35 problem-solving techniques and methods for solving complex problems
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All teams and organizations encounter challenges as they grow. There are problems that might occur for teams when it comes to miscommunication or resolving business-critical issues . You may face challenges around growth , design , user engagement, and even team culture and happiness. In short, problem-solving techniques should be part of every team’s skillset.
Problem-solving methods are primarily designed to help a group or team through a process of first identifying problems and challenges , ideating possible solutions , and then evaluating the most suitable .
Finding effective solutions to complex problems isn’t easy, but by using the right process and techniques, you can help your team be more efficient in the process.
So how do you develop strategies that are engaging, and empower your team to solve problems effectively?
In this blog post, we share a series of problem-solving tools you can use in your next workshop or team meeting. You’ll also find some tips for facilitating the process and how to enable others to solve complex problems.
Let’s get started!
How do you identify problems?
How do you identify the right solution.
- Tips for more effective problem-solving
Complete problem-solving methods
- Problem-solving techniques to identify and analyze problems
- Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions
Problem-solving warm-up activities
Closing activities for a problem-solving process.
Before you can move towards finding the right solution for a given problem, you first need to identify and define the problem you wish to solve.
Here, you want to clearly articulate what the problem is and allow your group to do the same. Remember that everyone in a group is likely to have differing perspectives and alignment is necessary in order to help the group move forward.
Identifying a problem accurately also requires that all members of a group are able to contribute their views in an open and safe manner. It can be scary for people to stand up and contribute, especially if the problems or challenges are emotive or personal in nature. Be sure to try and create a psychologically safe space for these kinds of discussions.
Remember that problem analysis and further discussion are also important. Not taking the time to fully analyze and discuss a challenge can result in the development of solutions that are not fit for purpose or do not address the underlying issue.
Successfully identifying and then analyzing a problem means facilitating a group through activities designed to help them clearly and honestly articulate their thoughts and produce usable insight.
With this data, you might then produce a problem statement that clearly describes the problem you wish to be addressed and also state the goal of any process you undertake to tackle this issue.
Finding solutions is the end goal of any process. Complex organizational challenges can only be solved with an appropriate solution but discovering them requires using the right problem-solving tool.
After you’ve explored a problem and discussed ideas, you need to help a team discuss and choose the right solution. Consensus tools and methods such as those below help a group explore possible solutions before then voting for the best. They’re a great way to tap into the collective intelligence of the group for great results!
Remember that the process is often iterative. Great problem solvers often roadtest a viable solution in a measured way to see what works too. While you might not get the right solution on your first try, the methods below help teams land on the most likely to succeed solution while also holding space for improvement.
Every effective problem solving process begins with an agenda . A well-structured workshop is one of the best methods for successfully guiding a group from exploring a problem to implementing a solution.
In SessionLab, it’s easy to go from an idea to a complete agenda . Start by dragging and dropping your core problem solving activities into place . Add timings, breaks and necessary materials before sharing your agenda with your colleagues.
The resulting agenda will be your guide to an effective and productive problem solving session that will also help you stay organized on the day!
Tips for more effective problem solving
Problem-solving activities are only one part of the puzzle. While a great method can help unlock your team’s ability to solve problems, without a thoughtful approach and strong facilitation the solutions may not be fit for purpose.
Let’s take a look at some problem-solving tips you can apply to any process to help it be a success!
Clearly define the problem
Jumping straight to solutions can be tempting, though without first clearly articulating a problem, the solution might not be the right one. Many of the problem-solving activities below include sections where the problem is explored and clearly defined before moving on.
This is a vital part of the problem-solving process and taking the time to fully define an issue can save time and effort later. A clear definition helps identify irrelevant information and it also ensures that your team sets off on the right track.
Don’t jump to conclusions
It’s easy for groups to exhibit cognitive bias or have preconceived ideas about both problems and potential solutions. Be sure to back up any problem statements or potential solutions with facts, research, and adequate forethought.
The best techniques ask participants to be methodical and challenge preconceived notions. Make sure you give the group enough time and space to collect relevant information and consider the problem in a new way. By approaching the process with a clear, rational mindset, you’ll often find that better solutions are more forthcoming.
Try different approaches
Problems come in all shapes and sizes and so too should the methods you use to solve them. If you find that one approach isn’t yielding results and your team isn’t finding different solutions, try mixing it up. You’ll be surprised at how using a new creative activity can unblock your team and generate great solutions.
Don’t take it personally
Depending on the nature of your team or organizational problems, it’s easy for conversations to get heated. While it’s good for participants to be engaged in the discussions, ensure that emotions don’t run too high and that blame isn’t thrown around while finding solutions.
You’re all in it together, and even if your team or area is seeing problems, that isn’t necessarily a disparagement of you personally. Using facilitation skills to manage group dynamics is one effective method of helping conversations be more constructive.
Get the right people in the room
Your problem-solving method is often only as effective as the group using it. Getting the right people on the job and managing the number of people present is important too!
If the group is too small, you may not get enough different perspectives to effectively solve a problem. If the group is too large, you can go round and round during the ideation stages.
Creating the right group makeup is also important in ensuring you have the necessary expertise and skillset to both identify and follow up on potential solutions. Carefully consider who to include at each stage to help ensure your problem-solving method is followed and positioned for success.
The best solutions can take refinement, iteration, and reflection to come out. Get into a habit of documenting your process in order to keep all the learnings from the session and to allow ideas to mature and develop. Many of the methods below involve the creation of documents or shared resources. Be sure to keep and share these so everyone can benefit from the work done!
Bring a facilitator
Facilitation is all about making group processes easier. With a subject as potentially emotive and important as problem-solving, having an impartial third party in the form of a facilitator can make all the difference in finding great solutions and keeping the process moving. Consider bringing a facilitator to your problem-solving session to get better results and generate meaningful solutions!
Develop your problem-solving skills
It takes time and practice to be an effective problem solver. While some roles or participants might more naturally gravitate towards problem-solving, it can take development and planning to help everyone create better solutions.
You might develop a training program, run a problem-solving workshop or simply ask your team to practice using the techniques below. Check out our post on problem-solving skills to see how you and your group can develop the right mental process and be more resilient to issues too!
Design a great agenda
Workshops are a great format for solving problems. With the right approach, you can focus a group and help them find the solutions to their own problems. But designing a process can be time-consuming and finding the right activities can be difficult.
Check out our workshop planning guide to level-up your agenda design and start running more effective workshops. Need inspiration? Check out templates designed by expert facilitators to help you kickstart your process!
In this section, we’ll look at in-depth problem-solving methods that provide a complete end-to-end process for developing effective solutions. These will help guide your team from the discovery and definition of a problem through to delivering the right solution.
If you’re looking for an all-encompassing method or problem-solving model, these processes are a great place to start. They’ll ask your team to challenge preconceived ideas and adopt a mindset for solving problems more effectively.
- Six Thinking Hats
- Lightning Decision Jam
- Problem Definition Process
- Discovery & Action Dialogue
Design Sprint 2.0
- Open Space Technology
1. Six Thinking Hats
Individual approaches to solving a problem can be very different based on what team or role an individual holds. It can be easy for existing biases or perspectives to find their way into the mix, or for internal politics to direct a conversation.
Six Thinking Hats is a classic method for identifying the problems that need to be solved and enables your team to consider them from different angles, whether that is by focusing on facts and data, creative solutions, or by considering why a particular solution might not work.
Like all problem-solving frameworks, Six Thinking Hats is effective at helping teams remove roadblocks from a conversation or discussion and come to terms with all the aspects necessary to solve complex problems.
2. Lightning Decision Jam
Featured courtesy of Jonathan Courtney of AJ&Smart Berlin, Lightning Decision Jam is one of those strategies that should be in every facilitation toolbox. Exploring problems and finding solutions is often creative in nature, though as with any creative process, there is the potential to lose focus and get lost.
Unstructured discussions might get you there in the end, but it’s much more effective to use a method that creates a clear process and team focus.
In Lightning Decision Jam, participants are invited to begin by writing challenges, concerns, or mistakes on post-its without discussing them before then being invited by the moderator to present them to the group.
From there, the team vote on which problems to solve and are guided through steps that will allow them to reframe those problems, create solutions and then decide what to execute on.
By deciding the problems that need to be solved as a team before moving on, this group process is great for ensuring the whole team is aligned and can take ownership over the next stages.
Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ) #action #decision making #problem solving #issue analysis #innovation #design #remote-friendly The problem with anything that requires creative thinking is that it’s easy to get lost—lose focus and fall into the trap of having useless, open-ended, unstructured discussions. Here’s the most effective solution I’ve found: Replace all open, unstructured discussion with a clear process. What to use this exercise for: Anything which requires a group of people to make decisions, solve problems or discuss challenges. It’s always good to frame an LDJ session with a broad topic, here are some examples: The conversion flow of our checkout Our internal design process How we organise events Keeping up with our competition Improving sales flow
3. Problem Definition Process
While problems can be complex, the problem-solving methods you use to identify and solve those problems can often be simple in design.
By taking the time to truly identify and define a problem before asking the group to reframe the challenge as an opportunity, this method is a great way to enable change.
Begin by identifying a focus question and exploring the ways in which it manifests before splitting into five teams who will each consider the problem using a different method: escape, reversal, exaggeration, distortion or wishful. Teams develop a problem objective and create ideas in line with their method before then feeding them back to the group.
This method is great for enabling in-depth discussions while also creating space for finding creative solutions too!
Problem Definition #problem solving #idea generation #creativity #online #remote-friendly A problem solving technique to define a problem, challenge or opportunity and to generate ideas.
4. The 5 Whys
Sometimes, a group needs to go further with their strategies and analyze the root cause at the heart of organizational issues. An RCA or root cause analysis is the process of identifying what is at the heart of business problems or recurring challenges.
The 5 Whys is a simple and effective method of helping a group go find the root cause of any problem or challenge and conduct analysis that will deliver results.
By beginning with the creation of a problem statement and going through five stages to refine it, The 5 Whys provides everything you need to truly discover the cause of an issue.
The 5 Whys #hyperisland #innovation This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. As the title suggests, the group defines a problems, then asks the question “why” five times, often using the resulting explanation as a starting point for creative problem solving.
5. World Cafe
World Cafe is a simple but powerful facilitation technique to help bigger groups to focus their energy and attention on solving complex problems.
World Cafe enables this approach by creating a relaxed atmosphere where participants are able to self-organize and explore topics relevant and important to them which are themed around a central problem-solving purpose. Create the right atmosphere by modeling your space after a cafe and after guiding the group through the method, let them take the lead!
Making problem-solving a part of your organization’s culture in the long term can be a difficult undertaking. More approachable formats like World Cafe can be especially effective in bringing people unfamiliar with workshops into the fold.
World Cafe #hyperisland #innovation #issue analysis World Café is a simple yet powerful method, originated by Juanita Brown, for enabling meaningful conversations driven completely by participants and the topics that are relevant and important to them. Facilitators create a cafe-style space and provide simple guidelines. Participants then self-organize and explore a set of relevant topics or questions for conversation.
6. Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)
One of the best approaches is to create a safe space for a group to share and discover practices and behaviors that can help them find their own solutions.
With DAD, you can help a group choose which problems they wish to solve and which approaches they will take to do so. It’s great at helping remove resistance to change and can help get buy-in at every level too!
This process of enabling frontline ownership is great in ensuring follow-through and is one of the methods you will want in your toolbox as a facilitator.
Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD) #idea generation #liberating structures #action #issue analysis #remote-friendly DADs make it easy for a group or community to discover practices and behaviors that enable some individuals (without access to special resources and facing the same constraints) to find better solutions than their peers to common problems. These are called positive deviant (PD) behaviors and practices. DADs make it possible for people in the group, unit, or community to discover by themselves these PD practices. DADs also create favorable conditions for stimulating participants’ creativity in spaces where they can feel safe to invent new and more effective practices. Resistance to change evaporates as participants are unleashed to choose freely which practices they will adopt or try and which problems they will tackle. DADs make it possible to achieve frontline ownership of solutions.
7. Design Sprint 2.0
Want to see how a team can solve big problems and move forward with prototyping and testing solutions in a few days? The Design Sprint 2.0 template from Jake Knapp, author of Sprint, is a complete agenda for a with proven results.
Developing the right agenda can involve difficult but necessary planning. Ensuring all the correct steps are followed can also be stressful or time-consuming depending on your level of experience.
Use this complete 4-day workshop template if you are finding there is no obvious solution to your challenge and want to focus your team around a specific problem that might require a shortcut to launching a minimum viable product or waiting for the organization-wide implementation of a solution.
8. Open space technology
Open space technology- developed by Harrison Owen – creates a space where large groups are invited to take ownership of their problem solving and lead individual sessions. Open space technology is a great format when you have a great deal of expertise and insight in the room and want to allow for different takes and approaches on a particular theme or problem you need to be solved.
Start by bringing your participants together to align around a central theme and focus their efforts. Explain the ground rules to help guide the problem-solving process and then invite members to identify any issue connecting to the central theme that they are interested in and are prepared to take responsibility for.
Once participants have decided on their approach to the core theme, they write their issue on a piece of paper, announce it to the group, pick a session time and place, and post the paper on the wall. As the wall fills up with sessions, the group is then invited to join the sessions that interest them the most and which they can contribute to, then you’re ready to begin!
Everyone joins the problem-solving group they’ve signed up to, record the discussion and if appropriate, findings can then be shared with the rest of the group afterward.
Open Space Technology #action plan #idea generation #problem solving #issue analysis #large group #online #remote-friendly Open Space is a methodology for large groups to create their agenda discerning important topics for discussion, suitable for conferences, community gatherings and whole system facilitation
Techniques to identify and analyze problems
Using a problem-solving method to help a team identify and analyze a problem can be a quick and effective addition to any workshop or meeting.
While further actions are always necessary, you can generate momentum and alignment easily, and these activities are a great place to get started.
We’ve put together this list of techniques to help you and your team with problem identification, analysis, and discussion that sets the foundation for developing effective solutions.
Let’s take a look!
- The Creativity Dice
- Fishbone Analysis
- Problem Tree
- SWOT Analysis
- Agreement-Certainty Matrix
- The Journalistic Six
- LEGO Challenge
- What, So What, Now What?
Individual and group perspectives are incredibly important, but what happens if people are set in their minds and need a change of perspective in order to approach a problem more effectively?
Flip It is a method we love because it is both simple to understand and run, and allows groups to understand how their perspectives and biases are formed.
Participants in Flip It are first invited to consider concerns, issues, or problems from a perspective of fear and write them on a flip chart. Then, the group is asked to consider those same issues from a perspective of hope and flip their understanding.
No problem and solution is free from existing bias and by changing perspectives with Flip It, you can then develop a problem solving model quickly and effectively.
Flip It! #gamestorming #problem solving #action Often, a change in a problem or situation comes simply from a change in our perspectives. Flip It! is a quick game designed to show players that perspectives are made, not born.
10. The Creativity Dice
One of the most useful problem solving skills you can teach your team is of approaching challenges with creativity, flexibility, and openness. Games like The Creativity Dice allow teams to overcome the potential hurdle of too much linear thinking and approach the process with a sense of fun and speed.
In The Creativity Dice, participants are organized around a topic and roll a dice to determine what they will work on for a period of 3 minutes at a time. They might roll a 3 and work on investigating factual information on the chosen topic. They might roll a 1 and work on identifying the specific goals, standards, or criteria for the session.
Encouraging rapid work and iteration while asking participants to be flexible are great skills to cultivate. Having a stage for idea incubation in this game is also important. Moments of pause can help ensure the ideas that are put forward are the most suitable.
The Creativity Dice #creativity #problem solving #thiagi #issue analysis Too much linear thinking is hazardous to creative problem solving. To be creative, you should approach the problem (or the opportunity) from different points of view. You should leave a thought hanging in mid-air and move to another. This skipping around prevents premature closure and lets your brain incubate one line of thought while you consciously pursue another.
11. Fishbone Analysis
Organizational or team challenges are rarely simple, and it’s important to remember that one problem can be an indication of something that goes deeper and may require further consideration to be solved.
Fishbone Analysis helps groups to dig deeper and understand the origins of a problem. It’s a great example of a root cause analysis method that is simple for everyone on a team to get their head around.
Participants in this activity are asked to annotate a diagram of a fish, first adding the problem or issue to be worked on at the head of a fish before then brainstorming the root causes of the problem and adding them as bones on the fish.
Using abstractions such as a diagram of a fish can really help a team break out of their regular thinking and develop a creative approach.
Fishbone Analysis #problem solving ##root cause analysis #decision making #online facilitation A process to help identify and understand the origins of problems, issues or observations.
12. Problem Tree
Encouraging visual thinking can be an essential part of many strategies. By simply reframing and clarifying problems, a group can move towards developing a problem solving model that works for them.
In Problem Tree, groups are asked to first brainstorm a list of problems – these can be design problems, team problems or larger business problems – and then organize them into a hierarchy. The hierarchy could be from most important to least important or abstract to practical, though the key thing with problem solving games that involve this aspect is that your group has some way of managing and sorting all the issues that are raised.
Once you have a list of problems that need to be solved and have organized them accordingly, you’re then well-positioned for the next problem solving steps.
Problem tree #define intentions #create #design #issue analysis A problem tree is a tool to clarify the hierarchy of problems addressed by the team within a design project; it represents high level problems or related sublevel problems.
13. SWOT Analysis
Chances are you’ve heard of the SWOT Analysis before. This problem-solving method focuses on identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is a tried and tested method for both individuals and teams.
Start by creating a desired end state or outcome and bare this in mind – any process solving model is made more effective by knowing what you are moving towards. Create a quadrant made up of the four categories of a SWOT analysis and ask participants to generate ideas based on each of those quadrants.
Once you have those ideas assembled in their quadrants, cluster them together based on their affinity with other ideas. These clusters are then used to facilitate group conversations and move things forward.
SWOT analysis #gamestorming #problem solving #action #meeting facilitation The SWOT Analysis is a long-standing technique of looking at what we have, with respect to the desired end state, as well as what we could improve on. It gives us an opportunity to gauge approaching opportunities and dangers, and assess the seriousness of the conditions that affect our future. When we understand those conditions, we can influence what comes next.
14. Agreement-Certainty Matrix
Not every problem-solving approach is right for every challenge, and deciding on the right method for the challenge at hand is a key part of being an effective team.
The Agreement Certainty matrix helps teams align on the nature of the challenges facing them. By sorting problems from simple to chaotic, your team can understand what methods are suitable for each problem and what they can do to ensure effective results.
If you are already using Liberating Structures techniques as part of your problem-solving strategy, the Agreement-Certainty Matrix can be an invaluable addition to your process. We’ve found it particularly if you are having issues with recurring problems in your organization and want to go deeper in understanding the root cause.
Agreement-Certainty Matrix #issue analysis #liberating structures #problem solving You can help individuals or groups avoid the frequent mistake of trying to solve a problem with methods that are not adapted to the nature of their challenge. The combination of two questions makes it possible to easily sort challenges into four categories: simple, complicated, complex , and chaotic . A problem is simple when it can be solved reliably with practices that are easy to duplicate. It is complicated when experts are required to devise a sophisticated solution that will yield the desired results predictably. A problem is complex when there are several valid ways to proceed but outcomes are not predictable in detail. Chaotic is when the context is too turbulent to identify a path forward. A loose analogy may be used to describe these differences: simple is like following a recipe, complicated like sending a rocket to the moon, complex like raising a child, and chaotic is like the game “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.” The Liberating Structures Matching Matrix in Chapter 5 can be used as the first step to clarify the nature of a challenge and avoid the mismatches between problems and solutions that are frequently at the root of chronic, recurring problems.
Organizing and charting a team’s progress can be important in ensuring its success. SQUID (Sequential Question and Insight Diagram) is a great model that allows a team to effectively switch between giving questions and answers and develop the skills they need to stay on track throughout the process.
Begin with two different colored sticky notes – one for questions and one for answers – and with your central topic (the head of the squid) on the board. Ask the group to first come up with a series of questions connected to their best guess of how to approach the topic. Ask the group to come up with answers to those questions, fix them to the board and connect them with a line. After some discussion, go back to question mode by responding to the generated answers or other points on the board.
It’s rewarding to see a diagram grow throughout the exercise, and a completed SQUID can provide a visual resource for future effort and as an example for other teams.
SQUID #gamestorming #project planning #issue analysis #problem solving When exploring an information space, it’s important for a group to know where they are at any given time. By using SQUID, a group charts out the territory as they go and can navigate accordingly. SQUID stands for Sequential Question and Insight Diagram.
