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10 Step Process for Effective Business Problem Solving

Posted august 3, 2021 by harriet genever.

Navigate uncertainty by following this 10-step process to develop your problem-solving skills and approach any issue with confidence. 

When you start a small business or launch a startup, the one thing you can count on is the unexpected. No matter how thoroughly you plan, forecast , and test, problems are bound to arise. This is why as an entrepreneur, you need to know how to solve business problems effectively.

What is problem solving in business?

Problem solving in business relates to establishing processes that mitigate or remove obstacles currently preventing you from reaching strategic goals . These are typically complex issues that create a gap between actual results and your desired outcome. They may be present in a single team, operational process, or throughout your entire organization, typically without an immediate or obvious solution. 

To approach problem solving successfully, you need to establish consistent processes that help you evaluate, explore solutions, prioritize execution, and measure success. In many ways, it should be similar to how you review business performance through a monthly plan review . You work through the same documentation, look for gaps, dig deeper to identify the root cause, and hash out options. Without this process, you simply cannot expect to solve problems efficiently or effectively. 

Why problem solving is important for your business

While some would say problem-solving comes naturally, it’s actually a skill you can grow and refine over time. Problem solving skills will help you and your team tackle critical issues and conflicts as they arise. It starts from the top. You as the business owner or CEO needing to display the type of level-headed problem solving that you expect to see from your employees.

Doing so will help you and your staff quickly deal with issues, establish and refine a problem solving process, turn challenges into opportunities, and generally keep a level head. Now, the best business leaders didn’t just find a magic solution to solve their problems, they built processes and leveraged tools to find success. And you can do the same.

By following this 10-step process, you can develop your problem-solving skills and approach any issue that arises with confidence. 

1. Define the problem

When a problem arises, it can be very easy to jump right into creating a solution. However, if you don’t thoroughly examine what led to the problem in the first place, you may create a strategy that doesn’t actually solve it. You may just be treating the symptoms.

For instance, if you realize that your sales from new customers are dropping, your first inclination might be to rush into putting together a marketing plan to increase exposure. But what if decreasing sales are just a symptom of the real problem? 

When you define the problem, you want to be sure you’re not missing the forest for the trees. If you have a large issue on your hands, you’ll want to look at it from several different angles:

Competition 

Is a competitor’s promotion or pricing affecting your sales? Are there new entrants in your market? How are they marketing their product or business?

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Is your business model sustainable? Is it realistic for how fast you want to grow? Should you explore different pricing or cost strategies?

Market factors

How are world events and the nation’s economy affecting your customers and your sales?

Are there any issues affecting your team? Do they have the tools and resources they need to succeed? 

Goal alignment 

Is everyone on your team working toward the same goal ? Have you communicated your short-term and long-term business goals clearly and often?

There are a lot of ways to approach the issue when you’re facing a serious business problem. The key is to make sure you’re getting a full snapshot of what’s going on so you don’t waste money and resources on band-aid solutions. 

Going back to our example, by looking at every facet of your business, you may discover that you’re spending more on advertising than your competitors already. And instead, there’s a communication gap within your team that’s leading to the mishandling of new customers and therefore lost sales. 

If you jumped into fixing the exposure of your brand, you would have been dumping more money into an area you’re already winning. Potentially leading to greater losses as more and more new customers are dropped due to poor internal communication.

This is why it’s so vital that you explore your blind spots and track the problem to its source.

2. Conduct a SWOT analysis

All good businesses solve some sort of problem for customers. What if your particular business problem is actually an opportunity, or even a strength if considered from a different angle? This is when you’d want to conduct a SWOT analysis to determine if that is in fact the case.

SWOT is a great tool for strategic planning and bringing multiple viewpoints to the table when you’re looking at investing resources to solve a problem. This may even be incorporated in your attempts to identify the source of your problem, as it can quickly outline specific strengths and weaknesses of your business. And then by identifying any potential opportunities or threats, you can utilize your findings to kickstart a solution. 

3. Identify multiple solutions with design thinking

As you approach solving your problem, you may want to consider using the design thinking approach . It’s often used by organizations looking to solve big, community-based problems. One of its strengths is that it requires involving a wide range of people in the problem-solving process. Which leads to multiple perspectives and solutions arising.

This approach—applying your company’s skills and expertise to a problem in the market—is the basis for design thinking.

It’s not about finding the most complex problems to solve, but about finding common needs within the organization and in the real world and coming up with solutions that fit those needs. When you’re solving business problems, this applies in the sense that you’re looking for solutions that address underlying issues—you’re looking at the big picture.

4. Conduct market research and customer outreach

Market research and customer outreach aren’t the sorts of things small business owners and startups can do once and then cross off the list. When you’re facing a roadblock, think back to the last time you did some solid market research or took a deep dive into understanding the competitive landscape .

Market research and the insights you get from customer outreach aren’t a silver bullet. Many companies struggle with what they should do with conflicting data points. But it’s worth struggling through and gathering information that can help you better understand your target market . Plus, your customers can be one of the best sources of criticism. It’s actually a gift if you can avoid taking the negatives personally .

The worst thing you can do when you’re facing challenges is isolating yourself from your customers and ignore your competition. So survey your customers. Put together a competitive matrix . 

5. Seek input from your team and your mentors

Don’t do your SWOT analysis or design thinking work by yourself. The freedom to express concerns, opinions, and ideas will allow people in an organization to speak up. Their feedback is going to help you move faster and more efficiently. If you have a team in place, bring them into the discussion. You hired them to be experts in their area; use their expertise to navigate and dig deeper into underlying causes of problems and potential solutions.

If you’re running your business solo, at least bring in a trusted mentor. SCORE offers a free business mentorship program if you don’t already have one. It can also be helpful to connect with a strategic business advisor , especially if business financials aren’t your strongest suit.

Quoting Stephen Covey, who said that “strength lies in differences, not in similarities,” speaking to the importance of diversity when it comes to problem-solving in business. The more diverse a team is , the more often innovative solutions to the problems faced by the organization appear.

In fact, it has been found that groups that show greater diversity were better at solving problems than groups made up specifically of highly skilled problem solvers. So whoever you bring in to help you problem-solve, resist the urge to surround yourself with people who already agree with you about everything.

6. Apply lean planning for nimble execution

So you do your SWOT analysis and your design thinking exercise. You come up with a set of strong, data-driven ideas. But implementing them requires you to adjust your budget, or your strategic plan, or even your understanding of your target market.

Are you willing to change course? Can you quickly make adjustments? Well in order to grow, you can’t be afraid to be nimble . 

By adopting the lean business planning method —the process of revising your business strategy regularly—you’ll be able to shift your strategies more fluidly. You don’t want to change course every week, and you don’t want to fall victim to shiny object thinking. But you can strike a balance that allows you to reduce your business’s risk while keeping your team heading in the right direction.

Along the way, you’ll make strategic decisions that don’t pan out the way you hoped. The best thing you can do is test your ideas and iterate often so you’re not wasting money and resources on things that don’t work. That’s Lean Planning .

7. Model different financial scenarios

When you’re trying to solve a serious business problem, one of the best things you can do is build a few different financial forecasts so you can model different scenarios. You might find that the idea that seemed the strongest will take longer than you thought to reverse a negative financial trend. At the very least you’ll have better insight into the financial impact of moving in a different direction.

The real benefit here is looking at different tactical approaches to the same problem. Maybe instead of increasing sales right now, you’re better off in the long run if you adopt a strategy to reduce churn and retain your best customers. You won’t know unless you model a few different scenarios. You can do this by using spreadsheets, and a tool like LivePlan can make it easier and quicker.

8. Watch your cash flow

While you’re working to solve a challenging business problem, pay particular attention to your cash flow and your cash flow forecast . Understanding when your company is at risk of running out of cash in the bank can help you be proactive. It’s a lot easier to get a line of credit while your financials still look good and healthy, than when you’re one pay period away from ruin.

If you’re dealing with a serious issue, it’s easy to start to get tunnel vision. You’ll benefit from maintaining a little breathing room for your business as you figure out what to do next.

9. Use a decision-making framework

Once you’ve gathered all the information you need, generated a number of ideas, and done some financial modeling, you might still feel uncertain. It’s natural—you’re not a fortune-teller. You’re trying to make the best decision you can with the information you have.

This article offers a really useful approach to making decisions. It starts with putting your options into a matrix like this one:

problem solving in company

Use this sort of framework to put everything you’ve learned out on the table. If you’re working with a bigger team, this sort of exercise can also bring the rest of your team to the table so they feel some ownership over the outcome.

10. Identify key metrics to track

How will you know your problem is solved? And not just the symptom—how will you know when you’ve addressed the underlying issues? Before you dive into enacting the solution, make sure you know what success looks like.

Decide on a few key performance indicators . Take a baseline measurement, and set a goal and a timeframe. You’re essentially translating your solution into a plan, complete with milestones and goals. Without these, you’ve simply made a blind decision with no way to track success. You need those goals and milestones to make your plan real .

Problem solving skills to improve

As you and your team work through this process, it’s worth keeping in mind specific problem solving skills you should continue to develop. Bolstering your ability, as well as your team, to solve problems effectively will only make this process more useful and efficient. Here are a few key skills to work on.

Emotional intelligence

It can be very easy to make quick, emotional responses in a time of crisis or when discussing something you’re passionate about. To avoid making assumptions and letting your emotions get the best of you, you need to focus on empathizing with others. This involves understanding your own emotional state, reactions and listening carefully to the responses of your team. The more you’re able to listen carefully, the better you’ll be at asking for and taking advice that actually leads to effective problem solving.

Jumping right into a solution can immediately kill the possibility of solving your problem. Just like when you start a business , you need to do the research into what the problem you’re solving actually is. Luckily, you can embed research into your problem solving by holding active reviews of financial performance and team processes. Simply asking “What? Where? When? How?” can lead to more in-depth explorations of potential issues.

The best thing you can do to grow your research abilities is to encourage and practice curiosity. Look at every problem as an opportunity. Something that may be trouble now, but is worth exploring and finding the right solution. You’ll pick up best practices, useful tools and fine-tune your own research process the more you’re willing to explore.

Brainstorming

Creatively brainstorming with your team is somewhat of an art form. There needs to be a willingness to throw everything at the wall and act as if nothing is a bad idea at the start. This style of collaboration encourages participation without fear of rejection. It also helps outline potential solutions outside of your current scope, that you can refine and turn into realistic action.

Work on breaking down problems and try to give everyone in the room a voice. The more input you allow, the greater potential you have for finding the best solution.

Decisiveness

One thing that can drag out acting upon a potential solution, is being indecisive. If you aren’t willing to state when the final cutoff for deliberation is, you simply won’t take steps quickly enough. This is when having a process for problem solving comes in handy, as it purposefully outlines when you should start taking action.

Work on choosing decision-makers, identify necessary results and be prepared to analyze and adjust if necessary. You don’t have to get it right every time, but taking action at the right time, even if it fails, is almost more vital than never taking a step.  

Stemming off failure, you need to learn to be resilient. Again, no one gets it perfect every single time. There are so many factors in play to consider and sometimes even the most well-thought-out solution doesn’t stick. Instead of being down on yourself or your team, look to separate yourself from the problem and continue to think of it as a puzzle worth solving. Every failure is a learning opportunity and it only helps you further refine and eliminate issues in your strategy.

Problem solving is a process

The key to effective problem-solving in business is the ability to adapt. You can waste a lot of resources on staying the wrong course for too long. So make a plan to reduce your risk now. Think about what you’d do if you were faced with a problem large enough to sink your business. Be as proactive as you can.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2016. It was updated in 2021.

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Harriet Genever

Harriet Genever

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problem solving in company

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Turn your team into skilled problem solvers with these problem-solving strategies

Sarah Laoyan contributor headshot

Picture this, you're handling your daily tasks at work and your boss calls you in and says, "We have a problem." 

