Floor Tape Store

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

8 Tips For Solving Problems

How much of your day do you spend problem solving?  It could be responding to requests from senior leaders, helping team members work through an issue, or just figuring out where to park in the morning. 

If you’re anything like me, it seems like every day is a stream of problems waiting to be solved (or prevented). 

Problem solving is the bread and butter of all leaders – it’s what we do and where we shine.  Not only do we tackle problems directly, we are charged with empowering and coaching others to solve continually more challenging problems. 

There are many ways to go about solving a problem. Some of these tips might be used on their own, or you may decide to employ multiple approaches when working to figure out and fix a problem. 

Tip 1: Know When You Are Stuck 

To solve a problem, we need to know that we have a problem. This may be a frivolous point but it is not always obvious. Key signs that you are stuck: 

I do not know how to proceed. 

I haven’t got a clue. 

Why is this not working? 

However, it can be more subtle than that. Repeatedly trying over and over again without progress is also being stuck. To know that we are stuck, we have to realize a solution is not immediate. To get better at this, I recommend saying out loud “I am stuck” whenever it is relevant. So to summarize: identify you have a problem, be aware the solution is not immediate, state that you are stuck. 

Tip 2: Understand The Problem 

Often a problem is hard because we are unsure what we are being asked, or asking ourselves, to do. Poorly defined problems rarely lead to quick “ah-has!” Spending time to understand the problem is a neglected part of the problem solving process. Typically, there are many strategies for demystification. One way is to rephrase the problem in several manners, each time using simpler and simpler language. Another is drawing a picture or diagram. I often ask myself: Do I have enough information to move forward? Finally, refactoring a problem can be useful; that is, changing the structure of the problem to make it more understandable.  

Tip 3: Picture The Solution 

Even if you found the solution, would you know it? Drawing a picture of the solution can be surprisingly insightful. It does not matter if the solution ends up being different to what you draw it can still be useful. Picturing the solution helps us know when we have found the treasure. It also facilitates backward problem solving.  

Tip 4: Think Like A Scientist 

Despite not all problems being scientific ones, thinking like a scientist can be rewarding. As a (good) scientist you generate hypotheses about your problem. For each one, rank them by how plausible they might be. Begin with the simplest avenues and eliminate those that are unreasonable or unlikely. Finally, have a plan and execute it. Know what you are going to do and have a reason for doing it. 

Tip 5: Try and Verify 

We can simply be paralyzed by not knowing which direction to take. First, return to tip 4 before trying anything else. If we are still stuck, then let us just try something at least. Trying something we have little confidence in can raise uncomfortable feelings. Be prepared to feel uncomfortable or silly – a bad answer can still be useful. We may miss the mark but then we can orient ourselves around this. Once you have taken a guess remember to check if we have made any progress – have we learnt anything new about the problem? 

Tip 6: Recall Your Past Experiences.  

When a problem needs to be solved fairly quickly, heuristics may be a better approach. Think back to when you faced a similar issue, then use your knowledge and experience to choose the best option possible. If you succeed via trial-and-error, you're more likely to use those same actions and ideas that led to your previous success when you face the problem again. Your past experience can inform and shed light on the problem you face now. Recall. Explore. 

Tip 7: Don’t Jump to Conclusions 

It’s easy for us to exhibit cognitive bias or have preconceived ideas about both problems and potential solutions. Be sure to back up any problem statements or potential solutions with facts, research, and adequate forethought. 

The best techniques ask participants to be methodical and challenge preconceived notions. Make sure you give enough time and space to collect relevant information and consider the problem in a new way. By approaching the process with a clear, rational mindset, you’ll often find that better solutions are more forthcoming.   

Tip 8: Ask for Help 

Getting opinions from your peers can expose you to new perspectives and unique solutions. Friends, families or colleagues may have different experiences, ideas and skills that they can contribute to help you find the best solution to your problem. 

Consider asking a diverse range of colleagues or peers to share what they would do if they were in your situation. Even if you don't end up taking one of their suggestions, the conversation may help you process your ideas and arrive at a new solution. 

Solving complex problems may be difficult but it doesn't have to be excruciating. You just need the right frame of mind and a process for untangling the problem at hand. Luckily for you, there are plenty of techniques available to solve whatever problems come at you in the workplace. 

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

No comments:

Post a Comment