16. Speed Boat
To continue with our nautical theme, Speed Boat is a short and sweet activity that can help a team quickly identify what employees, clients or service users might have a problem with and analyze what might be standing in the way of achieving a solution.
Methods that allow for a group to make observations, have insights and obtain those eureka moments quickly are invaluable when trying to solve complex problems.
In Speed Boat, the approach is to first consider what anchors and challenges might be holding an organization (or boat) back. Bonus points if you are able to identify any sharks in the water and develop ideas that can also deal with competitors!
Speed Boat #gamestorming #problem solving #action Speedboat is a short and sweet way to identify what your employees or clients don’t like about your product/service or what’s standing in the way of a desired goal.
17. The Journalistic Six
Some of the most effective ways of solving problems is by encouraging teams to be more inclusive and diverse in their thinking.
Based on the six key questions journalism students are taught to answer in articles and news stories, The Journalistic Six helps create teams to see the whole picture. By using who, what, when, where, why, and how to facilitate the conversation and encourage creative thinking, your team can make sure that the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the are covered exhaustively and thoughtfully. Reporter’s notebook and dictaphone optional.
The Journalistic Six – Who What When Where Why How #idea generation #issue analysis #problem solving #online #creative thinking #remote-friendly A questioning method for generating, explaining, investigating ideas.
18. LEGO Challenge
Now for an activity that is a little out of the (toy) box. LEGO Serious Play is a facilitation methodology that can be used to improve creative thinking and problem-solving skills.
The LEGO Challenge includes giving each member of the team an assignment that is hidden from the rest of the group while they create a structure without speaking.
What the LEGO challenge brings to the table is a fun working example of working with stakeholders who might not be on the same page to solve problems. Also, it’s LEGO! Who doesn’t love LEGO!
LEGO Challenge #hyperisland #team A team-building activity in which groups must work together to build a structure out of LEGO, but each individual has a secret “assignment” which makes the collaborative process more challenging. It emphasizes group communication, leadership dynamics, conflict, cooperation, patience and problem solving strategy.
19. What, So What, Now What?
If not carefully managed, the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the problem-solving process can actually create more problems and misunderstandings.
The What, So What, Now What? problem-solving activity is designed to help collect insights and move forward while also eliminating the possibility of disagreement when it comes to identifying, clarifying, and analyzing organizational or work problems.
Facilitation is all about bringing groups together so that might work on a shared goal and the best problem-solving strategies ensure that teams are aligned in purpose, if not initially in opinion or insight.
Throughout the three steps of this game, you give everyone on a team to reflect on a problem by asking what happened, why it is important, and what actions should then be taken.
This can be a great activity for bringing our individual perceptions about a problem or challenge and contextualizing it in a larger group setting. This is one of the most important problem-solving skills you can bring to your organization.
W³ – What, So What, Now What? #issue analysis #innovation #liberating structures You can help groups reflect on a shared experience in a way that builds understanding and spurs coordinated action while avoiding unproductive conflict. It is possible for every voice to be heard while simultaneously sifting for insights and shaping new direction. Progressing in stages makes this practical—from collecting facts about What Happened to making sense of these facts with So What and finally to what actions logically follow with Now What . The shared progression eliminates most of the misunderstandings that otherwise fuel disagreements about what to do. Voila!
Problem analysis can be one of the most important and decisive stages of all problem-solving tools. Sometimes, a team can become bogged down in the details and are unable to move forward.
Journalists is an activity that can avoid a group from getting stuck in the problem identification or problem analysis stages of the process.
In Journalists, the group is invited to draft the front page of a fictional newspaper and figure out what stories deserve to be on the cover and what headlines those stories will have. By reframing how your problems and challenges are approached, you can help a team move productively through the process and be better prepared for the steps to follow.
Journalists #vision #big picture #issue analysis #remote-friendly This is an exercise to use when the group gets stuck in details and struggles to see the big picture. Also good for defining a vision.
Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions
The success of any problem-solving process can be measured by the solutions it produces. After you’ve defined the issue, explored existing ideas, and ideated, it’s time to narrow down to the correct solution.
Use these problem-solving techniques when you want to help your team find consensus, compare possible solutions, and move towards taking action on a particular problem.
- Improved Solutions
- Four-Step Sketch
- 15% Solutions
- How-Now-Wow matrix
- Impact Effort Matrix
Brainstorming is part of the bread and butter of the problem-solving process and all problem-solving strategies benefit from getting ideas out and challenging a team to generate solutions quickly.
With Mindspin, participants are encouraged not only to generate ideas but to do so under time constraints and by slamming down cards and passing them on. By doing multiple rounds, your team can begin with a free generation of possible solutions before moving on to developing those solutions and encouraging further ideation.
This is one of our favorite problem-solving activities and can be great for keeping the energy up throughout the workshop. Remember the importance of helping people become engaged in the process – energizing problem-solving techniques like Mindspin can help ensure your team stays engaged and happy, even when the problems they’re coming together to solve are complex.
MindSpin #teampedia #idea generation #problem solving #action A fast and loud method to enhance brainstorming within a team. Since this activity has more than round ideas that are repetitive can be ruled out leaving more creative and innovative answers to the challenge.
22. Improved Solutions
After a team has successfully identified a problem and come up with a few solutions, it can be tempting to call the work of the problem-solving process complete. That said, the first solution is not necessarily the best, and by including a further review and reflection activity into your problem-solving model, you can ensure your group reaches the best possible result.
One of a number of problem-solving games from Thiagi Group, Improved Solutions helps you go the extra mile and develop suggested solutions with close consideration and peer review. By supporting the discussion of several problems at once and by shifting team roles throughout, this problem-solving technique is a dynamic way of finding the best solution.
Improved Solutions #creativity #thiagi #problem solving #action #team You can improve any solution by objectively reviewing its strengths and weaknesses and making suitable adjustments. In this creativity framegame, you improve the solutions to several problems. To maintain objective detachment, you deal with a different problem during each of six rounds and assume different roles (problem owner, consultant, basher, booster, enhancer, and evaluator) during each round. At the conclusion of the activity, each player ends up with two solutions to her problem.
23. Four Step Sketch
Creative thinking and visual ideation does not need to be confined to the opening stages of your problem-solving strategies. Exercises that include sketching and prototyping on paper can be effective at the solution finding and development stage of the process, and can be great for keeping a team engaged.
By going from simple notes to a crazy 8s round that involves rapidly sketching 8 variations on their ideas before then producing a final solution sketch, the group is able to iterate quickly and visually. Problem-solving techniques like Four-Step Sketch are great if you have a group of different thinkers and want to change things up from a more textual or discussion-based approach.
Four-Step Sketch #design sprint #innovation #idea generation #remote-friendly The four-step sketch is an exercise that helps people to create well-formed concepts through a structured process that includes: Review key information Start design work on paper, Consider multiple variations , Create a detailed solution . This exercise is preceded by a set of other activities allowing the group to clarify the challenge they want to solve. See how the Four Step Sketch exercise fits into a Design Sprint
24. 15% Solutions
Some problems are simpler than others and with the right problem-solving activities, you can empower people to take immediate actions that can help create organizational change.
Part of the liberating structures toolkit, 15% solutions is a problem-solving technique that focuses on finding and implementing solutions quickly. A process of iterating and making small changes quickly can help generate momentum and an appetite for solving complex problems.
Problem-solving strategies can live and die on whether people are onboard. Getting some quick wins is a great way of getting people behind the process.
It can be extremely empowering for a team to realize that problem-solving techniques can be deployed quickly and easily and delineate between things they can positively impact and those things they cannot change.
15% Solutions #action #liberating structures #remote-friendly You can reveal the actions, however small, that everyone can do immediately. At a minimum, these will create momentum, and that may make a BIG difference. 15% Solutions show that there is no reason to wait around, feel powerless, or fearful. They help people pick it up a level. They get individuals and the group to focus on what is within their discretion instead of what they cannot change. With a very simple question, you can flip the conversation to what can be done and find solutions to big problems that are often distributed widely in places not known in advance. Shifting a few grains of sand may trigger a landslide and change the whole landscape.
25. How-Now-Wow Matrix
The problem-solving process is often creative, as complex problems usually require a change of thinking and creative response in order to find the best solutions. While it’s common for the first stages to encourage creative thinking, groups can often gravitate to familiar solutions when it comes to the end of the process.
When selecting solutions, you don’t want to lose your creative energy! The How-Now-Wow Matrix from Gamestorming is a great problem-solving activity that enables a group to stay creative and think out of the box when it comes to selecting the right solution for a given problem.
Problem-solving techniques that encourage creative thinking and the ideation and selection of new solutions can be the most effective in organisational change. Give the How-Now-Wow Matrix a go, and not just for how pleasant it is to say out loud.
How-Now-Wow Matrix #gamestorming #idea generation #remote-friendly When people want to develop new ideas, they most often think out of the box in the brainstorming or divergent phase. However, when it comes to convergence, people often end up picking ideas that are most familiar to them. This is called a ‘creative paradox’ or a ‘creadox’. The How-Now-Wow matrix is an idea selection tool that breaks the creadox by forcing people to weigh each idea on 2 parameters.
26. Impact and Effort Matrix
All problem-solving techniques hope to not only find solutions to a given problem or challenge but to find the best solution. When it comes to finding a solution, groups are invited to put on their decision-making hats and really think about how a proposed idea would work in practice.
The Impact and Effort Matrix is one of the problem-solving techniques that fall into this camp, empowering participants to first generate ideas and then categorize them into a 2×2 matrix based on impact and effort.
Activities that invite critical thinking while remaining simple are invaluable. Use the Impact and Effort Matrix to move from ideation and towards evaluating potential solutions before then committing to them.
Impact and Effort Matrix #gamestorming #decision making #action #remote-friendly In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.
If you’ve followed each of the problem-solving steps with your group successfully, you should move towards the end of your process with heaps of possible solutions developed with a specific problem in mind. But how do you help a group go from ideation to putting a solution into action?
Dotmocracy – or Dot Voting -is a tried and tested method of helping a team in the problem-solving process make decisions and put actions in place with a degree of oversight and consensus.
One of the problem-solving techniques that should be in every facilitator’s toolbox, Dot Voting is fast and effective and can help identify the most popular and best solutions and help bring a group to a decision effectively.
Dotmocracy #action #decision making #group prioritization #hyperisland #remote-friendly Dotmocracy is a simple method for group prioritization or decision-making. It is not an activity on its own, but a method to use in processes where prioritization or decision-making is the aim. The method supports a group to quickly see which options are most popular or relevant. The options or ideas are written on post-its and stuck up on a wall for the whole group to see. Each person votes for the options they think are the strongest, and that information is used to inform a decision.
All facilitators know that warm-ups and icebreakers are useful for any workshop or group process. Problem-solving workshops are no different.
Use these problem-solving techniques to warm up a group and prepare them for the rest of the process. Activating your group by tapping into some of the top problem-solving skills can be one of the best ways to see great outcomes from your session.
- Doodling Together
- Show and Tell
- Draw a Tree
28. Check-in / Check-out
Solid processes are planned from beginning to end, and the best facilitators know that setting the tone and establishing a safe, open environment can be integral to a successful problem-solving process.
Check-in / Check-out is a great way to begin and/or bookend a problem-solving workshop. Checking in to a session emphasizes that everyone will be seen, heard, and expected to contribute.
If you are running a series of meetings, setting a consistent pattern of checking in and checking out can really help your team get into a groove. We recommend this opening-closing activity for small to medium-sized groups though it can work with large groups if they’re disciplined!
Check-in / Check-out #team #opening #closing #hyperisland #remote-friendly Either checking-in or checking-out is a simple way for a team to open or close a process, symbolically and in a collaborative way. Checking-in/out invites each member in a group to be present, seen and heard, and to express a reflection or a feeling. Checking-in emphasizes presence, focus and group commitment; checking-out emphasizes reflection and symbolic closure.
29. Doodling Together
Thinking creatively and not being afraid to make suggestions are important problem-solving skills for any group or team, and warming up by encouraging these behaviors is a great way to start.
Doodling Together is one of our favorite creative ice breaker games – it’s quick, effective, and fun and can make all following problem-solving steps easier by encouraging a group to collaborate visually. By passing cards and adding additional items as they go, the workshop group gets into a groove of co-creation and idea development that is crucial to finding solutions to problems.
Doodling Together #collaboration #creativity #teamwork #fun #team #visual methods #energiser #icebreaker #remote-friendly Create wild, weird and often funny postcards together & establish a group’s creative confidence.
30. Show and Tell
You might remember some version of Show and Tell from being a kid in school and it’s a great problem-solving activity to kick off a session.
Asking participants to prepare a little something before a workshop by bringing an object for show and tell can help them warm up before the session has even begun! Games that include a physical object can also help encourage early engagement before moving onto more big-picture thinking.
By asking your participants to tell stories about why they chose to bring a particular item to the group, you can help teams see things from new perspectives and see both differences and similarities in the way they approach a topic. Great groundwork for approaching a problem-solving process as a team!
Show and Tell #gamestorming #action #opening #meeting facilitation Show and Tell taps into the power of metaphors to reveal players’ underlying assumptions and associations around a topic The aim of the game is to get a deeper understanding of stakeholders’ perspectives on anything—a new project, an organizational restructuring, a shift in the company’s vision or team dynamic.
Who doesn’t love stars? Constellations is a great warm-up activity for any workshop as it gets people up off their feet, energized, and ready to engage in new ways with established topics. It’s also great for showing existing beliefs, biases, and patterns that can come into play as part of your session.
Using warm-up games that help build trust and connection while also allowing for non-verbal responses can be great for easing people into the problem-solving process and encouraging engagement from everyone in the group. Constellations is great in large spaces that allow for movement and is definitely a practical exercise to allow the group to see patterns that are otherwise invisible.
Constellations #trust #connection #opening #coaching #patterns #system Individuals express their response to a statement or idea by standing closer or further from a central object. Used with teams to reveal system, hidden patterns, perspectives.
32. Draw a Tree
Problem-solving games that help raise group awareness through a central, unifying metaphor can be effective ways to warm-up a group in any problem-solving model.
Draw a Tree is a simple warm-up activity you can use in any group and which can provide a quick jolt of energy. Start by asking your participants to draw a tree in just 45 seconds – they can choose whether it will be abstract or realistic.
Once the timer is up, ask the group how many people included the roots of the tree and use this as a means to discuss how we can ignore important parts of any system simply because they are not visible.
All problem-solving strategies are made more effective by thinking of problems critically and by exposing things that may not normally come to light. Warm-up games like Draw a Tree are great in that they quickly demonstrate some key problem-solving skills in an accessible and effective way.
Draw a Tree #thiagi #opening #perspectives #remote-friendly With this game you can raise awarness about being more mindful, and aware of the environment we live in.
Each step of the problem-solving workshop benefits from an intelligent deployment of activities, games, and techniques. Bringing your session to an effective close helps ensure that solutions are followed through on and that you also celebrate what has been achieved.
Here are some problem-solving activities you can use to effectively close a workshop or meeting and ensure the great work you’ve done can continue afterward.
- One Breath Feedback
- Who What When Matrix
- Response Cards
How do I conclude a problem-solving process?
All good things must come to an end. With the bulk of the work done, it can be tempting to conclude your workshop swiftly and without a moment to debrief and align. This can be problematic in that it doesn’t allow your team to fully process the results or reflect on the process.
At the end of an effective session, your team will have gone through a process that, while productive, can be exhausting. It’s important to give your group a moment to take a breath, ensure that they are clear on future actions, and provide short feedback before leaving the space.
The primary purpose of any problem-solving method is to generate solutions and then implement them. Be sure to take the opportunity to ensure everyone is aligned and ready to effectively implement the solutions you produced in the workshop.
Remember that every process can be improved and by giving a short moment to collect feedback in the session, you can further refine your problem-solving methods and see further success in the future too.
33. One Breath Feedback
Maintaining attention and focus during the closing stages of a problem-solving workshop can be tricky and so being concise when giving feedback can be important. It’s easy to incur “death by feedback” should some team members go on for too long sharing their perspectives in a quick feedback round.
One Breath Feedback is a great closing activity for workshops. You give everyone an opportunity to provide feedback on what they’ve done but only in the space of a single breath. This keeps feedback short and to the point and means that everyone is encouraged to provide the most important piece of feedback to them.
One breath feedback #closing #feedback #action This is a feedback round in just one breath that excels in maintaining attention: each participants is able to speak during just one breath … for most people that’s around 20 to 25 seconds … unless of course you’ve been a deep sea diver in which case you’ll be able to do it for longer.
34. Who What When Matrix
Matrices feature as part of many effective problem-solving strategies and with good reason. They are easily recognizable, simple to use, and generate results.
The Who What When Matrix is a great tool to use when closing your problem-solving session by attributing a who, what and when to the actions and solutions you have decided upon. The resulting matrix is a simple, easy-to-follow way of ensuring your team can move forward.
Great solutions can’t be enacted without action and ownership. Your problem-solving process should include a stage for allocating tasks to individuals or teams and creating a realistic timeframe for those solutions to be implemented or checked out. Use this method to keep the solution implementation process clear and simple for all involved.
Who/What/When Matrix #gamestorming #action #project planning With Who/What/When matrix, you can connect people with clear actions they have defined and have committed to.
35. Response cards
Group discussion can comprise the bulk of most problem-solving activities and by the end of the process, you might find that your team is talked out!
Providing a means for your team to give feedback with short written notes can ensure everyone is head and can contribute without the need to stand up and talk. Depending on the needs of the group, giving an alternative can help ensure everyone can contribute to your problem-solving model in the way that makes the most sense for them.
Response Cards is a great way to close a workshop if you are looking for a gentle warm-down and want to get some swift discussion around some of the feedback that is raised.
Response Cards #debriefing #closing #structured sharing #questions and answers #thiagi #action It can be hard to involve everyone during a closing of a session. Some might stay in the background or get unheard because of louder participants. However, with the use of Response Cards, everyone will be involved in providing feedback or clarify questions at the end of a session.
Save time and effort discovering the right solutions
A structured problem solving process is a surefire way of solving tough problems, discovering creative solutions and driving organizational change. But how can you design for successful outcomes?
With SessionLab, it’s easy to design engaging workshops that deliver results. Drag, drop and reorder blocks to build your agenda. When you make changes or update your agenda, your session timing adjusts automatically , saving you time on manual adjustments.
Collaborating with stakeholders or clients? Share your agenda with a single click and collaborate in real-time. No more sending documents back and forth over email.
Explore how to use SessionLab to design effective problem solving workshops or watch this five minute video to see the planner in action!
Over to you
The problem-solving process can often be as complicated and multifaceted as the problems they are set-up to solve. With the right problem-solving techniques and a mix of creative exercises designed to guide discussion and generate purposeful ideas, we hope we’ve given you the tools to find the best solutions as simply and easily as possible.
Is there a problem-solving technique that you are missing here? Do you have a favorite activity or method you use when facilitating? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!
thank you very much for these excellent techniques
Certainly wonderful article, very detailed. Shared!
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How to Solve Problems
- Laura Amico
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.
36 Problem-solving techniques, methods and tools
When it comes to solving problems, getting ideas is the easy part.
But businesses often forget the other four stages of the problem-solving process that will allow them to find the best solution.
Instead of jumping straight to idea generation, your problem-solving framework should look like this:
- Identify the problem
- Reveal why it has occurred
- Brainstorm ideas
- Select the best solution
See how idea generation doesn’t appear until stage 3?!
In this extensive resource, we provide techniques, methodologies and tools to guide you through every stage of the problem-solving process.
Once you’ve finished reading, you’ll possess an extensive problem-solving arsenal that will enable you to overcome your biggest workplace challenges.
11 Problem-solving techniques for clarity and confidence
Before we dive into more comprehensive methodologies for solving problems, there are a few basic techniques you should know.
The following techniques will set you up for a successful problem-solving session with your team, allowing you to take on your biggest challenges with clarity and confidence.
1. Take a moment, take a breath
When a problem or challenge arises, it’s normal to act too quickly or rely on solutions that have worked well in the past. This is known as entrenched thinking.
But acting impulsively, without prior consideration or planning, can cause you to misunderstand the issue and overlook possible solutions to the problem.
Therefore, the first thing you should always do when you encounter a problem is: breathe in and out.
Take a step back and make a clear plan of action before you act. This will help you to take rational steps towards solving a problem.
2. Ask questions to understand the full extent of the issue
Another common mistake people make when attempting to solve a problem is taking action before fully understanding the problem.
