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Overview of the Problem-Solving Mental Process

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

how to solve a problem steps

Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS, is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in eating behaviors, stress management, and health behavior change.

how to solve a problem steps

  • Identify the Problem
  • Define the Problem
  • Form a Strategy
  • Organize Information
  • Allocate Resources
  • Monitor Progress
  • Evaluate the Results

Frequently Asked Questions

Problem-solving is a mental process that involves discovering, analyzing, and solving problems. The ultimate goal of problem-solving is to overcome obstacles and find a solution that best resolves the issue.

The best strategy for solving a problem depends largely on the unique situation. In some cases, people are better off learning everything they can about the issue and then using factual knowledge to come up with a solution. In other instances, creativity and insight are the best options.

It is not necessary to follow problem-solving steps sequentially, It is common to skip steps or even go back through steps multiple times until the desired solution is reached.

In order to correctly solve a problem, it is often important to follow a series of steps. Researchers sometimes refer to this as the problem-solving cycle. While this cycle is portrayed sequentially, people rarely follow a rigid series of steps to find a solution.

The following steps include developing strategies and organizing knowledge.

1. Identifying the Problem

While it may seem like an obvious step, identifying the problem is not always as simple as it sounds. In some cases, people might mistakenly identify the wrong source of a problem, which will make attempts to solve it inefficient or even useless.

Some strategies that you might use to figure out the source of a problem include :

  • Asking questions about the problem
  • Breaking the problem down into smaller pieces
  • Looking at the problem from different perspectives
  • Conducting research to figure out what relationships exist between different variables

2. Defining the Problem

After the problem has been identified, it is important to fully define the problem so that it can be solved. You can define a problem by operationally defining each aspect of the problem and setting goals for what aspects of the problem you will address

At this point, you should focus on figuring out which aspects of the problems are facts and which are opinions. State the problem clearly and identify the scope of the solution.

3. Forming a Strategy

After the problem has been identified, it is time to start brainstorming potential solutions. This step usually involves generating as many ideas as possible without judging their quality. Once several possibilities have been generated, they can be evaluated and narrowed down.

The next step is to develop a strategy to solve the problem. The approach used will vary depending upon the situation and the individual's unique preferences. Common problem-solving strategies include heuristics and algorithms.

  • Heuristics are mental shortcuts that are often based on solutions that have worked in the past. They can work well if the problem is similar to something you have encountered before and are often the best choice if you need a fast solution.
  • Algorithms are step-by-step strategies that are guaranteed to produce a correct result. While this approach is great for accuracy, it can also consume time and resources.

Heuristics are often best used when time is of the essence, while algorithms are a better choice when a decision needs to be as accurate as possible.

4. Organizing Information

Before coming up with a solution, you need to first organize the available information. What do you know about the problem? What do you not know? The more information that is available the better prepared you will be to come up with an accurate solution.

When approaching a problem, it is important to make sure that you have all the data you need. Making a decision without adequate information can lead to biased or inaccurate results.

5. Allocating Resources

Of course, we don't always have unlimited money, time, and other resources to solve a problem. Before you begin to solve a problem, you need to determine how high priority it is.

If it is an important problem, it is probably worth allocating more resources to solving it. If, however, it is a fairly unimportant problem, then you do not want to spend too much of your available resources on coming up with a solution.

At this stage, it is important to consider all of the factors that might affect the problem at hand. This includes looking at the available resources, deadlines that need to be met, and any possible risks involved in each solution. After careful evaluation, a decision can be made about which solution to pursue.

6. Monitoring Progress

After selecting a problem-solving strategy, it is time to put the plan into action and see if it works. This step might involve trying out different solutions to see which one is the most effective.

It is also important to monitor the situation after implementing a solution to ensure that the problem has been solved and that no new problems have arisen as a result of the proposed solution.

Effective problem-solvers tend to monitor their progress as they work towards a solution. If they are not making good progress toward reaching their goal, they will reevaluate their approach or look for new strategies .

7. Evaluating the Results

After a solution has been reached, it is important to evaluate the results to determine if it is the best possible solution to the problem. This evaluation might be immediate, such as checking the results of a math problem to ensure the answer is correct, or it can be delayed, such as evaluating the success of a therapy program after several months of treatment.

Once a problem has been solved, it is important to take some time to reflect on the process that was used and evaluate the results. This will help you to improve your problem-solving skills and become more efficient at solving future problems.

A Word From Verywell​

It is important to remember that there are many different problem-solving processes with different steps, and this is just one example. Problem-solving in real-world situations requires a great deal of resourcefulness, flexibility, resilience, and continuous interaction with the environment.

Get Advice From The Verywell Mind Podcast

Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how you can stop dwelling in a negative mindset.

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You can become a better problem solving by:

  • Practicing brainstorming and coming up with multiple potential solutions to problems
  • Being open-minded and considering all possible options before making a decision
  • Breaking down problems into smaller, more manageable pieces
  • Asking for help when needed
  • Researching different problem-solving techniques and trying out new ones
  • Learning from mistakes and using them as opportunities to grow

It's important to communicate openly and honestly with your partner about what's going on. Try to see things from their perspective as well as your own. Work together to find a resolution that works for both of you. Be willing to compromise and accept that there may not be a perfect solution.

Take breaks if things are getting too heated, and come back to the problem when you feel calm and collected. Don't try to fix every problem on your own—consider asking a therapist or counselor for help and insight.

If you've tried everything and there doesn't seem to be a way to fix the problem, you may have to learn to accept it. This can be difficult, but try to focus on the positive aspects of your life and remember that every situation is temporary. Don't dwell on what's going wrong—instead, think about what's going right. Find support by talking to friends or family. Seek professional help if you're having trouble coping.

Davidson JE, Sternberg RJ, editors.  The Psychology of Problem Solving .  Cambridge University Press; 2003. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511615771

Sarathy V. Real world problem-solving .  Front Hum Neurosci . 2018;12:261. Published 2018 Jun 26. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00261

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

how to solve a problem steps

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.

how to solve a problem steps

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

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

What Is Problem Solving?

Definition and importance.

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

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.

Brainstorming

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
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How to Solve Problems

  • Laura Amico

how to solve a problem steps

To bring the best ideas forward, teams must build psychological safety.

Teams today aren’t just asked to execute tasks: They’re called upon to solve problems. You’d think that many brains working together would mean better solutions, but the reality is that too often problem-solving teams fall victim to inefficiency, conflict, and cautious conclusions. The two charts below will help your team think about how to collaborate better and come up with the best solutions for the thorniest challenges.

  • Laura Amico is a former senior editor at Harvard Business Review.

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Article • 7 min read

What Is Problem Solving?

Find a solution to any problem you face.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

how to solve a problem steps

We all spend a lot of our time solving problems, both at work and in our personal lives.

Some problems are small, and we can quickly sort them out ourselves. But others are complex challenges that take collaboration, creativity, and a considerable amount of effort to solve.

At work, the types of problems we face depend largely on the organizations we're in and the jobs we do. A manager in a cleaning company, for example, might spend their day untangling staffing issues, resolving client complaints, and sorting out problems with equipment and supplies. An aircraft designer, on the other hand, might be grappling with a problem about aerodynamics, or trying to work out why a new safety feature isn't working. Meanwhile, a politician might be exploring solutions to racial injustice or climate change.

But whatever issues we face, there are some common ways to tackle them effectively. And we can all boost our confidence and ability to succeed by building a strong set of problem-solving skills.

Mind Tools offers a large collection of resources to help you do just that!

How Well Do You Solve Problems?

Start by taking an honest look at your existing skills. What's your current approach to solving problems, and how well is it working? Our quiz, How Good Is Your Problem Solving? lets you analyze your abilities, and signposts ways to address any areas of weakness.

Define Every Problem

The first step in solving a problem is understanding what that problem actually is. You need to be sure that you're dealing with the real problem – not its symptoms. For example, if performance in your department is substandard, you might think that the problem lies with the individuals submitting work. However, if you look a bit deeper, the real issue might be a general lack of training, or an unreasonable workload across the team.

Tools like 5 Whys , Appreciation and Root Cause Analysis get you asking the right questions, and help you to work through the layers of a problem to uncover what's really going on.

However, defining a problem doesn't mean deciding how to solve it straightaway. It's important to look at the issue from a variety of perspectives. If you commit yourself too early, you can end up with a short-sighted solution. The CATWOE checklist provides a powerful reminder to look at many elements that may contribute to the problem, keeping you open to a variety of possible solutions.

Understanding Complexity

As you define your problem, you'll often discover just how complicated it is. There are likely several interrelated issues involved. That's why it's important to have ways to visualize, simplify and make sense of this tangled mess!

Affinity Diagrams are great for organizing many different pieces of information into common themes, and for understanding the relationships between them.

Another popular tool is the Cause-and-Effect Diagram . To generate viable solutions, you need a solid understanding of what's causing the problem.

When your problem occurs within a business process, creating a Flow Chart , Swim Lane Diagram or a Systems Diagram will help you to see how various activities and inputs fit together. This may well highlight a missing element or bottleneck that's causing your problem.

Quite often, what seems to be a single problem turns out to be a whole series of problems. The Drill Down technique prompts you to split your problem into smaller, more manageable parts.

General Problem-Solving Tools

When you understand the problem in front of you, you’re ready to start solving it. With your definition to guide you, you can generate several possible solutions, choose the best one, then put it into action. That's the four-step approach at the heart of good problem solving.

