a smiling woman is in a close-up picture, wearing a white shirt with a black vest. There is also a white letter ‘O’ on a black background to the right of her. The man on the ladder is making an effort to reach the top, and the words ‘strong’ and ‘perseverance’ come to mind.

Problem Solving: Tips, Tricks, and Tactics

A young woman with long, brown hair is smiling for the camera. She is wearing a black top with a white letter 'O' visible in the foreground. Her eyes are bright and her teeth are showing, her lips curved in a warm, genuine smile. She has her chin tilted slightly downwards, her head framed by her long, wavy hair. She is looking directly at the camera, her gaze confident and friendly. Her expression is relaxed and inviting, her face illuminated by the light. The background is black, highlighting the white letter 'O' and emphasizing the woman's features.

How To Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills

A man in a suit is holding his head in his hands, looking downcast. His dark suit contrasts with the black background, and his white shirt and tie are clearly visible. His hands are cupped around his forehead, and his eyes are closed as though he is deep in thought. His other hand is out of focus, but it appears to be resting on his head. In the lower right corner of the image, a close-up of a person's leg can be seen. The man in the suit looks tired and sad, and his expression is one of despair.

Which Common Problems Can Be Solved With NLP Techniques?

A close-up of a yellow and brown arrow pointing upwards against a blue background. Along with the arrow, there is white text on the blue background, and a dark blue circle with a brown border. Below the arrow is a yellow and orange triangle with white text. To the right of the triangle is a white letter on a blue background, a white letter on a black background, a white letter 'V' on a blue background. All of these elements combine to create an image that conveys a message of direction and movement.

Problem Solving - Solve any problem in less than 3 minutes

A woman stands beside an expansive screen, showing a map of different locations. She holds a clipboard in her hands as she looks intently at the map. A man in a black shirt and grey pants is pointing to something on the map. On the right-hand side of the map, there is a truck symbol with a pointer. On the left-hand side, there is a white airplane on a black and orange pin. Above the map is a yellow and black striped object, with a white object with black lines beside it. Below the map is a yellow and white logo and a yellow and grey sign with black text.

Problem Solving Method Of Teaching

A group of people, including a man holding a laptop, a woman with her hands in her pockets, and another woman wearing a striped shirt, are standing together in a closeknit formation. One woman is holding a cup of coffee, and another has their butt partially visible in blue jeans. Everyone is smiling, and the man with the laptop appears to be engaged in conversation. The group is bathed in warm sunlight, creating a friendly atmosphere.

A Problem Solving Method: Brainstorming

A rectangular puzzle piece with a light green background and a blue geometric pattern sits in the center of the image. The puzzle piece has a curved edge along the top, and straight edges along the bottom and sides. The pattern on the piece consists of a thin green line that wraps around the outside edge and a thick blue line that follows the contours of the shape. The inside of the piece is filled with various shapes of the same color, including circles, triangles, and squares. The overall effect of the piece is calming and serene. It could be part of a larger puzzle that has yet to be solved.

What are Problem Solving Skills?

A close-up of a group of people holding puzzle pieces in their hands. A man is looking at the piece he is holding, while two other people are carefully looking at the pieces they are holding in their hands. The pieces have a wooden texture, and each one is a different color. One person is holding a light blue piece, while another person is holding a red piece. All the pieces are shaped differently, and some are curved while others are straight. The pieces all fit together to form a larger puzzle.

How To Develop Problem Solving Skills?

Robert Taibbi L.C.S.W.

Stuck Solving a Problem? 3 Steps to Get Unstuck

Often our tough problem isn't really the problem itself, but our approach..

Posted June 23, 2024 | Reviewed by Abigail Fagan

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  • Controlling what you can helps you not feel discouraged and enables you to take productive action.


Carly is struggling with her job—feeling micro-managed by her supervisor, getting assignments that she feels overwhelmed by and not capable of handling, working overtime every week for the last three months, and feeling exhausted. Still, she's afraid to speak up for fear of sounding whiny.

Jack and Kim have been together for two years. While they are doing okay overall, what drives him crazy is Kim not following through on things—not paying bills she says she is going to pay, not following up with her mother about family events. Like Carly, Jack tries not to say anything but he periodically blows up.

We all periodically have problems that we just can’t seem to resolve. They may be relationship issues, work issues, health issues, or mental health issues. We get frustrated, can’t find a clear path forward, and keep ramming our heads against the same wall. We feel stuck, trapped.

It's time to get unstuck. Here are 3 approaches to help you move forward:

1. Find the problem under the problem

What we usually think of as problems are not actually the problems but outcomes or bad solutions to other problems beneath. Carly’s problems are a couple—the controlling boss and feeling overwhelmed by assignments—and she needs to look at each one separately. Her boss’ micromanagement, like most control, is usually her boss’ solution to the anxiety her boss feels.

As a starting point, it may help Carly to think about her boss’ behavior as her way of managing her anxiety rather than getting emotionally tangled in feeling controlled. If her boss is anxious, Carly can help reduce it by proactively letting her boss know what she is doing and reassuring her that she is on top of things before her boss' anxiety gets too high and shifts into her default mode.

But Carly also needs to tackle her other problem—not having the skills she needs to do her job efficiently. Here the underlying problem is the lack of training. She may want to email or talk directly with her boss about her need for training or talk with HR about training options.

Jack’s job is a bit easier. While Carly is unlikely to question her supervisor about whether or not her supervisor is anxious, Jack can have a conversation with Kim about her not following through in order to uncover the problem under the problem. He may discover that Kim, like Carly, is feeling overwhelmed by work stress and so gets scattered, and items like checking in with her mother or even paying the bills get pushed to the bottom of her to-do pile. Or it may be that Kim admits that really dislikes being responsible for the bill-paying and that it would be better for Jack to take it over.

The underlying problems that usually drive the surface problems are either emotions—anxiety, dislike, anger —or a lack of skills or information. Sorting out which may be the most likely culprit is a good starting point for getting unstuck.

2. Change your approach

This is what Carly is doing by being proactive with her supervisor—giving her information rather than waiting for her supervisor to come to her. This is what Jack is doing when he has a clear and calm conversation with Kim about why she is having a difficult time following through, rather than holding in his resentment and periodically blowing up.

Because relationships are dynamic and are a product of each person reacting to the other, it is often the pattern itself that is fueling the problem. Carly’s walking on eggshells and holding back can understandably fuel her boss’ anxiety and micromanaging. Similarly, Jack’s holding in and then blowing up could fuel Kim’s not realizing how important this is to Jack or her dismissing his concerns when he blows up because the emotion erases the underlying message.