Before committing to a theory, ask enough questions to unearth the true root of the issue.
Later in this article, we cover The 5 Why’s problem-solving methodology which you can use to easily identify the root of your problem. Give this a go at your next meeting and see how your initial understanding of a problem can often be wrong.
3. Consider alternative perspectives
A common problem-solving issue is that of myopia—a narrow-minded view or perception of the problem. Myopia can occur when you’re too involved with the problem or your team isn’t diverse enough.
To give yourself the best chance of resolving a problem, gain insight from a wide range of sources. Collaborate with key stakeholders, customers and on-the-ground employees to learn how the problem affects them and whether they have found workarounds or solutions.
To paint the broadest picture, don’t limit your problem-solving team to a specific archetype. Try to include everyone, from the chief executive to the office janitor.
If you’re working with a small team, try the Flip It! problem-solving methodology to view the issue from a fresh angle.
4. Make your office space conducive to problem-solving
The environment in which your host your brainstorming sessions should maximise creativity . When your team members trust each other and feel relaxed, they’re more likely to come up with innovative ideas and solutions to a problem.
Here are a few ways to get your employees’ creative juices flowing:
- Play team-building games that maximise trust and build interpersonal relationships
- Improve your team’s problem-solving skills with games that encourage critical thinking
- Redesign the office with comfortable furniture and collaborative spaces
- Boost job satisfaction by creating a positive work-life balance
- Improve collaborative skills and learn to resolve conflicts
World Café is a problem-solving method that creates a casual environment conducive to creative thinking.
Keep reading to learn more about how World Café can help your team solve complex organisational problems.
5. Use problem-solving methodologies to guide the process
Because problem-solving is a creative process, it can be hard to keep it on track. As more ideas get banded around, conflicts can arise that derail the session.
That’s why problem-solving methodologies are so helpful. They offer you proven problem-solving frameworks to guide your group sessions and keep them on track.
The Six Thinking Hats problem-solving method is a popular technique that guides the process and helps your team analyse a problem from all angles.
We’re going to take a look at our favourite problem-solving methodologies in the next section of this article, XY Tried and tested problem-solving methodologies.
6. Use analogies to solve complex problems
Sometimes, solving a different problem can help you uncover solutions to another problem!
By stripping back a complex issue and framing it as a simplified analogy , you approach a problem from a different angle, enabling you to come up with alternative ideas.
After solving practice problems, your team might be more aptly equipped to solve real-world issues.
However, coming up with an analogy that reflects your issue can be difficult, so don’t worry if this technique doesn’t work for you.
The Speed Boat diagram is a visual tool that helps your employees view existing challenges as anchors holding back a boat which represents your end goals. By assigning a “weight” to each anchor, your team can prioritise which issues to tackle first.
7. Establish clear constraints
Constraints make a big problem more approachable.
Before you tackle a problem, establish clear boundaries and codes of conduct for the session. This allows your team to focus on the current issue without becoming distracted or veering off on a tangent.
In an article published in the Harvard Business Review, authors Oguz A. Acar, Murat Tarakci, and Daan van Knippenberg wrote, “Constraints … provide focus and a creative challenge that motivates people to search for and connect information from different sources to generate novel ideas for new products, services, or business processes.” (Why Constraints Are Good for Innovation, 2019)
Lightning Decision Jam is a prime example of how constraints can assist the creative process. Here, your team are given strict time constraints and isn’t permitted to discuss ideas until the end.
8. Dislodge preconceived ideas
Humans are creatures of habit.
We defer to strategies that have produced positive results in the past. This is typically beneficial because recalling our previous successes means we don’t need to constantly re-learn similar tasks.
But when it comes to problem-solving, this way of thinking can trip us up. We become fixated on a solution that worked in the past, but when this fails we’re dismayed and left wondering what to do next.
To resolve problems effectively, your employees need to escape the precincts of their imaginations. This helps to eliminate functional fixedness—the belief that an item serves only its predefined function.
Alternative Application is an icebreaker game that encourages employees to think outside the box by coming up with different uses for everyday objects. Try this at your next meeting or team-building event and watch your team tap into their creativity.
9. Level the playing field
Having a diverse group of employees at your brainstorming sessions is a good idea, but there’s one problem: the extroverted members of your team will be more vocal than the introverts.
To ensure you’re gaining insight from every member of your team, you need to give your quieter employees equal opportunities to contribute by eliminating personality biases.
Read more: What icebreaker games and questions work best for introverts?
The obvious solution, then, is to “silence” the louder participants (it’s not as sinister as it sounds, promise)—all you have to do is ban your team from debating suggestions during the ideation process.
The Lightning Decision Jam methodology gives your employees equal opportunities to contribute because much of the problem-solving process is carried out in silence.
10. Take a break from the problem
Have you ever noticed how the best ideas seem to come when you’re not actively working on a problem? You may have spent hours slumped over your desk hashing out a solution, only for the “eureka!” moment to come when you’re walking your dog or taking a shower.
In James Webb Young’s book, A Technique for Producing Ideas , phase three of the process is “stepping away from the problem.” Young proclaims that after putting in the hard work, the information needs to ferment in the mind before any plausible ideas come to you.
So next time you’re in a meeting with your team trying to solve a problem, don’t panic if you don’t uncover groundbreaking ideas there and then. Allow everybody to mull over what they’ve learned, then reconvene at a later date.
The Creativity Dice methodology is a quick-fire brainstorming game that allows your team to incubate ideas while concentrating on another.
11. Limit feedback sessions
The way your team delivers feedback at the end of a successful brainstorming session is critical. Left unsupervised, excessive feedback can undo all of your hard work.
Therefore, it’s wise to put a cap on the amount of feedback your team can provide. One great way of doing this is by using the One Breath Feedback technique.
By limiting your employees to one breath, they’re taught to be concise with their final comments.
16 Tried and tested problem-solving methodologies
Problem-solving methodologies keep your brainstorming session on track and encourage your team to consider all angles of the issue.
Countless methods have wiggled their way into the world of business, each one with a unique strategy and end goal.
Here are 12 of our favourite problem-solving methodologies that will help you find the best-fit solution to your troubles.
12. Six Thinking Hats
Six Thinking Hats is a methodical problem-solving framework that helps your group consider all possible problems, causes, solutions and repercussions by assigning a different coloured hat to each stage of the problem-solving process.
The roles of each hat are as follows:
- Blue Hat (Control): This hat controls the session and dictates the order in which the hats will be worn. When wearing the Blue Hat, your group will observe possible solutions, draw conclusions and define a plan of action.
- Green Hat (Idea Generation): The Green Hat signifies creativity. At this stage of the methodology, your team will focus their efforts on generating ideas, imagining solutions and considering alternatives.
- Red Hat (Intuition and Feelings): It’s time for your employees to communicate their feelings. Here, your team listen to their guts and convey their emotional impulses without justification.
- Yellow Hat (Benefits and Values): What are the merits of each idea that has been put forward thus far? What positive impacts could they have?
- Black or Grey Hat (Caution): What are the potential risks or shortcomings of each idea? What negative impacts could result from implicating each idea?
- White Hat (Information and Data): While wearing The White Hat, your team must determine what information is needed and from where it can be obtained.
For Six Thinking Hats to work effectively, ensure your team acts within the confines of each role.
While wearing The Yellow Hat, for example, your team should only discuss the positives . Any negative implications should be left for the Black or Grey hat.
Note: Feel free to alter the hat colours to align with your cultural context.
13. Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ)
Lightning Decision Jam is a nine-stage problem-solving process designed to uncover a variety of perspectives while keeping the session on track.
The process starts by defining a general topic like the internal design process, interdepartmental communication, the sales funnel, etc.
Then, armed with pens and post-it notes, your team will work through the nine stages in the following order:
- Write problems (7 minutes)
- Present problems (4 minutes/person)
- Select problems (6 minutes)
- Reframe the problems (6 minutes)
- Offer solutions (7 minutes)
- Vote on solutions (10 minutes)
- Prioritise solutions (30 seconds)
- Decide what to execute (10 minutes)
- Create task lists (5 minutes)
The philosophy behind LDJ is that of constraint. By limiting discussion, employees can focus on compiling ideas and coming to democratic decisions that benefit the company without being distracted or going off on a tangent.
14. The 5 Why’s
Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is the process of unearthing a problem and finding the underlying cause. To help you through this process, you can use The 5 Why’s methodology.
The idea is to ask why you’re experiencing a problem, reframe the problem based on the answer, and then ask “ why?” again. If you do this five times , you should come pretty close to the root of your original challenge.
While this might not be a comprehensive end-to-end methodology, it certainly helps you to pin down your core challenges.
15. World Café
If you’ve had enough of uninspiring corporate boardrooms, World Café is the solution.
This problem-solving strategy facilitates casual conversations around given topics, enabling players to speak more openly about their grievances without the pressure of a large group.
Here’s how to do it:
- Create a cosy cafe-style setting (try to have at least five or six chairs per table).
- As a group, decide on a core problem and mark this as the session topic.
- Divide your group into smaller teams by arranging five or six players at a table.
- Assign each group a question that pertains to the session topic, or decide on one question for all groups to discuss at once.
- Give the groups about 20 minutes to casually talk over each question.
- Repeat this with about three or four different questions, making sure to write down key insights from each group.
- Share the insights with the whole group.
World Café is a useful way of uncovering hidden causes and pitfalls by having multiple simultaneous conversations about a given topic.
16. Discovery and Action Dialogue (DAD)
Discovery and Actions Dialogues are a collaborative method for employees to share and adopt personal behaviours in response to a problem.
This crowdsourcing approach provides insight into how a problem affects individuals throughout your company and whether some are better equipped than others.
A DAD session is guided by a facilitator who asks seven open-ended questions in succession. Each person is given equal time to participate while a recorder takes down notes and valuable insights.
This is a particularly effective method for uncovering preexisting ideas, behaviours and solutions from the people who face problems daily.
17. Design Sprint 2.0
The Design Sprint 2.0 model by Jake Knapp helps your team to focus on finding, developing measuring a solution within four days . Because theorising is all well and good, but sometimes you can learn more by getting an idea off the ground and observing how it plays out in the real world.
Here’s the basic problem-solving framework:
- Day 1: Map out or sketch possible solutions
- Day 2: Choose the best solutions and storyboard your strategy going forward
- Day 3: Create a living, breathing prototype
- Day 4: Test and record how it performs in the real world
This technique is great for testing the viability of new products or expanding and fixing the features of an existing product.
18. Open Space Technology
Open Space Technology is a method for large groups to create a problem-solving agenda around a central theme. It works best when your group is comprised of subject-matter experts and experienced individuals with a sufficient stake in the problem.
Open Space Technology works like this:
- Establish a core theme for your team to centralise their efforts.
- Ask the participants to consider their approach and write it on a post-it note.
- Everybody writes a time and place for discussion on their note and sticks it to the wall.
- The group is then invited to join the sessions that most interest them.
- Everybody joins and contributes to their chosen sessions
- Any significant insights and outcomes are recorded and presented to the group.
This methodology grants autonomy to your team and encourages them to take ownership of the problem-solving process.
19. Round-Robin Brainstorming Technique
While not an end-to-end problem-solving methodology, the Round-Robin Brainstorming Technique is an effective way of squeezing every last ounce of creativity from your ideation sessions.
Here’s how it works:
- Decide on a problem that needs to be solved
- Sitting in a circle, give each employee a chance to offer an idea
- Have somebody write down each idea as they come up
- Participants can pass if they don’t have anything to contribute
- The brainstorming session ends once everybody has passed
Once you’ve compiled a long list of ideas, it’s up to you how you move forward. You could, for example, borrow techniques from other methodologies, such as the “vote on solutions” phase of the Lightning Decision Jam.
20. Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA)
Failure Modes and Effects Analysis is a method for preventing and mitigating problems within your business processes.
This technique starts by examining the process in question and asking, “What could go wrong?” From here, your team starts to brainstorm a list of potential failures.
Then, going through the list one by one, ask your participants, “Why would this failure happen?”
Once you’ve answered this question for each list item, ask yourselves, “What would the consequences be of this failure?”
This proactive method focuses on prevention rather than treatment. Instead of waiting for a problem to occur and reacting, you’re actively searching for future shortcomings.
21. Flip It!
The Flip It! Methodology teaches your team to view their concerns in a different light and frame them instead as catalysts for positive change.
The game works like this:
- Select a topic your employees are likely to be concerned about, like market demand for your product or friction between departments.
- Give each participant a pile of sticky notes and ask them to write down all their fears about the topic.
- Take the fears and stick them to an area of the wall marked “fears.”
- Then, encourage your team to look at these fears and ask them to reframe them as “hope” by writing new statements on different sticky notes.
- Take these “hope” statements and stick them to an area of the wall marked “hope.”
- Discuss the statements, then ask them to vote on the areas they feel they can start to take action on. They can do this by drawing a dot on the corner of the sticky note.
- Move the notes with the most votes to a new area of the wall marked “traction.”
- Discuss the most popular statements as a group and brainstorm actionable items related to each.
- Write down the actions that need to be made and discuss them again as a group.
This brainstorming approach teaches your employees the danger of engrained thinking and helps them to reframe their fears as opportunities.
22. The Creativity Dice
The Creativity Dice teaches your team to incubate ideas as they focus on different aspects of a problem. As we mentioned earlier in the article, giving ideas time to mature can be a highly effective problem-solving strategy. Here’s how the game works:
Choose a topic to focus on, It can be as specific or open-ended as you like. Write this down as a word or sentence. Roll the die, start a timer of three minutes and start writing down ideas within the confines of what that number resembles. The roles of each number are as follows:
- Specification: Write down goals you want to achieve.
- Investigation: Write down existing factual information you know about the topic.
- Ideation: Write down creative or practical ideas related to the topic.
- Incubation: Do something else unrelated to the problem.
- Iteration: Look at what you’ve already written and come up with related ideas (roll again if you didn’t write anything yet).
- Integration: Look at everything you have written and try to create something cohesive from your ideas like a potential new product or actionable next step.
Once you’ve finished the activity, review your findings and decide what you want to take with you.
23. SWOT Analysis
The SWOT Analysis is a long-standing method for analysing the current state of your business and considering how this affects the desired end state.
The basic idea is this:
- Before the meeting, come up with a “Desired end state” and draw a picture that represents this on a flipchart or whiteboard.
- Divide a large piece of paper into quadrants marked “Strengths”, “Weaknesses”, “Opportunities” and “Threats.”
- Starting with “Strengths”, work through the quadrants, coming up with ideas that relate to the desired end state.
- Ask your team to vote for the statements or ideas of each category that they feel are most relevant to the desired end state.
- As a group, discuss the implications that these statements have on the desired end state. Spark debate by asking thought-provoking and open-ended questions.
The SWOT Analysis is an intuitive method for understanding which parts of your business could be affecting your long-term goals.
24. The Journalistic Six
When learning to cover every aspect of a story, journalists are taught to ask themselves six essential questions:
Now, this approach has been adopted by organisations to help understand every angle of a problem. All you need is a clear focus question, then you can start working through the six questions with your team until you have a 360-degree view of what has, can and needs to be done.
Gamestorming is a one-stop creative-thinking framework that uses various games to help your team come up with innovative ideas.
Originally published as a book 10 years ago, Gamestorming contained a selection of creative games used by Silicon Valley’s top-performing businesses to develop groundbreaking products and services.
This collection of resources, plucked from the minds of founders and CEOs like Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs, allows you to tap into the potentially genius ideas lying dormant in the minds of your employees.
26. Four-Step Sketch
The Four-Step Sketch is a visual brainstorming that provides an alternative to traditional discussion-based ideation techniques.
This methodology requires prior discussion to clarify the purpose of the activity. Imagine you’re on a startup retreat , for example, and your team is taking part in a design sprint or hackathon.
Once you’ve brainstormed a list of ideas with your team, participants can look at the suggestions and take down any relevant notes. They then take these notes and turn them into rough sketches that resemble the idea.
Then, as a warm-up, give each participant eight minutes to produce eight alternative sketches (eight minutes per sketch) of the idea. These ideas are not to be shared with the group.
Finally, participants create new sketches based on their favourite ideas and share them with the group. The group can then vote on the ideas they think offer the best solution.
27. 15% Solutions
15% Solutions is a problem-solving strategy for motivating and inspiring your employees. By encouraging your team to gain small victories, you pave the way for bigger changes.
First, ask your participants to think about things they can personally do within the confines of their role.
Then, arrange your team into small groups of three to four and give them time to share their ideas and consult with each other.
This simple problem-solving process removes negativity and powerlessness and teaches your team to take responsibility for change.
9 Problem-solving tools for gathering and selecting ideas
Problem-solving tools support your meeting with easy-to-use graphs, visualisations and techniques.
By implementing a problem-solving tool, you break the cycle of mundane verbal discussion, enabling you to maintain engagement throughout the session.
28. Fishbone Diagram
The Fishbone Diagram (otherwise known as the Ishikawa Diagram or Cause and Effect Diagram), is a tool for identifying the leading causes of a problem. You can then consolidate these causes into a comprehensive “Problem Statement.”
The term “Fishbone Diagram” is derived from the diagram’s structure. The problem itself forms the tail, possible causes radiate from the sides to form the fish skeleton while the final “Problem Statement” appears as the “head” of the fish.
Example: A fast-food chain is investigating the declining quality of their food. As the team brainstorms potential causes, they come up with reasons like “poorly trained personnel”, “lack of quality control”, and “incorrect quantity of spices.” Together with other causes, the group summarises that these problems lead to “bad burgers.” They write this as the Problem Statement and set about eliminating the main contributing factors.
29. The Problem Tree
A Problem Tree is a useful tool for assessing the importance or relevance of challenges concerning the core topic. If you’re launching a new product, for example, gather your team and brainstorm the current issues, roadblocks and bottlenecks that are hindering the process.
Then, work together to decide which of these are most pressing. Place the most relevant issues closer to the core topic and less relevant issues farther away.
30. SQUID Diagram
The Squid Diagram is an easy-to-use tool that charts the progress of ideas and business developments as they unfold. Your SQUID Diagram can remain on a wall for your team to add to over time.
- Write down a core theme on a sticky note such as “customer service” or “Innovation”—this will be the “head” of your SQUID.
- Hand two sets of different coloured sticky notes to your participants and choose one colour to represent “questions” and the other to represent “answers.”
- Ask your team to write down questions pertaining to the success of the main topic. In the case of “Innovation,” your team might write things like “How can we improve collaboration between key stakeholders?”
- Then, using the other coloured sticky notes, ask your team to write down possible answers to these questions. In the example above, this might be “Invest in open innovation software.”
- Over time, you’ll develop a spawling SQUID Diagram that reflects the creative problem-solving process.
31. The Speed Boat
The Speed Boat Diagram is a visual metaphor used to help your team identify and solve problems in the way of your goals.
Here’s how it works:
- Draw a picture of a boat and name it after the core objective.
- With your team, brainstorm things that are slowing progress and draw each one as an anchor beneath the boat.
- Discuss possible solutions to each problem on the diagram.
This is an easy-to-use tool that sparks creative solutions. If you like, your team can assign a “weight” to each anchor which determines the impact each problem has on the end goal.
32. The LEGO Challenge
LEGO is an excellent creative-thinking and problem-solving tool used regularly by event facilitators to help teams overcome challenges.
In our article 5 and 10-minute Team-Building Activities , we introduce Sneak a Peek —a collaborative team-building game that develops communication and leadership skills.
33. The Three W’s: What? So What? Now What?
Teams aren’t always aligned when it comes to their understanding of a problem. While the problem remains the same for everyone, they might have differing opinions as to how it occurred at the implications it had.
Asking “ What? So What? Now What?” Helps you to understand different perspectives around a problem.
It goes like this:
- Alone or in small groups, ask your employees to consider and write What happened. This should take between five and 10 minutes.
- Then ask So What? What occurred because of this? Why was what happened important? What might happen if this issue is left unresolved?
- Finally, ask your team Now What? What might be a solution to the problem? What actions do you need to take to avoid this happening again?
This approach helps your team understand how problems affect individuals in different ways and uncovers a variety of ways to overcome them.
34. Now-How-Wow Matrix
Gathering ideas is easy—but selecting the best ones? That’s a different story.
If you’ve got a bunch of ideas, try the Now-How-Wow Matrix to help you identify which ones you should implement now and which ones should wait until later.
