Problem-solving skills are fundamental for success in practically every field. You need to be able to identify a problem, think through, and synthesize relevant information and knowledge to arrive at a solution. This will enable you to tackle issues as they arise rather than being thrown off balance by them.
You can improve your problem-solving skills with practice, dedication, and persistence.
The strategies discussed in this article will help you improve your problem-solving skills so that you will always be prepared to effectively confront life’s unexpected challenges.
9 Guaranteed Strategies To Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills
1. Ask the right questions
When you’re trying to solve a problem, one of the first things you want to do is ask yourself the right questions.
Start by identifying what kind of problem you’re dealing with. Is it a goal that you want to achieve? A decision that you need to make? An area of your life that you want to improve? Find out the root cause of the problem.
What is the source of the issue that you’re facing? Is there something external that’s creating the problem, or is there an internal factor that’s causing you to struggle? Be willing to ask questions that will help you get to the heart of the issue and identify potential areas of improvement.
As Clayton Christensen said, “Questions are places in your mind where answers fit. If you haven’t asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go.”
2. Understand that there are no ‘unthinkables’
When trying to solve a problem, it can be tempting to cordon off some thoughts and ideas as ‘unthinkable’. At times, however, the solution to the problem may be lying smack in the middle of the unthinkable.
When this happens you need to be willing to ‘go against the grain’ and try something different. This can help you come up with a solution that might not have been obvious at first.
By thinking about the unthinkable, you’ll see that even the most challenging problems can be solved if viewed from a totally different perspective.
3. Break the problem into pieces
One other way to approach a challenging problem is to break it down into smaller pieces and then tackle each piece individually. [Tweet that]
This can be especially useful when you’re trying to solve a problem that involves multiple steps or is extremely complicated.
With this approach, you will be able to focus on one part of the problem at a time, which will help you get through the challenge more quickly.
You’ll also be able to identify solutions for each part of the problem more easily because you won’t be looking at the whole problem at once.
4. Make a plan — and be flexible about it
Once you have understood the problem and broken it down into pieces, make a plan for how you will solve it.
However, you need to appreciate the fact that the best solution to a problem can change as you learn more about the issue. Be fluid enough to shift ground as more information comes to light.
This flexibility will help you be more efficient when forging a path out of the problem.
5. Learn from failure
There’s no such thing as a perfect plan, and things can go wrong. When they do, it is best to view that failure as a learning event. Pick the issue apart, figure out where you went wrong, learn from your mistakes, and move on.
It may be tempting to remain at that point of failure and berate yourself. However, your time is better spent analyzing the erroneous steps you took and ensuring that you do not make the same mistake again.
6. Don’t shy away from researching tangents
Sometimes, when you’re trying to solve a problem, you’ll find that you start researching different tangential issues that seem relevant. That’s normal!
When you’re focused on solving a problem, your brain will naturally try to solve other related problems. That’s because the human brain is programmed to look for connections and relationships — it’s how we learn new things.
Don’t shy away from researching tangents when you’re trying to solve a problem. If you’re learning new things and they seem relevant to solving the problem, keep going. The more you understand the problem, the easier it will be to solve, plus you might discover new solutions you hadn’t thought of before.
7. Decide by weighing the pros and cons
When you’re trying to solve a problem, it can be helpful to think about the different solutions available to you and the consequences of each one. This is often called a “decision-making grid” or a “decision matrix” and can help you weigh the pros and cons of each option.
Consider all of the different solutions that are available to you and list the pros and cons of each one. Then, rank each solution based on the pros and cons you listed and see which one comes out on top.
Don’t be too quick to embrace a solution just because it seems like an obvious choice. For best results, consider all of the options available to you.
8. Brainstorm with others
Sometimes, the best way to solve a problem is to do some creative brainstorming. None of us is as brilliant or as effective as all of us.
Thus, you can arrive at a solution quicker when you discuss the problem with others. If you work in a team or collaborate often, consider bringing the problem to your group and brainstorming ideas for solutions.
You can then combine ideas and suggestions, and come up with better solutions. Furthermore, brainstorming is a great way to build successful team relationships and collaborate with others.
9. Write down the possibilities
Sometimes, it can be helpful to write down the different possibilities when you’re trying to solve a problem. This is especially helpful if you find yourself getting stuck, frustrated, or overwhelmed by the problem.
When you write down the different possibilities, you’ll be able to see all of the possible solutions without getting bogged down by one idea.
Writing will help you to clarify your thoughts and gain a new perspective you might have otherwise overlooked.
This technique can be especially helpful if you’re working with a team and need a way to engage others in the process of coming up with solutions.
The next time you are confronted with a difficulty that you are not sure how to resolve, explore some of the ideas we have just discussed. Then let us know how the process improves your problem-solving skills.