By approaching the problem in a different way, and most often by doing the opposite of what you are doing, you change this yin-yang dynamic, prompting the other person to respond differently as well. If Carly, for example, sends an email to her boss and says that she is aware of how important productivity is to the company and in that spirit, she feels some additional training would help increase her productivity, this sidesteps her worry that she is whining and her boss is likely to appreciate such feedback and view her as a conscious worker. Similarly, by Jack having that calm and clear conversation about his frustration, Kim is likely to better understand his concerns and will probably appreciate his speaking up and being honest, which in turn may prompt her to be more reliable.

Often, our overall approach to problems is fairly consistent—Carly all too easily falls into being tentative and reactive, walking on eggshells; Jack all too easily holds resentments in and then blows up. By experimenting with changing your approach overall—being more proactive and assertive —you become more flexible, have multiple ways of attacking problems, and become less anxious and more creative.

what are 3 steps of problem solving

3. Control what you can control

This is about not feeling trapped by a problem. What can Carly control? Her attitude towards her boss, her job, her anxiety, her behavioral approach to her boss, her exploration of opportunities for training, her ability to quit her job, and her view of how important her job is are the larger landscape of her life.

What she can’t control? Probably her supervisor’s personality and style, though she may be able to influence it. She can’t control the company and how they do business.

What can Jack control? Himself. He doesn’t have to feel trapped or feel like a martyr or victim. He can choose to follow up on the bills or take them over, or call Kim’s mom and find out what he needs to know. And like Carly, he can control his anxiety. The key here is his adopting the attitude that he is doing this because he is trying to fix what is his problem, namely, his anxiety, rather than saying to himself that he is forced to do this because Kim is incompetent or unreliable.

What can’t he control? Like Carly, he can’t control the other, Kim, though he may be able to influence her. Finally, like Carly, he is not trapped; his ultimate solution is knowing that he can leave the relationship.

Obviously, all these approaches overlap with each other, and all three can be put to use at the same time. The theme, though, is clear—to stop spinning your wheels, ramming your head into the same emotional wall, continuing to do what you do—but instead doing something different—by attitude, by behavior, by perspective.

Time to get unstuck?

Taibbi, R. (2017). Boot camp therapy: Action-oriented approaches to anxiety, anger, & depression. New York: Norton.

Robert Taibbi L.C.S.W.

Bob Taibbi, L.C.S.W., has 49 years of clinical experience. He is the author of 13 books and over 300 articles and provides training nationally and internationally.

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A 3-Step Problem-Solving Method for Any Problem

How to deal with a pissed-off client, a wild turtle, or anything else that comes up..

A 3-Step Problem-Solving Method for Any Problem

So there's this giant turtle terrorizing a small village in Bavaria, Germany. The turtle's name is Lotti, which doesn't sound like such a scary thing, except that a few weeks ago the animal was said to have severed an eight year old boy's Achilles tendon while he was swimming in a nearby lake. Not good. So in response to the threat, the town's leader, Mayor Andreas Lieb, designated Lotti the Turtle to be enemy No. 1 and has left no stone unturned in his effort to catch the beast.

"Having tried everything, including dredging the lake, scouring the lake floor with hunting dogs, surrounding the lake with an electric fence, and setting up traps around the lake to prevent Lotti from slipping away, there has been no sign of the reptile," says one German news report . "The lake has now been partially refilled with water covering about a fifth of the floor, at a depth of about 20 centimeters in order to entice the reptile into a smaller piece of ground."

The mayor, at his wits end, has now commissioned a massive rake from a 75-year-old blacksmith. (A what? I'll leave that one for another time.) The report continues: "Pulled by a system of ropes, the plan is to use the meter-wide, wrought-iron rake to dredge the whole of the 16,000 meter-squared lake floor and force this "master of disguise" out of her muddy hideaway."

A Leadership Lesson in Problem-Solving

OK, hold on a minute. Has anyone even seen this creature? I can't be sure. And are the kid's injuries from a snapping turtle and not from something else? More importantly, is it really worth all this effort and expense to find a...turtle? Doesn't this mayor have a few other important things to do? Any chance he could just let this whole issue rest and work harder on lowering taxes, improving municipal services--and making more pretzels? (It's Bavaria, remember?) Ah, but you can relate, right? I know I can. Lotti the Turtle got under the mayor's skin. This happens to you. It often happens to me.

Last week, for example, I received an irate email from John, a customer. He was upset. The project that I'm doing for him is now "officially over-budget," he complained. And it's still not complete. Let's not get into whose fault this is because the important thing is that he's a customer and he's upset. (For the record, it's his fault but, again, let's not get into it, OK?) 

"I paid good money for this software," he ranted, "...and trusted your company to get my people trained by now and no one's using the system. I demand a meeting to resolve this problem or a full refund of the payment we made!"

So that day, John the Customer was my Lotti the Turtle. A big, ugly snapping turtle that took a bite out of my Achilles tendon. And with a German accent to boot. (His family is originally from Munich. Go figure.)

Universal Problem-Solving Strategies

So what should I do? Do I meet with this guy? Continue to throw good money after bad? Like Mayor Lieb, do I pull out all stops and dredge the lake in order to accomplish the mission and make him happy? Will the turtle even be there? Will this customer ever be happy? What does a good leader do in this situation? The good news is that this is not the first time a leader faced this issue. In fact, I've watched other, more successful business executives handle situations like these. And here's what I've learned.

To fix a problem, follow these three steps:

1. Determine what the return on investment will be. Every single solution to a problem has a return on investment. Sadly it is sometimes not worth spending billions of dollars to research a disease that only affects a few hundred people a year. It may not be worth the time and expense required to create an enormous rake to scour the bottom of a lake just to find one turtle. And it really may not be worth the effort to fix the problems that John is allegedly having with the software system my company installed. There's the right thing to do and sometimes the right thing to do is what's right for your people and company. And spending unnecessary dollars on a client who may never be happy and will likely not provide much future revenue--instead of devoting those resources to better clients and better projects--may not be the best use of my limited resources. Or maybe that client could have a lot of future value. Maybe he is considering other projects, or has other friends who may be interested in my software. There has to be a financial calculation made. Great leaders do the math.

2. Make a plan and communicate it. Once you figure your ROI, you need to have a plan, and tell your people about it. What's the end result? What's the exact deliverable? Is it the capture of the turtle or its grisly, excellent death? Is it to fix a specific list of issues that John is having (will that make that project complete)? And why are we doing this in the first place? I think Mayor Lieb owes the townspeople an explanation as to why he's so obsessed with Lotti the Turtle and why they should be concerned as well. At the same time, I need to explain to my people the importance of John as a client (even though he's kind of a jerk), and the gravity of the issues we need to address. People need to know why they're being asked to do stuff. It gives them meaning and helps them do a better job. Great leaders inspire their followers with purpose.