Simply draw a two-axis graph with “implementation difficulty” on the Y axis and “idea originality” on the X axis. Divide this graph into quadrants and write “Now!” in the bottom left panel, “Wow!” in the bottom right panel, and “How?” in the top right panel. You can leave the top left panel blank.
Then, take your ideas and plot them on the graph depending on their implementation difficulty and level of originality.
By the end, you’ll have a clearer picture of which ideas to ignore, which ones to implement now, and which ones to add to the pipeline for the future.
35. Impact-Effort Matrix
The Impact-Effort Matrix is a variation of the Now-How-Wow Matrix where the Y axis is marked “Impact” and the X axis is marked “Effort.”
Then, divide the graph into quadrants and plot your ideas.
- Top left section = Excellent, implement immediately
- Top right section = Risky, but worth a try
- Bottom left section = Low risk, but potentially ineffective
- Bottom right section = Bad idea, ignore
The Impact-Effort Matrix is a simple way for your team to weigh the benefits of an idea against the amount of investment required.
36. Dot Voting
Once you’ve gathered a substantial list of ideas from your employees, you need to sort the good from the bad.
Dot voting is a simple tool used by problem-solving facilitators as a fast and effective way for large groups to vote on their favourite ideas . You’ll have seen this method used in problem-solving methods like Flip It! and Lightning Decision Jam .
- Participants write their ideas on sticky notes and stick them to the wall or a flipchart.
- When asked, participants draw a small dot on the corner of the idea they like the most.
- Participants can be given as many votes as necessary.
- When voting ends, arrange the notes from “most popular” to “least popular.”
This provides an easy-to-use visual representation of the best and worst ideas put forward by your team.
Give your problems the attention they deserve at an offsite retreat
While working from home or at the office, your team is often too caught up in daily tasks to take on complex problems.
By escaping the office and uniting at an offsite location, you can craft a purposeful agenda of team-building activities and problem-solving sessions. This special time away from the office can prove invaluable when it comes to keeping your business on track.
If you have problems that need fixing (who doesn’t?), reach out to Surf Office and let us put together a fully-customised offsite retreat for you.
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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."
Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS, is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in eating behaviors, stress management, and health behavior change.
- 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.
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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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Problem Solving Techniques: Your Ultimate Guide with Examples
Problem-solving is an essential skill we all need in our personal and professional lives. Whether you're facing a complex issue at work or trying to resolve a conflict at home, knowing how to identify and solve problems effectively is invaluable.
In this blog post, we'll explore various problem-solving techniques that can help you tackle challenges confidently and efficiently, accompanied by real-life examples.
How to Identify Problems?
Before diving into the techniques, let's briefly discuss identifying problems. Recognizing that a problem exists is often the first and most crucial step in the problem-solving process. Here are some tips for identifying problems:
Pay Attention to Signs
Look for signs of trouble or discrepancies in your surroundings, projects, or relationships. These can be indicators of underlying issues.
Example: In a project management context, consistently missing deadlines or decreasing team morale could be signs of underlying problems.
Be a good listener and encourage open communication with others. People often voice their concerns or frustrations, which can help you identify problems early on.
Example: In a family setting, if a family member repeatedly expresses frustration with household chores, it might indicate a problem with task distribution or communication.
Analyze data and performance metrics to detect anomalies or trends that signal problems.
Example: A sales department's decline in monthly sales figures may signal a problem with the sales strategy or market conditions.
Regularly self-reflect on your experiences and challenges. This can help you identify personal issues that need attention.
Example: If you consistently feel overwhelmed and stressed, it may indicate a problem with time management or work-life balance.
Now, let's explore various problem-solving techniques with real-life examples that can be applied depending on the nature and complexity of the problem.
Types of Problem-Solving Techniques
Lightning decision jam.
Technique: Lightning Decision Jam is a rapid problem-solving technique involving gathering a diverse group of individuals to brainstorm solutions to a problem quickly. It's a great way to generate creative ideas and make quick decisions.
Example: Imagine a software development team facing a critical bug in their application. They organize a Lightning Decision Jam, bringing developers, testers, and designers together. In just one hour, they generate innovative solutions and decide on a fix that gets the application up and running smoothly.
Technique: The 5 Whys is a simple yet powerful technique that involves asking "Why?" repeatedly to get to the root cause of a problem. By addressing the underlying issues, you can prevent the problem from recurring.
Example: In a manufacturing plant, there's a recurring issue of defective products. By asking "Why?" multiple times, the team discovers that the root cause is a malfunctioning machine that isn't properly maintained. They address this issue, reducing defects and improving product quality.
Technique: SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis is a structured approach to evaluating a situation. It helps you identify internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats, enabling you to make informed decisions.
Example: A small business owner conducts a SWOT analysis for their company. They identify that their strength lies in a loyal customer base, but a weakness is their limited online presence. Recognizing the opportunity in e-commerce, they decided to invest in building an online store to reach a broader audience.
Technique: Also known as Ishikawa or Cause-and-Effect Analysis, this technique helps you visualize the potential causes of a problem. It's beneficial for exploring complex issues with multiple contributing factors.
Example: In a hospital, the Fishbone Analysis is used to investigate increased patient falls. The analysis uncovers several causes, including inadequate staff training and slippery floors. By addressing these root causes, the hospital reduces patient falls significantly.
Technique: The Problem Tree technique visually represents a problem and its various branches, including causes and effects. This approach aids in understanding the problem's scope and interconnections.
Example: An environmental organization uses a Problem Tree to address deforestation. They identify the root cause as illegal logging, which has cascading effects such as habitat destruction and climate change. This visualization helps them develop a comprehensive conservation strategy.
Technique: Brainstorming is a classic technique for generating various ideas and solutions. It encourages creative thinking and collaboration among team members.
Example: A marketing team is brainstorming ideas for a new advertising campaign. By allowing team members to suggest concepts freely, they generate a list of innovative campaign ideas that resonate with their target audience.
Technique: Root-cause analysis aims to identify the fundamental cause of a problem. It involves in-depth investigation and is often used for critical issues or recurring problems.
Example: In an IT department, recurring network outages disrupt operations. A root-cause analysis reveals that the outages are due to outdated network equipment. By replacing the equipment, the department eliminates the recurring problem.
Technique: Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to problem-solving that emphasizes empathy and iterative prototyping. It's beneficial for addressing complex, user-centric problems.
Example: A nonprofit organization uses Design Thinking to improve the user experience of their website. They conduct interviews with users to understand their needs and pain points, leading to a website redesign that better serves their audience.
Six Thinking Hats
Technique: Developed by Edward de Bono , the Six Thinking Hats method assigns different "hats" to participants, each representing a different perspective (e.g., logical thinking, emotions, creativity). This technique helps explore problems from various angles.
Example: A corporate team applies the Six Thinking Hats method to evaluate a potential merger. They make a well-informed decision by systematically considering factors such as financial viability, employee morale, and customer impact.
Technique: Working Backwards is a technique often used in product development. It involves starting with the desired outcome and working backward to identify the steps required to achieve it.
Example: A tech company wants to create a groundbreaking smartphone. They begin by envisioning the perfect user experience and then reverse-engineer the technology and features needed to make it a reality.
Trial & Error
Technique: Sometimes, trial and error can be a valid problem-solving approach. It's especially useful when dealing with unfamiliar or novel problems.
Example: A chef experimenting with a new recipe for a signature dish uses trial and error to refine the ingredients and cooking techniques until he achieves the desired taste and presentation.
Problem-solving is an essential skill that can be honed and improved over time. By familiarizing yourself with these problem-solving techniques and their real-life examples, you'll be better equipped to effectively address a wide range of challenges.
Remember that the choice of technique should depend on the specific problem you're facing. Whether it's a lightning-fast decision jam or a thorough root-cause analysis, having a diverse toolkit of problem-solving techniques at your disposal will empower you to tackle problems confidently and successfully.
So, the next time you encounter an issue, don't panic—apply the correct technique, and you'll be well on your way to finding a solution.
Shiva is a subject matter expert in communication, marketing, productivity, and learning systems. He has previously contributed to many blogs and newsletters, including Validated, Mental Models, HackerNoon, and several brands. You can find Shiva on LinkedIn or email him at shiva(at)routine.co.
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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Describe problem solving strategies
- Define algorithm and heuristic
- Explain some common roadblocks to effective problem solving
People face problems every day—usually, multiple problems throughout the day. Sometimes these problems are straightforward: To double a recipe for pizza dough, for example, all that is required is that each ingredient in the recipe be doubled. Sometimes, however, the problems we encounter are more complex. For example, say you have a work deadline, and you must mail a printed copy of a report to your supervisor by the end of the business day. The report is time-sensitive and must be sent overnight. You finished the report last night, but your printer will not work today. What should you do? First, you need to identify the problem and then apply a strategy for solving the problem.
The study of human and animal problem solving processes has provided much insight toward the understanding of our conscious experience and led to advancements in computer science and artificial intelligence. Essentially much of cognitive science today represents studies of how we consciously and unconsciously make decisions and solve problems. For instance, when encountered with a large amount of information, how do we go about making decisions about the most efficient way of sorting and analyzing all the information in order to find what you are looking for as in visual search paradigms in cognitive psychology. Or in a situation where a piece of machinery is not working properly, how do we go about organizing how to address the issue and understand what the cause of the problem might be. How do we sort the procedures that will be needed and focus attention on what is important in order to solve problems efficiently. Within this section we will discuss some of these issues and examine processes related to human, animal and computer problem solving.
When people are presented with a problem—whether it is a complex mathematical problem or a broken printer, how do you solve it? Before finding a solution to the problem, the problem must first be clearly identified. After that, one of many problem solving strategies can be applied, hopefully resulting in a solution.
Problems themselves can be classified into two different categories known as ill-defined and well-defined problems (Schacter, 2009). Ill-defined problems represent issues that do not have clear goals, solution paths, or expected solutions whereas well-defined problems have specific goals, clearly defined solutions, and clear expected solutions. Problem solving often incorporates pragmatics (logical reasoning) and semantics (interpretation of meanings behind the problem), and also in many cases require abstract thinking and creativity in order to find novel solutions. Within psychology, problem solving refers to a motivational drive for reading a definite “goal” from a present situation or condition that is either not moving toward that goal, is distant from it, or requires more complex logical analysis for finding a missing description of conditions or steps toward that goal. Processes relating to problem solving include problem finding also known as problem analysis, problem shaping where the organization of the problem occurs, generating alternative strategies, implementation of attempted solutions, and verification of the selected solution. Various methods of studying problem solving exist within the field of psychology including introspection, behavior analysis and behaviorism, simulation, computer modeling, and experimentation.
A problem-solving strategy is a plan of action used to find a solution. Different strategies have different action plans associated with them (table below). For example, a well-known strategy is trial and error. The old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” describes trial and error. In terms of your broken printer, you could try checking the ink levels, and if that doesn’t work, you could check to make sure the paper tray isn’t jammed. Or maybe the printer isn’t actually connected to your laptop. When using trial and error, you would continue to try different solutions until you solved your problem. Although trial and error is not typically one of the most time-efficient strategies, it is a commonly used one.
Another type of strategy is an algorithm. An algorithm is a problem-solving formula that provides you with step-by-step instructions used to achieve a desired outcome (Kahneman, 2011). You can think of an algorithm as a recipe with highly detailed instructions that produce the same result every time they are performed. Algorithms are used frequently in our everyday lives, especially in computer science. When you run a search on the Internet, search engines like Google use algorithms to decide which entries will appear first in your list of results. Facebook also uses algorithms to decide which posts to display on your newsfeed. Can you identify other situations in which algorithms are used?
A heuristic is another type of problem solving strategy. While an algorithm must be followed exactly to produce a correct result, a heuristic is a general problem-solving framework (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974). You can think of these as mental shortcuts that are used to solve problems. A “rule of thumb” is an example of a heuristic. Such a rule saves the person time and energy when making a decision, but despite its time-saving characteristics, it is not always the best method for making a rational decision. Different types of heuristics are used in different types of situations, but the impulse to use a heuristic occurs when one of five conditions is met (Pratkanis, 1989):
- When one is faced with too much information
- When the time to make a decision is limited
- When the decision to be made is unimportant
- When there is access to very little information to use in making the decision
- When an appropriate heuristic happens to come to mind in the same moment
Working backwards is a useful heuristic in which you begin solving the problem by focusing on the end result. Consider this example: You live in Washington, D.C. and have been invited to a wedding at 4 PM on Saturday in Philadelphia. Knowing that Interstate 95 tends to back up any day of the week, you need to plan your route and time your departure accordingly. If you want to be at the wedding service by 3:30 PM, and it takes 2.5 hours to get to Philadelphia without traffic, what time should you leave your house? You use the working backwards heuristic to plan the events of your day on a regular basis, probably without even thinking about it.
Another useful heuristic is the practice of accomplishing a large goal or task by breaking it into a series of smaller steps. Students often use this common method to complete a large research project or long essay for school. For example, students typically brainstorm, develop a thesis or main topic, research the chosen topic, organize their information into an outline, write a rough draft, revise and edit the rough draft, develop a final draft, organize the references list, and proofread their work before turning in the project. The large task becomes less overwhelming when it is broken down into a series of small steps.
Further problem solving strategies have been identified (listed below) that incorporate flexible and creative thinking in order to reach solutions efficiently.
Additional Problem Solving Strategies :
- Abstraction – refers to solving the problem within a model of the situation before applying it to reality.
- Analogy – is using a solution that solves a similar problem.
- Brainstorming – refers to collecting an analyzing a large amount of solutions, especially within a group of people, to combine the solutions and developing them until an optimal solution is reached.
- Divide and conquer – breaking down large complex problems into smaller more manageable problems.
- Hypothesis testing – method used in experimentation where an assumption about what would happen in response to manipulating an independent variable is made, and analysis of the affects of the manipulation are made and compared to the original hypothesis.
- Lateral thinking – approaching problems indirectly and creatively by viewing the problem in a new and unusual light.
- Means-ends analysis – choosing and analyzing an action at a series of smaller steps to move closer to the goal.
- Method of focal objects – putting seemingly non-matching characteristics of different procedures together to make something new that will get you closer to the goal.
- Morphological analysis – analyzing the outputs of and interactions of many pieces that together make up a whole system.
- Proof – trying to prove that a problem cannot be solved. Where the proof fails becomes the starting point or solving the problem.
- Reduction – adapting the problem to be as similar problems where a solution exists.
- Research – using existing knowledge or solutions to similar problems to solve the problem.
- Root cause analysis – trying to identify the cause of the problem.
The strategies listed above outline a short summary of methods we use in working toward solutions and also demonstrate how the mind works when being faced with barriers preventing goals to be reached.
One example of means-end analysis can be found by using the Tower of Hanoi paradigm . This paradigm can be modeled as a word problems as demonstrated by the Missionary-Cannibal Problem :
Three missionaries and three cannibals are on one side of a river and need to cross to the other side. The only means of crossing is a boat, and the boat can only hold two people at a time. Your goal is to devise a set of moves that will transport all six of the people across the river, being in mind the following constraint: The number of cannibals can never exceed the number of missionaries in any location. Remember that someone will have to also row that boat back across each time.
Hint : At one point in your solution, you will have to send more people back to the original side than you just sent to the destination.
The actual Tower of Hanoi problem consists of three rods sitting vertically on a base with a number of disks of different sizes that can slide onto any rod. The puzzle starts with the disks in a neat stack in ascending order of size on one rod, the smallest at the top making a conical shape. The objective of the puzzle is to move the entire stack to another rod obeying the following rules:
- 1. Only one disk can be moved at a time.
- 2. Each move consists of taking the upper disk from one of the stacks and placing it on top of another stack or on an empty rod.
- 3. No disc may be placed on top of a smaller disk.
Figure 7.02. Steps for solving the Tower of Hanoi in the minimum number of moves when there are 3 disks.
Figure 7.03. Graphical representation of nodes (circles) and moves (lines) of Tower of Hanoi.
The Tower of Hanoi is a frequently used psychological technique to study problem solving and procedure analysis. A variation of the Tower of Hanoi known as the Tower of London has been developed which has been an important tool in the neuropsychological diagnosis of executive function disorders and their treatment.
GESTALT PSYCHOLOGY AND PROBLEM SOLVING
As you may recall from the sensation and perception chapter, Gestalt psychology describes whole patterns, forms and configurations of perception and cognition such as closure, good continuation, and figure-ground. In addition to patterns of perception, Wolfgang Kohler, a German Gestalt psychologist traveled to the Spanish island of Tenerife in order to study animals behavior and problem solving in the anthropoid ape.
As an interesting side note to Kohler’s studies of chimp problem solving, Dr. Ronald Ley, professor of psychology at State University of New York provides evidence in his book A Whisper of Espionage (1990) suggesting that while collecting data for what would later be his book The Mentality of Apes (1925) on Tenerife in the Canary Islands between 1914 and 1920, Kohler was additionally an active spy for the German government alerting Germany to ships that were sailing around the Canary Islands. Ley suggests his investigations in England, Germany and elsewhere in Europe confirm that Kohler had served in the German military by building, maintaining and operating a concealed radio that contributed to Germany’s war effort acting as a strategic outpost in the Canary Islands that could monitor naval military activity approaching the north African coast.
While trapped on the island over the course of World War 1, Kohler applied Gestalt principles to animal perception in order to understand how they solve problems. He recognized that the apes on the islands also perceive relations between stimuli and the environment in Gestalt patterns and understand these patterns as wholes as opposed to pieces that make up a whole. Kohler based his theories of animal intelligence on the ability to understand relations between stimuli, and spent much of his time while trapped on the island investigation what he described as insight , the sudden perception of useful or proper relations. In order to study insight in animals, Kohler would present problems to chimpanzee’s by hanging some banana’s or some kind of food so it was suspended higher than the apes could reach. Within the room, Kohler would arrange a variety of boxes, sticks or other tools the chimpanzees could use by combining in patterns or organizing in a way that would allow them to obtain the food (Kohler & Winter, 1925).
While viewing the chimpanzee’s, Kohler noticed one chimp that was more efficient at solving problems than some of the others. The chimp, named Sultan, was able to use long poles to reach through bars and organize objects in specific patterns to obtain food or other desirables that were originally out of reach. In order to study insight within these chimps, Kohler would remove objects from the room to systematically make the food more difficult to obtain. As the story goes, after removing many of the objects Sultan was used to using to obtain the food, he sat down ad sulked for a while, and then suddenly got up going over to two poles lying on the ground. Without hesitation Sultan put one pole inside the end of the other creating a longer pole that he could use to obtain the food demonstrating an ideal example of what Kohler described as insight. In another situation, Sultan discovered how to stand on a box to reach a banana that was suspended from the rafters illustrating Sultan’s perception of relations and the importance of insight in problem solving.
Grande (another chimp in the group studied by Kohler) builds a three-box structure to reach the bananas, while Sultan watches from the ground. Insight , sometimes referred to as an “Ah-ha” experience, was the term Kohler used for the sudden perception of useful relations among objects during problem solving (Kohler, 1927; Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2013).
Problem-solving abilities can improve with practice. Many people challenge themselves every day with puzzles and other mental exercises to sharpen their problem-solving skills. Sudoku puzzles appear daily in most newspapers. Typically, a sudoku puzzle is a 9×9 grid. The simple sudoku below (see figure) is a 4×4 grid. To solve the puzzle, fill in the empty boxes with a single digit: 1, 2, 3, or 4. Here are the rules: The numbers must total 10 in each bolded box, each row, and each column; however, each digit can only appear once in a bolded box, row, and column. Time yourself as you solve this puzzle and compare your time with a classmate.
How long did it take you to solve this sudoku puzzle? (You can see the answer at the end of this section.)
Here is another popular type of puzzle (figure below) that challenges your spatial reasoning skills. Connect all nine dots with four connecting straight lines without lifting your pencil from the paper:
Did you figure it out? (The answer is at the end of this section.) Once you understand how to crack this puzzle, you won’t forget.
Take a look at the “Puzzling Scales” logic puzzle below (figure below). Sam Loyd, a well-known puzzle master, created and refined countless puzzles throughout his lifetime (Cyclopedia of Puzzles, n.d.).
What steps did you take to solve this puzzle? You can read the solution at the end of this section.
Pitfalls to problem solving.
Not all problems are successfully solved, however. What challenges stop us from successfully solving a problem? Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Imagine a person in a room that has four doorways. One doorway that has always been open in the past is now locked. The person, accustomed to exiting the room by that particular doorway, keeps trying to get out through the same doorway even though the other three doorways are open. The person is stuck—but she just needs to go to another doorway, instead of trying to get out through the locked doorway. A mental set is where you persist in approaching a problem in a way that has worked in the past but is clearly not working now.