Unfortunately, we don't live in a world in which problems are instantly resolved with the snap of our fingers. Knowing how to effectively solve problems is an important professional skill to hone. If you have a problem that needs to be solved, what is the right process to use to ensure you get the most effective solution?

In this article we'll break down the problem-solving process and how you can find the most effective solutions for complex problems.

What is problem solving? 

Problem solving is the process of finding a resolution for a specific issue or conflict. There are many possible solutions for solving a problem, which is why it's important to go through a problem-solving process to find the best solution. You could use a flathead screwdriver to unscrew a Phillips head screw, but there is a better tool for the situation. Utilizing common problem-solving techniques helps you find the best solution to fit the needs of the specific situation, much like using the right tools.

Decision-making tools for agile businesses

In this ebook, learn how to equip employees to make better decisions—so your business can pivot, adapt, and tackle challenges more effectively than your competition.

Make good choices, fast: How decision-making processes can help businesses stay agile ebook banner image

4 steps to better problem solving

While it might be tempting to dive into a problem head first, take the time to move step by step. Here’s how you can effectively break down the problem-solving process with your team:

1. Identify the problem that needs to be solved

One of the easiest ways to identify a problem is to ask questions. A good place to start is to ask journalistic questions, like:

Who : Who is involved with this problem? Who caused the problem? Who is most affected by this issue?

What: What is happening? What is the extent of the issue? What does this problem prevent from moving forward?

Where: Where did this problem take place? Does this problem affect anything else in the immediate area? 

When: When did this problem happen? When does this problem take effect? Is this an urgent issue that needs to be solved within a certain timeframe?

Why: Why is it happening? Why does it impact workflows?

How: How did this problem occur? How is it affecting workflows and team members from being productive?

Asking journalistic questions can help you define a strong problem statement so you can highlight the current situation objectively, and create a plan around that situation.

Here’s an example of how a design team uses journalistic questions to identify their problem:

Overarching problem: Design requests are being missed

Who: Design team, digital marketing team, web development team

What: Design requests are forgotten, lost, or being created ad hoc.

Where: Email requests, design request spreadsheet

When: Missed requests on January 20th, January 31st, February 4th, February 6th

How : Email request was lost in inbox and the intake spreadsheet was not updated correctly. The digital marketing team had to delay launching ads for a few days while design requests were bottlenecked. Designers had to work extra hours to ensure all requests were completed.

In this example, there are many different aspects of this problem that can be solved. Using journalistic questions can help you identify different issues and who you should involve in the process.

2. Brainstorm multiple solutions

If at all possible, bring in a facilitator who doesn't have a major stake in the solution. Bringing an individual who has little-to-no stake in the matter can help keep your team on track and encourage good problem-solving skills.

Here are a few brainstorming techniques to encourage creative thinking:

Brainstorm alone before hand: Before you come together as a group, provide some context to your team on what exactly the issue is that you're brainstorming. This will give time for you and your teammates to have some ideas ready by the time you meet.

Say yes to everything (at first): When you first start brainstorming, don't say no to any ideas just yet—try to get as many ideas down as possible. Having as many ideas as possible ensures that you’ll get a variety of solutions. Save the trimming for the next step of the strategy. 

Talk to team members one-on-one: Some people may be less comfortable sharing their ideas in a group setting. Discuss the issue with team members individually and encourage them to share their opinions without restrictions—you might find some more detailed insights than originally anticipated.

Break out of your routine: If you're used to brainstorming in a conference room or over Zoom calls, do something a little different! Take your brainstorming meeting to a coffee shop or have your Zoom call while you're taking a walk. Getting out of your routine can force your brain out of its usual rut and increase critical thinking.

3. Define the solution

After you brainstorm with team members to get their unique perspectives on a scenario, it's time to look at the different strategies and decide which option is the best solution for the problem at hand. When defining the solution, consider these main two questions: What is the desired outcome of this solution and who stands to benefit from this solution? 

Set a deadline for when this decision needs to be made and update stakeholders accordingly. Sometimes there's too many people who need to make a decision. Use your best judgement based on the limitations provided to do great things fast.

4. Implement the solution

To implement your solution, start by working with the individuals who are as closest to the problem. This can help those most affected by the problem get unblocked. Then move farther out to those who are less affected, and so on and so forth. Some solutions are simple enough that you don’t need to work through multiple teams.

After you prioritize implementation with the right teams, assign out the ongoing work that needs to be completed by the rest of the team. This can prevent people from becoming overburdened during the implementation plan . Once your solution is in place, schedule check-ins to see how the solution is working and course-correct if necessary.

Implement common problem-solving strategies

There are a few ways to go about identifying problems (and solutions). Here are some strategies you can try, as well as common ways to apply them:

Trial and error

Trial and error problem solving doesn't usually require a whole team of people to solve. To use trial and error problem solving, identify the cause of the problem, and then rapidly test possible solutions to see if anything changes. 

This problem-solving method is often used in tech support teams through troubleshooting.

The 5 whys problem-solving method helps get to the root cause of an issue. You start by asking once, “Why did this issue happen?” After answering the first why, ask again, “Why did that happen?” You'll do this five times until you can attribute the problem to a root cause. 

This technique can help you dig in and find the human error that caused something to go wrong. More importantly, it also helps you and your team develop an actionable plan so that you can prevent the issue from happening again.

Here’s an example:

Problem: The email marketing campaign was accidentally sent to the wrong audience.

“Why did this happen?” Because the audience name was not updated in our email platform.

“Why were the audience names not changed?” Because the audience segment was not renamed after editing. 

“Why was the audience segment not renamed?” Because everybody has an individual way of creating an audience segment.

“Why does everybody have an individual way of creating an audience segment?” Because there is no standardized process for creating audience segments. 

“Why is there no standardized process for creating audience segments?” Because the team hasn't decided on a way to standardize the process as the team introduced new members. 

In this example, we can see a few areas that could be optimized to prevent this mistake from happening again. When working through these questions, make sure that everyone who was involved in the situation is present so that you can co-create next steps to avoid the same problem. 

A SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis can help you highlight the strengths and weaknesses of a specific solution. SWOT stands for:

Strength: Why is this specific solution a good fit for this problem? 

Weaknesses: What are the weak points of this solution? Is there anything that you can do to strengthen those weaknesses?

Opportunities: What other benefits could arise from implementing this solution?

Threats: Is there anything about this decision that can detrimentally impact your team?

As you identify specific solutions, you can highlight the different strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of each solution. 

This particular problem-solving strategy is good to use when you're narrowing down the answers and need to compare and contrast the differences between different solutions. 

Even more successful problem solving

After you’ve worked through a tough problem, don't forget to celebrate how far you've come. Not only is this important for your team of problem solvers to see their work in action, but this can also help you become a more efficient, effective , and flexible team. The more problems you tackle together, the more you’ll achieve. 

Looking for a tool to help solve problems on your team? Track project implementation with a work management tool like Asana .

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The Right Way to Solve Complex Business Problems

Corey Phelps, a strategy professor at McGill University, says great problem solvers are hard to find. Even seasoned professionals at the highest levels of organizations regularly...

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Corey Phelps, a strategy professor at McGill University, says great problem solvers are hard to find. Even seasoned professionals at the highest levels of organizations regularly fail to identify the real problem and instead jump to exploring solutions. Phelps identifies the common traps and outlines a research-proven method to solve problems effectively. He’s the coauthor of the book, Cracked it! How to solve big problems and sell solutions like top strategy consultants.

Download this podcast

Welcome to the IdeaCast from Harvard Business Review. I’m Curt Nickisch.

Problem-solving is in demand. It’s considered the top skill for success at management consulting firms. And it’s increasingly desired for everyone, not just new MBA’s.

A report from the World Economic Forum predicts that more than one-third of all jobs across all industries will require complex problem-solving as one of their core skills by 2020.

The problem is, we’re often really bad at problem-solving. Our guest today says even the most educated and experienced of senior leaders go about it the wrong way.

COREY PHELPS: I think this is one of the misnomers about problem-solving. There’s this belief that because we do it so frequently – and especially for senior leaders, they have a lot of experience, they solve problems for a living – and as such we would expect them to be quite good at it. And I think what we find is that they’re not. They don’t solve problems well because they fall prey to basically the foibles of being a human being – they fall prey to the cognitive biases and the pitfalls of problem-solving.

CURT NICKISCH: That’s Corey Phelps. He says fixing these foibles is possible and almost straightforward. You can improve your problem-solving skills by following a disciplined method.

Corey Phelps is a strategy professor at McGill University. He’s also the co-author of the book “Cracked It: How to Solve Big Problems and Sell Solutions like Top Strategy C onsultants.” Corey thanks for coming on the show.

COREY PHELPS: Thank you for the opportunity to talk.

CURT NICKISCH: Another probably many, many biases that prevent people from solving big problems well.

COREY PHELPS: Absolutely.

CURT NICKISCH: What are some of the most common, or your favorite stumbling blocks?

COREY PHELPS: Well, one of my favorites is essentially the problem of jumping to solutions or the challenge of jumping to solutions.

CURT NICKISCH: Oh, come on Corey. That’s so much fun.

COREY PHELPS: It is, and it’s very much a result of how our brains have evolved to process information, but it’s my favorite because we all do it. And especially I would say it happens in organizations because in organizations when you layer on these time pressures and you layer on these concerns about efficiency and productivity, it creates enormous, I would say incentive to say “I don’t have time to carefully define and analyze the problem. I got to get a solution. I got to implement it as quick as possible.” And the fundamental bias I think is, is illustrated beautifully by Danny Kahneman in his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” is that our minds are essentially hardwired to think fast.

We are able to pay attention to a tiny little bit of information. We can then weave a very coherent story that makes sense to us. And then we can use that story to jump very quickly to a solution that we just know will work. And if we just were able to move from that approach of what Kahneman and cognitive psychologists called “System 1 thinking” to “System 2 thinking” – that is to slow down, be more deliberative, be more structured – we would be able to better understand the problem that we’re trying to solve and be more effective and exhaustive with the tools that we want to use to understand the problem before we actually go into solution-generation mode.

CURT NICKISCH: Complex problems demand different areas of expertise and often as individuals we’re coming to those problems with one of them. And I wonder if that’s often the problem of problem-solving, which is that a manager is approaching it from their own expertise and because of that, they see the problem through a certain way. Is that one of the cognitive biases that stop people from being effective problem solvers?

COREY PHELPS: Yeah. That’s often referred to as the expertise trap. It basically colors and influences what we pay attention to with respect to a particular problem. And it limits us with respect to the tools that we can bring to bear to solve that problem. In the world of psychology, there’s famous psychologist, Abraham Maslow, who is famous for the hierarchy of needs. He’s also famous for something that was a also known as MaSlow’s axiom, Maslow’s law. It’s also called the law of the instrument, and to paraphrase Maslow, he basically said, “Look, I suppose if the only tool that you have in your toolkit is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

His point is that if you’re, for example, a finance expert and your toolkit is the toolkit of let’s say, discounted cash flow analysis for valuation, then you’re going to see problems through that very narrow lens. Now, one of the ways out of this, I think to your point is collaboration becomes fundamentally important. And collaboration starts with the recognition that I don’t have all of the tools, all of the knowledge in me to effectively solve this. So I need to recruit people that can actually help me.

CURT NICKISCH: That’s really interesting. I wonder how much the fact that you have solved a problem before it makes you have a bias for that same solution for future problems?

COREY PHELPS: Yeah, that’s a great question. What you’re alluding to is analogical reasoning, and we know that human beings, one of the things that allows us to operate in novel settings is that we can draw on our past experience. And we do so when it comes to problem solving, often times without being conscious or mentally aware of it. We reach into our memory and we ask ourselves a very simple question: “Have I seen a problem like this before?”