3. Prepare yourself for success or failure. Nothing is complete without an end game. If Mayor Lieb captures Lotti the Turtle then he should be thinking well in advance how he will capitalize on his fantastic success. He has to be prepared to answer the inevitable questions like: "Why did you spend this money to capture a lousy turtle?" "How do you know there isn't another turtle in there?" "Can we start celebrating Oktoberfest earlier this year?" The same is true if he fails. What's the explanation if the turtle isn't found and all that money was spent? Failure to capture Lotti could result in Mayor Lieb losing his office in the next election, for instance. And what if my company can't resolve John's issues within budget and the time allowed? If I can't make John happy, I need to be ready to take my lumps and move on. In my business, I'm OK if two-thirds of my clients are happy at any given time. (Hey, I sell technology so that's not a bad success rate at all!) Great leaders have a thick skin and are prepared for all outcomes.

By the way, still no sign of Lotti yet. And I'm doing my best to help John. But catch a turtle? Handle an irate customer? Good leaders take the same approach.

A refreshed look at leadership from the desk of CEO and chief content officer Stephanie Mehta

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For New Ideas, Think Inside (This) Box

June 25, 2024 • 7 min read.

In this Nano Tool for Leaders, Penn's David Resnick offers guidance on using helpful constraints to unlock new solutions to old problems.

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Nano Tools for Leaders®   —  a collaboration between  Wharton Executive Education  and  Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management  — are fast, effective tools that you can learn and start using in less than 15 minutes, with the potential to significantly impact your success and the engagement and productivity of the people you lead.

Harness constraints and analogies to unlock new solutions to old problems.

Traditional brainstorming,  as coined by Alex Osborne in the 1950s, asks participants to consider any and all ideas that might solve a problem. While blue-sky, no-limits thinking has several benefits, the drawback is that leaders often, paradoxically, get stuck. They encounter challenges like the “curse of the blank page,” not knowing where to start because they can start anywhere. They may also face the “ Einstellung effect ,” a phenomenon whereby the easy recollection of familiar solutions can block their ability to think of new ones.

This has led some to (erroneously) believe that generating solutions is best left to people who are naturally creative. The good news is that there are tools that can help one become much better at generating new ideas. The even better news is that using these tools does not involve extensive training or attending workshops. In fact, one tool developed at Penn Medicine’s Center for Health Care Transformation and Innovation is a simple  card game , and the “secret sauce” it teaches is how to leverage constraints and analogies. The  Accelerators in Innovation  game has teams of players use accelerator cards to create new kinds of solutions with questions such as “How would you solve postpartum depression if you operated like IKEA?” and “How might you tackle long emergency room wait times if you were Warren Buffet?” The solutions are then applied to problems presented on challenge cards while trying to avoid monkey wrenches from their opponents. After rapid-fire pitches, the judge determines each round’s winner.

Action Steps

1. make sure you are solving a problem..

Don’t solve for how to implement a solution. A classic example involved a design team brought in to figure out how to increase access to incubators. The issue is that the solution was already baked in (increase access to incubators). The team spent some time reframing the problem to focus on the true issue: ensuring that newborns are kept at a safe temperature, especially when delivery occurs in places with little or no access to electricity. Reframing to focus on the actual problem opened the team to entirely different solutions.

2. Leverage analogies.

Having to pull ideas out of thin air can be difficult and stressful. Analogies force us to consider other options or perspectives we may never have thought of, or thought of and dismissed. They cause us to ask ourselves “What is good about this other solution and how might it be applied to solving the problem I’m facing?” Examples include:

Think about successful companies and how their strengths could be applied to your problem. For example, IKEA is phenomenal at clearly explaining to people with limited background knowledge and literacy how to do something. So how might IKEA go about explaining post-op care to knee replacement patients?

Similarly, try using personas. Mary Poppins is renowned for making an unpleasant experience a delightful one. Mr. Rogers is known for his commitment to leveraging the kindness of neighbors. Darth Vader’s approach to getting things done is a ruthless level punishment for those who fail. Regardless of whom you choose, you can use the strengths or philosophies of these characters to inspire ideas. How might Mary Poppins improve adherence to physical therapy regimens? How might Darth Vader?

3. Leverage constraints.

Constraints are, unintuitively, another great way to force new thinking. Some options are:

How might you solve a problem if you were forced to delete a crucial (but perhaps onerous or costly) step of the process? Great examples are “How might tollbooths collect fees without a human there to do it?” (FastPass) or “How might people get their rental car if there was no line to wait in?” (Hertz Gold).

Design for extremes

How might you solve the problem if you had to solve for extreme use cases or extreme targets? For example, what would it take to screen 100 percent of eligible patients for colon cancer? How might you reduce civilian traffic fatalities to zero?

Real-world issues

Apply real-world constraints that have thrown a monkey wrench in your plans for past ideas. For example, how might you create a new marketing campaign that must be successful for consumers who do not speak English? How might you build a new product to launch on time even if multiple team members take a sabbatical or parental leave?

Focus on solving for how to make your solution delightful to users. This isn’t about making something silly or fun. It’s about surprising your users in a manner that unexpectedly accomplishes something for them.

4. Push for volume.

An additional benefit to Penn Medicine’s  Accelerators  card game is that it encourages multiple rounds to hear multiple ideas. When thinking of solutions, push for volume in your initial rounds. You’ll soon “use up” the ideas that come to mind easily and be forced to consider more creative or audacious alternatives.

5. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Another key component of generating ideas while playing a game is that it allows for laughter and a sense of play. This mindset can foster creativity and an atmosphere of psychological safety for sharing ideas.

How One Leader Uses It

Rebecca Trotta, PhD, director of the Center for Nursing Excellence at Penn, leveraged this tool in developing a new program to support older adults after hospitalization. Her challenge was to build a service that could provide intensive at-home support. Despite an existing evidence-based protocol, there was concern that patient acceptance of this support would be low. Many folks are simply exhausted after being in the hospital and don’t want someone in their home. Using the constraint of solving for “delight,” Trotta and her team came up with the idea of delivering home meals to these patients and their caregivers.

While it might appear as a frivolous and seemingly useless expense, it turned out that after spending days (and sometimes weeks) in the hospital, patients came home to fridges that were empty or full of spoiled food. Providing them with a meal ensured they had adequate nutrition. More importantly, though, the meals showed a sense of caring and thoughtfulness that went well beyond patients’ expectations. It built a strong sense of trust that paid dividends in drastically increasing the acceptance of home services compared to baseline.

Contributor to this Nano Tool

David Resnick, MPH, MSEd, Senior Innovation Manager at Penn Medicine’s Center for Health Care Transformation and Innovation.  Accelerators in Health Care  card game co-created with Michael Begley, MA, Senior Experience Consultant at EPAM Systems, and Visiting Professor and Assistant Program Director of Masters of UX at Thomas Jefferson University.

