Problems are central to the work of many. Whether that includes solving these problems for specific customers, providing the necessary support to the people responsible for solving the problems, or perhaps researching and monitoring the problems. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Also, the problems may be small or large… simple or complex, depending on the field and nature of the work. But all the problems have in common in that they consist of two basic and interrelated elements: goals and obstacles.
Problems involve specific goals to be achieved or a specific level of activity and practical progress to be reached. Goals can be anything you want to reach. For the president of a company, for example, the main goal in front of him is to increase the company’s profits. This objective may need to be broken down into smaller secondary objectives to achieve the desired profits.
If no obstacles are standing in the way of achieving the goals, there will be no problems, and the issue of problem-solving revolves around overcoming these obstacles that prevent the immediate achievement of the goals. Therefore, the successful leader must identify these obstacles and work to get rid of them or find alternative ways to achieve the goals of the organization.
The stages of problem-solving
Effective problem solving involves going through several stages to reach a solution that achieves the desired goals, including the following:
1- Defining the problem
This stage includes revealing the problem, recognizing its existence, defining its nature, and defining it.
This stage may seem very clear, but it often requires a lot of analysis and thinking. Defining the problem in itself may be very difficult. Is there a problem at all? What is the nature of this problem? Is there one problem or many problems? By spending some time in this stage, you will not only be able to understand the problem well, but you will be able to explain its nature to others which leads us to the second stage.
2- Structuring the problem
This stage includes a period of observation, investigation, and gathering of information to create a deeper understanding of the problem. The main objective is to form a clearer picture of the goals and obstacles in this problem, and although it may not be necessary for all problems, this step is essential in solving more complex problems.
3- Brainstorming to come up with possible solutions
During this stage, the focus is on finding a set of practices that constitute a potential solution to the problem, but without focusing on evaluating these solutions. This is done through individual or group brainstorming sessions during which each person presents his opinion about the problem and suggests a solution to it or part of the solution. These brainstorming sessions are very useful, especially in large companies where people with diverse experiences work, which leads to different solutions.
4- Make a decision and choose the appropriate solution
This stage includes a careful analysis of the various proposed solutions and then selecting the most appropriate solutions to be implemented. It is considered the most complex stage of problem-solving, during which each of the proposed solutions is studied and analyzed to come up with the best solution. Some solutions may be unworkable due to other issues holding them back such as time or budget needed. Also, solving one problem may lead to creating other problems, so it is necessary to choose creative and innovative solutions. This stage ends with making a decision and choosing the appropriate solution, and here it must be taken into account that having decision-making skills plays an essential role in solving problems.
5- Implementing solutions
This stage includes the implementation of the chosen solution on the ground and its commitment to it. It is worth noting that when implementing a solution, other problems may arise especially if the initial problem is not well defined and structured.
6- Reviewing the results and looking for feedback
This is the last stage of problem-solving, during which the results of the applied solution are reviewed during a specified period of time, and the feedback is reviewed to determine whether the solution was successful or not. At this stage, it is preferable to make a record of the most important results that have been achieved or additional problems that have arisen.
What is the importance of acquiring problem-solving skills?
Problem-solving skills are an essential part of the missions of both a successful manager and leader and a key component of business success. Possession of advanced skills in solving a problem contributes to solving it quickly and finding effective solutions. As for the lack of it, it leads to the complexity of the problem and the accumulation of negative effects and losses that may be huge. Among the most important benefits of having problem-solving skills are the following:
Fix problems and errors in the work environment
In different work environments, many things are broken or not working properly. Here comes the role of problem-solving skills that create mechanisms to identify these malfunctions, find out the reason behind their occurrence, and suggest solutions and ways to fix them.
Problem-solving skills can be applied in predicting expected future risks before they occur and implementing several precautionary measures in the present to avoid other problems in the future.
It is known that companies and individuals do not exist in isolation from each other, but on the contrary, there are intertwined and changing relationships between them, and there is no doubt that the actions of a person or company affect the rest of the people and institutions, whether directly or indirectly. This dependency relationship drives people to work together to solve more problems, and therefore both individuals and companies will strive to develop their performance in order to adapt to the new challenges facing them and achieve the best results in this constantly changing environment.
Problem-solving skills are not limited to responding to and solving specific environmental problems but are also concerned with finding and creating new opportunities and changing the current environment for the better. Advanced problem-solving skills contribute greatly to exploiting opportunities and controlling future challenges.
How do you develop your problem-solving skills?
And being so important, you might ask yourself now what are the ways that you can improve your skills in solving and dealing with problems, and in fact, there are many practices and tips that you can try to develop your abilities in dealing with various challenges and problems, among which are the following:
1- Solve puzzles
As with any other life skill, it must be practiced, and the more you practice, the better your abilities. You can then train yourself by trying to solve puzzles or life problems that you see in your community or your life. For example, you can start by finding answers to the following questions:
_ How can I balance all my responsibilities from work, study and family?
_ How can I save more money for retirement or future expenses?
_ How can I get a job that guarantees me and my family a decent living and allows me to develop my skills and my passion at the same time?
2- Learn new things about different topics
Problem-solving requires knowledge and familiarity with multiple topics. Chances are that everything you learn now (even things that you think are irrelevant to problem-solving) will benefit you at some point in the process. So do not hesitate to apply the wisdom that says: Know everything about one thing and know something about everything. Take the opportunity to learn more about psychology, life sciences, history, mathematics, and other various topics in the world, and be sure that this knowledge will definitely benefit you.
3- Create interesting associations
Many problems are solved by finding creative and interesting links between topics that may seem very far from each other. An example of creating associations is the famous psychiatrist Jeffrey Schwartz, who developed a treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder by integrating Buddhism with Austrian economics!
4- Read books about problem-solving and detective novels
And here the stories of Sherlock Holmes can be very useful. Conan Doyle’s novels about Sherlock Holmes cases will reveal some basic problem-solving principles that you can apply in your everyday life.
5- Start with simple problems
Instead of looking for solutions to save humanity from global warming, start tackling simple problems from your daily life and little by little you will notice the development of your skills and abilities in this field.
6- Build a problem-solving mindset
And building such a mindset is by constantly observing everything that surrounds you. Always try to ask yourself how to make things around you easier, better, and more effective.