And if it looks familiar to me, the tendency then is to say, “Okay, well what worked in solving that problem that I faced before?” And then to say, “Well, if it worked in that setting, then it should work in this setting.” So that’s reasoning by analogy.

Reasoning by analogy has a great upside. It allows human beings to not become overwhelmed by the tremendous novelty that they face in their daily lives. The downside is that if we don’t truly understand it at sort of a deep level, whether or not the two problems are similar or different, then we can make what cognitive psychologists called surface-level analogies.

And we can then say, “Oh, this looks a lot like the problem I faced before, that solution that worked there is going to easily work here.” And we try that solution and it fails and it fails largely because if we dug a little bit deeper, the two problems actually aren’t much alike at all in terms of their underlying causes.

CURT NICKISCH: The starkest example of this, I think, in your book is Ron Johnson who left Apple to become CEO of JC Penney. Can you talk about that a little bit and what that episode for the company says about this?

COREY PHELPS: So yes, its – Ron Johnson had been hired away from Target in the United States to, by Steve Jobs to help create Apple stores. Apple stores are as many people know the most successful physical retailer on the planet measured by, for example, sales per square foot or per square meter. He’s got the golden touch. He’s created this tremendously successful retail format for Apple.

So the day that it was announced that Ron Johnson was going to step into the CEO role at JC Penney, the stock price of JC Penney went up by almost 18 percent. So clearly he was viewed as the savior. Johnson moves very, very quickly. Within a few months, he announces that he has a strategic plan and it basically comes in three parts.

Part number one is he’s going to eliminate discount pricing. JC Penney had been a very aggressive sales promoter. The second piece of it is he’s going to completely change how they organize merchandise. It’s no longer going to be organized by function – so menswear, housewares, those sorts of things. It’s going to be organized by boutique, so there’s going to be a Levi’s boutique, a Martha Stewart Boutique, a Joe Fresh Boutique and so on.

And it would drop the JC P enney name, they would call it JCP. And he rolls this out over the course of about 12 months across the entire chain of over 1100 stores. What this tells us, he’s so confident in his solution, his strategic transformation, that he doesn’t think it’s worth it to test this out on one or two pilot stores.

CURT NICKISCH: Yeah, he was quoted as saying: “At Apple, we didn’t test anything.”

COREY PHELPS: We didn’t test. Yes. What worked at Apple, he assumed would work at JC Penney. And the critical thing that I think he missed is that JC Penney customers are very different from Apple store customers. In fact, JC Penney customers love the discount. They love the thrill of hunting for a deal.

CURT NICKISCH: Which seems so fundamental to business, right? Understanding your customer. It’s just kind of shocking, I guess, to hear the story.

COREY PHELPS: It is shocking and especially when you consider that Ron Johnson had spent his entire career in retail, so this is someone that had faced, had seen, problems in retailers for decades – for over three decades by the time that he got to JC Penney. So you would expect someone with that degree of experience in that industry wouldn’t make that leap of, well, what worked at Apple stores is going to work at JC Penney stores, but in fact that’s exactly what happened.

CURT NICKISCH: In your book, you essentially suggest four steps that you recommend people use. Tell us about the four steps then.

COREY PHELPS: So in the book we describe what we call the “Four S method,” so four stages, each of which starts with the letter “s”. So the first stage is “state the problem.” Stating the problem is fundamentally about defining what the problem is that you are attempting to solve.

CURT NICKISCH: And you probably would say don’t hurry over that first step or the other three are going to be kind of pointless.

COREY PHELPS: Yeah, that’s exactly the point of of laying out the four s’s. There’s a tremendous amount of desire even amongst senior executives to want to get in and fix the problem. In other words, what’s the trouble? What are the symptoms? What would define success? What are the constraints that we would be operating under? Who owns the problem? And then who are the key stakeholders?

Oftentimes that step is skipped over and we go right into, “I’ve got a hypothesis about what I think the solution is and I’m so obsessed with getting this thing fixed quickly, I’m not going to bother to analyze it particularly well or test the validity of my assumptions. I’m going to go right into implementation mode.”

The second step, what we call “structure the problem” is once you have defined the problem, you need to then start to identify what are the potential causes of that problem. So there are different tools that we talked about in the book that you can structure a problem for analysis. Once you’ve structured the problem for analysis and you’ve conducted the analysis that helps you identify what are the underlying causes that are contributing to it, which will then inform the third stage which is generating solutions for the problem and then testing and evaluating those solutions.

CURT NICKISCH: Is the danger that that third step – generating solutions – is the step that people spend the most time on or have the most fun with?

COREY PHELPS: Yeah. The danger is, is that what that’s naturally what people gravitate towards. So we want to skip over the first two, state and structure.

CURT NICKISCH: As soon as you said it, I was like, “let’s talk about that more.”

COREY PHELPS: Yeah. And we want to jump right into solutioning because people love to talk about their ideas that are going to fix the problem. And that’s actually a useful way to frame a discussion about solutions – we could, or we might do this – because it opens up possibilities for experimentation.

And the problem is that when we often talk about what we could do, we have very little understanding of what the problem is that we’re trying to solve and what are the underlying causes of that problem. Because as you said, solution generation is fun. Look, the classic example is brainstorming. Let’s get a bunch of people in a room and let’s talk about the ideas on how to fix this thing. And again, be deliberate, be disciplined. Do those first stages, the first two stages – state and structure – before you get into the solution generation phase.

CURT NICKISCH: Yeah. The other thing that often happens there is just the lack of awareness of just the cost of the different solutions – how much time, or what they would actually take to do.

COREY PHELPS: Yeah, and again, I’ll go back to that example I used of brainstorming where it’s fun to get a group of people together and talk about our ideas and how to fix the problem. There’s a couple challenges of that. One is what often happens when we do that is we tend to censor the solutions that we come up with. In other words, we ask ourselves, “if I say this idea, people are gonna, think I’m crazy, or people going to say: that’s stupid, that’ll never work, we can’t do that in our organization. It’s going to be too expensive, it’s going to take too much time. We don’t have the resources to do it.”

So brainstorming downside is we we self-sensor, so that’s where you need to have deep insight into your organization in terms of A. what’s going to be feasible, B. what’s going to be desirable on the part of the people that actually have the problem, who you’re trying to solve the problem for and C. from a business standpoint, is it going to be financially attractive for us?

So applying again a set of disciplined criteria that help you choose amongst those ideas for potential solutions. Then the last stage of the process which is selling – because it’s rare in any organization that someone or the group of people that come up with the solution actually have the power and the resources to implement it, so that means they’re going to have to persuade other people to buy into it and want to help.

CURT NICKISCH: Design thinking is another really different method essentially for solving problems or coming up with solutions that just aren’t arrived at through usual problem-solving or usual decision-making processes. I’m just wondering how design thinking comes to play when you’re also outlining these, you know, disciplined methods for stating and solving problems.

COREY PHELPS: For us it’s about choosing the right approach. You know what the potential causes of a problem are. You just don’t know which ones are operating in the particular problem you’re trying to solve. And what that means is that you’ve got a theory – and this is largely the world of strategy consultants – strategy consultants have theories. They have, if you hear them speak, deep understanding of different types of organizational problems, and what they bring is an analytic tool kit that says, “first we’re going to identify all the possible problems, all the possible causes I should say, of this problem. We’re going to figure out which ones are operating and we’re going to use that to come up with a solution.” Then you’ve got problems that you have no idea what the causes are. You’re in a world of unknown unknowns or unk-unks as the operations management people call them.

CURT NICKISCH: That’s terrible.

COREY PHELPS: In other words, you don’t have a theory. So the question is, how do you begin? Well, this is where design thinking can be quite valuable. Design thinking says: first off, let’s find out who are the human beings, the people that are actually experiencing this problem, and let’s go out and let’s talk to them. Let’s observe them. Let’s immerse ourselves in their experience and let’s start to develop an understanding of the causes of the problem from their perspective.

So rather than go into it and say, “I have a theory,” let’s go the design thinking route and let’s actually based upon interactions with users or customers, let’s actually develop a theory. And then we’ll use our new understanding or new insight into the causes of the problem to move into the solution generation phase.

CURT NICKISCH: Problem-solving – we know that that’s something that employers look for when they’re recruiting people. It is one of those phrases that, you know, I’m sure somebody out there has, has the title at a company Chief Problem Solver instead of CEO, right? So, it’s almost one of those phrases that so over used it can lose its meaning.

And if you are being hired or you’re trying to make a case for being on a team that’s tackling a problem, how do you make a compelling case that you are a good problem solver? How can you actually show it?

COREY PHELPS: It’s a great question and then I have two answers to this question. So one is, look at the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding. In other words, can you point to successful solutions that you’ve come up with – solutions that have actually been effective in solving a problem? So that’s one.

The second thing is can you actually articulate how you approach problem-solving? In other words, do you follow a method or are you reinventing the wheel every time you solve a problem? Is it an ad hoc approach? And I think this issue really comes to a head when it comes to the world of strategy consulting firms when they recruit. For example, Mckinsey, you’ve got the Mckinsey problem-solving test, which is again, a test that’s actually trying to elicit the extent to which people are good applicants are good at solving problems

And then you’ve got the case interview. And in the case interview, what they’re looking at is do you have a mastery over certain tools. But what they’re really looking at is, are you actually following a logical process to solve this problem? Because again, what they’re interested in is finding- to your point – people that are going to be good at solving complex organizational problems. So they’re trying to get some evidence that they can demonstrate that they’re good at it and some evidence that they follow a deliberate process.

CURT NICKISCH: So even if you’re not interviewing at a consulting firm, that’s a good approach, to show your thinking, show your process, show the questions you ask?

COREY PHELPS: Yeah, and to your point earlier, at least if we look at what recruiters of MBA students are saying these days, they’re saying, for example, according to the FT’s recent survey, they’re saying that we want people with really good problem solving skills, and by the same token, we find that that’s a skill that’s difficult for us to recruit for. And that reinforces our interest in this area because the fundamental idea for the book is to give people a method. We’re trying to equip not just MBA students but everybody that’s going to face complex problems with a toolkit to solve them better.

CURT NICKISCH: Corey, this has been really great. Thank you.

COREY PHELPS: Thanks for the opportunity. I appreciate it.

CURT NICKISCH: That’s Corey Phelps. He teaches strategy at McGill University, and he co-wrote the book “Cracked It: How to Solve Big Problems and Sell Solutions Like Top Strategy Consultants.”

This episode was produced by Mary Dooe. We got technical help from Rob Eckhardt. Adam Buchholz is our audio product manager.

Thanks for listening to the HBR IdeaCast. I’m Curt Nickisch.

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The Problem Solving Company offer schools a comprehensive range of mobile problem solving & school team building days. Our team of experienced instructors visit schools throughout the UK bringing everything that we need to run a host of activity days. Whether you are looking to book a Maths Workshops or a Year 7 Transition Team Building Day we create an experience that fits your needs and requirements. In addition it will be an experience for your students that will be memorable for years to come.

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Maths Workshops

The Problem Solving Company offers maths workshops for both Primary and Secondary Schools throughout the UK. Our National Curriculum based workshops are a great way to improve the image of maths in your school. Using large resources enables maximum participation for the groups and helps encourage communication and team skills.

As well as developing thinking skills, maths concepts and dialogue the maths activities will help foster a can do attitude amongst your students.

Our maths activities are timetabled around your normal school day and the number of students participating. Ranging from groups of small students to whole primary schools maths days or weeks, to whole year groups at Secondary school.

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Our mobile Team Building Days delivered in schools are the perfect solution to providing your students with a developmental, exciting and fun day. The Problem Solving Company offer a variety of different programs for both Primary and Secondary Schools ranging from short workshops to full activity days

Suited to both small and large groups of students, our activity programmes are created to differentiate between age ranges, allowing the students to get the most from their experience.