There are various problem-solving styles to use. For example:

  • Constructive Controversy is a way of widening perspectives and energizing discussions.
  • Inductive Reasoning makes the most of people’s experiences and know-how, and can speed up solution finding.
  • Means-End Analysis can bring extra clarity to your thinking, and kick-start the process of implementing solutions.

Specific Problem-Solving Systems

Some particularly complicated or important problems call for a more comprehensive process. Again, Mind Tools has a range of approaches to try, including:

  • Simplex , which involves an eight-stage process: problem finding, fact finding, defining the problem, idea finding, selecting and evaluating, planning, selling the idea, and acting. These steps build upon the basic, four-step process described above, and they create a cycle of problem finding and solving that will continually improve your organization.
  • Appreciative Inquiry , which is a uniquely positive way of solving problems by examining what's working well in the areas surrounding them.
  • Soft Systems Methodology , which takes you through four stages to uncover more details about what's creating your problem, and then define actions that will improve the situation.

Further Problem-Solving Strategies

Good problem solving requires a number of other skills – all of which are covered by Mind Tools.

For example, we have a large section of resources to improve your Creativity , so that you come up with a range of possible solutions.

By strengthening your Decision Making , you'll be better at evaluating the options, selecting the best ones, then choosing how to implement them.

And our Project Management collection has valuable advice for strengthening the whole problem-solving process. The resources there will help you to make effective changes – and then keep them working long term.

Problems are an inescapable part of life, both in and out of work. So we can all benefit from having strong problem-solving skills.

It's important to understand your current approach to problem solving, and to know where and how to improve.

Define every problem you encounter – and understand its complexity, rather than trying to solve it too soon.

There's a range of general problem-solving approaches, helping you to generate possible answers, choose the best ones, and then implement your solution.

Some complicated or serious problems require more specific problem-solving systems, especially when they relate to business processes.

By boosting your creativity, decision-making and project-management skills, you’ll become even better at solving all the problems you face.

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Problem solving techniques: Steps and methods

how to solve a problem steps

Posted on May 29, 2019

Constant disruption has become a hallmark of the modern workforce and organisations want problem solving skills to combat this. Employers need people who can respond to change – be that evolving technology, new competitors, different models for doing business, or any of the other transformations that have taken place in recent years.

In addition, problem solving techniques encompass many of the other top skills employers seek . For example, LinkedIn’s list of the most in-demand soft skills of 2019 includes creativity, collaboration and adaptability, all of which fall under the problem-solving umbrella.

Despite its importance, many employees misunderstand what the problem solving method really involves.

What constitutes effective problem solving?

Effective problem solving doesn’t mean going away and coming up with an answer immediately. In fact, this isn’t good problem solving at all, because you’ll be running with the first solution that comes into your mind, which often isn’t the best.

Instead, you should look at problem solving more as a process with several steps involved that will help you reach the best outcome. Those steps are:

  • Define the problem
  • List all the possible solutions
  • Evaluate the options
  • Select the best solution
  • Create an implementation plan
  • Communicate your solution

Let’s look at each step in a little more detail.

It's important you take the time to brainstorm and consider all your options when solving problems.

1. Define the problem

The first step to solving a problem is defining what the problem actually is – sounds simple, right? Well no. An effective problem solver will take the thoughts of everyone involved into account, but different people might have different ideas on what the root cause of the issue really is. It’s up to you to actively listen to everyone without bringing any of your own preconceived notions to the conversation. Learning to differentiate facts from opinion is an essential part of this process.

An effective problem solver will take the opinions of everyone involved into account

The same can be said of data. Depending on what the problem is, there will be varying amounts of information available that will help you work out what’s gone wrong. There should be at least some data involved in any problem, and it’s up to you to gather as much as possible and analyse it objectively.

2. List all the possible solutions

Once you’ve identified what the real issue is, it’s time to think of solutions. Brainstorming as many solutions as possible will help you arrive at the best answer because you’ll be considering all potential options and scenarios. You should take everyone’s thoughts into account when you’re brainstorming these ideas, as well as all the insights you’ve gleaned from your data analysis. It also helps to seek input from others at this stage, as they may come up with solutions you haven’t thought of.

Depending on the type of problem, it can be useful to think of both short-term and long-term solutions, as some of your options may take a while to implement.

One of the best problem solving techniques is brainstorming a number of different solutions and involving affected parties in this process.

3. Evaluate the options

Each option will have pros and cons, and it’s important you list all of these, as well as how each solution could impact key stakeholders. Once you’ve narrowed down your options to three or four, it’s often a good idea to go to other employees for feedback just in case you’ve missed something. You should also work out how each option ties in with the broader goals of the business.

There may be a way to merge two options together in order to satisfy more people.

4. Select an option

Only now should you choose which solution you’re going to go with. What you decide should be whatever solves the problem most effectively while also taking the interests of everyone involved into account. There may be a way to merge two options together in order to satisfy more people.

5. Create an implementation plan

At this point you might be thinking it’s time to sit back and relax – problem solved, right? There are actually two more steps involved if you want your problem solving method to be truly effective. The first is to create an implementation plan. After all, if you don’t carry out your solution effectively, you’re not really solving the problem at all. 

Create an implementation plan on how you will put your solution into practice. One problem solving technique that many use here is to introduce a testing and feedback phase just to make sure the option you’ve selected really is the most viable. You’ll also want to include any changes to your solution that may occur in your implementation plan, as well as how you’ll monitor compliance and success.

6. Communicate your solution

There’s one last step to consider as part of the problem solving methodology, and that’s communicating your solution . Without this crucial part of the process, how is anyone going to know what you’ve decided? Make sure you communicate your decision to all the people who might be impacted by it. Not everyone is going to be 100 per cent happy with it, so when you communicate you must give them context. Explain exactly why you’ve made that decision and how the pros mean it’s better than any of the other options you came up with.

Prove your problem solving skills with Deakin

Employers are increasingly seeking soft skills, but unfortunately, while you can show that you’ve got a degree in a subject, it’s much harder to prove you’ve got proficiency in things like problem solving skills. But this is changing thanks to Deakin’s micro-credentials. These are university-level micro-credentials that provide an authoritative and third-party assessment of your capabilities in a range of areas, including problem solving. Reach out today for more information .

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Turn your team into skilled problem solvers with these problem-solving strategies

Sarah Laoyan contributor headshot

Picture this, you're handling your daily tasks at work and your boss calls you in and says, "We have a problem." 

Unfortunately, we don't live in a world in which problems are instantly resolved with the snap of our fingers. Knowing how to effectively solve problems is an important professional skill to hone. If you have a problem that needs to be solved, what is the right process to use to ensure you get the most effective solution?

In this article we'll break down the problem-solving process and how you can find the most effective solutions for complex problems.

What is problem solving? 

Problem solving is the process of finding a resolution for a specific issue or conflict. There are many possible solutions for solving a problem, which is why it's important to go through a problem-solving process to find the best solution. You could use a flathead screwdriver to unscrew a Phillips head screw, but there is a better tool for the situation. Utilizing common problem-solving techniques helps you find the best solution to fit the needs of the specific situation, much like using the right tools.

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4 steps to better problem solving

While it might be tempting to dive into a problem head first, take the time to move step by step. Here’s how you can effectively break down the problem-solving process with your team:

1. Identify the problem that needs to be solved

One of the easiest ways to identify a problem is to ask questions. A good place to start is to ask journalistic questions, like:

Who : Who is involved with this problem? Who caused the problem? Who is most affected by this issue?

What: What is happening? What is the extent of the issue? What does this problem prevent from moving forward?

Where: Where did this problem take place? Does this problem affect anything else in the immediate area? 

When: When did this problem happen? When does this problem take effect? Is this an urgent issue that needs to be solved within a certain timeframe?

Why: Why is it happening? Why does it impact workflows?

How: How did this problem occur? How is it affecting workflows and team members from being productive?

Asking journalistic questions can help you define a strong problem statement so you can highlight the current situation objectively, and create a plan around that situation.

Here’s an example of how a design team uses journalistic questions to identify their problem:

Overarching problem: Design requests are being missed

Who: Design team, digital marketing team, web development team

What: Design requests are forgotten, lost, or being created ad hoc.

Where: Email requests, design request spreadsheet

When: Missed requests on January 20th, January 31st, February 4th, February 6th

How : Email request was lost in inbox and the intake spreadsheet was not updated correctly. The digital marketing team had to delay launching ads for a few days while design requests were bottlenecked. Designers had to work extra hours to ensure all requests were completed.

In this example, there are many different aspects of this problem that can be solved. Using journalistic questions can help you identify different issues and who you should involve in the process.

2. Brainstorm multiple solutions

If at all possible, bring in a facilitator who doesn't have a major stake in the solution. Bringing an individual who has little-to-no stake in the matter can help keep your team on track and encourage good problem-solving skills.

Here are a few brainstorming techniques to encourage creative thinking:

Brainstorm alone before hand: Before you come together as a group, provide some context to your team on what exactly the issue is that you're brainstorming. This will give time for you and your teammates to have some ideas ready by the time you meet.

Say yes to everything (at first): When you first start brainstorming, don't say no to any ideas just yet—try to get as many ideas down as possible. Having as many ideas as possible ensures that you’ll get a variety of solutions. Save the trimming for the next step of the strategy. 