Knowledge in Action: Related Executive Education Programs

  • Effective Decision Making: Thinking Critically and Rationally
  • The Neuroscience of Business: Innovations in Leadership and Strategic Decisions
  • Mastering Innovation: Strategy, Process, and Tools
  • Business Model Innovation in the Age of AI

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Problem Solving

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what are 3 steps of problem solving

Problem solving is a crucial skill in both personal and professional settings. Whether it’s addressing a personal challenge or drafting a business problem solving proposal , the ability to identify a problem and develop a solution is essential. Writing a problem solving essay helps articulate the issue clearly and systematically outline potential solutions. Effective problem and solution involves critical thinking, creativity, and a structured approach to overcome obstacles and achieve goals.

What is Problem Solving?

Problem solving is the process of identifying a challenge, analyzing its components, and finding an effective solution. It involves critical thinking, creativity, and the application of various techniques and tools.

Examples of Problem Solving


  • Analytical Thinking : Breaking down complex problems into manageable parts.
  • Creativity : Developing innovative solutions to problems.
  • Critical Thinking : Evaluating information and arguments to make a reasoned decision.
  • Decision-Making : Choosing the best course of action from various alternatives.
  • Research : Gathering relevant information to understand and solve a problem.
  • Communication : Clearly conveying ideas and solutions to others.
  • Collaboration : Working effectively with others to solve problems.
  • Time Management : Prioritizing tasks to efficiently address problems.
  • Adaptability : Adjusting strategies as new information or challenges arise.
  • Attention to Detail : Ensuring all aspects of a problem are considered.
  • Logical Reasoning : Using logic to identify solutions and predict outcomes.
  • Empathy : Understanding others’ perspectives to create more effective solutions.
  • Negotiation : Finding mutually acceptable solutions through discussion.
  • Conflict Resolution : Addressing and resolving disagreements.
  • Patience : Remaining calm and persistent when solving complex problems.
  • Organization : Structuring tasks and information systematically.
  • Leadership : Guiding and motivating a team to solve problems.
  • Decision Analysis : Evaluating the potential impact of different solutions.
  • Project Management : Planning and executing solutions effectively.
  • Technical Skills : Using specialized knowledge to solve technical problems.
  • Customer Service : Resolving customer issues effectively and efficiently.
  • Risk Management : Identifying and mitigating potential problems.
  • Innovation : Implementing new ideas to solve existing problems.
  • Strategic Planning : Developing long-term solutions and plans.
  • Resourcefulness : Finding quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties.
  • Stress Management : Handling pressure while solving problems.
  • Observation : Noticing subtle details that could be key to solving a problem.
  • Data Analysis : Interpreting data to inform problem-solving decisions.
  • Flexibility : Being open to new approaches and changing plans when necessary.
  • Self-Assessment : Reflecting on your own problem-solving process to improve future performance.

Problem-Solving Examples for Students

1. math word problems.

Problem: Jane has 3 apples, and she buys 4 more apples from the store. How many apples does she have now?

  • Understand the problem: Jane starts with 3 apples and buys 4 more.
  • Break it down: 3 apples (initial) + 4 apples (additional).
  • Solve: 3 + 4 = 7.
  • Answer: Jane has 7 apples.

2. Group Project Coordination

Problem: A group of students needs to complete a science project, but they are having trouble coordinating their schedules.

  • Understand the problem: The main issue is scheduling conflicts.
  • Break it down: Identify each member’s available times.
  • Research: Use tools like Doodle or Google Calendar to find common free times.
  • Brainstorm solutions: Propose meeting during lunch breaks or weekends.
  • Evaluate: Choose the most convenient and feasible option for everyone.
  • Develop an action plan: Set a recurring meeting time and delegate tasks.
  • Implement: Start meeting and working on the project according to the plan.
  • Monitor and review: Adjust schedules if conflicts arise and keep track of progress.

3. Essay Writing

Problem: A student struggles to start writing an essay on a given topic.

  • Understand the problem: The difficulty is starting the essay.
  • Break it down: Identify the essay topic, main points, and required structure.
  • Research: Gather information and resources related to the topic.
  • Brainstorm solutions: Create an outline, jot down ideas, and decide on the thesis statement.
  • Evaluate: Choose the most compelling points and organize them logically.
  • Develop an action plan: Write a draft based on the outline, then revise and edit.
  • Implement: Begin writing the introduction, followed by the body paragraphs and conclusion.
  • Monitor and review: Proofread the essay and make necessary corrections.

4. Time Management

Problem: A student has trouble managing time between homework, extracurricular activities, and leisure.

  • Understand the problem: The issue is balancing multiple responsibilities.
  • Break it down: Identify all tasks and time commitments.
  • Research: Look for time management techniques and tools.
  • Brainstorm solutions: Use planners, to-do lists, or apps like Trello or Todoist.
  • Evaluate: Choose the most effective tool and technique.
  • Develop an action plan: Create a weekly schedule, prioritizing tasks by importance and deadlines.
  • Implement: Follow the schedule and adjust as necessary.
  • Monitor and review: Reflect on the effectiveness of the schedule and make improvements.

5. Conflict Resolution

Problem: Two students have a disagreement over a shared locker space.

  • Understand the problem: The conflict is about sharing limited space.
  • Break it down: Identify each student’s concerns and needs.
  • Research: Look into conflict resolution strategies.
  • Brainstorm solutions: Propose solutions like dividing the locker into specific sections or creating a rotation schedule.
  • Evaluate: Choose the fairest and most practical solution.
  • Develop an action plan: Agree on the solution and set guidelines.
  • Implement: Follow the agreed plan and make adjustments if needed.
  • Monitor and review: Ensure both students are satisfied with the arrangement and resolve any further issues.

Problem-Solving Examples in Real-life

Example 1: workplace conflict.

Situation : Two team members have a disagreement that affects their productivity.

  • Identify the Problem : Understand the root cause of the conflict.
  • Analyze : Talk to both parties separately to get their perspectives.
  • Generate Solutions : Consider solutions like mediation, reassignment of tasks, or team-building exercises.
  • Evaluate : Assess which solution is likely to resolve the conflict without affecting team morale.
  • Implement : Arrange a mediation session.
  • Review : Follow up to ensure the conflict is resolved and monitor team dynamics.

Example 2: Personal Finance Management

Situation : Struggling to manage monthly expenses and savings.

  • Identify the Problem : Determine specific areas where overspending occurs.
  • Analyze : Review bank statements and categorize expenses.
  • Generate Solutions : Create a budget, reduce unnecessary expenses, and set savings goals.
  • Evaluate : Choose a budgeting method that fits your lifestyle.
  • Implement : Start tracking expenses and adjust spending habits.
  • Review : Regularly review your budget and savings to ensure you are on track.

