Hand to forehead, eye wide, voice concerned: “There is a problem.” Do you know this cold feeling of bewilderment when faced with an unexpected problem? Who has yet to happen to it? However, faced with a problem, the difference between victory and defeat is problem-solving and related skills.
Problem-solving, literally problem-solving, is a process that involves a wide range of skills, many more than one imagines. Some are applied automatically, almost unconsciously. Others require training, control and awareness. Facing problems also means developing a mindset suitable for the dynamic and digital-oriented context we live in today. If you want to be ready for anything and create a digital perspective, click below and find out how training can help you!
What Is Problem-Solving, And Why Is It Important
In general, problem-solving can be traced back to the techniques and methodologies necessary for analyzing a problematic situation to identify, pursue and implement the best solution. Today we live in very complex and constantly evolving times. Suffice it to say that the World Economic Forum estimates that around 50% of all workers need to update and re skill their skills by 2025. According to the same article, critical thinking and problem-solving skills are at the top of the list of skills which will grow in importance by 2025.
Problem-Solving Skills: Which Contribute To Practical Problem Solving
Problem-solving is proposed as a complex process organized on several levels and characterized by different facets. As such, it does not end with a list of problem-solving skills to be honed. Instead, there are a variety of skills that contribute to practical problem-solving. Here is a list of essential “problem-solving skills”:
- Search and analysis: the problem solver, just like an investigator, begins his problem-solving process by looking for clues that help him create a mental representation as detailed as possible of the problem. One by one, the indications are analyzed and put together to compose the problem.
- Active listening: involves preparing for authentic listening, focusing on your interlocutor, and understanding their words. The arguments of the other in this way are assimilated, made their own and give rise to weighted responses rooted in the context. Active listening is a fundamental prerequisite for problem-solving, fully corresponding to the crisis in front of you. Active listening and research activity are two pre-problem-solving skills essential to be aware of the problem you are dealing with.
- Creativity: Divergent thinking and the ability to adopt a different point of view are two key points. Solving a problem often means leaving the track to venture into new ways of managing the situation.
- Team building: if it is true that two are better than one, it is essential to surround yourself with the right people to face the problem as one. This means having more eyes focused on the issue, more brains in motion, more creativity triggered, etc.
This list of skills is not meant to be a hierarchy or an order to follow. All the skills above are a piece of a larger design, and each contributes to generating the desired solution. In addition to problem-solving skills to be refined, it is necessary to have the right mindset. Problem solvers are not born. You become one if you develop the six perspectives of the successful problem solver.
- Curiosity: the problem solver must be guided by interest. This means that a problem is not just a problem but a set of elements, ravines, and indefinite areas to discover. Furthermore, curiosity drives him to continue to question himself without being satisfied with the first solution he finds.
- Tolerating ambiguity: i.e. remaining calm even after a sleepless night of trial and error, one has to start all over again to look for a workable solution. Research has also shown that we are more effective when considering probability rather than certainty.
- All-round look: the problem solver must have eyes similar to those of dragonflies, made of a thousand small lenses to focus on the issue since often a secret is revealed only if approached several times and from several perspectives.
- Repeat winning behaviors and keep experimenting: when there is a shortage of solutions, it’s time to create a new one. A problem-solving process that does its job is one in which risk is welcome, the experiment is practiced, necessary data is made, virtuous behaviors are repeated, and research is continuous.
- Tapping into collective intelligence: thinking that the people we’re trying to solve a problem with are the smartest, the smartest, and the smartest is a short-sighted view. Problem-solving that works and positively impacts the situation means recognizing the need to draw on knowledge that goes beyond one’s closest collaborators. Crowdsourcing could be a solution: drawing on collective knowledge by picking from the crowd who might have a better solution than yours.
- The “show and tell” approach: concretely showing a problem’s impact allows you to “live” the problem, to feel it as your own and therefore to seek a solution proactively.
This approach aims to create a sense of urgency, which fuels problem-solving. The problem solver’s mentality is at least as important as the methods he uses.
How To Evaluate Problem-Solving
The nature of the problems can vary: they range from practical concerns to technical issues, qualitative, quantitative, relational, business problems, etc. For this reason, it is challenging to establish rigid, unique and numerical KPIs to quantify whether practical problem-solving has been applied. The literature itself on the subject needs to be more varied and cohesive.
In a selection interview, a candidate’s problem-solving is often assessed based on the answer to the question, “Tell me about a situation in which you had to manage a complex problem. How did you handle it?”. This is not the only way, the only telltale question of successful problem-solving. One way to evaluate problem-solving is to ask and answer control questions. Here are some examples of review questions:
- What went right and wrong in trying to solve this problem?
- How does this specific resolution process compare to other applied solutions?
- Could the same solution also be used in different contexts?
- Is the solution reached the best possible and achievable solution?
The problems that every living being faces every day are varied, unthinkable and sometimes surprising. They are often very complex to manage (obviously, otherwise, what problems would they be?), and we must keep going. By training the critical skills we have mentioned daily and adopting a new mindset, it is possible to develop an unbreakable problem-solving, ideal for dealing with most situations.