Talk to team members one-on-one: Some people may be less comfortable sharing their ideas in a group setting. Discuss the issue with team members individually and encourage them to share their opinions without restrictions—you might find some more detailed insights than originally anticipated.

Break out of your routine: If you're used to brainstorming in a conference room or over Zoom calls, do something a little different! Take your brainstorming meeting to a coffee shop or have your Zoom call while you're taking a walk. Getting out of your routine can force your brain out of its usual rut and increase critical thinking.

3. Define the solution

After you brainstorm with team members to get their unique perspectives on a scenario, it's time to look at the different strategies and decide which option is the best solution for the problem at hand. When defining the solution, consider these main two questions: What is the desired outcome of this solution and who stands to benefit from this solution? 

Set a deadline for when this decision needs to be made and update stakeholders accordingly. Sometimes there's too many people who need to make a decision. Use your best judgement based on the limitations provided to do great things fast.

4. Implement the solution

To implement your solution, start by working with the individuals who are as closest to the problem. This can help those most affected by the problem get unblocked. Then move farther out to those who are less affected, and so on and so forth. Some solutions are simple enough that you don’t need to work through multiple teams.

After you prioritize implementation with the right teams, assign out the ongoing work that needs to be completed by the rest of the team. This can prevent people from becoming overburdened during the implementation plan . Once your solution is in place, schedule check-ins to see how the solution is working and course-correct if necessary.

Implement common problem-solving strategies

There are a few ways to go about identifying problems (and solutions). Here are some strategies you can try, as well as common ways to apply them:

Trial and error

Trial and error problem solving doesn't usually require a whole team of people to solve. To use trial and error problem solving, identify the cause of the problem, and then rapidly test possible solutions to see if anything changes. 

This problem-solving method is often used in tech support teams through troubleshooting.

The 5 whys problem-solving method helps get to the root cause of an issue. You start by asking once, “Why did this issue happen?” After answering the first why, ask again, “Why did that happen?” You'll do this five times until you can attribute the problem to a root cause. 

This technique can help you dig in and find the human error that caused something to go wrong. More importantly, it also helps you and your team develop an actionable plan so that you can prevent the issue from happening again.

Here’s an example:

Problem: The email marketing campaign was accidentally sent to the wrong audience.

“Why did this happen?” Because the audience name was not updated in our email platform.

“Why were the audience names not changed?” Because the audience segment was not renamed after editing. 

“Why was the audience segment not renamed?” Because everybody has an individual way of creating an audience segment.

“Why does everybody have an individual way of creating an audience segment?” Because there is no standardized process for creating audience segments. 

“Why is there no standardized process for creating audience segments?” Because the team hasn't decided on a way to standardize the process as the team introduced new members. 

In this example, we can see a few areas that could be optimized to prevent this mistake from happening again. When working through these questions, make sure that everyone who was involved in the situation is present so that you can co-create next steps to avoid the same problem. 

A SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis can help you highlight the strengths and weaknesses of a specific solution. SWOT stands for:

Strength: Why is this specific solution a good fit for this problem? 

Weaknesses: What are the weak points of this solution? Is there anything that you can do to strengthen those weaknesses?

Opportunities: What other benefits could arise from implementing this solution?

Threats: Is there anything about this decision that can detrimentally impact your team?

As you identify specific solutions, you can highlight the different strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of each solution. 

This particular problem-solving strategy is good to use when you're narrowing down the answers and need to compare and contrast the differences between different solutions. 

Even more successful problem solving

After you’ve worked through a tough problem, don't forget to celebrate how far you've come. Not only is this important for your team of problem solvers to see their work in action, but this can also help you become a more efficient, effective , and flexible team. The more problems you tackle together, the more you’ll achieve. 

Looking for a tool to help solve problems on your team? Track project implementation with a work management tool like Asana .

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Self-Esteem

It’s ok you can’t solve every problem, trying to “fix" everything can leave you feeling like a failure..

Updated May 10, 2024 | Reviewed by Ray Parker

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  • Your intrinsic value is more than what you can do for other people.

You are still worthwhile and can be successful, even if you don’t have all the solutions.

  • Consider which decision will make you feel you’ve stayed true to your values.

In coaching others, I often discuss problem-solving strategies to help individuals think creatively and consider many options when they are faced with challenging situations.

Problem solving 1-2 includes the following:

  • Define the problem, identify obstacles, and set realistic goals .
  • Generate a variety of alternative solutions to overcome obstacles identified.
  • Choose which idea has the highest likelihood to achieve the goal.
  • Try out the solution in real-life and see if it worked or not.

Problem-solving strategies can be helpful in many situations. Thinking creatively and testing out different potential solutions can help you come up with alternative ways of solving your problems.

While many problems can be solved, there are also situations in which there is no “perfect” solution or in which what seems to be the best solution still leaves you feeling unsatisfied or like you’re not doing enough.

I encourage you to increase your comfort around the following three truths:

1. You can’t always solve everyone else’s problems.

2. You can’t always solve all of your own problems.

3. You are not a failure if you can’t solve every problem.

Source: Hans-Peter Gauster / Unsplash

You can’t always solve everyone else’s problems.

When someone around you needs help, do you feel compelled to find solutions to their problem?

Are you seen as the problem solver at your job or in your close relationships?

Does it feel uncomfortable for you to listen to someone tell you about a problem and not offer solutions?

There are times when others come to you because they know you can help them solve a problem. There are also times when the other person is coming to you not for a solution to their problem, but for support, empathy, and a listening ear.

Your relationships may be negatively impacted if others feel that you don’t fully listen and only try to “fix” everything for them. While this may feel like a noble act, it may lead the other person to feel like they have failed or that you think they are unable to solve their own problems.

Consider approaching such situations with curiosity by saying to the other person:

  • As you share this information with me, tell me how I can best support you.
  • What would be most helpful right now? Are you looking for an empathetic ear or want to brainstorm potential next steps?
  • I want to be sure I am as helpful as I can be right now; what are you hoping to get out of our conversation?

You can’t always solve all of your own problems.

We are taught from a young age that problems have a solution. For example, while solving word problems in math class may not have been your favorite thing to do, you knew there was ultimately a “right” answer. Many times, the real world is much more complex, and many of the problems that you face do not have clear or “right” answers.

You may often be faced with finding solutions that do the most good for the most amount of people, but you know that others may still be left out or feel unsatisfied with the result.

Your beliefs about yourself, other people, and the world can sometimes help you make decisions in such circumstances. You may ask for help from others. Some may consider their faith or spirituality for guidance. While others may consider philosophical theories.

Knowing that there often isn’t a “perfect” solution, you may consider asking yourself some of the following questions:

  • What’s the healthiest decision I can make? The healthiest decision for yourself and for those who will be impacted.
  • Imagine yourself 10 years in the future, looking back on the situation: What do you think the future-you would encourage you to do?
  • What would a wise person do?
  • What decision will allow you to feel like you’ve stayed true to your values?

You are not a failure if you can’t solve all of the problems.

If you have internalized feeling like you need to be able to solve every problem that comes across your path, you may feel like a failure each time you don’t.

It’s impossible to solve every problem.

how to solve a problem steps

Your intrinsic value is more than what you can do for other people. You have value because you are you.

Consider creating more realistic and adaptive thoughts around your ability to help others and solve problems.

Some examples include:

  • I am capable, even without solving all of the problems.
  • I am worthwhile, even if I’m not perfect.
  • What I do for others does not define my worth.
  • In living my values, I know I’ve done my best.

I hope you utilize the information above to consider how you can coach yourself the next time you:

  • Start to solve someone else’s problem without being asked.
  • Feel stuck in deciding the best next steps.
  • Judge yourself negatively.

1. D'zurilla, T. J., & Goldfried, M. R. (1971). Problem solving and behavior modification. Journal of abnormal psychology, 78(1), 107.

2. D’Zurilla, T. J., & Nezu, A. M. (2010). Problem-solving therapy. Handbook of cognitive-behavioral therapies, 3(1), 197-225.

Julie Radico Psy.D. ABPP

Julie Radico, Psy.D. ABPP, is a board-certified clinical psychologist and coauthor of You Will Get Through This: A Mental Health First-Aid Kit.

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  • Cloudnine's Leadership Transformation through AntWalk’s "Aspire" Program

Introducing AntWalk: Your partner in problem solving

Did you know according to a recent study by the American Hospital Association (AHA) 72% of hospitals and health system leaders reported their organization is facing workforce shortages . 

Indeed, this is one of the many challenges faced by the healthcare industry today and these loopholes gets clearly visible by a report from Global Health Security Index 2023, which stated “ The average country score was only 40.2 out of 100, highlighting significant gaps in national preparedness for health emergencies .”  

Considering these statistics, it’s evident that the healthcare industry is navigating through complex challenges, from workforce shortages to global health emergencies and many more.  

As we delve deeper into these issues, it becomes increasingly crucial to unlock strategic solutions that can address the multifaceted nature of healthcare problems.  

Join us as we explore the steps of problem-solving skills in healthcare, aiming to uncover actionable strategies that can pave the way for organizations to overcome the obstacles in the healthcare industry.  

Healthcare horizons: Confronting contemporary challenges 

Challenges to healthcare industry in 2024 

The healthcare sector is encountering numerous transformations that present fresh hurdles for medical institutions regardless of their size. Notably, dynamic government regulations, deficits in staffing, advancements in technology, and evolving patient demands contribute to a novel landscape where managing a medical facility entails more than simply providing patient care. 