How to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills?

Understand the Problem: Before attempting to solve any problem, it’s crucial to fully understand it. Read through the problem statement carefully and make sure you grasp every detail.

Break It Down : Divide the problem into smaller, more manageable parts. This approach, known as decomposition, makes it easier to tackle complex issues by focusing on individual components one at a time.

Research and Gather Information : Collect all relevant information and data that might help in solving the problem. Look for similar problems and their solutions.

Brainstorm Possible Solutions : Generate as many potential solutions as possible. Don’t worry about evaluating them at this stage; the goal is to think creatively and come up with a wide range of ideas.

Evaluate and Select the Best Solution : Assess the feasibility, pros, and cons of each potential solution. Consider factors such as resources, time, and potential risks. Choose the solution that best addresses the problem and is most practical.

Develop an Action Plan : Create a detailed plan for implementing your chosen solution. Outline the steps you need to take, assign tasks if working in a team, and set deadlines to ensure timely progress.

Implement the Solution : Put your plan into action. Stay focused and be prepared to adapt if necessary. Keep track of your progress and make adjustments as needed.

Monitor and Review : After implementing the solution, monitor the results to ensure the problem is resolved. Evaluate the outcome and review the process to learn from any mistakes or successes.

Problem-solving in workplace

  • Enhancing Efficiency : Quick and effective problem resolution can streamline processes and reduce downtime.
  • Boosting Productivity : Employees who can solve problems independently help maintain workflow and productivity.
  • Improving Customer Satisfaction : Solving customer issues promptly can lead to higher satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Fostering Innovation : Problem-solving often leads to new ideas and improvements that drive innovation.
  • Promoting Employee Development : Encouraging problem-solving helps employees grow and develop their skills.

How To Highlight Problem-Solving Skills?

1. on your resume.

When listing problem-solving skills on your resume, provide concrete examples. Use action verbs and quantify your achievements where possible.

  • Resolved a customer service issue that increased customer satisfaction by 20%.
  • Developed a new process that reduced production errors by 15%.

2. In a Cover Letter

Your cover letter is a great place to elaborate on your problem-solving abilities. Describe a specific situation where you successfully addressed a challenge.

“In my previous role at XYZ Company, I identified a bottleneck in our production line. I conducted a thorough analysis and implemented a new workflow, which reduced production time by 25% and saved the company $50,000 annually.”

3. During an Interview

Be prepared to discuss your problem-solving skills in depth during an interview. Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to structure your responses.

Example: “Can you give an example of a time when you solved a difficult problem at work?”

  • Situation: Our sales team was struggling with declining numbers.
  • Task: I was tasked with identifying the root cause and finding a solution.
  • Action: I analyzed sales data, conducted team meetings, and identified a lack of training as the main issue.
  • Result: I organized comprehensive training sessions, which led to a 30% increase in sales over the next quarter.

4. On Social Media and Professional Profiles

Highlight problem-solving skills on LinkedIn and other professional profiles. Share posts or articles about your problem-solving experiences and successes.

“I’m thrilled to share that I recently led a project to overhaul our customer service protocol, resulting in a 40% reduction in response time and a significant boost in customer satisfaction!”

5. In Performance Reviews

During performance reviews, make sure to emphasize your problem-solving contributions. Provide specific examples and outcomes.

“In the past year, I resolved three major project roadblocks, enabling our team to meet all deadlines and exceed our performance goals.”

6. Through Projects and Case Studies

If applicable, create case studies or detailed project descriptions that showcase your problem-solving process and results. This can be particularly useful for portfolios or presentations.

Case Study: Improving IT System Efficiency

  • Problem: Frequent system downtimes affecting productivity.
  • Solution: Implemented a new monitoring system and revised maintenance schedules.
  • Outcome: System downtimes were reduced by 50%, significantly improving productivity.

7. By Demonstrating Soft Skills

Problem-solving often involves other soft skills such as communication, creativity, and teamwork. Highlighting these related skills can further emphasize your ability to solve problems effectively.

“By fostering open communication within my team and encouraging creative brainstorming sessions, we were able to devise innovative solutions to our most pressing challenges.”

How to Answer Problem-Solving Interview Questions

  • Understand the Question : Make sure you fully understand the problem before you try to solve it. Ask clarifying questions if needed to ensure you have all the relevant information.
  • Think Aloud : Demonstrate your thinking process by explaining your thoughts as you work through the problem. This shows your interviewer how you approach problems and organize your thoughts.
  • Break It Down : Divide the problem into smaller, manageable parts. This can make a complex issue seem more approachable and allows you to tackle each component systematically.
  • Use a Structured Approach : Employ frameworks or methodologies that are relevant to the question. For example, you might use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) for behavioral questions, or a simple problem-solving framework like Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control (DMAIC) for process improvements.
  • Be Creative : Employers often look for creativity in your answers. Think outside the box and propose innovative solutions when appropriate.
  • Prioritize Solutions : If there are multiple potential solutions, discuss the pros and cons of each and explain why you would choose one over the others.
  • Stay Calm and Positive : Problem-solving under pressure is part of the test. Maintain a calm and positive demeanor, showing that you can handle stress effectively.
  • Summarize Your Steps : After you have worked through the problem, summarize the steps you took and the conclusion you reached. This helps ensure the interviewer followed your process and underscores your methodical approach.
  • Ask for Feedback : After presenting your solution, it can be beneficial to ask if there are any additional factors you might consider. This shows openness to learning and adapting.
  • Practice Regularly : Like any skill, problem-solving improves with practice. Regularly engage in brain teasers, logic puzzles, or case studies to sharpen your skills.

Why Are Problem-Solving is Important?

  • Effective Decision-Making : Problem-solving is essential for making decisions that are logical, informed, and well-considered. This skill helps individuals and organizations make choices that lead to better outcomes.
  • Innovation and Improvement : Solving problems effectively often requires innovative thinking. This can lead to new ideas and improvements in processes, products, and services, which are essential for business growth and adaptation.
  • Handling Complex Situations : Many roles involve complex situations that are not straightforward to manage. Problem-solving skills enable individuals to dissect these situations and devise effective strategies to deal with them.
  • Enhances Productivity : Efficient problem-solving contributes to higher productivity, as it allows for the identification and removal of obstacles that impede workflow and performance.
  • Career Advancement : Individuals who are effective problem solvers are often seen as leaders and can advance more quickly in their careers. This skill is valuable because it demonstrates the ability to handle difficult situations and complex challenges.
  • Adaptability and Resilience : Problem-solving is key to adapting to new situations and overcoming challenges. Those who can creatively navigate through difficulties are generally more resilient.
  • Quality of Life : On a personal level, strong problem-solving skills can improve one’s quality of life by enabling better management of the challenges that come with daily living.
  • Team Collaboration : Problem-solving often requires collaboration. Being good at solving problems can improve your ability to work with others, as it involves communication, persuasion, and negotiation skills.