Functional fixedness is a type of mental set where you cannot perceive an object being used for something other than what it was designed for. During the Apollo 13 mission to the moon, NASA engineers at Mission Control had to overcome functional fixedness to save the lives of the astronauts aboard the spacecraft. An explosion in a module of the spacecraft damaged multiple systems. The astronauts were in danger of being poisoned by rising levels of carbon dioxide because of problems with the carbon dioxide filters. The engineers found a way for the astronauts to use spare plastic bags, tape, and air hoses to create a makeshift air filter, which saved the lives of the astronauts.
Researchers have investigated whether functional fixedness is affected by culture. In one experiment, individuals from the Shuar group in Ecuador were asked to use an object for a purpose other than that for which the object was originally intended. For example, the participants were told a story about a bear and a rabbit that were separated by a river and asked to select among various objects, including a spoon, a cup, erasers, and so on, to help the animals. The spoon was the only object long enough to span the imaginary river, but if the spoon was presented in a way that reflected its normal usage, it took participants longer to choose the spoon to solve the problem. (German & Barrett, 2005). The researchers wanted to know if exposure to highly specialized tools, as occurs with individuals in industrialized nations, affects their ability to transcend functional fixedness. It was determined that functional fixedness is experienced in both industrialized and nonindustrialized cultures (German & Barrett, 2005).
In order to make good decisions, we use our knowledge and our reasoning. Often, this knowledge and reasoning is sound and solid. Sometimes, however, we are swayed by biases or by others manipulating a situation. For example, let’s say you and three friends wanted to rent a house and had a combined target budget of $1,600. The realtor shows you only very run-down houses for $1,600 and then shows you a very nice house for $2,000. Might you ask each person to pay more in rent to get the $2,000 home? Why would the realtor show you the run-down houses and the nice house? The realtor may be challenging your anchoring bias. An anchoring bias occurs when you focus on one piece of information when making a decision or solving a problem. In this case, you’re so focused on the amount of money you are willing to spend that you may not recognize what kinds of houses are available at that price point.
The confirmation bias is the tendency to focus on information that confirms your existing beliefs. For example, if you think that your professor is not very nice, you notice all of the instances of rude behavior exhibited by the professor while ignoring the countless pleasant interactions he is involved in on a daily basis. Hindsight bias leads you to believe that the event you just experienced was predictable, even though it really wasn’t. In other words, you knew all along that things would turn out the way they did. Representative bias describes a faulty way of thinking, in which you unintentionally stereotype someone or something; for example, you may assume that your professors spend their free time reading books and engaging in intellectual conversation, because the idea of them spending their time playing volleyball or visiting an amusement park does not fit in with your stereotypes of professors.
Finally, the availability heuristic is a heuristic in which you make a decision based on an example, information, or recent experience that is that readily available to you, even though it may not be the best example to inform your decision . Biases tend to “preserve that which is already established—to maintain our preexisting knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and hypotheses” (Aronson, 1995; Kahneman, 2011). These biases are summarized in the table below.
Were you able to determine how many marbles are needed to balance the scales in the figure below? You need nine. Were you able to solve the problems in the figures above? Here are the answers.
Many different strategies exist for solving problems. Typical strategies include trial and error, applying algorithms, and using heuristics. To solve a large, complicated problem, it often helps to break the problem into smaller steps that can be accomplished individually, leading to an overall solution. Roadblocks to problem solving include a mental set, functional fixedness, and various biases that can cloud decision making skills.
Openstax Psychology text by Kathryn Dumper, William Jenkins, Arlene Lacombe, Marilyn Lovett and Marion Perlmutter licensed under CC BY v4.0. https://openstax.org/details/books/psychology
1. A specific formula for solving a problem is called ________.
a. an algorithm
b. a heuristic
c. a mental set
d. trial and error
2. Solving the Tower of Hanoi problem tends to utilize a ________ strategy of problem solving.
a. divide and conquer
b. means-end analysis
3. A mental shortcut in the form of a general problem-solving framework is called ________.
4. Which type of bias involves becoming fixated on a single trait of a problem?
a. anchoring bias
b. confirmation bias
c. representative bias
d. availability bias
5. Which type of bias involves relying on a false stereotype to make a decision?
6. Wolfgang Kohler analyzed behavior of chimpanzees by applying Gestalt principles to describe ________.
a. social adjustment
b. student load payment options
c. emotional learning
d. insight learning
7. ________ is a type of mental set where you cannot perceive an object being used for something other than what it was designed for.
a. functional fixedness
c. working memory
Critical Thinking Questions:
1. What is functional fixedness and how can overcoming it help you solve problems?
2. How does an algorithm save you time and energy when solving a problem?
Personal Application Question:
1. Which type of bias do you recognize in your own decision making processes? How has this bias affected how you’ve made decisions in the past and how can you use your awareness of it to improve your decisions making skills in the future?
trial and error
Answers to Exercises
algorithm: problem-solving strategy characterized by a specific set of instructions
anchoring bias: faulty heuristic in which you fixate on a single aspect of a problem to find a solution
availability heuristic: faulty heuristic in which you make a decision based on information readily available to you
confirmation bias: faulty heuristic in which you focus on information that confirms your beliefs
functional fixedness: inability to see an object as useful for any other use other than the one for which it was intended
heuristic: mental shortcut that saves time when solving a problem
hindsight bias: belief that the event just experienced was predictable, even though it really wasn’t
mental set: continually using an old solution to a problem without results
problem-solving strategy: method for solving problems
representative bias: faulty heuristic in which you stereotype someone or something without a valid basis for your judgment
trial and error: problem-solving strategy in which multiple solutions are attempted until the correct one is found
working backwards: heuristic in which you begin to solve a problem by focusing on the end result
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Problem Solving Skills for the Digital Age
Lucid Content Team
Reading time: about 7 min
Let’s face it: Things don’t always go according to plan. Systems fail, wires get crossed, projects fall apart.
Problems are an inevitable part of life and work. They’re also an opportunity to think critically and find solutions. But knowing how to get to the root of unexpected situations or challenges can mean the difference between moving forward and spinning your wheels.
Here, we’ll break down the key elements of problem solving, some effective problem solving approaches, and a few effective tools to help you arrive at solutions more quickly.
So, what is problem solving?
Broadly defined, problem solving is the process of finding solutions to difficult or complex issues. But you already knew that. Understanding problem solving frameworks, however, requires a deeper dive.
Think about a recent problem you faced. Maybe it was an interpersonal issue. Or it could have been a major creative challenge you needed to solve for a client at work. How did you feel as you approached the issue? Stressed? Confused? Optimistic? Most importantly, which problem solving techniques did you use to tackle the situation head-on? How did you organize thoughts to arrive at the best possible solution?
Solve your problem-solving problem
Here’s the good news: Good problem solving skills can be learned. By its nature, problem solving doesn’t adhere to a clear set of do’s and don’ts—it requires flexibility, communication, and adaptation. However, most problems you face, at work or in life, can be tackled using four basic steps.
First, you must define the problem . This step sounds obvious, but often, you can notice that something is amiss in a project or process without really knowing where the core problem lies. The most challenging part of the problem solving process is uncovering where the problem originated.
Second, you work to generate alternatives to address the problem directly. This should be a collaborative process to ensure you’re considering every angle of the issue.
Third, you evaluate and test potential solutions to your problem. This step helps you fully understand the complexity of the issue and arrive at the best possible solution.
Finally, fourth, you select and implement the solution that best addresses the problem.
Following this basic four-step process will help you approach every problem you encounter with the same rigorous critical and strategic thinking process, recognize commonalities in new problems, and avoid repeating past mistakes.
In addition to these basic problem solving skills, there are several best practices that you should incorporate. These problem solving approaches can help you think more critically and creatively about any problem:
You may not feel like you have the right expertise to resolve a specific problem. Don’t let that stop you from tackling it. The best problem solvers become students of the problem at hand. Even if you don’t have particular expertise on a topic, your unique experience and perspective can lend itself to creative solutions.
Challenge the status quo
Standard problem solving methodologies and problem solving frameworks are a good starting point. But don’t be afraid to challenge assumptions and push boundaries. Good problem solvers find ways to apply existing best practices into innovative problem solving approaches.
Think broadly about and visualize the issue
Sometimes it’s hard to see a problem, even if it’s right in front of you. Clear answers could be buried in rows of spreadsheet data or lost in miscommunication. Use visualization as a problem solving tool to break down problems to their core elements. Visuals can help you see bottlenecks in the context of the whole process and more clearly organize your thoughts as you define the problem.
Hypothesize, test, and try again
It might be cliche, but there’s truth in the old adage that 99% of inspiration is perspiration. The best problem solvers ask why, test, fail, and ask why again. Whether it takes one or 1,000 iterations to solve a problem, the important part—and the part that everyone remembers—is the solution.
Consider other viewpoints
Today’s problems are more complex, more difficult to solve, and they often involve multiple disciplines. They require group expertise and knowledge. Being open to others’ expertise increases your ability to be a great problem solver. Great solutions come from integrating your ideas with those of others to find a better solution. Excellent problem solvers build networks and know how to collaborate with other people and teams. They are skilled in bringing people together and sharing knowledge and information.
4 effective problem solving tools
As you work through the problem solving steps, try these tools to better define the issue and find the appropriate solution.
Root cause analysis
Similar to pulling weeds from your garden, if you don’t get to the root of the problem, it’s bound to come back. A root cause analysis helps you figure out the root cause behind any disruption or problem, so you can take steps to correct the problem from recurring. The root cause analysis process involves defining the problem, collecting data, and identifying causal factors to pinpoint root causes and arrive at a solution.
Less structured than other more traditional problem solving methods, the 5 Whys is simply what it sounds like: asking why over and over to get to the root of an obstacle or setback. This technique encourages an open dialogue that can trigger new ideas about a problem, whether done individually or with a group. Each why piggybacks off the answer to the previous why. Get started with the template below—both flowcharts and fishbone diagrams can also help you track your answers to the 5 Whys.
A meeting of the minds, a brain dump, a mind meld, a jam session. Whatever you call it, collaborative brainstorming can help surface previously unseen issues, root causes, and alternative solutions. Create and share a mind map with your team members to fuel your brainstorming session.
Sometimes you don’t know where the problem is until you determine where it isn’t. Gap filling helps you analyze inadequacies that are preventing you from reaching an optimized state or end goal. For example, a content gap analysis can help a content marketer determine where holes exist in messaging or the customer experience. Gap analysis is especially helpful when it comes to problem solving because it requires you to find workable solutions. A SWOT analysis chart that looks at a problem through the lens of strengths, opportunities, opportunities, and threats can be a helpful problem solving framework as you start your analysis.
A better way to problem solve
Beyond these practical tips and tools, there are myriad methodical and creative approaches to move a project forward or resolve a conflict. The right approach will depend on the scope of the issue and your desired outcome.
Depending on the problem, Lucidchart offers several templates and diagrams that could help you identify the cause of the issue and map out a plan to resolve it. Learn more about how Lucidchart can help you take control of your problem solving process .
How You Can Use Creative Problem Solving at Work
Sometimes you're faced with challenges that traditional problem solving can't fix. Creative problem solving encourages you to find new, creative ways of thinking that can help you overcome the issue at hand more quickly.
Solve issues faster with the root cause analysis process
Root cause analysis refers to any problem-solving method used to trace an issue back to its origin. Learn how to complete a root cause analysis—we've even included templates to get you started.
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39 Best Problem-Solving Examples
Problem-solving is a process where you’re tasked with identifying an issue and coming up with the most practical and effective solution.
This indispensable skill is necessary in several aspects of life, from personal relationships to education to business decisions.
Problem-solving aptitude boosts rational thinking, creativity, and the ability to cooperate with others. It’s also considered essential in 21st Century workplaces.
If explaining your problem-solving skills in an interview, remember that the employer is trying to determine your ability to handle difficulties. Focus on explaining exactly how you solve problems, including by introducing your thoughts on some of the following frameworks and how you’ve applied them in the past.
1. divergent thinking.
Divergent thinking refers to the process of coming up with multiple different answers to a single problem. It’s the opposite of convergent thinking, which would involve coming up with a singular answer .
The benefit of a divergent thinking approach is that it can help us achieve blue skies thinking – it lets us generate several possible solutions that we can then critique and analyze .
In the realm of problem-solving, divergent thinking acts as the initial spark. You’re working to create an array of potential solutions, even those that seem outwardly unrelated or unconventional, to get your brain turning and unlock out-of-the-box ideas.
This process paves the way for the decision-making stage, where the most promising ideas are selected and refined.
Go Deeper: Divervent Thinking Examples
2. Convergent Thinking
Next comes convergent thinking, the process of narrowing down multiple possibilities to arrive at a single solution.
This involves using your analytical skills to identify the best, most practical, or most economical solution from the pool of ideas that you generated in the divergent thinking stage.
In a way, convergent thinking shapes the “roadmap” to solve a problem after divergent thinking has supplied the “destinations.”
Have a think about which of these problem-solving skills you’re more adept at: divergent or convergent thinking?
Go Deeper: Convergent Thinking Examples
Brainstorming is a group activity designed to generate a multitude of ideas regarding a specific problem. It’s divergent thinking as a group , which helps unlock even more possibilities.
A typical brainstorming session involves uninhibited and spontaneous ideation, encouraging participants to voice any possible solutions, no matter how unconventional they might appear.
It’s important in a brainstorming session to suspend judgment and be as inclusive as possible, allowing all participants to get involved.
By widening the scope of potential solutions, brainstorming allows better problem definition, more creative solutions, and helps to avoid thinking “traps” that might limit your perspective.
Go Deeper: Brainstorming Examples
4. Thinking Outside the Box
The concept of “thinking outside the box” encourages a shift in perspective, urging you to approach problems from an entirely new angle.
Rather than sticking to traditional methods and processes, it involves breaking away from conventional norms to cultivate unique solutions.
In problem-solving, this mindset can bypass established hurdles and bring you to fresh ideas that might otherwise remain undiscovered.
Think of it as going off the beaten track when regular routes present roadblocks to effective resolution.
5. Case Study Analysis
Analyzing case studies involves a detailed examination of real-life situations that bear relevance to the current problem at hand.
For example, if you’re facing a problem, you could go to another environment that has faced a similar problem and examine how they solved it. You’d then bring the insights from that case study back to your own problem.
This approach provides a practical backdrop against which theories and assumptions can be tested, offering valuable insights into how similar problems have been approached and resolved in the past.
See a Broader Range of Analysis Examples Here
6. Action Research
Action research involves a repetitive process of identifying a problem, formulating a plan to address it, implementing the plan, and then analyzing the results. It’s common in educational research contexts.
The objective is to promote continuous learning and improvement through reflection and action. You conduct research into your problem, attempt to apply a solution, then assess how well the solution worked. This becomes an iterative process of continual improvement over time.
For problem-solving, this method offers a way to test solutions in real-time and allows for changes and refinements along the way, based on feedback or observed outcomes. It’s a form of active problem-solving that integrates lessons learned into the next cycle of action.
Go Deeper: Action Research Examples
7. Information Gathering
Fundamental to solving any problem is the process of information gathering.
This involves collecting relevant data , facts, and details about the issue at hand, significantly aiding in the understanding and conceptualization of the problem.
In problem-solving, information gathering underpins every decision you make.
This process ensures your actions are based on concrete information and evidence, allowing for an informed approach to tackle the problem effectively.
8. Seeking Advice
Seeking advice implies turning to knowledgeable and experienced individuals or entities to gain insights on problem-solving.
It could include mentors, industry experts, peers, or even specialized literature.
The value in this process lies in leveraging different perspectives and proven strategies when dealing with a problem. Moreover, it aids you in avoiding pitfalls, saving time, and learning from others’ experiences.
9. Creative Thinking
Creative thinking refers to the ability to perceive a problem in a new way, identify unconventional patterns, or produce original solutions.
It encourages innovation and uniqueness, often leading to the most effective results.
When applied to problem-solving, creative thinking can help you break free from traditional constraints, ideal for potentially complex or unusual problems.
Go Deeper: Creative Thinking Examples
10. Conflict Resolution
Conflict resolution is a strategy developed to resolve disagreements and arguments, often involving communication, negotiation, and compromise.
When employed as a problem-solving technique, it can diffuse tension, clear bottlenecks, and create a collaborative environment.
Effective conflict resolution ensures that differing views or disagreements do not become roadblocks in the process of problem-solving.
Go Deeper: Conflict Resolution Examples
11. Addressing Bottlenecks
Bottlenecks refer to obstacles or hindrances that slow down or even halt a process.
In problem-solving, addressing bottlenecks involves identifying these impediments and finding ways to eliminate them.
This effort not only smooths the path to resolution but also enhances the overall efficiency of the problem-solving process.
For example, if your workflow is not working well, you’d go to the bottleneck – that one point that is most time consuming – and focus on that. Once you ‘break’ this bottleneck, the entire process will run more smoothly.
12. Market Research
Market research involves gathering and analyzing information about target markets, consumers, and competitors.
In sales and marketing, this is one of the most effective problem-solving methods. The research collected from your market (e.g. from consumer surveys) generates data that can help identify market trends, customer preferences, and competitor strategies.
In this sense, it allows a company to make informed decisions, solve existing problems, and even predict and prevent future ones.
13. Root Cause Analysis
Root cause analysis is a method used to identify the origin or the fundamental reason for a problem.
Once the root cause is determined, you can implement corrective actions to prevent the problem from recurring.
As a problem-solving procedure, root cause analysis helps you to tackle the problem at its source, rather than dealing with its surface symptoms.
Go Deeper: Root Cause Analysis Examples
14. Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is a visual tool used to structure information, helping you better analyze, comprehend and generate new ideas.
By laying out your thoughts visually, it can lead you to solutions that might not have been apparent with linear thinking.
In problem-solving, mind mapping helps in organizing ideas and identifying connections between them, providing a holistic view of the situation and potential solutions.
15. Trial and Error
The trial and error method involves attempting various solutions until you find one that resolves the problem.
It’s an empirical technique that relies on practical actions instead of theories or rules.
In the context of problem-solving, trial and error allows you the flexibility to test different strategies in real situations, gaining insights about what works and what doesn’t.
16. SWOT Analysis
SWOT is an acronym standing for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
It’s an analytic framework used to evaluate these aspects in relation to a particular objective or problem.
In problem-solving, SWOT Analysis helps you to identify favorable and unfavorable internal and external factors. It helps to craft strategies that make best use of your strengths and opportunities, whilst addressing weaknesses and threats.
Go Deeper: SWOT Analysis Examples
17. Scenario Planning
Scenario planning is a strategic planning method used to make flexible long-term plans.
It involves imagining, and then planning for, multiple likely future scenarios.
By forecasting various directions a problem could take, scenario planning helps manage uncertainty and is an effective tool for problem-solving in volatile conditions.
18. Six Thinking Hats
The Six Thinking Hats is a concept devised by Edward de Bono that proposes six different directions or modes of thinking, symbolized by six different hat colors.
Each hat signifies a different perspective, encouraging you to switch ‘thinking modes’ as you switch hats. This method can help remove bias and broaden perspectives when dealing with a problem.
19. Decision Matrix Analysis
Decision Matrix Analysis is a technique that allows you to weigh different factors when faced with several possible solutions.
After listing down the options and determining the factors of importance, each option is scored based on each factor.
Revealing a clear winner that both serves your objectives and reflects your values, Decision Matrix Analysis grounds your problem-solving process in objectivity and comprehensiveness.
20. Pareto Analysis
Also known as the 80/20 rule, Pareto Analysis is a decision-making technique.
It’s based on the principle that 80% of problems are typically caused by 20% of the causes, making it a handy tool for identifying the most significant issues in a situation.
Using this analysis, you’re likely to direct your problem-solving efforts more effectively, tackling the root causes producing most of the problem’s impact.
21. Critical Thinking
Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze facts to form a judgment objectively.
It involves logical, disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.
For problem-solving, critical thinking helps evaluate options and decide the most effective solution. It ensures your decisions are grounded in reason and facts, and not biased or irrational assumptions.
Go Deeper: Critical Thinking Examples
22. Hypothesis Testing
Hypothesis testing usually involves formulating a claim, testing it against actual data, and deciding whether to accept or reject the claim based on the results.
In problem-solving, hypotheses often represent potential solutions. Hypothesis testing provides verification, giving a statistical basis for decision-making and problem resolution.