Let’s explore the key challenges confronting the healthcare industry and strategies to maintain a competitive edge. 

  • Cybersecurity: Data breaches, ransomware and other types of cyberattacks in healthcare, but as advancement in technology is rapidly increasing, like use of Artificial Intelligence in healthcare, telehealth and other initiatives, it has become extremely important to protect these initiatives from external threats. This is also shown through Healthcare Data Breach Report by Hipaa Journal which stated that “ the number of compromised records decreased by 34.3% from month to month, however July’s total was unusually high. Almost 12 million records were reported lost or stolen in August, a far cry from the average of 7.49 million records each month in 2023 .” 

 Data breaches in healthcare 2023 

  • Staff shortage and burnout: Since 2020, there has been a tenfold increase in staff turnover and burnout in the healthcare industry. The healthcare sector had the second-highest number of employment opportunities in the US by September 2022, only surpassed by lodging and food services.   But now the biggest challenge in healthcare cause concern as workforce shortages and increased turnover has increased manifolds. These difficulties include increased expenses, an increase in errors, longer processing times, and income losses. 
  • Ineffective Communication: Communication within institutes is one of the biggest problems in healthcare industry. Studies shows that hospitals lose $12 billion annually due to inadequate communication, which is equivalent to 2% of total income . Building strong internal communication is a necessity for healthcare institutes as it would help in patient care quality through effective internal communication. 
  • Customer Success and Relation: Healthcare organizations grapple with various challenges in customer success and relations, such as the complexity of maintaining effective communication channels amidst digital healthcare trends. Adhering to stringent regulations while ensuring patient satisfaction poses an ongoing dilemma. Managing patient education to ensure understanding of treatments and care plans adds another layer of difficulty. Moreover, delivering personalized care becomes increasingly challenging as patient volumes rise and transitioning from fee-for-service to value-based care models incentivize providers to deliver high-quality, cost-effective care while navigating these complexities. 
  • Effective Payment Model: Healthcare facilities previously relied on the fee-for-service payment model, emphasising the number of patients and operations. This made doctors less likely to practise collaboration and preventive care. The value-based payment paradigm, which connects payment to patient outcomes, is currently gaining popularity. Patients under this paradigm obtain better care, especially for chronic diseases, even though only 15% of physicians have made the changeover. 
  • Big Data: Big data in healthcare   sector is becoming more and more dispersed across various systems and entities, which makes it more difficult to optimise patient care, even with its expanding volume. Accurate insights are hampered, for example, when patient self-reporting is relied upon during insurance or provider changes, resulting in inadequate data transfer. 

Now that we are aware that the healthcare industry faces a variety of new obstacles, let’s look at some of the parameter the sector has employed to overcome these obstacles. 

Exploring the key parameters in modern healthcare industry 

Cynefin framework .

Cynefin Framework - AntWalk

The Cynefin Framework, conceptualized by Dave Snowden , is a revolutionary tool designed for healthcare leaders to enhance their decision-making strategies. It categorizes scenarios into four domains: simple, complicated, complex, and chaotic, helping leaders tailor their approaches to different situations.

This framework encourages a shift in perspective, urging leaders to adopt flexible, context-sensitive strategies for more effective solutions. It’s especially relevant in healthcare, where it can significantly improve how leaders address the sector’s inherent complexities and fluid situations, from routine procedures to handling unprecedented medical crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Since The Cynefin decision making framework only looks at one aspect of the process— decision-making process in strategic management—it is critical to address the issues that have grown because of technological advancements in the healthcare sector. Overcoming these challenges in the healthcare tech might pose several difficulties for organizations.  

But here AntWalk can turn the tables around. Let’s see how AntWalk assisted Cloud9 to smoothly overcome their challenges. 

Cloudnine’s Leadership Transformation through AntWalk’s “Aspire” Program 

Cloudnine collaborated with AntWalk to enhance and operational efficiency & leadership in healthcare management through the “Aspire” program, focusing on proactive care, teamwork, and data-driven decision-making. The initiative featured expert-led sessions and practical training, significantly improving patient satisfaction, service ratings, and financial performance. This partnership successfully empowered leaders to streamline processes and elevate the overall patient care experience.     

how to solve a problem steps

AntWalk’s talent platform is the ideal choice for healthcare organizations seeking to surmount their unique challenges and enhance their workforce capabilities. Through its assess, align and mitigating tools, AntWalk offers a suite of solutions designed to address the specific needs of the healthcare sector. 

With its different learning partners, specializing in areas such as cybersecurity, power skills, digital transformation, and customer success, AntWalk ensures that healthcare professionals have access to the latest knowledge and skills required to navigate the complexities of the industry.  

Whether it’s staying ahead of cybersecurity threats, mastering digital tools for patient care, or honing interpersonal skills crucial for customer satisfaction, AntWalk’s comprehensive platform equips healthcare teams with the expertise they need to excel. 

By offering a flexible and adaptive approach to skill development, AntWalk enabled healthcare organizations like Cloudnine to foster a culture of continuous learning and innovation helps healthcare organizations to overcome their challenges and thrive in an ever-evolving landscape. 

Take the first step towards unlocking innovative solutions for your healthcare organization by connecting with AntWalk today. 

Key Takeaways

  • The healthcare sector struggles with staffing, global crises, cybersecurity, burnout, communication, and customer relations 
  • Addressing the growing complexity of healthcare challenges necessitates innovative solutions
  • The blog emphasizes the Cynefin Framework for healthcare leaders to navigate complexity with tailored strategies
  • AntWalk offers a healthcare-specific business platform emphasizing cybersecurity, digital transformation, and customer satisfaction, alongside facilitating self-paced learning for healthcare professionals

Empowering organizations through a Capability-driven Talent Supply Chain, where Capability is the cornerstone for making impactful people decisions. 

AntWalk Envisions a world where merit and capability transcend all barriers – race, gender, sexual orientation, language, degree, or years of experience. 

Mission:  

We help Organizations measure and build Capabilities in line with their Business Priorities. Begin your journey to a more capable organization at AntWalk . 

Ishika Rastogi

I am an avid marketer, who waltzes through the world of global trends, weaving insights into captivating words. When not in the digital spotlight, I trade marketing buzz with the dance moves, cherishing life with my puppy.

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Watch CBS News

Teens come up with trigonometry proof for Pythagorean Theorem, a problem that stumped math world for centuries

By Bill Whitaker

May 5, 2024 / 7:00 PM EDT / CBS News

As the school year ends, many students will be only too happy to see math classes in their rearview mirrors. It may seem to some of us non-mathematicians that geometry and trigonometry were created by the Greeks as a form of torture, so imagine our amazement when we heard two high school seniors had proved a mathematical puzzle that was thought to be impossible for 2,000 years. 

We met Calcea Johnson and Ne'Kiya Jackson at their all-girls Catholic high school in New Orleans. We expected to find two mathematical prodigies.

Instead, we found at St. Mary's Academy , all students are told their possibilities are boundless.

Come Mardi Gras season, New Orleans is alive with colorful parades, replete with floats, and beads, and high school marching bands.

In a city where uniqueness is celebrated, St. Mary's stands out – with young African American women playing trombones and tubas, twirling batons and dancing - doing it all, which defines St. Mary's, students told us.

Junior Christina Blazio says the school instills in them they have the ability to accomplish anything. 

Christina Blazio: That is kinda a standard here. So we aim very high - like, our aim is excellence for all students. 

The private Catholic elementary and high school sits behind the Sisters of the Holy Family Convent in New Orleans East. The academy was started by an African American nun for young Black women just after the Civil War. The church still supports the school with the help of alumni.

In December 2022, seniors Ne'Kiya Jackson and Calcea Johnson were working on a school-wide math contest that came with a cash prize.

Ne'Kiya Jackson and Calcea Johnson

Ne'Kiya Jackson: I was motivated because there was a monetary incentive.

Calcea Johnson: 'Cause I was like, "$500 is a lot of money. So I-- I would like to at least try."

Both were staring down the thorny bonus question.

Bill Whitaker: So tell me, what was this bonus question?

Calcea Johnson: It was to create a new proof of the Pythagorean Theorem. And it kind of gave you a few guidelines on how would you start a proof.

The seniors were familiar with the Pythagorean Theorem, a fundamental principle of geometry. You may remember it from high school: a² + b² = c². In plain English, when you know the length of two sides of a right triangle, you can figure out the length of the third.

Both had studied geometry and some trigonometry, and both told us math was not easy. What no one told  them  was there had been more than 300 documented proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem using algebra and geometry, but for 2,000 years a proof using trigonometry was thought to be impossible, … and that was the bonus question facing them.

Bill Whitaker: When you looked at the question did you think, "Boy, this is hard"?

Ne'Kiya Jackson: Yeah. 

Bill Whitaker: What motivated you to say, "Well, I'm going to try this"?

Calcea Johnson: I think I was like, "I started something. I need to finish it." 

Bill Whitaker: So you just kept on going.

Calcea Johnson: Yeah.

For two months that winter, they spent almost all their free time working on the proof.

CeCe Johnson: She was like, "Mom, this is a little bit too much."

CeCe and Cal Johnson are Calcea's parents.

CeCe Johnson:   So then I started looking at what she really was doing. And it was pages and pages and pages of, like, over 20 or 30 pages for this one problem.