Eliminating expensive transport costs, reams of paperwork, and the need to leave the school grounds makes The Problem Solving Companies School Team Building Days are a very popular choice.

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Our range of School Escape Rooms offers both Primary and Secondary Schools the chance to engage their students in a completely new way.

This very popular activity sees students code breaking, solving riddles and puzzles. With a myriad of compartments and padlocks our Escape Boxes engage even the most reluctant of students

As well as Maths and Team Building we also cover topics such as Science and History.

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Workplace problem-solving examples: real scenarios, practical solutions.

  • March 11, 2024

In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing work environment, problems are inevitable. From conflicts among employees to high levels of stress, workplace problems can significantly impact productivity and overall well-being. However, by developing the art of problem-solving and implementing practical solutions, organizations can effectively tackle these challenges and foster a positive work culture. In this article, we will delve into various workplace problem scenarios and explore strategies for resolution. By understanding common workplace problems and acquiring essential problem-solving skills, individuals and organizations can navigate these challenges with confidence and success.

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Understanding Workplace Problems

Before we can effectively solve workplace problems , it is essential to gain a clear understanding of the issues at hand. Identifying common workplace problems is the first step toward finding practical solutions. By recognizing these challenges, organizations can develop targeted strategies and initiatives to address them.

Identifying Common Workplace Problems

One of the most common workplace problems is conflict. Whether it stems from differences in opinions, miscommunication, or personality clashes, conflict can disrupt collaboration and hinder productivity. It is important to note that conflict is a natural part of any workplace, as individuals with different backgrounds and perspectives come together to work towards a common goal. However, when conflict is not managed effectively, it can escalate and create a toxic work environment.

In addition to conflict, workplace stress and burnout pose significant challenges. High workloads, tight deadlines, and a lack of work-life balance can all contribute to employee stress and dissatisfaction. When employees are overwhelmed and exhausted, their performance and overall well-being are compromised. This not only affects the individuals directly, but it also has a ripple effect on the entire organization.

Another common workplace problem is poor communication. Ineffective communication can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and errors. It can also create a sense of confusion and frustration among employees. Clear and open communication is vital for successful collaboration and the smooth functioning of any organization.

The Impact of Workplace Problems on Productivity

Workplace problems can have a detrimental effect on productivity levels. When conflicts are left unresolved, they can create a tense work environment, leading to decreased employee motivation and engagement. The negative energy generated by unresolved conflicts can spread throughout the organization, affecting team dynamics and overall performance.

Similarly, high levels of stress and burnout can result in decreased productivity, as individuals may struggle to focus and perform optimally. When employees are constantly under pressure and overwhelmed, their ability to think creatively and problem-solve diminishes. This can lead to a decline in the quality of work produced and an increase in errors and inefficiencies.

Poor communication also hampers productivity. When information is not effectively shared or understood, it can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and rework. This not only wastes time and resources but also creates frustration and demotivation among employees.

Furthermore, workplace problems can negatively impact employee morale and job satisfaction. When individuals are constantly dealing with conflicts, stress, and poor communication, their overall job satisfaction and engagement suffer. This can result in higher turnover rates, as employees seek a healthier and more supportive work environment.

In conclusion, workplace problems such as conflict, stress, burnout, and poor communication can significantly hinder productivity and employee well-being. Organizations must address these issues promptly and proactively to create a positive and productive work atmosphere. By fostering open communication, providing support for stress management, and promoting conflict resolution strategies, organizations can create a work environment that encourages collaboration, innovation, and employee satisfaction.

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The Art of Problem Solving in the Workplace

Now that we have a clear understanding of workplace problems, let’s explore the essential skills necessary for effective problem-solving in the workplace. By developing these skills and adopting a proactive approach, individuals can tackle problems head-on and find practical solutions.

Problem-solving in the workplace is a complex and multifaceted skill that requires a combination of analytical thinking, creativity, and effective communication. It goes beyond simply identifying problems and extends to finding innovative solutions that address the root causes.

Essential Problem-Solving Skills for the Workplace

To effectively solve workplace problems, individuals should possess a range of skills. These include strong analytical and critical thinking abilities, excellent communication and interpersonal skills, the ability to collaborate and work well in a team, and the capacity to adapt to change. By honing these skills, individuals can approach workplace problems with confidence and creativity.

Analytical and critical thinking skills are essential for problem-solving in the workplace. They involve the ability to gather and analyze relevant information, identify patterns and trends, and make logical connections. These skills enable individuals to break down complex problems into manageable components and develop effective strategies to solve them.

Effective communication and interpersonal skills are also crucial for problem-solving in the workplace. These skills enable individuals to clearly articulate their thoughts and ideas, actively listen to others, and collaborate effectively with colleagues. By fostering open and honest communication channels, individuals can better understand the root causes of problems and work towards finding practical solutions.

Collaboration and teamwork are essential for problem-solving in the workplace. By working together, individuals can leverage their diverse skills, knowledge, and perspectives to generate innovative solutions. Collaboration fosters a supportive and inclusive environment where everyone’s ideas are valued, leading to more effective problem-solving outcomes.

The ability to adapt to change is another important skill for problem-solving in the workplace. In today’s fast-paced and dynamic work environment, problems often arise due to changes in technology, processes, or market conditions. Individuals who can embrace change and adapt quickly are better equipped to find solutions that address the evolving needs of the organization.

The Role of Communication in Problem Solving

Communication is a key component of effective problem-solving in the workplace. By fostering open and honest communication channels, individuals can better understand the root causes of problems and work towards finding practical solutions. Active listening, clear and concise articulation of thoughts and ideas, and the ability to empathize are all valuable communication skills that facilitate problem-solving.

Active listening involves fully engaging with the speaker, paying attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues, and seeking clarification when necessary. By actively listening, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of the problem at hand and the perspectives of others involved. This understanding is crucial for developing comprehensive and effective solutions.

Clear and concise articulation of thoughts and ideas is essential for effective problem-solving communication. By expressing oneself clearly, individuals can ensure that their ideas are understood by others. This clarity helps to avoid misunderstandings and promotes effective collaboration.

Empathy is a valuable communication skill that plays a significant role in problem-solving. By putting oneself in the shoes of others and understanding their emotions and perspectives, individuals can build trust and rapport. This empathetic connection fosters a supportive and collaborative environment where everyone feels valued and motivated to contribute to finding solutions.

In conclusion, problem-solving in the workplace requires a combination of essential skills such as analytical thinking, effective communication, collaboration, and adaptability. By honing these skills and fostering open communication channels, individuals can approach workplace problems with confidence and creativity, leading to practical and innovative solutions.

Real Scenarios of Workplace Problems

Now, let’s explore some real scenarios of workplace problems and delve into strategies for resolution. By examining these practical examples, individuals can develop a deeper understanding of how to approach and solve workplace problems.

Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

Imagine a scenario where two team members have conflicting ideas on how to approach a project. The disagreement becomes heated, leading to a tense work environment. To resolve this conflict, it is crucial to encourage open dialogue between the team members. Facilitating a calm and respectful conversation can help uncover underlying concerns and find common ground. Collaboration and compromise are key in reaching a resolution that satisfies all parties involved.

In this particular scenario, let’s dive deeper into the dynamics between the team members. One team member, let’s call her Sarah, strongly believes that a more conservative and traditional approach is necessary for the project’s success. On the other hand, her colleague, John, advocates for a more innovative and out-of-the-box strategy. The clash between their perspectives arises from their different backgrounds and experiences.

As the conflict escalates, it is essential for a neutral party, such as a team leader or a mediator, to step in and facilitate the conversation. This person should create a safe space for both Sarah and John to express their ideas and concerns without fear of judgment or retribution. By actively listening to each other, they can gain a better understanding of the underlying motivations behind their respective approaches.

During the conversation, it may become apparent that Sarah’s conservative approach stems from a fear of taking risks and a desire for stability. On the other hand, John’s innovative mindset is driven by a passion for pushing boundaries and finding creative solutions. Recognizing these underlying motivations can help foster empathy and create a foundation for collaboration.

As the dialogue progresses, Sarah and John can begin to identify areas of overlap and potential compromise. They may realize that while Sarah’s conservative approach provides stability, John’s innovative ideas can inject fresh perspectives into the project. By combining their strengths and finding a middle ground, they can develop a hybrid strategy that incorporates both stability and innovation.

Ultimately, conflict resolution in the workplace requires effective communication, active listening, empathy, and a willingness to find common ground. By addressing conflicts head-on and fostering a collaborative environment, teams can overcome challenges and achieve their goals.

Dealing with Workplace Stress and Burnout

Workplace stress and burnout can be debilitating for individuals and organizations alike. In this scenario, an employee is consistently overwhelmed by their workload and experiencing signs of burnout. To address this issue, organizations should promote a healthy work-life balance and provide resources to manage stress effectively. Encouraging employees to take breaks, providing access to mental health support, and fostering a supportive work culture are all practical solutions to alleviate workplace stress.

In this particular scenario, let’s imagine that the employee facing stress and burnout is named Alex. Alex has been working long hours, often sacrificing personal time and rest to meet tight deadlines and demanding expectations. As a result, Alex is experiencing physical and mental exhaustion, reduced productivity, and a sense of detachment from work.

Recognizing the signs of burnout, Alex’s organization takes proactive measures to address the issue. They understand that employee well-being is crucial for maintaining a healthy and productive workforce. To promote a healthy work-life balance, the organization encourages employees to take regular breaks and prioritize self-care. They emphasize the importance of disconnecting from work during non-working hours and encourage employees to engage in activities that promote relaxation and rejuvenation.

Additionally, the organization provides access to mental health support services, such as counseling or therapy sessions. They recognize that stress and burnout can have a significant impact on an individual’s mental well-being and offer resources to help employees manage their stress effectively. By destigmatizing mental health and providing confidential support, the organization creates an environment where employees feel comfortable seeking help when needed.

Furthermore, the organization fosters a supportive work culture by promoting open communication and empathy. They encourage managers and colleagues to check in with each other regularly, offering support and understanding. Team members are encouraged to collaborate and share the workload, ensuring that no one person is overwhelmed with excessive responsibilities.

By implementing these strategies, Alex’s organization aims to alleviate workplace stress and prevent burnout. They understand that a healthy and balanced workforce is more likely to be engaged, productive, and satisfied. Through a combination of promoting work-life balance, providing mental health support, and fostering a supportive work culture, organizations can effectively address workplace stress and create an environment conducive to employee well-being.

Practical Solutions to Workplace Problems

Now that we have explored real scenarios, let’s discuss practical solutions that organizations can implement to address workplace problems. By adopting proactive strategies and establishing effective policies, organizations can create a positive work environment conducive to problem-solving and productivity.

Implementing Effective Policies for Problem Resolution

Organizations should have clear and well-defined policies in place to address workplace problems. These policies should outline procedures for conflict resolution, channels for reporting problems, and accountability measures. By ensuring that employees are aware of these policies and have easy access to them, organizations can facilitate problem-solving and prevent issues from escalating.

Promoting a Positive Workplace Culture

A positive workplace culture is vital for problem-solving. By fostering an environment of respect, collaboration, and open communication, organizations can create a space where individuals feel empowered to address and solve problems. Encouraging teamwork, recognizing and appreciating employees’ contributions, and promoting a healthy work-life balance are all ways to cultivate a positive workplace culture.

The Role of Leadership in Problem Solving

Leadership plays a crucial role in facilitating effective problem-solving within organizations. Different leadership styles can impact how problems are approached and resolved.

Leadership Styles and Their Impact on Problem-Solving

Leaders who adopt an autocratic leadership style may make decisions independently, potentially leaving their team members feeling excluded and undervalued. On the other hand, leaders who adopt a democratic leadership style involve their team members in the problem-solving process, fostering a sense of ownership and empowerment. By encouraging employee participation, organizations can leverage the diverse perspectives and expertise of their workforce to find innovative solutions to workplace problems.