Usually, this will require research methods and a scientific approach to see whether the hypothesis stands up or not.
Go Deeper: Types of Hypothesis Testing
23. Cost-Benefit Analysis
A cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is a systematic process of weighing the pros and cons of different solutions in terms of their potential costs and benefits.
It allows you to measure the positive effects against the negatives and informs your problem-solving strategy.
By using CBA, you can identify which solution offers the greatest benefit for the least cost, significantly improving efficacy and efficiency in your problem-solving process.
Go Deeper: Cost-Benefit Analysis Examples
24. Simulation and Modeling
Simulations and models allow you to create a simplified replica of real-world systems to test outcomes under controlled conditions.
In problem-solving, you can broadly understand potential repercussions of different solutions before implementation.
It offers a cost-effective way to predict the impacts of your decisions, minimizing potential risks associated with various solutions.
25. Delphi Method
The Delphi Method is a structured communication technique used to gather expert opinions.
The method involves a group of experts who respond to questionnaires about a problem. The responses are aggregated and shared with the group, and the process repeats until a consensus is reached.
This method of problem solving can provide a diverse range of insights and solutions, shaped by the wisdom of a collective expert group.
26. Cross-functional Team Collaboration
Cross-functional team collaboration involves individuals from different departments or areas of expertise coming together to solve a common problem or achieve a shared goal.
When you bring diverse skills, knowledge, and perspectives to a problem, it can lead to a more comprehensive and innovative solution.
In problem-solving, this promotes communal thinking and ensures that solutions are inclusive and holistic, with various aspects of the problem being addressed.
Benchmarking involves comparing one’s business processes and performance metrics to the best practices from other companies or industries.
In problem-solving, it allows you to identify gaps in your own processes, determine how others have solved similar problems, and apply those solutions that have proven to be successful.
It also allows you to compare yourself to the best (the benchmark) and assess where you’re not as good.
28. Pros-Cons Lists
A pro-con analysis aids in problem-solving by weighing the advantages (pros) and disadvantages (cons) of various possible solutions.
This simple but powerful tool helps in making a balanced, informed decision.
When confronted with a problem, a pro-con analysis can guide you through the decision-making process, ensuring all possible outcomes and implications are scrutinized before arriving at the optimal solution. Thus, it helps to make the problem-solving process both methodical and comprehensive.
29. 5 Whys Analysis
The 5 Whys Analysis involves repeatedly asking the question ‘why’ (around five times) to peel away the layers of an issue and discover the root cause of a problem.
As a problem-solving technique, it enables you to delve into details that you might otherwise overlook and offers a simple, yet powerful, approach to uncover the origin of a problem.
For example, if your task is to find out why a product isn’t selling your first answer might be: “because customers don’t want it”, then you ask why again – “they don’t want it because it doesn’t solve their problem”, then why again – “because the product is missing a certain feature” … and so on, until you get to the root “why”.
30. Gap Analysis
Gap analysis entails comparing current performance with potential or desired performance.
You’re identifying the ‘gaps’, or the differences, between where you are and where you want to be.
In terms of problem-solving, a Gap Analysis can help identify key areas for improvement and design a roadmap of how to get from the current state to the desired one.
31. Design Thinking
Design thinking is a problem-solving approach that involves empathy, experimentation, and iteration.
The process focuses on understanding user needs, challenging assumptions , and redefining problems from a user-centric perspective.
In problem-solving, design thinking uncovers innovative solutions that may not have been initially apparent and ensures the solution is tailored to the needs of those affected by the issue.
32. Analogical Thinking
Analogical thinking involves the transfer of information from a particular subject (the analogue or source) to another particular subject (the target).
In problem-solving, you’re drawing parallels between similar situations and applying the problem-solving techniques used in one situation to the other.
Thus, it allows you to apply proven strategies to new, but related problems.
33. Lateral Thinking
Lateral thinking requires looking at a situation or problem from a unique, sometimes abstract, often non-sequential viewpoint.
Unlike traditional logical thinking methods, lateral thinking encourages you to employ creative and out-of-the-box techniques.
In solving problems, this type of thinking boosts ingenuity and drives innovation, often leading to novel and effective solutions.
Go Deeper: Lateral Thinking Examples
Flowcharting is the process of visually mapping a process or procedure.
This form of diagram can show every step of a system, process, or workflow, enabling an easy tracking of the progress.
As a problem-solving tool, flowcharts help identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies in a process, guiding improved strategies and providing clarity on task ownership and process outcomes.
Multivoting, or N/3 voting, is a method where participants reduce a large list of ideas to a prioritized shortlist by casting multiple votes.
This voting system elevates the most preferred options for further consideration and decision-making.
As a problem-solving technique, multivoting allows a group to narrow options and focus on the most promising solutions, ensuring more effective and democratic decision-making.
36. Force Field Analysis
Force Field Analysis is a decision-making technique that identifies the forces for and against change when contemplating a decision.
The ‘forces’ represent the differing factors that can drive or hinder change.
In problem-solving, Force Field Analysis allows you to understand the entirety of the context, favoring a balanced view over a one-sided perspective. A comprehensive view of all the forces at play can lead to better-informed problem-solving decisions.
TRIZ, which stands for “The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving,” is a problem-solving, analysis, and forecasting methodology.
It focuses on finding contradictions inherent in a scenario. Then, you work toward eliminating the contraditions through finding innovative solutions.
So, when you’re tackling a problem, TRIZ provides a disciplined, systematic approach that aims for ideal solutions and not just acceptable ones. Using TRIZ, you can leverage patterns of problem-solving that have proven effective in different cases, pivoting them to solve the problem at hand.
38. A3 Problem Solving
A3 Problem Solving, derived from Lean Management, is a structured method that uses a single sheet of A3-sized paper to document knowledge from a problem-solving process.
Named after the international paper size standard of A3 (or 11-inch by 17-inch paper), it succinctly records all key details of the problem-solving process from problem description to the root cause and corrective actions.
Used in problem-solving, this provides a straightforward and logical structure for addressing the problem, facilitating communication between team members, ensuring all critical details are included, and providing a record of decisions made.
39. Scenario Analysis
Scenario Analysis is all about predicting different possible future events depending upon your decision.
To do this, you look at each course of action and try to identify the most likely outcomes or scenarios down the track if you take that course of action.
This technique helps forecast the impacts of various strategies, playing each out to their (logical or potential) end. It’s a good strategy for project managers who need to keep a firm eye on the horizon at all times.
When solving problems, Scenario Analysis assists in preparing for uncertainties, making sure your solution remains viable, regardless of changes in circumstances.
How to Answer “Demonstrate Problem-Solving Skills” in an Interview
When asked to demonstrate your problem-solving skills in an interview, the STAR method often proves useful. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result.
Situation: Begin by describing a specific circumstance or challenge you encountered. Make sure to provide enough detail to allow the interviewer a clear understanding. You should select an event that adequately showcases your problem-solving abilities.
For instance, “In my previous role as a project manager, we faced a significant issue when our key supplier abruptly went out of business.”
Task: Explain what your responsibilities were in that situation. This serves to provide context, allowing the interviewer to understand your role and the expectations placed upon you.
For instance, “It was my task to ensure the project remained on track despite this setback. Alternative suppliers needed to be found without sacrificing quality or significantly increasing costs.”
Action: Describe the steps you took to manage the problem. Highlight your problem-solving process. Mention any creative approaches or techniques that you used.
For instance, “I conducted thorough research to identify potential new suppliers. After creating a shortlist, I initiated contact, negotiated terms, assessed samples for quality and made a selection. I also worked closely with the team to re-adjust the project timeline.”
Result: Share the outcomes of your actions. How did the situation end? Did your actions lead to success? It’s particularly effective if you can quantify these results.
For instance, “As a result of my active problem solving, we were able to secure a new supplier whose costs were actually 10% cheaper and whose quality was comparable. We adjusted the project plan and managed to complete the project just two weeks later than originally planned, despite the major vendor setback.”
Remember, when you’re explaining your problem-solving skills to an interviewer, what they’re really interested in is your approach to handling difficulties, your creativity and persistence in seeking a resolution, and your ability to carry your solution through to fruition. Tailoring your story to highlight these aspects will help exemplify your problem-solving prowess.
Go Deeper: STAR Interview Method Examples
Benefits of Problem-Solving
Problem-solving is beneficial for the following reasons (among others):
- It can help you to overcome challenges, roadblocks, and bottlenecks in your life.
- It can save a company money.
- It can help you to achieve clarity in your thinking.
- It can make procedures more efficient and save time.
- It can strengthen your decision-making capacities.
- It can lead to better risk management.
Whether for a job interview or school, problem-solving helps you to become a better thinking, solve your problems more effectively, and achieve your goals. Build up your problem-solving frameworks (I presented over 40 in this piece for you!) and work on applying them in real-life situations.
Chris Drew (PhD)
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 102 Examples of Social Norms (List)
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 15 Social Environment Examples
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 15 Selective Perception Examples
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ Field Observation (Research Method): Definition and Examples
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10 Problem-solving strategies to turn challenges on their head
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What is an example of problem-solving?
What are the 5 steps to problem-solving, 10 effective problem-solving strategies, what skills do efficient problem solvers have, how to improve your problem-solving skills.
Problems come in all shapes and sizes — from workplace conflict to budget cuts.
Creative problem-solving is one of the most in-demand skills in all roles and industries. It can boost an organization’s human capital and give it a competitive edge.
Problem-solving strategies are ways of approaching problems that can help you look beyond the obvious answers and find the best solution to your problem .
Let’s take a look at a five-step problem-solving process and how to combine it with proven problem-solving strategies. This will give you the tools and skills to solve even your most complex problems.
Good problem-solving is an essential part of the decision-making process . To see what a problem-solving process might look like in real life, let’s take a common problem for SaaS brands — decreasing customer churn rates.
To solve this problem, the company must first identify it. In this case, the problem is that the churn rate is too high.
Next, they need to identify the root causes of the problem. This could be anything from their customer service experience to their email marketing campaigns. If there are several problems, they will need a separate problem-solving process for each one.
Let’s say the problem is with email marketing — they’re not nurturing existing customers. Now that they’ve identified the problem, they can start using problem-solving strategies to look for solutions.
This might look like coming up with special offers, discounts, or bonuses for existing customers. They need to find ways to remind them to use their products and services while providing added value. This will encourage customers to keep paying their monthly subscriptions.
They might also want to add incentives, such as access to a premium service at no extra cost after 12 months of membership. They could publish blog posts that help their customers solve common problems and share them as an email newsletter.
The company should set targets and a time frame in which to achieve them. This will allow leaders to measure progress and identify which actions yield the best results.
Perhaps you’ve got a problem you need to tackle. Or maybe you want to be prepared the next time one arises. Either way, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the five steps of problem-solving.
Use this step-by-step problem-solving method with the strategies in the following section to find possible solutions to your problem.
1. Identify the problem
The first step is to know which problem you need to solve. Then, you need to find the root cause of the problem.
The best course of action is to gather as much data as possible, speak to the people involved, and separate facts from opinions.
Once this is done, formulate a statement that describes the problem. Use rational persuasion to make sure your team agrees .
2. Break the problem down
Identifying the problem allows you to see which steps need to be taken to solve it.
First, break the problem down into achievable blocks. Then, use strategic planning to set a time frame in which to solve the problem and establish a timeline for the completion of each stage.
3. Generate potential solutions
At this stage, the aim isn’t to evaluate possible solutions but to generate as many ideas as possible.
Encourage your team to use creative thinking and be patient — the best solution may not be the first or most obvious one.
Use one or more of the different strategies in the following section to help come up with solutions — the more creative, the better.
4. Evaluate the possible solutions
Once you’ve generated potential solutions, narrow them down to a shortlist. Then, evaluate the options on your shortlist.
There are usually many factors to consider. So when evaluating a solution, ask yourself the following questions:
- Will my team be on board with the proposition?
- Does the solution align with organizational goals ?
- Is the solution likely to achieve the desired outcomes?
- Is the solution realistic and possible with current resources and constraints?
- Will the solution solve the problem without causing additional unintended problems?
5. Implement and monitor the solutions
Once you’ve identified your solution and got buy-in from your team, it’s time to implement it.
But the work doesn’t stop there. You need to monitor your solution to see whether it actually solves your problem.
Request regular feedback from the team members involved and have a monitoring and evaluation plan in place to measure progress.
If the solution doesn’t achieve your desired results, start this step-by-step process again.
There are many different ways to approach problem-solving. Each is suitable for different types of problems.
The most appropriate problem-solving techniques will depend on your specific problem. You may need to experiment with several strategies before you find a workable solution.
Here are 10 effective problem-solving strategies for you to try:
- Use a solution that worked before
- Work backward
- Use the Kipling method
- Draw the problem
- Use trial and error
- Sleep on it
- Get advice from your peers
- Use the Pareto principle
- Add successful solutions to your toolkit
Let’s break each of these down.
1. Use a solution that worked before
It might seem obvious, but if you’ve faced similar problems in the past, look back to what worked then. See if any of the solutions could apply to your current situation and, if so, replicate them.
The more people you enlist to help solve the problem, the more potential solutions you can come up with.
Use different brainstorming techniques to workshop potential solutions with your team. They’ll likely bring something you haven’t thought of to the table.
3. Work backward
Working backward is a way to reverse engineer your problem. Imagine your problem has been solved, and make that the starting point.
Then, retrace your steps back to where you are now. This can help you see which course of action may be most effective.
4. Use the Kipling method
This is a method that poses six questions based on Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “ I Keep Six Honest Serving Men .”
- What is the problem?
- Why is the problem important?
- When did the problem arise, and when does it need to be solved?
- How did the problem happen?
- Where is the problem occurring?
- Who does the problem affect?
Answering these questions can help you identify possible solutions.
5. Draw the problem
Sometimes it can be difficult to visualize all the components and moving parts of a problem and its solution. Drawing a diagram can help.
This technique is particularly helpful for solving process-related problems. For example, a product development team might want to decrease the time they take to fix bugs and create new iterations. Drawing the processes involved can help you see where improvements can be made.
6. Use trial-and-error
A trial-and-error approach can be useful when you have several possible solutions and want to test them to see which one works best.
7. Sleep on it
Finding the best solution to a problem is a process. Remember to take breaks and get enough rest . Sometimes, a walk around the block can bring inspiration, but you should sleep on it if possible.
A good night’s sleep helps us find creative solutions to problems. This is because when you sleep, your brain sorts through the day’s events and stores them as memories. This enables you to process your ideas at a subconscious level.
If possible, give yourself a few days to develop and analyze possible solutions. You may find you have greater clarity after sleeping on it. Your mind will also be fresh, so you’ll be able to make better decisions.
8. Get advice from your peers
Getting input from a group of people can help you find solutions you may not have thought of on your own.
For solo entrepreneurs or freelancers, this might look like hiring a coach or mentor or joining a mastermind group.
For leaders , it might be consulting other members of the leadership team or working with a business coach .
It’s important to recognize you might not have all the skills, experience, or knowledge necessary to find a solution alone.
9. Use the Pareto principle
The Pareto principle — also known as the 80/20 rule — can help you identify possible root causes and potential solutions for your problems.
Although it’s not a mathematical law, it’s a principle found throughout many aspects of business and life. For example, 20% of the sales reps in a company might close 80% of the sales.
You may be able to narrow down the causes of your problem by applying the Pareto principle. This can also help you identify the most appropriate solutions.
10. Add successful solutions to your toolkit
Every situation is different, and the same solutions might not always work. But by keeping a record of successful problem-solving strategies, you can build up a solutions toolkit.
These solutions may be applicable to future problems. Even if not, they may save you some of the time and work needed to come up with a new solution.
Improving problem-solving skills is essential for professional development — both yours and your team’s. Here are some of the key skills of effective problem solvers:
- Critical thinking and analytical skills
- Communication skills , including active listening
- Planning and prioritization
- Emotional intelligence , including empathy and emotional regulation
- Time management
- Data analysis
- Research skills
- Project management
And they see problems as opportunities. Everyone is born with problem-solving skills. But accessing these abilities depends on how we view problems. Effective problem-solvers see problems as opportunities to learn and improve.
Ready to work on your problem-solving abilities? Get started with these seven tips.
1. Build your problem-solving skills
One of the best ways to improve your problem-solving skills is to learn from experts. Consider enrolling in organizational training , shadowing a mentor , or working with a coach .
Practice using your new problem-solving skills by applying them to smaller problems you might encounter in your daily life.
Alternatively, imagine problematic scenarios that might arise at work and use problem-solving strategies to find hypothetical solutions.
3. Don’t try to find a solution right away
Often, the first solution you think of to solve a problem isn’t the most appropriate or effective.
Instead of thinking on the spot, give yourself time and use one or more of the problem-solving strategies above to activate your creative thinking.
4. Ask for feedback
Receiving feedback is always important for learning and growth. Your perception of your problem-solving skills may be different from that of your colleagues. They can provide insights that help you improve.
5. Learn new approaches and methodologies
There are entire books written about problem-solving methodologies if you want to take a deep dive into the subject.
We recommend starting with “ Fixed — How to Perfect the Fine Art of Problem Solving ” by Amy E. Herman.
Tried-and-tested problem-solving techniques can be useful. However, they don’t teach you how to innovate and develop your own problem-solving approaches.
Sometimes, an unconventional approach can lead to the development of a brilliant new idea or strategy. So don’t be afraid to suggest your most “out there” ideas.
7. Analyze the success of your competitors
Do you have competitors who have already solved the problem you’re facing? Look at what they did, and work backward to solve your own problem.
For example, Netflix started in the 1990s as a DVD mail-rental company. Its main competitor at the time was Blockbuster.
But when streaming became the norm in the early 2000s, both companies faced a crisis. Netflix innovated, unveiling its streaming service in 2007.
If Blockbuster had followed Netflix’s example, it might have survived. Instead, it declared bankruptcy in 2010.
Use problem-solving strategies to uplevel your business
When facing a problem, it’s worth taking the time to find the right solution.
Otherwise, we risk either running away from our problems or headlong into solutions. When we do this, we might miss out on other, better options.
Use the problem-solving strategies outlined above to find innovative solutions to your business’ most perplexing problems.
If you’re ready to take problem-solving to the next level, request a demo with BetterUp . Our expert coaches specialize in helping teams develop and implement strategies that work.
Content Marketing Manager, ACC
8 creative solutions to your most challenging problems
31 examples of problem solving performance review phrases, 5 problem-solving questions to prepare you for your next interview, what is lateral thinking 7 techniques to encourage creative ideas, can dreams help you solve problems 6 ways to try, effective problem statements have these 5 components, 3 ways to solve your performance management problems, impression management: developing your self-presentation skills, adjusting your vision for 2022, similar articles, the pareto principle: how the 80/20 rule can help you do more with less, thinking outside the box: 8 ways to become a creative problem solver, how to not be nervous for a presentation — 13 tips that work (really), contingency planning: 4 steps to prepare for the unexpected, how to improve your creative skills for effective problem-solving, stay connected with betterup, get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research..
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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.
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
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.
During each step, you may find it helpful to utilize various problem-solving techniques, such as:
- Brainstorming : A free-flowing, open-minded session where ideas are generated and listed without judgment, to encourage creativity and innovative thinking.
- Root cause analysis : A method that explores the underlying causes of a problem to find the most effective solution rather than addressing superficial symptoms.
- SWOT analysis : A tool used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to a problem or decision, providing a comprehensive view of the situation.
- Mind mapping : A visual technique that uses diagrams to organize and connect ideas, helping to identify patterns, relationships, and possible solutions.
When facing a problem, start by conducting a brainstorming session. Gather your team and encourage an open discussion where everyone contributes ideas, no matter how outlandish they may seem. This helps you:
- Generate a diverse range of solutions
- Encourage all team members to participate
- Foster creative thinking
When brainstorming, remember to:
- Reserve judgment until the session is over
- Encourage wild ideas
- Combine and improve upon ideas
Root Cause Analysis
For effective problem-solving, identifying the root cause of the issue at hand is crucial. Try these methods:
- 5 Whys : Ask “why” five times to get to the underlying cause.
- Fishbone Diagram : Create a diagram representing the problem and break it down into categories of potential causes.
- Pareto Analysis : Determine the few most significant causes underlying the majority of problems.
SWOT analysis 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.
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.
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From Dilemmas to Solutions: Problem-Solving Examples to Learn From
- October 14, 2023
Introduction to Problem-Solving
Life is full of challenges and dilemmas, both big and small. But if there’s one skill that can help you navigate these, it’s problem-solving . So, what exactly is problem-solving? And why is it such a crucial skill in daily life?