Cal Johnson: Yeah, the garbage can was full of papers, which she would, you know, work out the problems and-- if that didn't work she would ball it up, throw it in the trash. 

Bill Whitaker: Did you look at the problem? 

Neliska Jackson is Ne'Kiya's mother.

Neliska Jackson: Personally I did not. 'Cause most of the time I don't understand what she's doing (laughter).

Michelle Blouin Williams: What if we did this, what if I write this? Does this help? ax² plus ….

Their math teacher, Michelle Blouin Williams, initiated the math contest.

Michelle Blouin Williams

Bill Whitaker: And did you think anyone would solve it?

Michelle Blouin Williams: Well, I wasn't necessarily looking for a solve. So, no, I didn't—

Bill Whitaker: What were you looking for?

Michelle Blouin Williams: I was just looking for some ingenuity, you know—

Calcea and Ne'Kiya delivered on that! They tried to explain their groundbreaking work to 60 Minutes. Calcea's proof is appropriately titled the Waffle Cone.

Calcea Johnson: So to start the proof, we start with just a regular right triangle where the angle in the corner is 90°. And the two angles are alpha and beta.

Bill Whitaker: Uh-huh

Calcea Johnson: So then what we do next is we draw a second congruent, which means they're equal in size. But then we start creating similar but smaller right triangles going in a pattern like this. And then it continues for infinity. And eventually it creates this larger waffle cone shape.

Calcea Johnson: Am I going a little too—

Bill Whitaker: You've been beyond me since the beginning. (laughter) 

Bill Whitaker: So how did you figure out the proof?

Ne'Kiya Jackson: Okay. So you have a right triangle, 90° angle, alpha and beta.

Bill Whitaker: Then what did you do?

Bill Whitaker with Calcea Johnson and Ne'Kiya Jackson

Ne'Kiya Jackson: Okay, I have a right triangle inside of the circle. And I have a perpendicular bisector at OP to divide the triangle to make that small right triangle. And that's basically what I used for the proof. That's the proof.

Bill Whitaker: That's what I call amazing.

Ne'Kiya Jackson: Well, thank you.

There had been one other documented proof of the theorem using trigonometry by mathematician Jason Zimba in 2009 – one in 2,000 years. Now it seems Ne'Kiya and Calcea have joined perhaps the most exclusive club in mathematics. 

Bill Whitaker: So you both independently came up with proof that only used trigonometry.

Ne'Kiya Jackson: Yes.

Bill Whitaker: So are you math geniuses?

Calcea Johnson: I think that's a stretch. 

Bill Whitaker: If not genius, you're really smart at math.

Ne'Kiya Jackson: Not at all. (laugh) 

To document Calcea and Ne'Kiya's work, math teachers at St. Mary's submitted their proofs to an American Mathematical Society conference in Atlanta in March 2023.

Ne'Kiya Jackson: Well, our teacher approached us and was like, "Hey, you might be able to actually present this," I was like, "Are you joking?" But she wasn't. So we went. I got up there. We presented and it went well, and it blew up.

Bill Whitaker: It blew up.

Calcea Johnson: Yeah. 

Ne'Kiya Jackson: It blew up.

Bill Whitaker: Yeah. What was the blowup like?

Calcea Johnson: Insane, unexpected, crazy, honestly.

It took millenia to prove, but just a minute for word of their accomplishment to go around the world. They got a write-up in South Korea and a shout-out from former first lady Michelle Obama, a commendation from the governor and keys to the city of New Orleans. 

Bill Whitaker: Why do you think so many people found what you did to be so impressive?

Ne'Kiya Jackson: Probably because we're African American, one. And we're also women. So I think-- oh, and our age. Of course our ages probably played a big part.

Bill Whitaker: So you think people were surprised that young African American women, could do such a thing?

Calcea Johnson: Yeah, definitely.

Ne'Kiya Jackson: I'd like to actually be celebrated for what it is. Like, it's a great mathematical achievement.

Achievement, that's a word you hear often around St. Mary's academy. Calcea and Ne'Kiya follow a long line of barrier-breaking graduates. 

The late queen of Creole cooking, Leah Chase , was an alum. so was the first African-American female New Orleans police chief, Michelle Woodfork …

And judge for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Dana Douglas. Math teacher Michelle Blouin Williams told us Calcea and Ne'Kiya are typical St. Mary's students.  

Bill Whitaker: They're not unicorns.

Michelle Blouin Williams: Oh, no no. If they are unicorns, then every single lady that has matriculated through this school is a beautiful, Black unicorn.

Pamela Rogers: You're good?

Pamela Rogers, St. Mary's president and interim principal, told us the students hear that message from the moment they walk in the door.

St. Mary's Academy president and interim principal Pamela Rogers

Pamela Rogers: We believe all students can succeed, all students can learn. It does not matter the environment that you live in. 

Bill Whitaker: So when word went out that two of your students had solved this almost impossible math problem, were they universally applauded?

Pamela Rogers: In this community, they were greatly applauded. Across the country, there were many naysayers.

Bill Whitaker: What were they saying?

Pamela Rogers: They were saying, "Oh, they could not have done it. African Americans don't have the brains to do it." Of course, we sheltered our girls from that. But we absolutely did not expect it to come in the volume that it came.  

Bill Whitaker: And after such a wonderful achievement.

Pamela Rogers: People-- have a vision of who can be successful. And-- to some people, it is not always an African American female. And to us, it's always an African American female.

Gloria Ladson-Billings: What we know is when teachers lay out some expectations that say, "You can do this," kids will work as hard as they can to do it.

Gloria Ladson-Billings, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, has studied how best to teach African American students. She told us an encouraging teacher can change a life.

Bill Whitaker: And what's the difference, say, between having a teacher like that and a whole school dedicated to the excellence of these students?

Gloria Ladson-Billings: So a whole school is almost like being in Heaven. 

Bill Whitaker: What do you mean by that?

Bill Whitaker and Gloria Ladson-Billings

Gloria Ladson-Billings: Many of our young people have their ceilings lowered, that somewhere around fourth or fifth grade, their thoughts are, "I'm not going to be anything special." What I think is probably happening at St. Mary's is young women come in as, perhaps, ninth graders and are told, "Here's what we expect to happen. And here's how we're going to help you get there."

At St. Mary's, half the students get scholarships, subsidized by fundraising to defray the $8,000 a year tuition. Here, there's no test to get in, but expectations are high and rules are strict: no cellphones, modest skirts, hair must be its natural color.

Students Rayah Siddiq, Summer Forde, Carissa Washington, Tatum Williams and Christina Blazio told us they appreciate the rules and rigor.

Rayah Siddiq: Especially the standards that they set for us. They're very high. And I don't think that's ever going to change.

Bill Whitaker: So is there a heart, a philosophy, an essence to St. Mary's?

Summer Forde: The sisterhood—

Carissa Washington: Sisterhood.

Tatum Williams: Sisterhood.

Bill Whitaker: The sisterhood?

Voices: Yes.

Bill Whitaker: And you don't mean the nuns. You mean-- (laughter)

Christina Blazio: I mean, yeah. The community—

Bill Whitaker: So when you're here, there's just no question that you're going to go on to college.

Rayah Siddiq: College is all they talk about. (laughter) 

Pamela Rogers: … and Arizona State University (Cheering)

Principal Rogers announces to her 615 students the colleges where every senior has been accepted.

Bill Whitaker: So for 17 years, you've had a 100% graduation rate—

Pamela Rogers: Yes.

Bill Whitaker: --and a 100% college acceptance rate?

Pamela Rogers: That's correct.

Last year when Ne'Kiya and Calcea graduated, all their classmates went to college and got scholarships. Ne'Kiya got a full ride to the pharmacy school at Xavier University in New Orleans. Calcea, the class valedictorian, is studying environmental engineering at Louisiana State University.

Bill Whitaker: So wait a minute. Neither one of you is going to pursue a career in math?

Both: No. (laugh)

Calcea Johnson: I may take up a minor in math. But I don't want that to be my job job.

Ne'Kiya Jackson: Yeah. People might expect too much out of me if (laugh) I become a mathematician. (laugh)

But math is not completely in their rear-view mirrors. This spring they submitted their high school proofs for final peer review and publication … and are still working on further proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem. Since their first two …

Calcea Johnson: We found five. And then we found a general format that could potentially produce at least five additional proofs.

Bill Whitaker: And you're not math geniuses?

Bill Whitaker: I'm not buying it. (laughs)

Produced by Sara Kuzmarov. Associate producer, Mariah B. Campbell. Edited by Daniel J. Glucksman.

Bill Whitaker

Bill Whitaker is an award-winning journalist and 60 Minutes correspondent who has covered major news stories, domestically and across the globe, for more than four decades with CBS News.

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We Signed 5 Fortune 500 Companies in 2 Years. Here’s How.

Selling your product to a Fortune 500 company takes a little more legwork on the front end, but the rewards are worth it. Our expert explains his process.

Anders Lillevik

For early-stage B2B SaaS startups, your first hurdle is to establish product-market fit and sign your first customer. But if you’ve done all that, the next hurdle comes when you begin to scale, move up market, and sign your first Fortune 500 customer.

Selling to larger enterprises requires an entirely different skill set than smaller ones. Your product often needs to be tweaked and tailored to suit the needs of these larger organizations. Also, the sales process is longer. It often takes well over a year to close larger enterprise deals, according to SaaStr . Although getting the deal over the finish line can be a slog, the benefits are massive.