Encouraging Employee Participation in Problem Solving

To harness the collective problem-solving abilities of an organization, it is crucial to encourage employee participation. Leaders can create opportunities for employees to contribute their ideas and perspectives through brainstorming sessions, team meetings, and collaborative projects. By valuing employee input and involving them in decision-making processes, organizations can foster a culture of inclusivity and drive innovative problem-solving efforts.

In today’s dynamic work environment, workplace problems are unavoidable. However, by understanding common workplace problems, developing essential problem-solving skills, and implementing practical solutions, individuals and organizations can navigate these challenges effectively. By fostering a positive work culture, implementing effective policies, and encouraging employee participation, organizations can create an environment conducive to problem-solving and productivity. With proactive problem-solving strategies in place, organizations can thrive and overcome obstacles, ensuring long-term success and growth.

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  • 7 Steps to Effective Business Problem Solving

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In the world of business, one piece of advice you can probably abide by is to expect the unexpected.

7 Steps to Effective Business Problem Solving

Whatever the size of your business, you need to have a contingency plan for when problems arise since they are a part of every organization.

Regardless of how well you forecast, plan and test, challenges will always emerge in business. Having the right problem-solving plan can go a long way in ensuring you continue to function even amid unexpected and difficult circumstances.

What is problem-solving in business?

Problem-solving refers to the process to remove or mitigate obstacles that prevent a business from reaching its strategic goals. These can be issues that widen the gap between results and desired outcomes that do not have an obvious or immediate solution. They can be present in operational processes, teams or throughout an organization.

For instance, if the main problem a business is facing is productivity from remote employees, ensuring you equip them with the right work from home essentials by Omnicore can positively impact their productivity.

To be able to approach problem solving effectively, an organization should establish processes that can help in evaluating them, exploring the solutions, prioritizing execution and measuring success.

Why is it so important?

Acquiring problem-solving skills makes it easier for a team to tackle critical business issues or conflicts as they arise. This is a process that needs to be initiated by the management. A CEO or business owner should possess level-headed problem-solving skills to be mirrored by the employees.

With effective problem-solving techniques, the company and staff are better placed to deal with issues more effectively and even establish and refine how they deal with challenges in the future. A business can turn obstacles into opportunities with the right skills while keeping a level head.

In many ways, a problem-solving strategy should mirror how a business reviews performance through regular plan reviews. This calls for working through documentation, finding gaps, digging to find root causes and discussing possible options. Without such a process, problem solving cannot be effective or efficient.

Here are 7 steps you can take to create an effective problem-solving strategy.

1. Define the problem clearly

Whenever a problem crops up, it requires evaluating instead of jumping right into creating the solution. Failing to define and evaluate the root cause of the problem leads to the development of a strategy that will not work, as this is equal to just treating the symptoms.

For instance, when the sales numbers from a new customer start dropping, most businesses will rush into creating a marketing master plan to increase brand exposure as a way of driving up sales. While this may work in the short term, it does not solve the root cause of the drop in sales.

Defining the problem ensures you don’t miss the root cause of the symptoms. To do this, you need to look at it from different angles.

  • The competition: Is the promotion or pricing of a competitor hurting your sales? Take time to learn who the newest entrants in your niche are, and the strategies they are using to market their business or product. This may be the cause of the issues you are facing. 
  • Your business model: Do you have a sustainable business model? You need to ensure that your growth plan is realistic and consider exploring other cost and pricing strategies.
  • The market: Determine how world events and the economy are affecting your sales and customers.
  • The team: Investigate possible issues affecting the team’s productivity. Equip them with the necessary tools and resources for success. 

2. Think about multiple possible solutions

The success of any problem-solving process is dependent on how well a business can design a solution. The design thinking approach is one of the most used strategies for problem-solving since it helps to see the issue from different perspectives, leading to creating different possible solutions.

For this to be possible, the business needs to involve a wide array of people in the problem-solving process.

3. Conduct a S.W.O.T analysis

A S.W.O.T analysis is an excellent way or any business to have a look at its strengths and weaknesses. For instance, the launch of a groundbreaking product may be a strength, but the low margins can be the weakness.

In a S.W.O.T analysis, a business will need to document all its external opportunities as well as strengths. This analysis is conducted to make it easier for an organization to become more self-aware. It is a strategic planning tool that helps you identify problems before they affect the business. This makes it easier for the organization to develop solutions before the problem actually arises.

4. Gather input from mentors and the team

When conducting analysis, it’s ideal to seek input from your team to get valued ideas, concerns and opinions on the issues the business is facing. The feedback you get from your mentors, and the team can make your moves more efficient and faster in your problem-solving agenda.

Bringing in your team ensures you use their experiences and expertise in your business to dig deeper and navigate all underlying issues that may have caused the problems you are experiencing. You can also use their ideas and input to craft possible solutions.

If you are a solo entrepreneur, you can benefit from gathering input from your mentors. It’s also advisable to connect with trusted business advisors to get a different view of your issues.

Having greater diversity amongst the people you bring into the problem-solving process can improve your chances of coming up with effective long-term solutions.

5. Prioritize potential solutions

When you allow different people to help you come up with different solutions for your problem, you increase the chances of having multiple possible solutions to a common business problem. With all the options you have, you can evaluate each solution's pros and cons and prioritize the best options in the list.

Always remember that no solution is foolproof. Taking time to go through possible solutions while evaluating their pros and cons increases your chances of implementing the best option of them all.

6. Make a decision

To be able to solve a business problem effectively, you need to decide on the solution to implement. The decision-making process involves settling on the right course of action and should be done as soon as possible to avoid further losses. Taking too long to make a decision only gives the problem more time to impact your business negatively.

Once you have possible, reliable solutions, you need to ensure you implement the solution immediately by choosing a solution and sticking to it.  

7. Track progress

The only way to know whether you have successfully solved a problem is by keeping track of the implemented solution. This can be achieved by defining what successful problem-solving looks like and determining how the solution should impact your business.

Some of the questions you can ask when tracking progress include:

  • Did it work?
  • Was it a good solution?
  • Did we learn something through the implementation that can be applied to other potential problems?

The best way to track your progress is by identifying key metrics to track. For instance, you can choose to track your profit margins after implementing a solution. You can tell whether a solution is working by constantly setting and hitting milestones. It’s also important to keep an eye on other business metrics to ensure the solution does not bring rise to other problems. Keeping an eye on the progress will ensure you remain a step ahead of future challenges.

Don’t be afraid of going back to the drawing board to perfect your solution if you identify loopholes that require improvement. Problem solving is a continuous process.

The bottom line

When you are good at problem-solving, you become more valuable in your business, thus setting yourself up for more success. The simple steps highlighted above can make you a more efficient and effective problem solver for your business. Taking time to practice the steps and develop the skills makes the process more natural to you, making future problem solving a breeze.

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Lidia Hovhan

Lidia Hovhan

Lidia is part of the Content and Marketing team at OmnicoreAgency . She contributes articles about how to integrate digital marketing strategy with traditional marketing to help business owners to meet their online goals. You can find professional insights in her writings. 

https://www.omnicoreagency.com/

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35 problem-solving techniques and methods for solving complex problems

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All teams and organizations encounter challenges as they grow. There are problems that might occur for teams when it comes to miscommunication or resolving business-critical issues . You may face challenges around growth , design , user engagement, and even team culture and happiness. In short, problem-solving techniques should be part of every team’s skillset.

Problem-solving methods are primarily designed to help a group or team through a process of first identifying problems and challenges , ideating possible solutions , and then evaluating the most suitable .

Finding effective solutions to complex problems isn’t easy, but by using the right process and techniques, you can help your team be more efficient in the process.

So how do you develop strategies that are engaging, and empower your team to solve problems effectively?

In this blog post, we share a series of problem-solving tools you can use in your next workshop or team meeting. You’ll also find some tips for facilitating the process and how to enable others to solve complex problems.

Let’s get started! 

How do you identify problems?

How do you identify the right solution.

  • Tips for more effective problem-solving

Complete problem-solving methods

  • Problem-solving techniques to identify and analyze problems
  • Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions

Problem-solving warm-up activities

Closing activities for a problem-solving process.

Before you can move towards finding the right solution for a given problem, you first need to identify and define the problem you wish to solve. 

Here, you want to clearly articulate what the problem is and allow your group to do the same. Remember that everyone in a group is likely to have differing perspectives and alignment is necessary in order to help the group move forward. 

Identifying a problem accurately also requires that all members of a group are able to contribute their views in an open and safe manner. It can be scary for people to stand up and contribute, especially if the problems or challenges are emotive or personal in nature. Be sure to try and create a psychologically safe space for these kinds of discussions.

Remember that problem analysis and further discussion are also important. Not taking the time to fully analyze and discuss a challenge can result in the development of solutions that are not fit for purpose or do not address the underlying issue.

Successfully identifying and then analyzing a problem means facilitating a group through activities designed to help them clearly and honestly articulate their thoughts and produce usable insight.

With this data, you might then produce a problem statement that clearly describes the problem you wish to be addressed and also state the goal of any process you undertake to tackle this issue.  

Finding solutions is the end goal of any process. Complex organizational challenges can only be solved with an appropriate solution but discovering them requires using the right problem-solving tool.

After you’ve explored a problem and discussed ideas, you need to help a team discuss and choose the right solution. Consensus tools and methods such as those below help a group explore possible solutions before then voting for the best. They’re a great way to tap into the collective intelligence of the group for great results!

Remember that the process is often iterative. Great problem solvers often roadtest a viable solution in a measured way to see what works too. While you might not get the right solution on your first try, the methods below help teams land on the most likely to succeed solution while also holding space for improvement.

Every effective problem solving process begins with an agenda . A well-structured workshop is one of the best methods for successfully guiding a group from exploring a problem to implementing a solution.

In SessionLab, it’s easy to go from an idea to a complete agenda . Start by dragging and dropping your core problem solving activities into place . Add timings, breaks and necessary materials before sharing your agenda with your colleagues.

The resulting agenda will be your guide to an effective and productive problem solving session that will also help you stay organized on the day!

problem solving in company

Tips for more effective problem solving

Problem-solving activities are only one part of the puzzle. While a great method can help unlock your team’s ability to solve problems, without a thoughtful approach and strong facilitation the solutions may not be fit for purpose.

Let’s take a look at some problem-solving tips you can apply to any process to help it be a success!

Clearly define the problem

Jumping straight to solutions can be tempting, though without first clearly articulating a problem, the solution might not be the right one. Many of the problem-solving activities below include sections where the problem is explored and clearly defined before moving on.

This is a vital part of the problem-solving process and taking the time to fully define an issue can save time and effort later. A clear definition helps identify irrelevant information and it also ensures that your team sets off on the right track.

Don’t jump to conclusions

It’s easy for groups 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 the group 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.  

Try different approaches  

Problems come in all shapes and sizes and so too should the methods you use to solve them. If you find that one approach isn’t yielding results and your team isn’t finding different solutions, try mixing it up. You’ll be surprised at how using a new creative activity can unblock your team and generate great solutions.

Don’t take it personally 

Depending on the nature of your team or organizational problems, it’s easy for conversations to get heated. While it’s good for participants to be engaged in the discussions, ensure that emotions don’t run too high and that blame isn’t thrown around while finding solutions.

You’re all in it together, and even if your team or area is seeing problems, that isn’t necessarily a disparagement of you personally. Using facilitation skills to manage group dynamics is one effective method of helping conversations be more constructive.

Get the right people in the room

Your problem-solving method is often only as effective as the group using it. Getting the right people on the job and managing the number of people present is important too!

If the group is too small, you may not get enough different perspectives to effectively solve a problem. If the group is too large, you can go round and round during the ideation stages.

Creating the right group makeup is also important in ensuring you have the necessary expertise and skillset to both identify and follow up on potential solutions. Carefully consider who to include at each stage to help ensure your problem-solving method is followed and positioned for success.