Understanding the Concept of Problem-Solving
Problem-solving is a mental process that involves identifying, analyzing, and resolving challenges or difficulties. It’s like a journey that starts with a problem and ends with a solution. It’s a skill that’s not just used in the field of psychology but in all aspects of life. Whether you’re trying to decide on the best route to work, dealing with a disagreement with a friend, or figuring out how to fix a leaky faucet, you’re using your problem-solving skills.
When you’re faced with a problem, your brain goes through a series of steps to find a solution. This process can be conscious or unconscious and can involve logical thinking, creativity, and prior knowledge. Effective problem-solving can lead to better decisions and outcomes, making it a valuable tool in your personal and professional life.
Importance of Problem-Solving in Daily Life
Why is problem-solving so important in daily life? Well, it’s simple. Problems are a part of life. They arise in different shapes and sizes, and in different areas of life, including work, relationships, health, and personal growth. Having strong problem-solving skills can help you navigate these challenges effectively and efficiently.
In your personal life, problem-solving can help you manage stress and conflict, make better decisions, and achieve your goals. In the workplace, it can help you navigate complex projects, improve processes, and foster innovation. Problem-solving is also a key skill in many professions and industries, from engineering and science to healthcare and customer service.
Moreover, problem-solving can contribute to your overall mental well-being. It can give you a sense of control and agency, reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and foster a positive attitude. It’s also a key component of resilience, the ability to bounce back from adversity.
In conclusion, problem-solving is a fundamental skill in life. It’s a tool you can use to tackle challenges, make informed decisions, and drive change. By understanding the concept of problem-solving and recognizing its importance in daily life, you’re taking the first step toward becoming a more effective problem solver. As we delve deeper into this topic, you’ll discover practical problem-solving examples, learn about different problem-solving techniques, and gain insights on how to improve your own problem-solving skills. So, stay tuned and continue your exploration of introduction to psychology with us.
Stages of Problem-Solving
The process of problem-solving can be broken down into three key stages: identifying the problem , developing possible solutions , and implementing the best solution . Each stage requires a different set of skills and strategies. By understanding these stages, you can enhance your problem-solving abilities and tackle various challenges more effectively.
Identifying the Problem
The first step in problem-solving is recognizing that a problem exists. This involves defining the issue clearly and understanding its root cause. You might need to gather information, ask questions, and analyze the situation from multiple perspectives. It can be helpful to write down the problem and think about how it impacts you or others involved.
For instance, if you’re struggling with time management, the problem might be that you have too many obligations and not enough time. Or perhaps your methods of organizing your tasks aren’t effective. It’s important to be as specific as possible when identifying the problem, as this will guide the rest of the problem-solving process.
Developing Possible Solutions
Once you’ve identified the problem, the next step is to brainstorm possible solutions. This is where creativity comes into play. Don’t limit yourself; even ideas that seem unrealistic or out of the box can lead to effective solutions.
Consider different strategies and approaches. You could try using techniques like mind mapping, listing pros and cons, or consulting with others for fresh perspectives. Remember, the goal is to generate a variety of options, not to choose a solution at this stage.
Implementing the Best Solution
The final stage of problem-solving is to select the best solution and put it into action. Review the options you’ve developed, evaluate their potential effectiveness, and make a decision. Keep in mind that the “best” solution isn’t necessarily the perfect one (as there might not be a perfect solution), but rather the one that seems most likely to achieve your desired outcome given the circumstances.
Once you’ve chosen a solution, plan out the steps needed to implement it and then take action. Monitor the results and adjust your approach as necessary. If the problem persists, don’t be discouraged; return to the previous stages, reassess the problem and your potential solutions, and try again.
Remember, problem-solving is a dynamic process that often involves trial and error. It’s an essential skill in many areas of life, from everyday challenges to workplace dilemmas. To learn more about the psychology behind problem-solving and decision-making, check out our introduction to psychology article.
Understanding the concept of problem-solving is one thing, but seeing it in action is another. To help you grasp the practical application of problem-solving strategies, let’s explore three different problem-solving examples from daily life, the workplace, and relationships.
Daily Life Problem-Solving Example
Imagine you’re trying to lose weight but struggle with late-night snacking. The issue isn’t uncommon, but it’s hindering your progress towards your weight loss goal.
- Identifying the Problem : Late-night snacking is causing you to consume extra calories, preventing weight loss.
- Developing Possible Solutions : You could consider eating an earlier dinner, having a healthier snack option, or practicing mindful eating.
- Implementing the Best Solution : After trying out different solutions, you find that preparing a healthy snack in advance minimizes your calorie intake and satisfies your late-night cravings, helping you stay on track with your weight loss goal.
Workplace Problem-Solving Example
Let’s consider a scenario where a team at work is failing to meet project deadlines consistently.
- Identifying the Problem : The team is not completing projects on time, causing delays in the overall project timeline.
- Developing Possible Solutions : The team could consider improving their time management skills, using project management tools, or redistributing tasks among team members.
- Implementing the Best Solution : After trying out different strategies, the team finds that using a project management tool helps them stay organized, delegate tasks effectively, and complete projects within the given timeframe.
For more insights on effective management styles that can help in problem-solving at the workplace, check out our articles on autocratic leadership , democratic leadership style , and laissez faire leadership .
Relationship Problem-Solving Example
In a romantic relationship, conflicts can occasionally arise. Let’s imagine a common issue where one partner feels the other isn’t spending enough quality time with them.
- Identifying the Problem : One partner feels neglected due to a lack of quality time spent together.
- Developing Possible Solutions : The couple could consider scheduling regular date nights, engaging in shared hobbies, or setting aside a specific time each day for undisturbed conversation.
- Implementing the Best Solution : The couple decides to implement a daily “unplugged” hour where they focus solely on each other without distractions. This results in improved relationship satisfaction.
For more on navigating relationship challenges, check out our articles on anxious avoidant attachment and emotional awareness .
These problem-solving examples illustrate how the process of identifying a problem, developing possible solutions, and implementing the best solution can be applied to various situations. By understanding and applying these strategies, you can improve your problem-solving skills and navigate challenges more effectively.
Techniques for Effective Problem-Solving
As you navigate the world of problem-solving, you’ll find that there are multiple techniques you can use to arrive at a solution. Each technique offers a unique approach to identifying issues, generating potential solutions, and choosing the best course of action. In this section, we’ll explore three common techniques: Brainstorming , Root Cause Analysis , and SWOT Analysis .
Brainstorming is a free-thinking method used to generate a large number of ideas related to a specific problem. You do this by suspending criticism and allowing your creativity to flow. The aim is to produce as many ideas as possible, even if they seem far-fetched. You then evaluate these ideas to identify the most beneficial solutions. By using brainstorming, you can encourage out-of-the-box thinking and possibly discover innovative solutions to challenging problems.
Root Cause Analysis
Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a method used to identify the underlying causes of a problem. The goal is to address these root causes rather than the symptoms of the problem. This technique helps to prevent the same issue from recurring in the future. There are several RCA methods, such as the “5 Whys” technique, where you ask “why” multiple times until you uncover the root cause of the problem. By identifying and addressing the root cause, you tackle the problem at its source, which can lead to more effective and long-lasting solutions.
SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning technique that helps you identify your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats related to a problem. This approach encourages you to examine the problem from different angles, helping you understand the resources you have at your disposal (Strengths), the areas where you could improve (Weaknesses), the external factors that could benefit you (Opportunities), and the external factors that could cause problems (Threats). With this comprehensive understanding, you can develop a well-informed strategy to solve the problem.
Each of these problem-solving techniques provides a distinct approach to identifying and resolving issues. By understanding and utilizing these methods, you can enhance your problem-solving skills and increase your effectiveness in dealing with challenges. For more insights into effective problem-solving and other psychological topics, explore our introduction to psychology .
Improving Your Problem-Solving Skills
Learning to solve problems effectively is a skill that can be honed with time and practice. The following are some ways to enhance your problem-solving capabilities.
Practice Makes Perfect
The saying “practice makes perfect” holds true when it comes to problem-solving. The more problems you tackle, the better you’ll become at devising and implementing effective solutions. Seek out opportunities to practice your problem-solving skills both in everyday life and in more complex situations. This could involve resolving a dispute at work, figuring out a puzzle, or even strategizing in a board game. Each problem you encounter is a new opportunity to apply and refine your skills.
Learning from Others’ Experiences
There’s much to be gained from observing how others approach problem-solving. Whether it’s reading about problem solving examples from renowned psychologists or discussing strategies with colleagues, you can learn valuable techniques and perspectives from the experiences of others. Consider participating in group activities that require problem-solving, such as escape rooms or team projects. Observe how team members identify problems, brainstorm solutions, and decide on the best course of action.
Embracing a Growth Mindset
A key component of effective problem-solving is adopting a growth mindset. This mindset, coined by psychologist Carol Dweck, is the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work. When you embrace a growth mindset, you view challenges as opportunities to learn and grow rather than as insurmountable obstacles.
Believing in your ability to develop and enhance your problem-solving skills over time can make the process less daunting and more rewarding. So, when you encounter a problem, instead of thinking, “I can’t do this,” try thinking, “I can’t do this yet, but with effort and practice, I can learn.”
For more on the growth mindset, you might want to check out our article on what is intrinsic motivation which includes how a growth mindset can fuel your motivation to improve.
By practicing regularly, learning from others, and embracing a growth mindset, you can continually improve your problem-solving skills and become more adept at overcoming challenges you encounter.
Daria Burnett is an author and numerologist. She has written several books on numerology and astrology, including the recent Amazon bestseller " Angel Numbers Explained ."
Daria has also been studying astrology, the Tarot, and natural healing practices for many years, and has written widely on these topics.
She is a gifted intuitive who is able to help her clients make the best choices for their lives. She has a deep understanding of spirituality, and uses her knowledge to help others find their true purpose in life.
You can also find Daria on Twitter , YouTube , Instagram , Facebook , Medium , MuckRack , and Amazon .
Embrace the change: embodying the democratic leadership style, from basics to brilliance: exploring what shaping entails in psychology, embrace your individuality: carl jungs theory of personality revealed.
Art of Problem Solving: 11 Brilliant Problem Solving Methods and Techniques Nobody Taught You
No one likes problems, especially at work. However, they’re part of our everyday work routine. If you take a look at job ads online, many of them will list “problem solvin g techniques” as a necessity for the job role. The truth is that every job in the world requires the art of problem solving.
From managing tasks to managing people, we don’t like feeling stuck, at work or outside of it. The good news is, that there are lots of tried and tested problem solving techniques that you can use to easily solve difficult situations at work or in your personal life.
11 Problem solving methods and techniques
Here are some of those problem solving methods and how you can use them in practice.
Let’s start with the basics. No matter how bad the problem or how serious the situation is, you can do one simple thing: breathe in, breathe out, and let’s begin with the art of problem solving.
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Art of problem solving
Most people get stressed out at the mere mention of a problem. They feel like they need to come up with an answer immediately; they look for someone to blame, and they want a quick and easy exit. All of a sudden, facing a problem becomes a problem of its own.
For this very reason, it’s important to slow down and take a breather. When we are stressed out, we make one critical mistake—we resort to something called binary problem-solving . In other words, we limit our options by trying out proven problem solving techniques instead of something new and more efficient.
For this reason alone, slow down and breathe; you will come up with more ways to tackle a problem.
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Ask great questions
Asking questions is part of the pre-problem-solving stage. When you ask questions, your brain can come up with different scenarios and ways to make a decision. For example, a child will usually ask questions like “What if,” “Why not,” “Can we?,” “How about?” and many others. What rules should you break? Are there any beliefs we should drop? The more questions you ask, the easier it will be to find a solution to your problem.
Don’t just trust yourself
One of the many reasons why problems come up and stay unsolved is because we are too lazy or busy to distance ourselves from them. In other words, we just think from our own perspective instead of zooming out and looking at the bigger picture , where we can utilize our problem solving techniques.
For example, if you’re in our industry (SaaS), you may have a situation where people sign up for your app and disappear after the trial period. Sure, you could try generating more traffic to your website , but there are other things you can do. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- Has my business industry changed?
- Does my app really meet my customers’ needs?
- Does my sales strategy need improvement?
In another scenario, your employee shows up late for work, despite several of your warnings. Before taking any actions, try to understand their perspective and ask yourself the following questions:
- Do they have any non-work-related problems in their life?
- What is (literally) stopping them from getting to work?
- How can I help them with problems solving?
Both situations have one thing in common – they look at the big picture before trying to tackle a specific problem.
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Do some heavy brainstorming to help the problem solving process.
A brainstorming session is one of the most effective ways to learn the art of problem solving. The gist of it is to generate as many ideas as you can and in the problem solving process, come up with a way to solve a problem. Of course, the prerequisite for any brainstorming session is a nonjudgmental, friendly environment.
If you want to brainstorm like a pro, you need to take the following steps:
- HMW or How Might We
Start the session with a question such as “How might we…?” to inspire creativity among your team. The question should be open enough to inspire and foster creativity. However, it should also be focused and narrow enough to keep your session participants focused on the problem at hand.
- Write down everything
Every member of your brainstorming session should write down all of their ideas, either on a board or on sticky notes. Once you have all of your ideas, put them down on a common board. If you are unable to generate sufficient ideas, repeat the session with the same question to master the art of problem solving.
- Discuss your ideas
To discuss each of the ideas you and your team came up with, use phrases like “I like…”, “I wish…”, “What if…”, and others.
- Select the best ideas
Now that you have all of your ideas in one place, it’s time to find the best one. For example, you could let the participants vote using sticky notes. You can also create buckets for ideas, such as “Rational choice”, “The best solution for everyone”, and others.
Using this approach, you’ll be able to save some ideas that at first seem crazy but actually make a lot of sense in the long run.
- Figure out the problem-solving process
At this stage, you have your best brainstorming ideas. This is the time to choose the best ones and come up with a plan on how to bring them to life .
The Round-Robin technique for brainstorming
If traditional brainstorming just doesn’t work for you, there are other things you can try. If your team members sit and listen and hope that someone else will fix things for them, you need to try out the Round-Robin problem-solving method. In simple terms, this technique will require every participant to be actively involved in the brainstorming session. There is a lot of different brainstorming tools and apps .
There are just two rules:
– Participants take turns to contribute ideas, using the option to “pass” if they have nothing to contribute in that round.
– The brainstorming session is over once everyone makes a pass.
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The silent brainstorming technique
The problem with most brainstorming sessions is that the loudest people are the most likely to have their idea chosen as a solution. The quiet ones may have an excellent idea but they just sit around and never have a chance to be heard. You get the feeling that it’s more important to be active and loud than have a great idea.
If you see that happening a lot, maybe it’s time for a silent brainstorming session. You can make it happen online or in the office, the process is the same. The entire team develops ideas on their own and shares them without sitting at the same table. The main idea is that everyone’s opinion has the same weight. If you choose to do it online, it’s actually even easier to come up with a decision.
Six thinking hats
If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, you know the Sorting Hat very well. It’s a hat that students wear and it appoints them to a house in Hogwarts that best matches their personality. Along those lines, there is a technique that Edward de Bono came up with, called The six thinking hats . Using this problem solving technique, you can wear six different hats with six different perspectives.
Here are the hats that you can wear to learn the art of problem solving.
- White hat. This is the neutral hat that uses facts and figures required to solve a problem. When the problem just comes up, this is the hat that you want to wear.
- Red hat. This hat is all about emotion and intuition. When you wear this hat, you can show your gut reactions to ideas and freely express exactly how you feel.
- Black hat. When you want to show caution and express a critical viewpoint, this is the hat you want to wear. The black hat will make sure that you steer clear of bad decisions.
- Yellow hat. When you want to be positive, this hat is the one you should choose. It helps you identify the positive sides of an idea and an excellent counterweight to the black hat.
- Green hat. To explore creativity, possibilities, alternatives and fresh ideas, wear a hat in green. Contributing new ideas and options is crucial, which is why everyone should wear a green hat.
- Blue hat. This is the hat that organizes all others. This is the person that manages the entire decision-making process and makes sure that all other hats follow the rules and guidelines.
The six thinking hats problem-solving process is excellent because it lets you see the same problem from several different angles, very quickly and easily.
When you quickly want to get to the root of a problem, try out this technique. All you need to do is ask the question “Why” five times. Start with the problem at hand and ask why it happened, making sure that your answer is objective. Continue asking “Why” for four more times. At some point, you’ll reach the true answer to your question and you can start looking for a solution.
The biggest challenge with this technique is giving rational, objective answers to each “why”. Fight the urge to answer from your own point of you. Instead, think of the logical reason why something happened. Remember, admitting that you don’t know something is far better than giving an answer that is subjective.
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Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)
Want to solve problems like the big boys at Chrysler, Ford and General Motors? This advanced problem solving process lets you solve problems easily. You can use it to analyze each element of your strategy and tear it apart to see how and when it can fail. By looking into the effect of each failure and how likely it is to happen, you’ll get to the best problem solving techniques. In the end, come up with a list of actions to take to prevent each of the failures you listed in the previous steps.
The wanderer problem-solving technique
When I write articles such as this one, I have one way to make them better. Once they’re done, I let them sit for a day without taking a look at them. When I get back to the article, I take a look at it with a fresh set of eyes.
You can use the same approach with your problems. Take a step back and walk away from it. Get some rest, walk outside for a bit, watch some cat videos on YouTube. In other words, remove yourself from the situation. You just may find the answer to your problem the moment your brain relaxes.
Leave room for imagination
If nothing I listed above helps you solve a problem, this is the time to get creative. If you have a way to problem solving outside of work, it may be a good idea to apply it at work too.
For example, there is an extreme case of Yoshiro Nakamotso. The name may not sound familiar, but you probably used one of this man’s patents today. He has more than 3,300 patents to his name, including a digital wristwatch, karaoke machine, a floppy disk, and many others. He came up with a crazy problem-solving technique called The Calm Room.
His Calm Room is actually a bathroom filled with 24-karat gold. This material blocks radio waves and TV signals which according to him are harmful to solving problems. He also considers oxygen to be detrimental to problem-solving . Apparently, too much oxygen means that there will be an inspiration and this is his idea of using imagination for problem-solving.
You can try and use the Calm Room method for solving problems or you can find other ways that let you use your imagination instead of cold, hard facts to solve an issue at work.
What problem solving method is best for you?
The most important point to remember is that problems happen all the time and they will keep happening. Moreover, if a problem happens at work, it will also give us information on things we need to fix. The goal of each of the problem solving process mentioned is to make your company more open to friendly conflicts and open problem-solving.
To summarize, the following are the key takea ways from these problem-solving techniques.
– Keep calm and avoid high and dry approaches to problem solving
– Ask great questions, a lot of them
– Take a look at the bigger picture and the overall context of a situation
– Try out unconventional brainstorming techniques: Round-Robin and silent brainstorming
– Wear each of the Six thinking hats to take a look at different approaches to a problem solving
– Ask the 5 Whys
– Prevent any potential problems with the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis
– Leave some room for imagination at the end.
Depending on the context, you may use one or more of these problem-solving process – make sure to choose one that works best for your situation, team and personality. Good luck!
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This is a very good article. I find it useful for my adult learners.
Hi Antonette. We try our best to be useful for our readers. Glad you enjoyed reading this post.
I find this to be very resourceful both personal use and grooming future managers as they develop their skills.
Thanks for this great work.
Hey Daniel! Nice to hear your feedback, we’ll do our best to keep on writing good post.
The article is no doubt useful . I observed that many people at the higher management level are afraid to accept the true cause of the problem as they fear of action against them. As management strategy there has to be a rule that any body accepting truth should not be punished on the contrary he must be empowered to solve the problem at his level only. Many problems can be solved the moment you accept the truth. I have solved many problems by using this theory during my 32 years of service in the engineering management field.
This article was very , Very , very much helpful for my college assignment. I’d say thanks trillion times to you 🙂
Hello Pruthviraj, that’s so great to hear! Thank you.
This is a very depth and resourceful article.
Very useful topic which countians very important tips for solving problems.
Thanks and keep up the good work.
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26 Good Examples of Problem Solving (Interview Answers)
By Biron Clark
Published: October 31, 2023
Employers like to hire people who can solve problems and work well under pressure. A job rarely goes 100% according to plan, so hiring managers will be more likely to hire you if you seem like you can handle unexpected challenges while staying calm and logical in your approach.
But how do they measure this?
