The Secret To Problem Solving

Updated: May 27, 2019

Problems are at the centre of what many people do at work every day.


A fundamental part of every manager's role is finding ways to solve them. So, being a confident problem solver is really important to your success. 

Do you ever run out of good ideas, or go around in circles trying to come up with a solution for a persistent problem? 

When people face a problem, they tend to jump into solution mode too quickly, and very often that means that they don’t really understand, necessarily, the problem they’re trying to solve.

Maybe you just need to learn some simple problem-solving techniques, and then start applying them.

Having good, strong problem solving skills can make a huge difference to your career. 

Choose one or two of the methods below, and get in the habit of using them in your personal & work life.

Using Your Unconscious Mind

Let your unconscious mind do your problem-solving. Outline a problem in your mind before going to sleep, and tell your brain to go to work. Einstein had good luck with this technique, sometimes getting the "ah-ha" insight while shaving the next morning.

Next, instruct your mind to keep working on the problem while you do other things. There is more than we know going on inside our heads. An answer may come to you when you least expect it. Try working on problems when you are in a drowsy state. This can result in more creative solutions.

Systematic Problem Solving Techniques

Challenge assumptions. For example, if you are assuming you need a better or higher-paying job, ask "do I really need a better job?" Maybe you can get a raise, or somehow make the job you have better. Don't let your assumptions limit the possible solutions.

Break it down. Buying a house is a big move that is really a bunch of small steps. This is true of many problems. Start by addressing all of the components of a problem individually, and it may not seem so overwhelming. This makes it easier to motivate yourself.

Ask others for advice. They may or may not have good ideas, but in any case, this helps you be sure that you are not overlooking anything obvious.

Write it down. Then find another way to express the problem and write that down. Continue with all solutions and ideas that come to mind. Write down everything. Later you can pick the diamonds out of the dirt.

Reframing is really a method that helps you take a second to go in and ask two questions, basically saying, first of all, wait. What is the problem we’re trying to solve? And then crucially asking, is there a different way to think about what the problem actually is?

Solve Problems By Causing Them

One way to solve problems is to ask how you can cause them. Need customers? How can you scare them away? The point is that if you only look at the problem from the perspective of "How do I solve it?" you tend to see only solutions based on your hidden assumptions. So looking at how to cause a problem will show you more ways to solve it.

Get To The Bottom Of It

A huge part of solving an issue is finding the cause. Why did this happen?

The solution you decide upon depends heavily upon the root of the cause. While it may be a bit tedious to find the culprit, it will make finding the solution so much easier. 

Then Fix It

Once you determine the steps that need to be taken in order to start fixing the issue, ask the appropriate people for help. Maybe you determine you can do it all yourself. But if you can’t, don’t take it all on as some kind of workplace martyr. 

Make sure that when you’re delegating, you provide all the necessary information: any background details they do not have, the desired outcome, and the specific time frame. Everybody needs to be on the exact same page.

Knowing a few problem solving strategies and how to deal with them will not only do wonders for your stress levels, but also for your career.

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