Document everything

The best solutions can take refinement, iteration, and reflection to come out. Get into a habit of documenting your process in order to keep all the learnings from the session and to allow ideas to mature and develop. Many of the methods below involve the creation of documents or shared resources. Be sure to keep and share these so everyone can benefit from the work done!

Bring a facilitator 

Facilitation is all about making group processes easier. With a subject as potentially emotive and important as problem-solving, having an impartial third party in the form of a facilitator can make all the difference in finding great solutions and keeping the process moving. Consider bringing a facilitator to your problem-solving session to get better results and generate meaningful solutions!

Develop your problem-solving skills

It takes time and practice to be an effective problem solver. While some roles or participants might more naturally gravitate towards problem-solving, it can take development and planning to help everyone create better solutions.

You might develop a training program, run a problem-solving workshop or simply ask your team to practice using the techniques below. Check out our post on problem-solving skills to see how you and your group can develop the right mental process and be more resilient to issues too!

Design a great agenda

Workshops are a great format for solving problems. With the right approach, you can focus a group and help them find the solutions to their own problems. But designing a process can be time-consuming and finding the right activities can be difficult.

Check out our workshop planning guide to level-up your agenda design and start running more effective workshops. Need inspiration? Check out templates designed by expert facilitators to help you kickstart your process!

In this section, we’ll look at in-depth problem-solving methods that provide a complete end-to-end process for developing effective solutions. These will help guide your team from the discovery and definition of a problem through to delivering the right solution.

If you’re looking for an all-encompassing method or problem-solving model, these processes are a great place to start. They’ll ask your team to challenge preconceived ideas and adopt a mindset for solving problems more effectively.

  • Six Thinking Hats
  • Lightning Decision Jam
  • Problem Definition Process
  • Discovery & Action Dialogue
Design Sprint 2.0
  • Open Space Technology

1. Six Thinking Hats

Individual approaches to solving a problem can be very different based on what team or role an individual holds. It can be easy for existing biases or perspectives to find their way into the mix, or for internal politics to direct a conversation.

Six Thinking Hats is a classic method for identifying the problems that need to be solved and enables your team to consider them from different angles, whether that is by focusing on facts and data, creative solutions, or by considering why a particular solution might not work.

Like all problem-solving frameworks, Six Thinking Hats is effective at helping teams remove roadblocks from a conversation or discussion and come to terms with all the aspects necessary to solve complex problems.

2. Lightning Decision Jam

Featured courtesy of Jonathan Courtney of AJ&Smart Berlin, Lightning Decision Jam is one of those strategies that should be in every facilitation toolbox. Exploring problems and finding solutions is often creative in nature, though as with any creative process, there is the potential to lose focus and get lost.

Unstructured discussions might get you there in the end, but it’s much more effective to use a method that creates a clear process and team focus.

In Lightning Decision Jam, participants are invited to begin by writing challenges, concerns, or mistakes on post-its without discussing them before then being invited by the moderator to present them to the group.

From there, the team vote on which problems to solve and are guided through steps that will allow them to reframe those problems, create solutions and then decide what to execute on. 

By deciding the problems that need to be solved as a team before moving on, this group process is great for ensuring the whole team is aligned and can take ownership over the next stages. 

Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ)   #action   #decision making   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #innovation   #design   #remote-friendly   The problem with anything that requires creative thinking is that it’s easy to get lost—lose focus and fall into the trap of having useless, open-ended, unstructured discussions. Here’s the most effective solution I’ve found: Replace all open, unstructured discussion with a clear process. What to use this exercise for: Anything which requires a group of people to make decisions, solve problems or discuss challenges. It’s always good to frame an LDJ session with a broad topic, here are some examples: The conversion flow of our checkout Our internal design process How we organise events Keeping up with our competition Improving sales flow

3. Problem Definition Process

While problems can be complex, the problem-solving methods you use to identify and solve those problems can often be simple in design. 

By taking the time to truly identify and define a problem before asking the group to reframe the challenge as an opportunity, this method is a great way to enable change.

Begin by identifying a focus question and exploring the ways in which it manifests before splitting into five teams who will each consider the problem using a different method: escape, reversal, exaggeration, distortion or wishful. Teams develop a problem objective and create ideas in line with their method before then feeding them back to the group.

This method is great for enabling in-depth discussions while also creating space for finding creative solutions too!

Problem Definition   #problem solving   #idea generation   #creativity   #online   #remote-friendly   A problem solving technique to define a problem, challenge or opportunity and to generate ideas.

4. The 5 Whys 

Sometimes, a group needs to go further with their strategies and analyze the root cause at the heart of organizational issues. An RCA or root cause analysis is the process of identifying what is at the heart of business problems or recurring challenges. 

The 5 Whys is a simple and effective method of helping a group go find the root cause of any problem or challenge and conduct analysis that will deliver results. 

By beginning with the creation of a problem statement and going through five stages to refine it, The 5 Whys provides everything you need to truly discover the cause of an issue.

The 5 Whys   #hyperisland   #innovation   This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. As the title suggests, the group defines a problems, then asks the question “why” five times, often using the resulting explanation as a starting point for creative problem solving.

5. World Cafe

World Cafe is a simple but powerful facilitation technique to help bigger groups to focus their energy and attention on solving complex problems.

World Cafe enables this approach by creating a relaxed atmosphere where participants are able to self-organize and explore topics relevant and important to them which are themed around a central problem-solving purpose. Create the right atmosphere by modeling your space after a cafe and after guiding the group through the method, let them take the lead!

Making problem-solving a part of your organization’s culture in the long term can be a difficult undertaking. More approachable formats like World Cafe can be especially effective in bringing people unfamiliar with workshops into the fold. 

World Cafe   #hyperisland   #innovation   #issue analysis   World Café is a simple yet powerful method, originated by Juanita Brown, for enabling meaningful conversations driven completely by participants and the topics that are relevant and important to them. Facilitators create a cafe-style space and provide simple guidelines. Participants then self-organize and explore a set of relevant topics or questions for conversation.

6. Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)

One of the best approaches is to create a safe space for a group to share and discover practices and behaviors that can help them find their own solutions.

With DAD, you can help a group choose which problems they wish to solve and which approaches they will take to do so. It’s great at helping remove resistance to change and can help get buy-in at every level too!

This process of enabling frontline ownership is great in ensuring follow-through and is one of the methods you will want in your toolbox as a facilitator.

Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)   #idea generation   #liberating structures   #action   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   DADs make it easy for a group or community to discover practices and behaviors that enable some individuals (without access to special resources and facing the same constraints) to find better solutions than their peers to common problems. These are called positive deviant (PD) behaviors and practices. DADs make it possible for people in the group, unit, or community to discover by themselves these PD practices. DADs also create favorable conditions for stimulating participants’ creativity in spaces where they can feel safe to invent new and more effective practices. Resistance to change evaporates as participants are unleashed to choose freely which practices they will adopt or try and which problems they will tackle. DADs make it possible to achieve frontline ownership of solutions.

7. Design Sprint 2.0

Want to see how a team can solve big problems and move forward with prototyping and testing solutions in a few days? The Design Sprint 2.0 template from Jake Knapp, author of Sprint, is a complete agenda for a with proven results.

Developing the right agenda can involve difficult but necessary planning. Ensuring all the correct steps are followed can also be stressful or time-consuming depending on your level of experience.

Use this complete 4-day workshop template if you are finding there is no obvious solution to your challenge and want to focus your team around a specific problem that might require a shortcut to launching a minimum viable product or waiting for the organization-wide implementation of a solution.

8. Open space technology

Open space technology- developed by Harrison Owen – creates a space where large groups are invited to take ownership of their problem solving and lead individual sessions. Open space technology is a great format when you have a great deal of expertise and insight in the room and want to allow for different takes and approaches on a particular theme or problem you need to be solved.

Start by bringing your participants together to align around a central theme and focus their efforts. Explain the ground rules to help guide the problem-solving process and then invite members to identify any issue connecting to the central theme that they are interested in and are prepared to take responsibility for.

Once participants have decided on their approach to the core theme, they write their issue on a piece of paper, announce it to the group, pick a session time and place, and post the paper on the wall. As the wall fills up with sessions, the group is then invited to join the sessions that interest them the most and which they can contribute to, then you’re ready to begin!

Everyone joins the problem-solving group they’ve signed up to, record the discussion and if appropriate, findings can then be shared with the rest of the group afterward.

Open Space Technology   #action plan   #idea generation   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #large group   #online   #remote-friendly   Open Space is a methodology for large groups to create their agenda discerning important topics for discussion, suitable for conferences, community gatherings and whole system facilitation

Techniques to identify and analyze problems

Using a problem-solving method to help a team identify and analyze a problem can be a quick and effective addition to any workshop or meeting.

While further actions are always necessary, you can generate momentum and alignment easily, and these activities are a great place to get started.

We’ve put together this list of techniques to help you and your team with problem identification, analysis, and discussion that sets the foundation for developing effective solutions.

Let’s take a look!

  • The Creativity Dice
  • Fishbone Analysis
  • Problem Tree
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Agreement-Certainty Matrix
  • The Journalistic Six
  • LEGO Challenge
  • What, So What, Now What?
  • Journalists

Individual and group perspectives are incredibly important, but what happens if people are set in their minds and need a change of perspective in order to approach a problem more effectively?

Flip It is a method we love because it is both simple to understand and run, and allows groups to understand how their perspectives and biases are formed. 

Participants in Flip It are first invited to consider concerns, issues, or problems from a perspective of fear and write them on a flip chart. Then, the group is asked to consider those same issues from a perspective of hope and flip their understanding.  

No problem and solution is free from existing bias and by changing perspectives with Flip It, you can then develop a problem solving model quickly and effectively.

Flip It!   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   Often, a change in a problem or situation comes simply from a change in our perspectives. Flip It! is a quick game designed to show players that perspectives are made, not born.

10. The Creativity Dice

One of the most useful problem solving skills you can teach your team is of approaching challenges with creativity, flexibility, and openness. Games like The Creativity Dice allow teams to overcome the potential hurdle of too much linear thinking and approach the process with a sense of fun and speed. 

In The Creativity Dice, participants are organized around a topic and roll a dice to determine what they will work on for a period of 3 minutes at a time. They might roll a 3 and work on investigating factual information on the chosen topic. They might roll a 1 and work on identifying the specific goals, standards, or criteria for the session.

Encouraging rapid work and iteration while asking participants to be flexible are great skills to cultivate. Having a stage for idea incubation in this game is also important. Moments of pause can help ensure the ideas that are put forward are the most suitable. 

The Creativity Dice   #creativity   #problem solving   #thiagi   #issue analysis   Too much linear thinking is hazardous to creative problem solving. To be creative, you should approach the problem (or the opportunity) from different points of view. You should leave a thought hanging in mid-air and move to another. This skipping around prevents premature closure and lets your brain incubate one line of thought while you consciously pursue another.

11. Fishbone Analysis

Organizational or team challenges are rarely simple, and it’s important to remember that one problem can be an indication of something that goes deeper and may require further consideration to be solved.

Fishbone Analysis helps groups to dig deeper and understand the origins of a problem. It’s a great example of a root cause analysis method that is simple for everyone on a team to get their head around. 

Participants in this activity are asked to annotate a diagram of a fish, first adding the problem or issue to be worked on at the head of a fish before then brainstorming the root causes of the problem and adding them as bones on the fish. 

Using abstractions such as a diagram of a fish can really help a team break out of their regular thinking and develop a creative approach.

Fishbone Analysis   #problem solving   ##root cause analysis   #decision making   #online facilitation   A process to help identify and understand the origins of problems, issues or observations.

12. Problem Tree 

Encouraging visual thinking can be an essential part of many strategies. By simply reframing and clarifying problems, a group can move towards developing a problem solving model that works for them. 