They’re going to ask you interview questions about these problem solving skills, and they might also look for examples of problem solving on your resume and cover letter. So coming up, I’m going to share a list of examples of problem solving, whether you’re an experienced job seeker or recent graduate.
Then I’ll share sample interview answers to, “Give an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem?”
It is the ability to identify the problem, prioritize based on gravity and urgency, analyze the root cause, gather relevant information, develop and evaluate viable solutions, decide on the most effective and logical solution, and plan and execute implementation.
Problem-solving also involves critical thinking, communication , listening, creativity, research, data gathering, risk assessment, continuous learning, decision-making, and other soft and technical skills.
Solving problems not only prevent losses or damages but also boosts self-confidence and reputation when you successfully execute it. The spotlight shines on you when people see you handle issues with ease and savvy despite the challenges. Your ability and potential to be a future leader that can take on more significant roles and tackle bigger setbacks shine through. Problem-solving is a skill you can master by learning from others and acquiring wisdom from their and your own experiences.
It takes a village to come up with solutions, but a good problem solver can steer the team towards the best choice and implement it to achieve the desired result.
Watch: 26 Good Examples of Problem Solving
Examples of problem solving scenarios in the workplace.
- Correcting a mistake at work, whether it was made by you or someone else
- Overcoming a delay at work through problem solving and communication
- Resolving an issue with a difficult or upset customer
- Overcoming issues related to a limited budget, and still delivering good work through the use of creative problem solving
- Overcoming a scheduling/staffing shortage in the department to still deliver excellent work
- Troubleshooting and resolving technical issues
- Handling and resolving a conflict with a coworker
- Solving any problems related to money, customer billing, accounting and bookkeeping, etc.
- Taking initiative when another team member overlooked or missed something important
- Taking initiative to meet with your superior to discuss a problem before it became potentially worse
- Solving a safety issue at work or reporting the issue to those who could solve it
- Using problem solving abilities to reduce/eliminate a company expense
- Finding a way to make the company more profitable through new service or product offerings, new pricing ideas, promotion and sale ideas, etc.
- Changing how a process, team, or task is organized to make it more efficient
- Using creative thinking to come up with a solution that the company hasn’t used before
- Performing research to collect data and information to find a new solution to a problem
- Boosting a company or team’s performance by improving some aspect of communication among employees
- Finding a new piece of data that can guide a company’s decisions or strategy better in a certain area
Problem Solving Examples for Recent Grads/Entry Level Job Seekers
- Coordinating work between team members in a class project
- Reassigning a missing team member’s work to other group members in a class project
- Adjusting your workflow on a project to accommodate a tight deadline
- Speaking to your professor to get help when you were struggling or unsure about a project
- Asking classmates, peers, or professors for help in an area of struggle
- Talking to your academic advisor to brainstorm solutions to a problem you were facing
- Researching solutions to an academic problem online, via Google or other methods
- Using problem solving and creative thinking to obtain an internship or other work opportunity during school after struggling at first
You can share all of the examples above when you’re asked questions about problem solving in your interview. As you can see, even if you have no professional work experience, it’s possible to think back to problems and unexpected challenges that you faced in your studies and discuss how you solved them.
Interview Answers to “Give an Example of an Occasion When You Used Logic to Solve a Problem”
Now, let’s look at some sample interview answers to, “Give me an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem,” since you’re likely to hear this interview question in all sorts of industries.
Example Answer 1:
At my current job, I recently solved a problem where a client was upset about our software pricing. They had misunderstood the sales representative who explained pricing originally, and when their package renewed for its second month, they called to complain about the invoice. I apologized for the confusion and then spoke to our billing team to see what type of solution we could come up with. We decided that the best course of action was to offer a long-term pricing package that would provide a discount. This not only solved the problem but got the customer to agree to a longer-term contract, which means we’ll keep their business for at least one year now, and they’re happy with the pricing. I feel I got the best possible outcome and the way I chose to solve the problem was effective.
Example Answer 2:
In my last job, I had to do quite a bit of problem solving related to our shift scheduling. We had four people quit within a week and the department was severely understaffed. I coordinated a ramp-up of our hiring efforts, I got approval from the department head to offer bonuses for overtime work, and then I found eight employees who were willing to do overtime this month. I think the key problem solving skills here were taking initiative, communicating clearly, and reacting quickly to solve this problem before it became an even bigger issue.
Example Answer 3:
In my current marketing role, my manager asked me to come up with a solution to our declining social media engagement. I assessed our current strategy and recent results, analyzed what some of our top competitors were doing, and then came up with an exact blueprint we could follow this year to emulate our best competitors but also stand out and develop a unique voice as a brand. I feel this is a good example of using logic to solve a problem because it was based on analysis and observation of competitors, rather than guessing or quickly reacting to the situation without reliable data. I always use logic and data to solve problems when possible. The project turned out to be a success and we increased our social media engagement by an average of 82% by the end of the year.
Answering Questions About Problem Solving with the STAR Method
When you answer interview questions about problem solving scenarios, or if you decide to demonstrate your problem solving skills in a cover letter (which is a good idea any time the job description mention problem solving as a necessary skill), I recommend using the STAR method to tell your story.
STAR stands for:
It’s a simple way of walking the listener or reader through the story in a way that will make sense to them. So before jumping in and talking about the problem that needed solving, make sure to describe the general situation. What job/company were you working at? When was this? Then, you can describe the task at hand and the problem that needed solving. After this, describe the course of action you chose and why. Ideally, show that you evaluated all the information you could given the time you had, and made a decision based on logic and fact.
Finally, describe a positive result you got.
Whether you’re answering interview questions about problem solving or writing a cover letter, you should only choose examples where you got a positive result and successfully solved the issue.
Situation : We had an irate client who was a social media influencer and had impossible delivery time demands we could not meet. She spoke negatively about us in her vlog and asked her followers to boycott our products. (Task : To develop an official statement to explain our company’s side, clarify the issue, and prevent it from getting out of hand). Action : I drafted a statement that balanced empathy, understanding, and utmost customer service with facts, logic, and fairness. It was direct, simple, succinct, and phrased to highlight our brand values while addressing the issue in a logical yet sensitive way. We also tapped our influencer partners to subtly and indirectly share their positive experiences with our brand so we could counter the negative content being shared online. Result : We got the results we worked for through proper communication and a positive and strategic campaign. The irate client agreed to have a dialogue with us. She apologized to us, and we reaffirmed our commitment to delivering quality service to all. We assured her that she can reach out to us anytime regarding her purchases and that we’d gladly accommodate her requests whenever possible. She also retracted her negative statements in her vlog and urged her followers to keep supporting our brand.
What Are Good Outcomes of Problem Solving?
Whenever you answer interview questions about problem solving or share examples of problem solving in a cover letter, you want to be sure you’re sharing a positive outcome.
Below are good outcomes of problem solving:
- Saving the company time or money
- Making the company money
- Pleasing/keeping a customer
- Obtaining new customers
- Solving a safety issue
- Solving a staffing/scheduling issue
- Solving a logistical issue
- Solving a company hiring issue
- Solving a technical/software issue
- Making a process more efficient and faster for the company
- Creating a new business process to make the company more profitable
- Improving the company’s brand/image/reputation
- Getting the company positive reviews from customers/clients
Every employer wants to make more money, save money, and save time. If you can assess your problem solving experience and think about how you’ve helped past employers in those three areas, then that’s a great start. That’s where I recommend you begin looking for stories of times you had to solve problems.
Tips to Improve Your Problem Solving Skills
Throughout your career, you’re going to get hired for better jobs and earn more money if you can show employers that you’re a problem solver. So to improve your problem solving skills, I recommend always analyzing a problem and situation before acting. When discussing problem solving with employers, you never want to sound like you rush or make impulsive decisions. They want to see fact-based or data-based decisions when you solve problems.
Next, to get better at solving problems, analyze the outcomes of past solutions you came up with. You can recognize what works and what doesn’t. Think about how you can get better at researching and analyzing a situation, but also how you can get better at communicating, deciding the right people in the organization to talk to and “pull in” to help you if needed, etc.
Finally, practice staying calm even in stressful situations. Take a few minutes to walk outside if needed. Step away from your phone and computer to clear your head. A work problem is rarely so urgent that you cannot take five minutes to think (with the possible exception of safety problems), and you’ll get better outcomes if you solve problems by acting logically instead of rushing to react in a panic.
You can use all of the ideas above to describe your problem solving skills when asked interview questions about the topic. If you say that you do the things above, employers will be impressed when they assess your problem solving ability.
If you practice the tips above, you’ll be ready to share detailed, impressive stories and problem solving examples that will make hiring managers want to offer you the job. Every employer appreciates a problem solver, whether solving problems is a requirement listed on the job description or not. And you never know which hiring manager or interviewer will ask you about a time you solved a problem, so you should always be ready to discuss this when applying for a job.
Related interview questions & answers:
- How do you handle stress?
- How do you handle conflict?
- Tell me about a time when you failed
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Problem Solving Methods | Steps, Process, Examples
What is problem-solving?
What is the problem-solving approach?
What is problem solving skills, what are the 5 steps in problem-solving methods.
- Find out the Solution
- Implement the Solution
- Monitoring, Analysis, and Evaluation of Solution
Types of Problem Solving:
- Corrective Action
- Preventive Action
Problem Solving Methods:
- PDCA - Cycle
- DMAIC Method
 PDCA - Cycle:
 DMAIC Method:
 8D Method:
- Create a Team & Collect Information
- Describe the_Problem
- Interim Containment Actions
- Root Cause Analysis
- Define the possible corrective actions
- Implement corrective actions
- Define actions to avoid recurrence
- Congratulate the Team
 A3 Method:
- Clarify the issue
- Break down the issue
- Set the Target
- Analyze the root cause
- Develop countermeasure
- See Countermeasure
- Evaluate results & Processes
- Standardize Success
Comparison of Various Methods:
Great article. I would add a 5th type of solution as it is a key element of reducing the impact of the issue - that being containment. Whilst it is by no means the long term solution but may take the form of short-term interim solutions with a minimum additional spend or resource required - such as a quality wall or reinspection and rework of potentially affected items.
Thank you for your valuable input
well explained.love it
Please add 3L5Y tool which is also majorly used for problem resolution .
Thanks for your suggestion we will do needful.
3L5Y helps in deep 5why analysis: specific - detection - systemic [[email protected]]
Great page!, please add 3L5Y tool. actualy is majorly used in manufacturing process
Thank you for your feedback we will work on that.
Nicely explained. Easy to understand
Thanks for your kind word!!!
Very useful and well explained information, only one detail, is Deming Cycle like his creator William Edwards Deming. I love your site!
Thanks for your feedback and kind words!!!
Great post. Its very important for learning.
Thanks for your kind feedback
Hi Nikunj, Where do you get these Materials please? Really these are easy to understand and you are doing a great job.hatsoff to you.
Thanks for your kind words!!!
Hi Nikunj Where do you get these materials please ? These are easy to understand, you are doing really great job. Keep it up.
Any chance to provide your pdf google cloud library?
As of now we are working on that we will share further details
Dear Sir, It is great work you are doing especially for young Engineers, who strive to have strong industrial foundation in the beginning. Also, this is helping in great extent for individuals who strive to train their down the line team. This is great initiative from your side in line with "Atmanirbar". Wishing you and your entire Team Happy New Year, young India expects further more from you.
Thank you very mech for your kind words for us. This energy motivates to our team. Once again thank you very much for your time and sharing valuable feedback!!!
This is very helpful information, through this our industrial knowledge is increasing and specially for who loves to provide precised output for customer satisfaction.
Thank you very much for your kind words!!!
Very Good work Nikunj, keep it up. Very helpful and simple presentations
Thanks for your kind words and happy learning!!!
Thanks so much for your sharing and it is valuable to us much more. We show our gratitude if you have pdf file and can share. We just want to save in computer and read your meaning lessons. Thank you
Great Job.!! Thanks for sharing
You are most welcome and Happy Learning!!!
Very useful information
PDCA is also called Deming Cycle - not Daming Cycle as mentioned above, please correct it - improvement model was first introduced to Dr. Deming by his mentor, Walter Shewhart of the famous Bell Laboratories in New York
Thank you very much for your observation and improve our content. We have updated the same.
What great article for businesses
Thanks for your kind word.
Thank you, great article!
You are most welcome!!
There are some similarities between 3A vs 8D, could you give me some tips to use 2 these kinds of problem solving 3A vs 8D
I love it! Great stuff!!
I can not adding what's up group.
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Frontiers for Young Minds
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Can We Improve Problem Solving by Nurturing Creativity?
Did you ever face a problem you needed to solve? Most of us face such problems daily—for example, finding the shortest route to school, locating the source of a bad smell, fixing a broken home appliance, or settling a disagreement. Problem solving is an essential life skill. Problem solving is also a creative process, and creativity is considered an important life skill, too. In this study, we tested whether we could improve problem solving among teenagers by increasing their creativity using a simple method. We found that we could improve participants’ creativity, and that this led to improved problem-solving ability.
The Importance of Problem Solving
Problem solving is an important part of our lives. We all solve problems every day. You probably face many problems in school. Some of these problems relate to the stuff you learn, for example, how to complete the assignment the teacher gave you, how to recognize parts of speech in a sentence or properties of a matter, or how to memorize historical facts. However, you probably face many other types of problems, too—such as how to play with as many of your friends as possible during recess, how to cope with upsetting situations with other students, or how to get home by the shortest route.
In addition, children, teens, and adults face many problems that are not related to school—for example, how to fix a broken appliance, how to trace the source of a bad smell, how to settle a disagreement, or how to plan a fun family trip. Overall, problem solving is considered a key life skill that everybody needs to master.
What Is Creativity?
Creativity is somewhat difficult to define. First, it is important to know that creativity is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and improved. It is not something that you are either born with or not. Scientists know this for sure after decades of studying creativity among various populations. Second, it should be clearly noted that creativity applies to all aspects of life and not just to the arts. Many people are creative in what they do, even if they are teachers, mathematicians, mechanics, pediatricians, or programmers. Furthermore, creativity can be shown in everyday activities, like playing (especially when pretending), cooking, or debating a topic with others.
With that in mind, creativity is traditionally defined as producing something that is both new and useful [ 1 ]. Imagine trying to bake a creative cake for a school contest. If your recipe is original (new) but the result is inedible (not useful), then your cake is not creative. On the other hand, if the cake looks or tastes amazing (useful) but the recipe is someone else’s (not new), your cake is also not creative. For your cake to be considered creative, it should be both based on an original (new) recipe and it should be edible (useful).
How Can You Measure Creativity?
Most people can appreciate that something is creative when they see or hear it, but how can we measure just how creative something is? This is a critical issue when we want to study creativity and test whether it has changed. One of the common ways to measure creativity is by giving a creativity test, and then calculating a few values to get the results. In the test that we used, called Torrance’s Test for Creative Thinking [ 2 ], the test page consists of 12 identical empty circles. The person taking the test is asked to draw as many drawings as possible using the circles as part of them, in just a few minutes. So, one circle can be turned into a pizza pie, another circle can be turned into an emoji, and another into a basketball. Furthermore, two circles could be combined to form wheels of a bicycle, and multiple circles could be connected and turned into a caterpillar. The options are endless ( Figure 1 ).
- Figure 1 - A filled-up page from Torrance’s Test for Creative Thinking, which we used in our study.
- Participants were given with a sheet of paper that has 12 empty circles, and were asked to draw as many drawings as possible while making use of the circles as an integral part of these drawing. Note that, in more than one case, two circles were used to form a single drawing (glasses and a Google logo). Note also that this participant felt that it was ok to draw outside the original circles (which is indeed ok).
Once the test is finished and the papers are collected, we can calculate various dimensions of creativity. One such dimension is how many drawings the person completed. Another dimension has to do with how many different types of drawings the test-taker drew; for example, a basketball, soccer ball, and tennis ball are different drawings but are of the same type. A third dimension involves how original the drawings are compared to other participants. The final dimension involves how many details were included in the drawings. These dimensions can be easily computed, and they can help researchers assign a numerical value to each test.
How Does Creativity Relate to Problem Solving?
Creativity has a lot to do with problem solving. In many cases, people demonstrate creativity when they try to solve problems. Recall the example of the cake contest from above—in that case, we could say that the problem was how to win the contest. So, it is probably not surprising that creativity has been suggested as a way to improve problem solving in several areas, for example when learning mathematics, science, foreign language, literature, or history [ 3 ].
Also, remember that creativity can be learned, practiced, and improved. This means we can ask whether we can improve creativity in a way that also improves problem solving—and this is exactly the question that we posed in our study.
Insights From Our Study
In our study, we tested teens’ creative thinking and problem-solving skills before and after an activity that was aimed at promoting their creativity. This way, we could check whether the creativity training improved their creative thinking and problem-solving skills.
The problem-solving activity was done in an online learning environment. The participants were asked to lead a virtual astronaut through several tasks to get her to her destination. In each task, participants were presented with a path the astronaut should follow and with a pool of blocks that each represent a certain action, like “move forward” or “turn right.” The blocks could be dragged and connected like Lego bricks to construct a sequence of actions. For example, if a participant wanted the astronaut to go one step forward and then turn right, they used a “move forward” block connected to a “turn right” block ( Figure 2 ). We tested how well participants solved these problems by measuring the time it took them and the number of tries they needed to complete the tasks. The creative thinking test we gave them was just like the one we described above, with 12 empty circles.
- Figure 2 - A task from the online learning environment that we used in our study, and its solution.
- Participants had to put together steps to guide the astronaut through the path to her destination. We measured how many attempts it took participants until solving this task, how much time did it take then, and how original were their solutions.
Then, we gave some participants a special activity, called an intervention , for nurturing their creativity. This involved one 15-min meeting per week for 10 weeks. In each meeting, we presented the participants with pictures of everyday objects—like a paper cup, ruler, car wheel, basketball, etc.—and for each object, we asked participants to write down as many uses as they could think of ( Figure 3 ). They worked independently, so no one could see or hear what the others wrote, and we recorded their responses anonymously. Once in a few intervention sessions, we shared with them interesting uses that were mentioned by the group. This way, we helped them to practice thinking creatively. We also had a control group made up of a group of participants that did not take part in this intervention. Using a control group allows to test whether the results of the experiment replicate with no intervention.
- Figure 3 - During our intervention, we presented the participants with daily objects—one at a time—just like the ones shown here.
- For each object, participants were asked to write down as many uses as possible. This intervention was shown to improve their creative thinking and problem-solving abilities.
After this intervention, all the participants were given another problem-solving test, this time with different, more difficult tasks, and another creativity drawing test, this time with squares instead of circles.
When we analyzed the data by comparing their performance on the pre/post-tests , we observed two fascinating patterns. First, all participants improved in measures of creativity, but those who did the intervention improved more than those in the control group. Second, everybody improved their problem-solving skills, but those who participated in the intervention improved these skills more than those in the control group.
So, in our study, we were able to improve creativity and, by doing so, we also improved problem solving!
You Too Can Be More Creative and a Better Problem Solver!
These findings are promising, especially because our intervention was simple and it could be given by anyone, anywhere, without special equipment or special knowledge. This means that you too can use this intervention to improve your own creativity, or you can help your friends or classmates improve their creativity. Simply think of a daily object you are familiar with, and think of as many possible uses to it. By doing so, you will probably become a better problem solver, which can help you in school and throughout life.
Problem Solving : ↑ Finding correct solutions to challenges, tasks of puzzles.
Creativity : ↑ A mental skill that helps produce something that is both new and useful.
Intervention : ↑ An action researchers take to test the impact on research participants.
Control Group : ↑ A control group holds part of a research population who do not get an intervention. Comparing the control group to the other participants helps scientists deduce that the intervention worked.
Pre/Post-Tests : ↑ Similar or identical tests that are given to research participants before (“pre”) and after (“post”) an intervention, to determine the impact of the intervention.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
Original Source Article
↑ Israel Fishelson, R., and Hershkovitz, A. 2022. Cultivating creativity improves middle school students’ computational thinking skills. Inter. Learn. Environ . doi: 10.1080/10494820.2022.2088562
 ↑ Runco, M. A., and Jaeger, G. J. 2012. The standard definition of creativity. Creat. Res. J. 24:92–96. doi: 10.1080/10400419.2012.650092
 ↑ Torrance, E. P. 1974. Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking . Bensenville, IL: Scholastic Testing Service..
 ↑ Treffinger, D. J. 1995. Creative problem solving: overview and educational implications. Educ. Psychol. Rev. 7:301–312.