At Focal Point, five of the first 10 deals we closed in our first two years were with Fortune 500 companies. So, how’d we do it?

Having a quality product that solves a real problem is step one. Beyond that, though, the thing that will help you rise above your competition is how you continue to communicate your value.

4 Steps to Closing a Fortune 500 Company

  • Don ’t skip over the basics: customize!
  • Pitch the right person. Understand their role.
  • Be clear about the problem you’re solving.
  • Be ready to hear  “no” in an extra-long sales cycle.

More in Sales How to Win Over Gatekeepers and Close More Deals

1. Don’t Skip Over the Basics: Customize!

When meeting with Fortune 500 professionals, your instinct may be to default to high-level, sometimes jargon-y marketing language.

They’re being pitched dozens of times daily; don’t waste their time with generalities. Get to the point and customize your pitch to their unique set of problems. Tailored pitches require consistent, customized communication, guiding your lead throughout the process. It works: Nurtured leads make purchases 47 percent larger than non-nurtured leads.

Nurturing your leads can start before you even pitch them. Are you connected on LinkedIn ? You can build trust and authority by becoming a thought leader in your niche. Are you talking about the problems they encounter every day? Make the lead even warmer by setting yourself up as a thought partner and ally rather than one more solution in a sea of them.

The truth of the matter is that there are only 500 Fortune 500 companies. You have no excuse for not knowing every target intimately, crafting unique selling points for each one, and offering an unparalleled level of service.

Selling to public companies can actually be a straightforward process. They have to disclose performance, and you can turn their disclosures into value propositions if you read between the lines and do your homework. For example, If one of your targets discloses goals related to sustainability, make sure to angle your pitch toward the ways your product or service helps reduce environmental impact. For instance, in our case, Focal Point helps identify more sustainable, compliant vendors, vastly improving the environmental health of the company’s supply chain overall. If your company offers a cleaner technology or a more efficient use of resources, these could be compelling points of interest for leaders on the receiving end of your outreach.

The ABCs of sales are “always be closing,” but perhaps just as important is ABL: “Always be learning.” Always be learning about your customers, incorporate their feedback into your pitch, and stay in front of them with consistent, customized communication.

For example, if you walk them through a demo, be very intentional about what you show them. Your dummy data needs to be a realistic representation of what you think your prospects see and feel every day.

To maximize the effectiveness of your demos, prepare scenarios that might occur in their industry. For example, if sudden market changes are common in their industry, show how your tool can quickly adapt to provide new insights or alter workflows.

It needs to be familiar, highlight that you understand their problems, and that can solve them from day one. And, if you can’t solve all of their exact problems from day one, assure them you’ll have a path to build the required product features quickly.

2. Pitch the Right Person. Understand Their Role.

Although customizing your pitch to a company is crucial, don’t stop there. Customize it to the person. Finding the right person to pitch can be everything.

For example, Focal Point is a procurement solution. If we had started engaging Fortune 500 companies by pitching their COOs, we’d have gotten nowhere. Instead, we started with procurement professionals at the mid- to senior-level: Heads of procurement, chief procurement officers, etc.

Once you’ve found the right person, start to understand the nuances of their role. A head of procurement is likely facing different day-to-day issues than a chief procurement officer, and a chief procurement officer at one Fortune 500 company could have very different responsibilities than the same one at another.

We rely heavily on testimony from our existing clients to make this happen. We ask our clients pointed questions to understand the internal dynamics at play. Although not every client is the same, if you ask enough questions, you begin to understand the patterns in the answers. This helps us inform who we go to first. 

When we pitched procurement professionals at Fortune 500 companies, we wanted to create an evangelist for our product on the inside who understood the problems we were solving and could be an internal champion for our solution.

We tailored our pitches to them because they were the first and most important gatekeepers, but the work doesn’t stop there. You should also understand that no one in any function works independently. Work to understand the needs of, and sell to, the other stakeholders who need to buy in: the CTO, CIO, CFO, and in some cases CEO. Even with a champion on the inside, you have to speak the language of the decision-making C-suite. 

As we spoke to more stakeholders throughout the process, we again tailored our conversations to those audiences. You accomplish this by analyzing your audience and their needs. If we’re pitching to a chief procurement officer, we tailor our pitch to introduce the product as a solution that simplifies procurement processes, reduces costs, and enhances supplier management. But, when we’re talking to the CFO, we highlight the cost-effectiveness, ROI, and impact of our product on the bottom line. The process will evolve, and your pitches can’t be stagnant.

3. Be Clear About the Problem You’re Solving 

Companies that undersell a problem and oversell their solution are doing themselves a disservice. They’re setting customers up to be underwhelmed.

Instead, start with the problem first. This means positioning your product around a discrete problem. It’s not the solution to all their problems. It’s not their savior. It solves a specific issue they experience regularly, and it does so elegantly.

This type of transparency builds trust. Our customers appreciate the candor; they understand that procurement is complex and messy. It takes time to address the process end-to-end, which is why incremental improvements are so important.

Strive to communicate to prospects how your organization will tackle the team’s future problems. The sales team has an opportunity to demonstrate its expertise and vision to grow with the company by anticipating future challenges and a plan to address them. 

To use the example from above, if our client has expressed an intent to prioritize sustainability, we emphasize that our team is actively developing features that will help them evaluate suppliers not just on cost and quality, but on their environmental and social governance standards.

Laying out a plan from start to finish and acknowledging that you’re prepared to pivot along the way brings customers into your journey, makes them feel like stakeholders, and gives them input into the vision for your solution.

4. Be Ready to Hear ‘ No ’ in an Extra-Long Sales Cycle

This one sounds counterintuitive, but that’s precisely what makes it effective. Prompt buyers with questions that require a “no.” For example, “Do you have [insert your unique value proposition]?” You know the answer. They know the answer. It’s “no.”

But just the act of them saying that they don’t have a solution out loud requires them to really focus on the issue at hand. It’s almost cathartic. Let the “no” resonate with them. Let them sit in it.

Sometimes the “no” can be unnerving. For example, “You’ve seen the value our solution can bring, but are your teams set up to access that value from day one?”

Sometimes that’s a “no” as well, and while that can be unsettling for you as the salesperson, it forces you both to think through the logistics. Your goal isn’t just delivering the best tech, it’s to find the best way to organize, train, and deploy their teams around that tech. This is where you think through onboarding, training, legacy systems, bureaucracy, etc.

This thought exercise forces your target to imagine what a partnership would look like. They have to get specific and prescriptive. They need to figure out both what they need from you and what you’ll need from them.

In many cases, “nos” are the best path forward in an extra-long sales cycle.

More for Founders 3 Tips for Scaling a Startup Without Overheating

Prep, Then Sell

We signed five Fortune 500 clients in our first two years. It wasn’t easy. But we made our lives a lot easier by going into each call armed with the knowledge that we were talking to the right person, at the right company, with the right problem statement, and with the right amount of transparent honesty.

Now, that’s not going to work for every B2B SaaS company. You have to get the problem statement and product down first. But once you do, it’s off to the races.

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How to Fix the "Driver Is Unavailable" Error on Your Printer

Are you seeing a driver is unavailable error? Like all PC hardware, printers need updated drivers to function smoothly, and they won’t work until the issue is resolved. We'll take you through all the ways to fix your printer if the driver is unavailable, and show you how to easily keep your drivers updated with the help of an automated driver updater tool.

Signal-How-to-Fix-the-Driver-Is-Unavailable-Error-on-Your-Printer-Hero

What is the "Driver is Unavailable" error?

The “Driver is Unavailable” error means Windows is unable to locate the right driver required for issuing commands to your printer. This could be due to having incorrect, corrupted, or outdated drivers installed, or due to your system not having the necessary access permissions.

For your system to interact with a printer, dedicated software known as drivers are needed to act as an intermediary between the PC and the printer. The drivers translate requests from the operating system into commands that the printer’s specific make and model can understand and execute. But if there’s a problem with the driver, communication breaks down, causing the “Driver is unavailable” error to occur.

The same is true for other hardware components, although you may not always receive a driver unavailable message. For example, faulty graphics drivers can slow down your streaming and cause your games to lag or crash. If you're experiencing slowdowns, check your computer specs and be sure to update your graphics drivers .

Common causes of driver errors

There are many reasons why you might be encountering a printer driver error, including problems with the driver itself or issues with your operating system. That’s why it’s important to learn how to hunt down drivers to boost PC performance and fix common driver problems in Windows .

Here are some common causes why your printer driver is unavailable:

Faulty drivers: Occasionally, manufacturers accidentally release driver updates containing bugs or glitches — particularly if they’re rushing to patch up a security exploit . In this case, fixing the issue simply requires rolling back your driver to the previous version.

Outdated drivers: If you don’t keep your drivers updated, as well as causing performance issues, they may eventually become incompatible with your devices. The best driver update software keeps track of driver updates for all your hardware and makes sure you never miss a new release.

Corrupted drivers: Like other files stored on your PC, drivers can become corrupted due to malware , hardware bugs, unexpected shutdowns, or interference from other software. Reinstalling the driver with AVG Driver Updater will repair the corrupted files as well as perform a malware and compatibility check.

Outdated operating system: Even if all your drivers are fully functional and updated, if you’re not running the latest version of your operating system, compatibility problems can result in a driver unavailable error.