In Problem Tree, groups are asked to first brainstorm a list of problems – these can be design problems, team problems or larger business problems – and then organize them into a hierarchy. The hierarchy could be from most important to least important or abstract to practical, though the key thing with problem solving games that involve this aspect is that your group has some way of managing and sorting all the issues that are raised.

Once you have a list of problems that need to be solved and have organized them accordingly, you’re then well-positioned for the next problem solving steps.

Problem tree   #define intentions   #create   #design   #issue analysis   A problem tree is a tool to clarify the hierarchy of problems addressed by the team within a design project; it represents high level problems or related sublevel problems.

13. SWOT Analysis

Chances are you’ve heard of the SWOT Analysis before. This problem-solving method focuses on identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is a tried and tested method for both individuals and teams.

Start by creating a desired end state or outcome and bare this in mind – any process solving model is made more effective by knowing what you are moving towards. Create a quadrant made up of the four categories of a SWOT analysis and ask participants to generate ideas based on each of those quadrants.

Once you have those ideas assembled in their quadrants, cluster them together based on their affinity with other ideas. These clusters are then used to facilitate group conversations and move things forward. 

SWOT analysis   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   #meeting facilitation   The SWOT Analysis is a long-standing technique of looking at what we have, with respect to the desired end state, as well as what we could improve on. It gives us an opportunity to gauge approaching opportunities and dangers, and assess the seriousness of the conditions that affect our future. When we understand those conditions, we can influence what comes next.

14. Agreement-Certainty Matrix

Not every problem-solving approach is right for every challenge, and deciding on the right method for the challenge at hand is a key part of being an effective team.

The Agreement Certainty matrix helps teams align on the nature of the challenges facing them. By sorting problems from simple to chaotic, your team can understand what methods are suitable for each problem and what they can do to ensure effective results. 

If you are already using Liberating Structures techniques as part of your problem-solving strategy, the Agreement-Certainty Matrix can be an invaluable addition to your process. We’ve found it particularly if you are having issues with recurring problems in your organization and want to go deeper in understanding the root cause. 

Agreement-Certainty Matrix   #issue analysis   #liberating structures   #problem solving   You can help individuals or groups avoid the frequent mistake of trying to solve a problem with methods that are not adapted to the nature of their challenge. The combination of two questions makes it possible to easily sort challenges into four categories: simple, complicated, complex , and chaotic .  A problem is simple when it can be solved reliably with practices that are easy to duplicate.  It is complicated when experts are required to devise a sophisticated solution that will yield the desired results predictably.  A problem is complex when there are several valid ways to proceed but outcomes are not predictable in detail.  Chaotic is when the context is too turbulent to identify a path forward.  A loose analogy may be used to describe these differences: simple is like following a recipe, complicated like sending a rocket to the moon, complex like raising a child, and chaotic is like the game “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”  The Liberating Structures Matching Matrix in Chapter 5 can be used as the first step to clarify the nature of a challenge and avoid the mismatches between problems and solutions that are frequently at the root of chronic, recurring problems.

Organizing and charting a team’s progress can be important in ensuring its success. SQUID (Sequential Question and Insight Diagram) is a great model that allows a team to effectively switch between giving questions and answers and develop the skills they need to stay on track throughout the process. 

Begin with two different colored sticky notes – one for questions and one for answers – and with your central topic (the head of the squid) on the board. Ask the group to first come up with a series of questions connected to their best guess of how to approach the topic. Ask the group to come up with answers to those questions, fix them to the board and connect them with a line. After some discussion, go back to question mode by responding to the generated answers or other points on the board.

It’s rewarding to see a diagram grow throughout the exercise, and a completed SQUID can provide a visual resource for future effort and as an example for other teams.

SQUID   #gamestorming   #project planning   #issue analysis   #problem solving   When exploring an information space, it’s important for a group to know where they are at any given time. By using SQUID, a group charts out the territory as they go and can navigate accordingly. SQUID stands for Sequential Question and Insight Diagram.

16. Speed Boat

To continue with our nautical theme, Speed Boat is a short and sweet activity that can help a team quickly identify what employees, clients or service users might have a problem with and analyze what might be standing in the way of achieving a solution.

Methods that allow for a group to make observations, have insights and obtain those eureka moments quickly are invaluable when trying to solve complex problems.

In Speed Boat, the approach is to first consider what anchors and challenges might be holding an organization (or boat) back. Bonus points if you are able to identify any sharks in the water and develop ideas that can also deal with competitors!   

Speed Boat   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   Speedboat is a short and sweet way to identify what your employees or clients don’t like about your product/service or what’s standing in the way of a desired goal.

17. The Journalistic Six

Some of the most effective ways of solving problems is by encouraging teams to be more inclusive and diverse in their thinking.

Based on the six key questions journalism students are taught to answer in articles and news stories, The Journalistic Six helps create teams to see the whole picture. By using who, what, when, where, why, and how to facilitate the conversation and encourage creative thinking, your team can make sure that the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the are covered exhaustively and thoughtfully. Reporter’s notebook and dictaphone optional.

The Journalistic Six – Who What When Where Why How   #idea generation   #issue analysis   #problem solving   #online   #creative thinking   #remote-friendly   A questioning method for generating, explaining, investigating ideas.

18. LEGO Challenge

Now for an activity that is a little out of the (toy) box. LEGO Serious Play is a facilitation methodology that can be used to improve creative thinking and problem-solving skills. 

The LEGO Challenge includes giving each member of the team an assignment that is hidden from the rest of the group while they create a structure without speaking.

What the LEGO challenge brings to the table is a fun working example of working with stakeholders who might not be on the same page to solve problems. Also, it’s LEGO! Who doesn’t love LEGO! 

LEGO Challenge   #hyperisland   #team   A team-building activity in which groups must work together to build a structure out of LEGO, but each individual has a secret “assignment” which makes the collaborative process more challenging. It emphasizes group communication, leadership dynamics, conflict, cooperation, patience and problem solving strategy.

19. What, So What, Now What?

If not carefully managed, the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the problem-solving process can actually create more problems and misunderstandings.

The What, So What, Now What? problem-solving activity is designed to help collect insights and move forward while also eliminating the possibility of disagreement when it comes to identifying, clarifying, and analyzing organizational or work problems. 

Facilitation is all about bringing groups together so that might work on a shared goal and the best problem-solving strategies ensure that teams are aligned in purpose, if not initially in opinion or insight.

Throughout the three steps of this game, you give everyone on a team to reflect on a problem by asking what happened, why it is important, and what actions should then be taken. 

This can be a great activity for bringing our individual perceptions about a problem or challenge and contextualizing it in a larger group setting. This is one of the most important problem-solving skills you can bring to your organization.

W³ – What, So What, Now What?   #issue analysis   #innovation   #liberating structures   You can help groups reflect on a shared experience in a way that builds understanding and spurs coordinated action while avoiding unproductive conflict. It is possible for every voice to be heard while simultaneously sifting for insights and shaping new direction. Progressing in stages makes this practical—from collecting facts about What Happened to making sense of these facts with So What and finally to what actions logically follow with Now What . The shared progression eliminates most of the misunderstandings that otherwise fuel disagreements about what to do. Voila!

20. Journalists  

Problem analysis can be one of the most important and decisive stages of all problem-solving tools. Sometimes, a team can become bogged down in the details and are unable to move forward.

Journalists is an activity that can avoid a group from getting stuck in the problem identification or problem analysis stages of the process.

In Journalists, the group is invited to draft the front page of a fictional newspaper and figure out what stories deserve to be on the cover and what headlines those stories will have. By reframing how your problems and challenges are approached, you can help a team move productively through the process and be better prepared for the steps to follow.

Journalists   #vision   #big picture   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   This is an exercise to use when the group gets stuck in details and struggles to see the big picture. Also good for defining a vision.

Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions 

The success of any problem-solving process can be measured by the solutions it produces. After you’ve defined the issue, explored existing ideas, and ideated, it’s time to narrow down to the correct solution.

Use these problem-solving techniques when you want to help your team find consensus, compare possible solutions, and move towards taking action on a particular problem.

  • Improved Solutions
  • Four-Step Sketch
  • 15% Solutions
  • How-Now-Wow matrix
  • Impact Effort Matrix

21. Mindspin  

Brainstorming is part of the bread and butter of the problem-solving process and all problem-solving strategies benefit from getting ideas out and challenging a team to generate solutions quickly. 

With Mindspin, participants are encouraged not only to generate ideas but to do so under time constraints and by slamming down cards and passing them on. By doing multiple rounds, your team can begin with a free generation of possible solutions before moving on to developing those solutions and encouraging further ideation. 

This is one of our favorite problem-solving activities and can be great for keeping the energy up throughout the workshop. Remember the importance of helping people become engaged in the process – energizing problem-solving techniques like Mindspin can help ensure your team stays engaged and happy, even when the problems they’re coming together to solve are complex. 

MindSpin   #teampedia   #idea generation   #problem solving   #action   A fast and loud method to enhance brainstorming within a team. Since this activity has more than round ideas that are repetitive can be ruled out leaving more creative and innovative answers to the challenge.

22. Improved Solutions

After a team has successfully identified a problem and come up with a few solutions, it can be tempting to call the work of the problem-solving process complete. That said, the first solution is not necessarily the best, and by including a further review and reflection activity into your problem-solving model, you can ensure your group reaches the best possible result. 

One of a number of problem-solving games from Thiagi Group, Improved Solutions helps you go the extra mile and develop suggested solutions with close consideration and peer review. By supporting the discussion of several problems at once and by shifting team roles throughout, this problem-solving technique is a dynamic way of finding the best solution. 

Improved Solutions   #creativity   #thiagi   #problem solving   #action   #team   You can improve any solution by objectively reviewing its strengths and weaknesses and making suitable adjustments. In this creativity framegame, you improve the solutions to several problems. To maintain objective detachment, you deal with a different problem during each of six rounds and assume different roles (problem owner, consultant, basher, booster, enhancer, and evaluator) during each round. At the conclusion of the activity, each player ends up with two solutions to her problem.

23. Four Step Sketch

Creative thinking and visual ideation does not need to be confined to the opening stages of your problem-solving strategies. Exercises that include sketching and prototyping on paper can be effective at the solution finding and development stage of the process, and can be great for keeping a team engaged. 

By going from simple notes to a crazy 8s round that involves rapidly sketching 8 variations on their ideas before then producing a final solution sketch, the group is able to iterate quickly and visually. Problem-solving techniques like Four-Step Sketch are great if you have a group of different thinkers and want to change things up from a more textual or discussion-based approach.

Four-Step Sketch   #design sprint   #innovation   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   The four-step sketch is an exercise that helps people to create well-formed concepts through a structured process that includes: Review key information Start design work on paper,  Consider multiple variations , Create a detailed solution . This exercise is preceded by a set of other activities allowing the group to clarify the challenge they want to solve. See how the Four Step Sketch exercise fits into a Design Sprint

24. 15% Solutions

Some problems are simpler than others and with the right problem-solving activities, you can empower people to take immediate actions that can help create organizational change. 

Part of the liberating structures toolkit, 15% solutions is a problem-solving technique that focuses on finding and implementing solutions quickly. A process of iterating and making small changes quickly can help generate momentum and an appetite for solving complex problems.

Problem-solving strategies can live and die on whether people are onboard. Getting some quick wins is a great way of getting people behind the process.   

It can be extremely empowering for a team to realize that problem-solving techniques can be deployed quickly and easily and delineate between things they can positively impact and those things they cannot change. 

15% Solutions   #action   #liberating structures   #remote-friendly   You can reveal the actions, however small, that everyone can do immediately. At a minimum, these will create momentum, and that may make a BIG difference.  15% Solutions show that there is no reason to wait around, feel powerless, or fearful. They help people pick it up a level. They get individuals and the group to focus on what is within their discretion instead of what they cannot change.  With a very simple question, you can flip the conversation to what can be done and find solutions to big problems that are often distributed widely in places not known in advance. Shifting a few grains of sand may trigger a landslide and change the whole landscape.

