Problem-solving is a universal skill that is highly wanted by employers. It is applicable in any position and every industry. As a professional in the current workforce, complex problems often arise. Good problem-solving capabilities demonstrate an employee’s expertise, and proves to be of great value to any team. However, not all employees are as great problem solvers as they think. What can we do?
What are problem-solving skills?
Problem-solving skills directly relate to the ability to define a problem; determine the cause of the problem; identify, prioritize and select a selection of alternatives as a solution; and implement the solution. In short, great problem solvers use logic and creativity to firstly define in a given situation (S) the challenges or complications (C). Then, they define the questions (Q) that need to be answered to come up with suitable (innovative) answers (A).
Why are they important?
Effective problem-solving skills are one of the most valued attributes that lead to good leadership and are a fundamental component in entrepreneurialism. It is crucial to develop a strong skill for applying structured approaches to dissect and solve any problems that arise.
Not only is this beneficial in professional life, but it is also essential in day-to-day life. People are constantly solving problems, either consciously or unconsciously.
It is storming outside and Sophia needs to go to work for an important meeting. What is she going to do?
- Take an umbrella and walk to the nearest bus station and risk getting wet in her brand-new business wear?
- Or, drive to work, risking that she might get stuck in a traffic jam or reschedule the meeting and risk damaging the relationship with a key stakeholder?
Given the situation (Sophia needs to go to work) and the complication (it’s pouring), there are different questions she needs to ask (is it worse to arrive late, or soaking wet? What’s the change of a massive traffic jam? Is there an alternative?), to get to her preferred answer.
Different people will solve this ‘’problem’’ with different solutions, as there will be differences in weighted pros and cons of these situations. However, people with well-developed problem-solving skills will end up with the best critically reviewed and analyzed solutions of a scenario – large or small.
Difficulties with problem-solving
The initial obstacle seems to be becoming aware of the ‘’problem’’ that needs to be solved. People facing problems tend to avoid, procrastinate or blame someone else altogether rather than confronting a challenge head-on and finding a solution for it. However, the faster a problem is solved, the faster one can get more forward-looking work done.
How to enhance problem-solving skills?
Problem-solving is an art to be perfected over time, and like any skill, one gets better with practice. Understanding the different steps to solve a problem will definitely be beneficial for your learning process.
Following these are 6 steps will help to understand this skill:
- Identify the (assumed) problem/issue;
- Analyze the environment for factors that could influence or contribute to unwanted situations – the more extensive research is, the better the ability to identify the real (underlining) problem;
- List the possible solution(s) – generate all imaginable options from different perspectives (brainstorm with other parties if needed);
- Evaluate the generated list of options for the best solution – weigh the pros and cons
- Decide and implement the plan – ensure that the solution is clearly communicated with the relevant parties involved to mitigate probable negative results.
- Assess the effectiveness of the perceived ‘’best’’ solution – by assessing the decision, the consequences or results will make it apparent whether the issue has been resolved or not, and possible improvements could be determined from the experience
Practice makes perfect. Keep these 6 steps in mind and practice often to ensure maximum effectiveness. Problems will continue to arise, you can plan for them, but never totally avoid it. Therefore, it is of the essence to handle them in the most effective and efficient way.
In more formal settings, people typically involve the SCQA framework, that we already touched upon above. There you go down to 4 steps:
- Situation: What is the situation you or your client is facing?
- Complication: What has changed or will change and cause problems in the future?
- Question: What concrete question must be answered?
- Answer: What do you propose the client should do to resolve the problem?
Want to become an expert at problem-solving, and applying the SCQA framework? Take a look at our training catalogue!