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Problem-solving skills are important in every industry. There's no business that's immune to the regular onslaught of problems. Managers & leaders may find that nearly every aspect of their daily routine centres around some type of problem-solving.
When you're in a management position, one of the most important things you do is simply handle the day-to-day issues that arise for your employees.
Improving your problem-solving skills will give you a distinct edge both in a management job and in other positions within your company.
Problem-solving may seem straightforward at first glance, but there are many employees who stumble over one or more of the critical steps, failing to successfully resolve workplace issues.
Here are the 1-2-3 steps in doing your problem solving:
1. Gather Information
Determine the root cause of the problem. If you think it is difficult, ask hundreds of why’s and what’s and you will soon find out the cause.
It’s important to have plenty of information about your “problem” or project.
Be resourceful in looking for information and remember that your thinking process is very visual.
Have you been to a library recently and flipped through a few books? When you look on the Internet, look at pictures as well as the content. Look in areas you may think are unrelated. Take a few notes yet don’t be compulsive about it.
Evaluate your project: what is your desired outcome? Who else is involved and what might they want? What do you want to learn from this experience?
Don’t forget to speak with other people…people in the same field and outside of it. Ask them open-ended questions (such as “What do you think about….?” “What would you do if…?”)
Now it’s time to let it simmer and incubate. Give all this information to your subconscious and go do something else.
2. Be Active
Your brain represents only about 2% of your body's weight, yet it utilizes about 20% of the body's oxygen! Wow, you really have to feed your brain for it to work properly. This means physical activity.
Do something simple, it doesn’t have to be a specific exercise regimen. Go for a walk. Wash your car. Ride a bike. Take some dance lessons. Have fun!
Let your mind wander and allow your project/problem to be in the background. Your brain is working on it while you do other things.
3. Change perspective
Look at your project from many different views. What do you see…or what do you think you see?
How to see your project in a new light: ask yourself how it would look if you were an astronaut, or an 8-year-old, or the Pope, or had all the money in the world, or had none.
How do the other people involve see it?
Compare your problem/issue/project to something very different; an object or a concept.
Through juxtaposition, you may find combinations you never saw before.
Grab a blank sheet of paper. Write your problem at the top.
Next to it write an unrelated idea such as “shoe”, “the national highway system”, “a candy bar”, “cat litter”….you get the idea!
Underneath write every way you can think that these two things are alike.
Remember to have fun.
This is simply another method of changing your viewpoint as well as generating more ideas.
Knowing that “thinking” is visual and symbolic, draw diagrams.
This is best done with a large sheet of paper or a whiteboard. Use a regular piece of paper if that’s all you have.
Draw a rectangle in the centre and label it with your problem/project.
Draw at least 5-6 radiating lines coming out from the box. Label these lines as different aspects of your project.
At the end of each line write whatever you think needs to happen with that area. This exercise can help you see the big picture as well as prioritize all the parts of your project.
After engaging in this activity, you will see things you did not see before.
By now you should be able to make a few statements defining the problem. Write those down.
Perhaps you have divided your problem into sections and can address each section separately. You are now at the point of…
You have heard of brainstorming. Have you ever really done it? Generating lots of ideas? This activity is better with collaboration, getting more willing participants involved creates even more ideas. Notice I said willing participants. This does not work with close-minded people.
Review the problem, clarify the goal.
Set a time limit. Allow enough time to get plenty of ideas but not so much time that you judge the ideas coming out of you (5-10 minutes) and start writing as fast as possible.
Three keys to effective brainstorming: speed, quantity and non-judgment.
Your goal should be 30-40 ideas, even a hundred ideas depending on your project.
Out of those, you will get some really good ones and a lot of bad ones.
Did Thomas Edison invent the light bulb on the first try? NO!
You now have a lot of ideas to work with. Here is the time for conscious analysis. Review and categorize your ideas. Throw out the ones that don’t work, but not until you take a close look at them. You are being analytical, refrain from being too judgmental. You may have found solutions to completely unrelated problems!
Anywhere in this process, you might find the perfect idea. Or, you may have to go through these steps several times.
Very creative people have the habit of engaging in creative mental processes. You can develop this habit, too.
It’s simply a way of thinking.
6. Give it to your subconscious
Let your subconscious mind have another crack at it. You have plenty of information and ideas. It may be challenging to pick the best course of action.
Sleep on it! Let your mind have it while you are resting. For this to work you must do a review just before going to bed and place a notebook by your bed so you can jot down ideas if you wake up during the night and first thing in the morning.
Intend that you will have some answers when you wake up. As you wake up, you may have to catch the ideas in the half-awake state. The notebook is right beside you so you won’t lose any good thoughts.
Congratulations! You came up with some very creative solutions to your project. You can repeat this process with any subject.
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