How to Include Problem-Solving in a Job Application

  • Resume : Detail specific problem-solving instances in your job descriptions using action verbs like “analyzed” and “implemented”. Mention the positive outcomes achieved.
  • Cover Letter : Narrate a specific instance where your problem-solving skills led to a successful outcome, demonstrating initiative and effectiveness.
  • Skills Section : Include “problem-solving” in a skills section if the job ad specifically mentions it.
  • Quantify Achievements : Use numbers to describe the impact of your solutions, such as cost savings or efficiency improvements.
  • Job Interviews : Prepare to discuss specific examples of your problem-solving skills, focusing on the challenge, your action, and the result.
  • References : Brief your references about your problem-solving achievements so they can provide specific examples when contacted by employers.

Tips for Enhancing Problem-Solving

  • Practice Regularly: Like any skill, problem-solving improves with regular practice. Engage in activities that challenge your thinking, such as puzzles, games, or real-world problem-solving scenarios.
  • Learn from Others: Study how others approach and solve problems. This can provide new strategies and perspectives that you can incorporate into your own problem-solving toolkit.
  • Stay Calm and Positive: Maintaining a calm and positive mindset can significantly improve your ability to solve problems. Stress and negativity can cloud your judgment and hinder creative thinking.
  • Develop Critical Thinking: Sharpen your critical thinking skills by questioning assumptions, analyzing information, and evaluating evidence. This will help you make more informed and logical decisions.
  • Collaborate with Others: Working with others can bring new insights and ideas. Collaboration can also help you see the problem from different angles and develop more effective solutions.
  • Keep Learning: Continuously expand your knowledge and skills. The more you know, the better equipped you are to tackle a variety of problems.

How can I improve my problem-solving skills?

Practice regularly, learn various problem-solving techniques, and engage in activities that challenge your thinking.

What are common problem-solving techniques?

Common techniques include brainstorming, root cause analysis, the 5 Whys, and SWOT analysis.

What are the steps in the problem-solving process?

Identify the problem, analyze the problem, generate solutions, select a solution, implement, and evaluate.

How do I demonstrate problem-solving skills in an interview?

Discuss specific situations where you effectively solved problems, highlighting your thought process and outcomes.

What’s the difference between critical thinking and problem-solving?

Critical thinking involves analyzing and evaluating information, while problem-solving focuses on finding solutions to problems.

How do problem-solving skills help in leadership?

They enable leaders to manage challenges effectively, inspire innovation, and guide teams through obstacles.

How to measure problem-solving skills?

Assess through scenarios or challenges that require identifying, analyzing, and resolving problems.

What role does creativity play in problem-solving?

Creativity enables out-of-the-box thinking, which can lead to innovative and effective solutions.

How do you use problem-solving in project management?

Apply it to anticipate potential issues, plan solutions, and ensure smooth project execution.

What’s an example of a problem-solving situation?

Resolving customer complaints by identifying the issue, brainstorming solutions, and implementing changes to prevent future complaints.


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Respect the worth of other people's insights

Problems continuously arise in organizational life, making problem-solving an essential skill for leaders. Leaders who are good at tackling conundrums are likely to be more effective at overcoming obstacles and guiding their teams to achieve their goals. So, what’s the secret to better problem-solving skills?

1. Understand the root cause of the problem

“Too often, people fail because they haven’t correctly defined what the problem is,” says David Ross, an international strategist, founder of consultancy Phoenix Strategic Management and author of Confronting the Storm: Regenerating Leadership and Hope in the Age of Uncertainty .

Ross explains that as teams grapple with “wicked” problems – those where there can be several root causes for why a problem exists – there can often be disagreement on the initial assumptions made. As a result, their chances of successfully solving the problem are low.

“Before commencing the process of solving the problem, it is worthwhile identifying who your key stakeholders are and talking to them about the issue,” Ross recommends. “Who could be affected by the issue? What is the problem – and why? How are people affected?”

He argues that if leaders treat people with dignity, respecting the worth of their insights, they are more likely to successfully solve problems.

Best High-Yield Savings Accounts Of 2024

Best 5% interest savings accounts of 2024, 2. unfocus the mind.

“To solve problems, we need to commit to making time to face a problem in its full complexity, which also requires that we take back control of our thinking,” says Chris Griffiths, an expert on creativity and innovative thinking skills, founder and CEO of software provider OpenGenius, and co-author of The Focus Fix: Finding Clarity, Creativity and Resilience in an Overwhelming World .

To do this, it’s necessary to harness the power of the unfocused mind, according to Griffiths. “It might sound oxymoronic, but just like our devices, our brain needs time to recharge,” he says. “ A plethora of research has shown that daydreaming allows us to make creative connections and see abstract solutions that are not obvious when we’re engaged in direct work.”

To make use of the unfocused mind in problem solving, you must begin by getting to know the problem from all angles. “At this stage, don’t worry about actually solving the problem,” says Griffiths. “You’re simply giving your subconscious mind the information it needs to get creative with when you zone out. From here, pick a monotonous or rhythmic activity that will help you to activate the daydreaming state – that might be a walk, some doodling, or even some chores.”

Do this regularly, argues Griffiths, and you’ll soon find that flashes of inspiration and novel solutions naturally present themselves while you’re ostensibly thinking of other things. He says: “By allowing you to access the fullest creative potential of your own brain, daydreaming acts as a skeleton key for a wide range of problems.”

3. Be comfortable making judgment calls

“Admitting to not knowing the future takes courage,” says Professor Stephen Wyatt, founder and lead consultant at consultancy Corporate Rebirth and author of Antidote to the Crisis of Leadership: Opportunity in Complexity . “Leaders are worried our teams won’t respect us and our boards will lose faith in us, but what doesn’t work is drawing up plans and forecasts and holding yourself or others rigidly to them.”

Wyatt advises leaders to heighten their situational awareness – to look broadly, integrate more perspectives and be able to connect the dots. “We need to be comfortable in making judgment calls as the future is unknown,” he says. “There is no data on it. But equally, very few initiatives cannot be adjusted, refined or reviewed while in motion.”

Leaders need to stay vigilant, according to Wyatt, create the capacity of the enterprise to adapt and maintain the support of stakeholders. “The concept of the infallible leader needs to be updated,” he concludes.

4. Be prepared to fail and learn

“Organisations, and arguably society more widely, are obsessed with problems and the notion of problems,” says Steve Hearsum, founder of organizational change consultancy Edge + Stretch and author of No Silver Bullet: Bursting the Bubble of the Organisational Quick Fix .