Windows updates: Drivers are written specifically to integrate with a particular operating system, so changes to your system via Windows updates can cause compatibility issues. Until a driver update is released to fix the problem, roll back Windows by uninstalling the latest update.

Incorrect installation: If you manually update your drivers, it’s easy to install the wrong driver. Alternatively, you may have the correct driver, but failed to install it properly, resulting in the printer driver being unavailable.

How to fix the "Driver is Unavailable" error in Windows 10

If your Windows 10 printer driver is unavailable, isolate and fix the problem by working through the following steps until the “Driver is Unavailable” message stops appearing.

Roll back your printer driver

If your printer driver recently updated before the error appeared, an issue with the update is probably to blame. Here’s how to roll it back to the previous version:

Open the Control Panel via the Start menu and click View devices and printers .

 Accessing the Control Panel to view devices and printers on Windows 10.

Locate the affected printer, right-click it, and select Properties .

Accessing printer properties via Windows Control Panel.

Go to the Hardware tab and click Properties .

 Opening printer hardware properties to inspect driver options.

In the new pop-up window, go to the Driver tab and click Roll Back Driver . If prompted, confirm by clicking Yes or OK .

Rolling back a printer driver to help fix a "Driver is unavailable error".

Update your printer driver

If your printer driver wasn’t recently updated, or if rolling back to a previous version didn’t solve the issue, you should ensure you have the latest driver version installed.

Open the Device Manager via the Start menu.

Launching Device Manager via the Start menu in WIndows 10.

Locate your printer within the list of devices, right-click it, and select Update driver .

 Updating a printer driver via Device Manager in Windows 10.

Click Search automatically for drivers and follow the on-screen installation instructions if an update is available.

Selecting "Search automatically for drivers" to let Windows find a compatible driver update.

Update or roll back Windows

Compatibility issues can arise if you’re not using the latest version of Windows or your driver isn’t compatible with the version you’re running.

Here’s how to make sure your operating system is fully updated:

Open Settings through the Start menu, then click Update & Security .

 Navigating to the Update & Security section in Windows Settings.

Select Windows Update , then click Check for updates .

Checking for Windows updates to help resolve a "Driver is unavailable" error.

If any updates are available, follow the on-screen instructions to install them. If your Windows update gets stuck , check out how to fix Windows update errors .

You shouldn’t use an outdated version of Windows, because this leaves you exposed to potential vulnerabilities and zero-day attacks . But if a recent update coincided with the appearance of the error message, you can try rolling back Windows to see if that solves the problem.

Uninstall your printer driver

In the event that your printer driver has become corrupted, or is incorrectly installed, you’ll need to wipe the slate clean and start again.

Here’s how to uninstall your printer driver:

Open Settings via the Start menu, then click Devices .

Accessing "Devices" options within Windows Settings.

Select Printers and Scanners .

Clicking "Printers & Scanners" in Windows Devices Settings to uninstall a printer driver.

Select Print Server Properties .

Accessing Print Server Properties to troubleshoot a printer driver error.

Click the Drivers tab, select the problematic printer driver in the list of installed drivers, and click Remove .

Unistalling a printer driver to help fix a "Driver unavailable error".

Select Remove driver and driver package , then click OK — if asked for confirmation, click Delete .

Removing driver and driver package to completely uninstall a printer driver.

Download and install a new printer driver

After uninstalling your printer driver, it’s time to make sure you have the right one installed for your specific make and model of printer. Here’s how to download and install a new driver:

Open Settings via the Start menu and click Devices .

Opening Device settings within the Windows 10 Settings app.

Select Printers & scanners , then click the name of the printer followed by Remove device .

Removing a printer within the Windows 10 Settings app.

Now click the + button next to Add a printer or scanner and select the name of the printer.

Re-adding a printer in Windows Settings to reinstall the printer driver.

Follow the on-screen instructions to pair your PC with the printer. Windows should automatically find, download, and install the appropriate driver.

If this doesn’t work for any reason, you’ll need to manually locate the driver on the printer manufacturer’s website, download it, and follow their installation instructions.

How to fix the "Driver is Unavailable" error on HP printers

If your HP printer driver is unavailable, you can either use an HP Drivers Updater tool or do so manually. Locate your printer’s name on the outer shell of your printer, then go to the HP Printer Driver Downloads page . Enter the name of your printer in the search box and choose the appropriate driver.

Here are some other tips for fixing common printer “Driver is unavailable” HP errors:

Check your internet connection: If your HP printer is using HP+, a faulty internet connection could make your printer driver unavailable to HP servers. If you have connection problems, see why your internet is slow and how to fix it .

Use a universal driver: You can also try using one of HP’s universal drivers , which work across several models.

Use HP’s driver diagnostic tool: HP’s Print and Scan doctor can potentially diagnose your printer driver issue and offer a solution.

Roll back HP’s update: If your HP printer worked fine before updating, roll back the driver update using Windows Device Manager.

Other printer driver errors and how to fix them

Likewise, if your Canon printer driver is unavailable or your Epson printer driver is unavailable, visiting Canon’s software driver page or Epson’s printer support page lets you manually search for your specific printer model so you can download and install the right driver.

But sometimes printer driver issues are caused by something else entirely. Here are some other errors which could be causing the problem:

Print spooler needs restarting

Windows’ print spooler orders print jobs and puts them in the printing queue, so a mix-up here could cause the printer driver to show up as unavailable. Try restarting it through the built-in Services app by scrolling down to Print Spooler , right-clicking it, and selecting Restart .

Administrator access

Since drivers have privileged access to the inner workings of your hardware, they might require administrator rights for security reasons. Switch to your administrator account, then check if your printer driver is still unavailable.

Troubleshooting tips

Does your printer still say the driver is unavailable, even after you’ve updated it and tried all the other fixes? Here are a few more troubleshooting options to try:

Windows Troubleshooter: Windows 10 has a built-in printer troubleshooter to help you identify and fix problems. Type troubleshoot settings in the Windows search bar and open it. Click Additional troubleshooters , then Printer , and Run the troubleshooter .

Clean your PC: It’s possible you have a lot of junk on your computer that is getting in your driver’s way. Our ultimate guide to speeding up and cleaning your PC can help you unclog the works.

Unplug and replug the printer: Sometimes, simply unplugging your printer, waiting a minute, and then plugging it back in, can reset your driver issue.

Call support: If all else fails, contact your printer’s customer support center. They’ll be best placed to guide you through potential solutions to your problem.

Keep all your drivers updated

Drivers are crucial to your PC’s performance, but there are millions of drivers across different brands you could have on your computer. AVG Driver Updater removes the hassle and stress of keeping up with updates — it automatically manages all your drivers for improved audio and video quality, enhanced Wi-Fi connectivity, and faster browsing. Refresh your PC today by installing AVG Driver Updater and getting a free scan of your drivers.

Keep Your Drivers Updated Automatically

Get AVG Driver Updater to automatically scan, update, and fix your drivers with a single click. Enjoy optimal PC performance.

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  • ENVIRONMENT

Are the Great Lakes the key to solving America’s emissions conundrum?

A single cargo ship can carry enough goods to replace nearly 3,000 semi-trucks—that's why some are calling for a shipping boom in America's famous lakes.

The Mark W Barker coming into Sturgeon Bay through the shipping canal.

Nearly four decades had passed since the Great Lakes witnessed that unique ritual: the smashing of a bottle of champagne off the bow of a U.S.-flagged cargo ship.

When it finally happened in October 2021 with the launching of the MV Mark W. Barker, a 639-foot-long freighter, in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, it marked a new dawn.

The first bulk carrier to enter service on the Great Lakes for 37 years, the ship can transport goods ranging from salt to wind turbine blades to shipping containers. Its hull design means it can hold 20 percent more cargo than vessels of a similar size. It’s also the first ship sailing the Great Lakes to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s tier 4 emissions standards .

“It’s the most capable, most environmentally friendly asset we have,” says Brendan O’Connor, chief operations officer for the Interlake Steamship Company, which operates the MV Mark W. Barker.  

The ship, and others like it, are a critical piece of the climate change puzzle. As the deadlines for meeting the Paris Climate Agreement’s emissions targets   draw ever closer—with the goal for emissions to peak before 2025 and decline 43 percent by 2030—one industry is inducing panic: the transportation world.  

America’s transportation industry is the country’s   leading source of carbon emissions, responsible for a whopping 29 percent . And while privately-owned vehicles make up 58 percent of that, medium- and heavy-duty trucks carrying bulk materials account for 23 percent.

For Hungry Minds

Yet one weapon in the battle against emissions may be sitting in plain sight: the Great Lakes.

Linking Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Toronto, Buffalo, and other cities that are home to about 32 million people, Great Lakes shipping could play a significant role in helping the U.S. and Canada dramatically reduce their emissions footprints.

Transporting more goods with fewer vehicles

Today, several ports have projects that could help facilitate that change.

The Port of Cleveland on Lake Erie is set for a $32-million infrastructure upgrade . Farther west on Lake Superior, the Port of Duluth-Superior was recently expanded to handle international container freight . One survey of public and private investments found more than $8.4 billion has been committed to developing Great Lakes maritime infrastructure.