Hearsum argues that this tendency is complicated by the myth of fixability, namely the idea that all problems, however complex, have a solution. “Our need for certainty, to minimize and dampen the anxiety of ‘not knowing,’ leads us to oversimplify and ignore or filter out anything that challenges the idea that there is a solution,” he says.

Leaders need to shift their mindset to cultivate their comfort with not knowing and couple that with being OK with being wrong, sometimes, notes Hearsum. He adds: “That means developing reflexivity to understand your own beliefs and judgments, and what influences these, asking questions and experimenting.”

5. Unleash the power of empathy

Leaders must be able to communicate problems in order to find solutions to them. But they should avoid bombarding their teams with complex, technical details since these can overwhelm their people’s cognitive load, says Dr Jessica Barker MBE , author of Hacked: The Secrets Behind Cyber Attacks .

Instead, she recommends that leaders frame their messages in ways that cut through jargon and ensure that their advice is relevant, accessible and actionable. “An essential leadership skill for this is empathy,” Barker explains. “When you’re trying to build a positive culture, it is crucial to understand why people are not practicing the behaviors you want rather than trying to force that behavioral change with fear, uncertainty and doubt.”

Sally Percy

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If we’re all so busy, why isn’t anything getting done?

Have you ever asked why it’s so difficult to get things done in business today—despite seemingly endless meetings and emails? Why it takes so long to make decisions—and even then not necessarily the right ones? You’re not the first to think there must be a better way. Many organizations address these problems by redesigning boxes and lines: who does what and who reports to whom. This exercise tends to focus almost obsessively on vertical command relationships and rarely solves for what, in our experience, is the underlying disease: the poor design and execution of collaborative interactions.

About the authors

This article is a collaborative effort by Aaron De Smet , Caitlin Hewes, Mengwei Luo, J.R. Maxwell , and Patrick Simon , representing views from McKinsey’s People & Organizational Performance Practice.

In our efforts to connect across our organizations, we’re drowning in real-time virtual interaction technology, from Zoom to Slack to Teams, plus group texting, WeChat, WhatsApp, and everything in between. There’s seemingly no excuse to not collaborate. The problem? Interacting is easier than ever, but true, productive, value-creating collaboration is not. And what’s more, where engagement is occurring, its quality is deteriorating. This wastes valuable resources, because every minute spent on a low-value interaction eats into time that could be used for important, creative, and powerful activities.

It’s no wonder a recent McKinsey survey  found 80 percent of executives were considering or already implementing changes in meeting structure and cadence in response to the evolution in how people work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, most executives say they frequently find themselves spending way too much time on pointless interactions that drain their energy and produce information overload.

Most executives say they frequently find themselves spending way too much time on pointless interactions.

Three critical collaborative interactions

What can be done? We’ve found it’s possible to quickly improve collaborative interactions by categorizing them by type and making a few shifts accordingly. We’ve observed three broad categories of collaborative interactions (exhibit):

  • Decision making, including complex or uncertain decisions (for example, investment decisions) and cross-cutting routine decisions (such as quarterly business reviews)
  • Creative solutions and coordination, including innovation sessions (for example, developing new products) and routine working sessions (such as daily check-ins)
  • Information sharing, including one-way communication (video, for instance) and two-way communication (such as town halls with Q&As)

Below we describe the key shifts required to improve each category of collaborative interaction, as well as tools you can use to pinpoint problems in the moment and take corrective action.

Decision making: Determining decision rights

When you’re told you’re “responsible” for a decision, does that mean you get to decide? What if you’re told you’re “accountable”? Do you cast the deciding vote, or does the person responsible? What about those who must be “consulted”? Sometimes they are told their input will be reflected in the final answer—can they veto a decision if they feel their input was not fully considered?

It’s no wonder one of the key factors for fast, high-quality decisions is to clarify exactly who makes them. Consider a success story at a renewable-energy company. To foster accountability and transparency, the company developed a 30-minute “role card” conversation for managers to have with their direct reports. As part of this conversation, managers explicitly laid out the decision rights and accountability metrics for each direct report. The result? Role clarity enabled easier navigation for employees, sped up decision making, and resulted in decisions that were much more customer focused.

How to define decision rights

We recommend a simple yet comprehensive approach for defining decision rights. We call it DARE, which stands for deciders, advisers, recommenders, and executors:

Deciders are the only ones with a vote (unlike the RACI model, which helps determine who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed). If the deciders get stuck, they should jointly agree on how to escalate the decision or figure out a way to move the process along, even if it means agreeing to “disagree and commit.”

Advisers have input and help shape the decision. They have an outsize voice in setting the context of the decision and have a big stake in its outcome—for example, it may affect their profit-and-loss statements—but they don’t get a vote.

Recommenders conduct the analyses, explore the alternatives, illuminate the pros and cons, and ultimately recommend a course of action to advisers and deciders. They see the day-to-day implications of the decision but also have no vote. Best-in-class recommenders offer multiple options and sometimes invite others to suggest more if doing so may lead to better outcomes. A common mistake of recommenders, though, is coming in with only one recommendation (often the status quo) and trying to convince everyone it’s the best path forward. In general, the more recommenders, the better the process—but not in the decision meeting itself.

Executers don’t give input but are deeply involved in implementing the decision. For speed, clarity, and alignment, executers need to be in the room when the decision is made so they can ask clarifying questions and spot flaws that might hinder implementation. Notably, the number of executers doesn’t necessarily depend on the importance of the decision. An M&A decision, for example, might have just two executors: the CFO and a business-unit head.

To make this shift, ensure everyone is crystal clear about who has a voice but no vote or veto. Our research indicates while it is often helpful to involve more people in decision making, not all of them should be deciders—in many cases, just one individual should be the decider (see sidebar “How to define decision rights”). Don’t underestimate the difficulty of implementing this. It often goes against our risk-averse instinct to ensure everyone is “happy” with a decision, particularly our superiors and major stakeholders. Executing and sustaining this change takes real courage and leadership.

Creative solutions and coordination: Open innovation

Routine working sessions are fairly straightforward. What many organizations struggle with is finding innovative ways to identify and drive toward solutions. How often do you tell your teams what to do versus empowering them to come up with solutions? While they may solve the immediate need to “get stuff done,” bureaucracies and micromanagement are a recipe for disaster. They slow down the organizational response to the market and customers, prevent leaders from focusing on strategic priorities, and harm employee engagement. Our research suggests  key success factors in winning organizations are empowering employees  and spending more time on high-quality coaching interactions.

How microenterprises empower employees to drive innovative solutions

Haier, a Chinese appliance maker, created more than 4,000 microenterprises (MEs) that share common approaches but operate independently. Haier has three types of microenterprises:

  • Market-facing MEs have roots in Haier’s legacy appliance business, reinvented for today’s customer-centric, web-enabled world. They are expected to grow revenue and profit ten times faster than the industry average.
  • Incubating MEs focus on emerging markets such as e-gaming or wrapping new business models around familiar products. They currently account for more than 10 percent of Haier’s market capitalization.
  • “Node” MEs sell market-facing ME products and services such as design, manufacturing, and human-resources support.

Take Haier. The Chinese appliance maker divided itself into more than 4,000 microenterprises with ten to 15 employees each, organized in an open ecosystem of users, inventors, and partners (see sidebar “How microenterprises empower employees to drive innovative solutions”). This shift turned employees into energetic entrepreneurs who were directly accountable for customers. Haier’s microenterprises are free to form and evolve with little central direction, but they share the same approach to target setting, internal contracting, and cross-unit coordination. Empowering employees to drive innovative solutions has taken the company from innovation-phobic to entrepreneurial at scale. Since 2015, revenue from Haier Smart Home, the company’s listed home-appliance business, has grown by more than 18 percent a year, topping 209 billion renminbi ($32 billion) in 2020. The company has also made a string of acquisitions, including the 2016 purchase of GE Appliances, with new ventures creating more than $2 billion in market value.

Empowering others doesn’t mean leaving them alone. Successful empowerment, counterintuitively, doesn’t mean leaving employees alone. Empowerment requires leaders to give employees both the tools and the right level of guidance and involvement. Leaders should play what we call the coach role: coaches don’t tell people what to do but instead provide guidance and guardrails and ensure accountability, while stepping back and allowing others to come up with solutions.

Haier was able to use a variety of tools—including objectives and key results (OKRs) and common problem statements—to foster an agile way of working across the enterprise that focuses innovative organizational energy on the most important topics. Not all companies can do this, and some will never be ready for enterprise agility. But every organization can take steps to improve the speed and quality of decisions made by empowered individuals.

Managers who are great coaches, for example, have typically benefited from years of investment by mentors, sponsors, and organizations. We think all organizations should do more to improve the coaching skills of managers and help them to create the space and time to coach teams, as opposed to filling out reports, presenting in meetings, and other activities that take time away from driving impact through the work of their teams.

But while great coaches take time to develop, something as simple as a daily stand-up or check-in can drive horizontal connectivity, creating the space for teams to understand what others are doing and where they need help to drive work forward without having to specifically task anyone in a hierarchical way. You may also consider how you are driving a focus on outcomes over activities on a near-term and long-term basis. Whether it’s OKRs or something else, how is your organization proactively communicating a focus on impact and results over tasks and activities? What do you measure? How is it tracked? How is the performance of your people and your teams managed against it? Over what time horizons?

The importance of psychological safety. As you start this journey, be sure to take a close look at psychological safety. If employees don’t feel psychologically safe, it will be nearly impossible for leaders and managers to break through disempowering behaviors like constant escalation, hiding problems or risks, and being afraid to ask questions—no matter how skilled they are as coaches.

Employers should be on the lookout for common problems indicating that significant challenges to psychological safety lurk underneath the surface. Consider asking yourself and your teams questions to test the degree of psychological safety you have cultivated: Do employees have space to bring up concerns or dissent? Do they feel that if they make a mistake it will be held against them? Do they feel they can take risks or ask for help? Do they feel others may undermine them? Do employees feel valued for their unique skills and talents? If the answer to any of these is not a clear-cut “yes,” the organization likely has room for improvement on psychological safety and relatedness as a foundation to high-quality interactions within and between teams.

Information sharing: Fit-for-purpose interactions

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? You spend a significant amount of time in meetings every day but feel like nothing has been accomplished. You jump from one meeting to another and don’t get to think on your own until 7 p.m. You wonder why you need to attend a series of meetings where the same materials are presented over and over again. You’re exhausted.

An increasing number of organizations have begun to realize the urgency of driving ruthless meeting efficiency and of questioning whether meetings are truly required at all to share information. Live interactions can be useful for information sharing, particularly when there is an interpretive lens required to understand the information, when that information is particularly sensitive, or when leaders want to ensure there’s ample time to process it and ask questions. That said, most of us would say that most meetings are not particularly useful and often don’t accomplish their intended objective.

We have observed that many companies are moving to shorter meetings (15 to 30 minutes) rather than the standard default of one-hour meetings in an effort to drive focus and productivity. For example, Netflix launched a redesign effort to drastically improve meeting efficiency, resulting in a tightly controlled meeting protocol. Meetings cannot go beyond 30 minutes. Meetings for one-way information sharing must be canceled in favor of other mechanisms such as a memo, podcast, or vlog. Two-way information sharing during meetings is limited by having attendees review materials in advance, replacing presentations with Q&As. Early data show Netflix has been able to reduce the number of meetings by more than 65 percent, and more than 85 percent of employees favor the approach.

Making meeting time a scarce resource is another strategy organizations are using to improve the quality of information sharing and other types of interactions occurring in a meeting setting. Some companies have implemented no-meeting days. In Japan, Microsoft’s “Work Life Choice Challenge” adopted a four-day workweek, reduced the time employees spend in meetings—and boosted productivity by 40 percent. 1 Bill Chappell, “4-day workweek boosted workers’ productivity by 40%, Microsoft Japan says,” NPR, November 4, 2019, Similarly, Shopify uses “No Meeting Wednesdays” to enable employees to devote time to projects they are passionate about and to promote creative thinking. 2 Amy Elisa Jackson, “Feedback & meeting-free Wednesdays: How Shopify beats the competition,” Glassdoor, December 5, 2018, And Moveline’s product team dedicates every Tuesday to “Maker Day,” an opportunity to create and solve complex problems without the distraction of meetings. 3 Rebecca Greenfield, “Why your office needs a maker day,” Fast Company , April 17, 2014,

Finally, no meeting could be considered well scoped without considering who should participate, as there are real financial and transaction costs to meeting participation. Leaders should treat time spent in meetings as seriously as companies treat financial capital. Every leader in every organization should ask the following questions before attending any meeting: What’s this meeting for? What’s my role? Can I shorten this meeting by limiting live information sharing and focusing on discussion and decision making? We encourage you to excuse yourself from meetings if you don’t have a role in influencing the outcome and to instead get a quick update over email. If you are not essential, the meeting will still be successful (possibly more so!) without your presence. Try it and see what happens.

High-quality, focused interactions can improve productivity, speed, and innovation within any organization—and drive better business performance. We hope the above insights have inspired you to try some new techniques to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of collaboration within your organization.

Aaron De Smet is a senior partner in McKinsey’s New Jersey office; Caitlin Hewes is a consultant in the Atlanta office; Mengwei Luo is an associate partner in the New York office; J.R. Maxwell is a partner in the Washington, DC, office; and Patrick Simon is a partner in the Munich office.

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