Road freight emits up to 100 times the amount of emissions of ships —a single Great Lakes vessel can carry as much bulk material as 2,800 semi-trucks or 700 rail cars . With gas prices raising trucking costs on average and rail strike threats growing in recent years, Great Lakes shipping could serve as a cleaner, more efficient way to transport many of the critical items America’s economy relies on.  

Still, challenges abound. The two largest Great Lakes cities—Toronto and Chicago— currently both have comparatively small port infrastructure systems.  

( Interested in an electric car? Here's what you should know. )

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The Port of Toronto’s economic impact is dwarfed by ports in Montreal and Vancouver, while Chicago’s port has been falling into disrepair for decades. Despite this poor infrastructure, experts say the Port of Chicago has significant potential as a major hub because it is also connected to the Mississippi River by the Illinois Waterway, a network of canals, lakes, and rivers.  

Not a perfect solution

Shipping hasn’t always been a cleaner alternative. In 2021, ships traversing the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, the body of water that connects the lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, consumed 500,000 tons of fuel that emitted 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide, according to one study . That’s the equivalent of around 380,000 cars.

Still, experts say that opportunities for change are growing.

“It’s technically feasible to decarbonize every ship in the fleet,” says Bryan Comer, marine program director at the International Council on Clean Transportation, a Washington, D.C.-based research institute. “The question is: What are the regulatory and economic drivers or incentives to do that?”

( How green can we make air travel? And how soon? )

Comer says that while there’s potential for electrifying smaller ships such as tugboats, to meet U.S. emissions targets, some larger ships will need new propulsion technologies that replace internal combustion engines with fuel cells that run on ‘green hydrogen,’ an energy resource made from renewable electricity.

“That is going to be the ingredient in all of the fuels that are used,” he says.  

To help meet this transition, the U.S. Department of Energy has made $7 billion available to build up to 10 so-called ‘hydrogen hubs’ across the country .  

“A lot of our efforts are in the scale-up of large-scale production of the clean hydrogen molecules—building out the infrastructure, the storage (and) the delivery,” says Neil Banwart of the Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen , one of seven awardees of the federal funding.

“We certainly do hope that Great Lakes shipping is [a buyer], a use case for this clean hydrogen that we intend to produce.”

Small steps toward big change

In the meantime, Great Lakes ports and shipping companies are working on short-term ways to push the industry closer to net zero.

The Port of Cleveland’s infrastructure update includes an electrification plan and charging stations it hopes will help it fulfill its goal of becoming the first net-zero emissions port on the Great Lakes by 2050.  

The Interlake Steamship Company hopes to cut its emissions footprint by 50 percent in the next decade.

“The engines are going to be the best way for us to move the needle,” says Brendan O’Connor.  

“We’re not quite there yet but in the next two or three years I think we’ll see changes.”

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IMAGES

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  3. 7 Steps to Improve Your Problem Solving Skills

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  1. The Problem-Solving Process

    Overview of the Problem-Solving Mental Process. Problem-solving is a mental process that involves discovering, analyzing, and solving problems. The ultimate goal of problem-solving is to overcome obstacles and find a solution that best resolves the issue. The best strategy for solving a problem depends largely on the unique situation.

  2. What is Problem Solving? Steps, Process & Techniques

    1. Define the problem. Diagnose the situation so that your focus is on the problem, not just its symptoms. Helpful problem-solving techniques include using flowcharts to identify the expected steps of a process and cause-and-effect diagrams to define and analyze root causes.. The sections below help explain key problem-solving steps.

  3. 5 Steps (And 4 Techniques) for Effective Problem Solving

    4. Implement the Solution. At this stage of problem solving, be prepared for feedback, and plan for this. When you roll out the solution, request feedback on the success of the change made. 5. Review, Iterate, and Improve. Making a change shouldn't be a one time action.

  4. Problem-Solving Strategies: Definition and 5 Techniques to Try

    In general, effective problem-solving strategies include the following steps: Define the problem. Come up with alternative solutions. Decide on a solution. Implement the solution. Problem-solving ...

  5. A guide to problem-solving techniques, steps, and 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.

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

    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 ...

  7. The Problem-Solving Process

    The Problem-Solving Process. Problem-solving is an important part of planning and decision-making. The process has much in common with the decision-making process, and in the case of complex decisions, can form part of the process itself. We face and solve problems every day, in a variety of guises and of differing complexity.

  8. How to master the seven-step problem-solving process

    By following steps, we can more clearly understand what problem it is we're solving, what are the components of the problem that we're solving, which components are the most important ones for us to pay attention to, which analytic techniques we should apply to those, and how we can synthesize what we've learned back into a compelling story.

  9. 7 Problem-Solving Skills That Can Help You Be a More ...

    The steps to solving problems in this model include: identifying that there is a problem, defining the goals you hope to achieve, exploring potential solutions, choosing a solution and acting on it, and looking at (or evaluating) the outcome. 1. Identify that there is a problem and root out its cause.

  10. How to Solve Problems

    How to Solve Problems. To bring the best ideas forward, teams must build psychological safety. Teams today aren't just asked to execute tasks: They're called upon to solve problems. You'd ...

  11. How To Put Problem-Solving Skills To Work in 6 Steps

    Here are the basic steps involved in problem-solving: 1. Define the problem. The first step is to analyze the situation carefully to learn more about the problem. A single situation may solve multiple problems. Identify each problem and determine its cause. Try to anticipate the behavior and response of those affected by the problem.

  12. What Is Problem Solving?

    Define Every Problem. The first step in solving a problem is understanding what that problem actually is. You need to be sure that you're dealing with the real problem - not its symptoms. For example, if performance in your department is substandard, you might think that the problem lies with the individuals submitting work.

  13. Problem solving techniques: Steps and methods

    Evaluate the options. Select the best solution. Create an implementation plan. Communicate your solution. Let's look at each step in a little more detail. The first solution you come up with won't always be the best - taking the time to consider your options is an essential problem solving technique. 1.

  14. The McKinsey guide to problem solving

    Become a better problem solver with insights and advice from leaders around the world on topics including developing a problem-solving mindset, solving problems in uncertain times, problem solving with AI, and much more. ... diverse perspectives and rigorous debate are crucial to determining the best steps to take.

  15. Problem management: 8 steps to better problem solving

    Problem management is an 8 step framework most commonly used by IT teams. You can use problem management to solve for repeating major incidents. By organizing and structuring your problem solving, you can more effectively get to the root cause of high-impact problems—and devise a solution. Solving the root cause prevents recurrence and ...

  16. Problem Solving Strategies for the Workplace [2024] • Asana

    4 steps to better problem solving. While it might be tempting to dive into a problem head first, take the time to move step by step. Here's how you can effectively break down the problem-solving process with your team: 1. Identify the problem that needs to be solved. One of the easiest ways to identify a problem is to ask questions.

  17. Step-by-Step Math Problem Solver

    QuickMath will automatically answer the most common problems in algebra, equations and calculus faced by high-school and college students. The algebra section allows you to expand, factor or simplify virtually any expression you choose. It also has commands for splitting fractions into partial fractions, combining several fractions into one and ...

  18. Step-by-Step Calculator

    To solve math problems step-by-step start by reading the problem carefully and understand what you are being asked to find. Next, identify the relevant information, define the variables, and plan a strategy for solving the problem. Show more; en. Related Symbolab blog posts.

  19. Dealing With Your Problems: Tips and Tricks

    But when you divide problem-solving into actionable steps, it becomes much easier to tackle. Here are 5 steps for dealing with a problem: Identify the problem. In order to find a solution, it can ...

  20. GeoGebra Math Solver

    Get accurate solutions and step-by-step explanations for algebra and other math problems with the free GeoGebra Math Solver. Enhance your problem-solving skills while learning how to solve equations on your own. Try it now!

  21. Microsoft Math Solver

    Get math help in your language. Works in Spanish, Hindi, German, and more. Online math solver with free step by step solutions to algebra, calculus, and other math problems. Get help on the web or with our math app.

  22. Microsoft Math Solver

    Get math help in your language. Works in Spanish, Hindi, German, and more. Online math solver with free step by step solutions to algebra, calculus, and other math problems. Get help on the web or with our math app.

  23. It's OK You Can't Solve Every Problem

    In coaching others, I often discuss problem-solving strategies to help individuals think creatively and consider many options when they are faced with challenging situations. Problem solving 1-2 ...

  24. A step-by-step guide to overcoming challenges through problem solving

    As we delve deeper into these issues, it becomes increasingly crucial to unlock strategic solutions that can address the multifaceted nature of healthcare problems. Join us as we explore the steps of problem-solving skills in healthcare, aiming to uncover actionable strategies that can pave the way for organizations to overcome the obstacles in ...

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  27. We Signed 5 Fortune 500 Companies in 2 Years. Here's How

    3. Be Clear About the Problem You're Solving . Companies that undersell a problem and oversell their solution are doing themselves a disservice. They're setting customers up to be underwhelmed. Instead, start with the problem first. This means positioning your product around a discrete problem. It's not the solution to all their problems.

  28. How to Fix the Driver Is Unavailable Error on Printers

    Open the Control Panel via the Start menu and click View devices and printers. Locate the affected printer, right-click it, and select Properties. Go to the Hardware tab and click Properties. In the new pop-up window, go to the Driver tab and click Roll Back Driver. If prompted, confirm by clicking Yes or OK.

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    In 2021, ships traversing the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, the body of water that connects the lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, consumed 500,000 tons of fuel that emitted 1.6 million tons of ...