25. How-Now-Wow Matrix

The problem-solving process is often creative, as complex problems usually require a change of thinking and creative response in order to find the best solutions. While it’s common for the first stages to encourage creative thinking, groups can often gravitate to familiar solutions when it comes to the end of the process. 

When selecting solutions, you don’t want to lose your creative energy! The How-Now-Wow Matrix from Gamestorming is a great problem-solving activity that enables a group to stay creative and think out of the box when it comes to selecting the right solution for a given problem.

Problem-solving techniques that encourage creative thinking and the ideation and selection of new solutions can be the most effective in organisational change. Give the How-Now-Wow Matrix a go, and not just for how pleasant it is to say out loud. 

How-Now-Wow Matrix   #gamestorming   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   When people want to develop new ideas, they most often think out of the box in the brainstorming or divergent phase. However, when it comes to convergence, people often end up picking ideas that are most familiar to them. This is called a ‘creative paradox’ or a ‘creadox’. The How-Now-Wow matrix is an idea selection tool that breaks the creadox by forcing people to weigh each idea on 2 parameters.

26. Impact and Effort Matrix

All problem-solving techniques hope to not only find solutions to a given problem or challenge but to find the best solution. When it comes to finding a solution, groups are invited to put on their decision-making hats and really think about how a proposed idea would work in practice. 

The Impact and Effort Matrix is one of the problem-solving techniques that fall into this camp, empowering participants to first generate ideas and then categorize them into a 2×2 matrix based on impact and effort.

Activities that invite critical thinking while remaining simple are invaluable. Use the Impact and Effort Matrix to move from ideation and towards evaluating potential solutions before then committing to them. 

Impact and Effort Matrix   #gamestorming   #decision making   #action   #remote-friendly   In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.

27. Dotmocracy

If you’ve followed each of the problem-solving steps with your group successfully, you should move towards the end of your process with heaps of possible solutions developed with a specific problem in mind. But how do you help a group go from ideation to putting a solution into action? 

Dotmocracy – or Dot Voting -is a tried and tested method of helping a team in the problem-solving process make decisions and put actions in place with a degree of oversight and consensus. 

One of the problem-solving techniques that should be in every facilitator’s toolbox, Dot Voting is fast and effective and can help identify the most popular and best solutions and help bring a group to a decision effectively. 

Dotmocracy   #action   #decision making   #group prioritization   #hyperisland   #remote-friendly   Dotmocracy is a simple method for group prioritization or decision-making. It is not an activity on its own, but a method to use in processes where prioritization or decision-making is the aim. The method supports a group to quickly see which options are most popular or relevant. The options or ideas are written on post-its and stuck up on a wall for the whole group to see. Each person votes for the options they think are the strongest, and that information is used to inform a decision.

All facilitators know that warm-ups and icebreakers are useful for any workshop or group process. Problem-solving workshops are no different.

Use these problem-solving techniques to warm up a group and prepare them for the rest of the process. Activating your group by tapping into some of the top problem-solving skills can be one of the best ways to see great outcomes from your session.

  • Check-in/Check-out
  • Doodling Together
  • Show and Tell
  • Constellations
  • Draw a Tree

28. Check-in / Check-out

Solid processes are planned from beginning to end, and the best facilitators know that setting the tone and establishing a safe, open environment can be integral to a successful problem-solving process.

Check-in / Check-out is a great way to begin and/or bookend a problem-solving workshop. Checking in to a session emphasizes that everyone will be seen, heard, and expected to contribute. 

If you are running a series of meetings, setting a consistent pattern of checking in and checking out can really help your team get into a groove. We recommend this opening-closing activity for small to medium-sized groups though it can work with large groups if they’re disciplined!

Check-in / Check-out   #team   #opening   #closing   #hyperisland   #remote-friendly   Either checking-in or checking-out is a simple way for a team to open or close a process, symbolically and in a collaborative way. Checking-in/out invites each member in a group to be present, seen and heard, and to express a reflection or a feeling. Checking-in emphasizes presence, focus and group commitment; checking-out emphasizes reflection and symbolic closure.

29. Doodling Together  

Thinking creatively and not being afraid to make suggestions are important problem-solving skills for any group or team, and warming up by encouraging these behaviors is a great way to start. 

Doodling Together is one of our favorite creative ice breaker games – it’s quick, effective, and fun and can make all following problem-solving steps easier by encouraging a group to collaborate visually. By passing cards and adding additional items as they go, the workshop group gets into a groove of co-creation and idea development that is crucial to finding solutions to problems. 

Doodling Together   #collaboration   #creativity   #teamwork   #fun   #team   #visual methods   #energiser   #icebreaker   #remote-friendly   Create wild, weird and often funny postcards together & establish a group’s creative confidence.

30. Show and Tell

You might remember some version of Show and Tell from being a kid in school and it’s a great problem-solving activity to kick off a session.

Asking participants to prepare a little something before a workshop by bringing an object for show and tell can help them warm up before the session has even begun! Games that include a physical object can also help encourage early engagement before moving onto more big-picture thinking.

By asking your participants to tell stories about why they chose to bring a particular item to the group, you can help teams see things from new perspectives and see both differences and similarities in the way they approach a topic. Great groundwork for approaching a problem-solving process as a team! 

Show and Tell   #gamestorming   #action   #opening   #meeting facilitation   Show and Tell taps into the power of metaphors to reveal players’ underlying assumptions and associations around a topic The aim of the game is to get a deeper understanding of stakeholders’ perspectives on anything—a new project, an organizational restructuring, a shift in the company’s vision or team dynamic.

31. Constellations

Who doesn’t love stars? Constellations is a great warm-up activity for any workshop as it gets people up off their feet, energized, and ready to engage in new ways with established topics. It’s also great for showing existing beliefs, biases, and patterns that can come into play as part of your session.

Using warm-up games that help build trust and connection while also allowing for non-verbal responses can be great for easing people into the problem-solving process and encouraging engagement from everyone in the group. Constellations is great in large spaces that allow for movement and is definitely a practical exercise to allow the group to see patterns that are otherwise invisible. 

Constellations   #trust   #connection   #opening   #coaching   #patterns   #system   Individuals express their response to a statement or idea by standing closer or further from a central object. Used with teams to reveal system, hidden patterns, perspectives.

32. Draw a Tree

Problem-solving games that help raise group awareness through a central, unifying metaphor can be effective ways to warm-up a group in any problem-solving model.

Draw a Tree is a simple warm-up activity you can use in any group and which can provide a quick jolt of energy. Start by asking your participants to draw a tree in just 45 seconds – they can choose whether it will be abstract or realistic. 

Once the timer is up, ask the group how many people included the roots of the tree and use this as a means to discuss how we can ignore important parts of any system simply because they are not visible.

All problem-solving strategies are made more effective by thinking of problems critically and by exposing things that may not normally come to light. Warm-up games like Draw a Tree are great in that they quickly demonstrate some key problem-solving skills in an accessible and effective way.

Draw a Tree   #thiagi   #opening   #perspectives   #remote-friendly   With this game you can raise awarness about being more mindful, and aware of the environment we live in.

Each step of the problem-solving workshop benefits from an intelligent deployment of activities, games, and techniques. Bringing your session to an effective close helps ensure that solutions are followed through on and that you also celebrate what has been achieved.

Here are some problem-solving activities you can use to effectively close a workshop or meeting and ensure the great work you’ve done can continue afterward.

  • One Breath Feedback
  • Who What When Matrix
  • Response Cards

How do I conclude a problem-solving process?

All good things must come to an end. With the bulk of the work done, it can be tempting to conclude your workshop swiftly and without a moment to debrief and align. This can be problematic in that it doesn’t allow your team to fully process the results or reflect on the process.

At the end of an effective session, your team will have gone through a process that, while productive, can be exhausting. It’s important to give your group a moment to take a breath, ensure that they are clear on future actions, and provide short feedback before leaving the space. 

The primary purpose of any problem-solving method is to generate solutions and then implement them. Be sure to take the opportunity to ensure everyone is aligned and ready to effectively implement the solutions you produced in the workshop.

Remember that every process can be improved and by giving a short moment to collect feedback in the session, you can further refine your problem-solving methods and see further success in the future too.

33. One Breath Feedback

Maintaining attention and focus during the closing stages of a problem-solving workshop can be tricky and so being concise when giving feedback can be important. It’s easy to incur “death by feedback” should some team members go on for too long sharing their perspectives in a quick feedback round. 

One Breath Feedback is a great closing activity for workshops. You give everyone an opportunity to provide feedback on what they’ve done but only in the space of a single breath. This keeps feedback short and to the point and means that everyone is encouraged to provide the most important piece of feedback to them. 

One breath feedback   #closing   #feedback   #action   This is a feedback round in just one breath that excels in maintaining attention: each participants is able to speak during just one breath … for most people that’s around 20 to 25 seconds … unless of course you’ve been a deep sea diver in which case you’ll be able to do it for longer.

34. Who What When Matrix 

Matrices feature as part of many effective problem-solving strategies and with good reason. They are easily recognizable, simple to use, and generate results.

The Who What When Matrix is a great tool to use when closing your problem-solving session by attributing a who, what and when to the actions and solutions you have decided upon. The resulting matrix is a simple, easy-to-follow way of ensuring your team can move forward. 

Great solutions can’t be enacted without action and ownership. Your problem-solving process should include a stage for allocating tasks to individuals or teams and creating a realistic timeframe for those solutions to be implemented or checked out. Use this method to keep the solution implementation process clear and simple for all involved. 

Who/What/When Matrix   #gamestorming   #action   #project planning   With Who/What/When matrix, you can connect people with clear actions they have defined and have committed to.

35. Response cards

Group discussion can comprise the bulk of most problem-solving activities and by the end of the process, you might find that your team is talked out! 

Providing a means for your team to give feedback with short written notes can ensure everyone is head and can contribute without the need to stand up and talk. Depending on the needs of the group, giving an alternative can help ensure everyone can contribute to your problem-solving model in the way that makes the most sense for them.

Response Cards is a great way to close a workshop if you are looking for a gentle warm-down and want to get some swift discussion around some of the feedback that is raised. 

Response Cards   #debriefing   #closing   #structured sharing   #questions and answers   #thiagi   #action   It can be hard to involve everyone during a closing of a session. Some might stay in the background or get unheard because of louder participants. However, with the use of Response Cards, everyone will be involved in providing feedback or clarify questions at the end of a session.

Save time and effort discovering the right solutions

A structured problem solving process is a surefire way of solving tough problems, discovering creative solutions and driving organizational change. But how can you design for successful outcomes?

With SessionLab, it’s easy to design engaging workshops that deliver results. Drag, drop and reorder blocks  to build your agenda. When you make changes or update your agenda, your session  timing   adjusts automatically , saving you time on manual adjustments.

Collaborating with stakeholders or clients? Share your agenda with a single click and collaborate in real-time. No more sending documents back and forth over email.

Explore  how to use SessionLab  to design effective problem solving workshops or  watch this five minute video  to see the planner in action!

problem solving in company

Over to you

The problem-solving process can often be as complicated and multifaceted as the problems they are set-up to solve. With the right problem-solving techniques and a mix of creative exercises designed to guide discussion and generate purposeful ideas, we hope we’ve given you the tools to find the best solutions as simply and easily as possible.

Is there a problem-solving technique that you are missing here? Do you have a favorite activity or method you use when facilitating? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you! 

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thank you very much for these excellent techniques

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Certainly wonderful article, very detailed. Shared!

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Your list of techniques for problem solving can be helpfully extended by adding TRIZ to the list of techniques. TRIZ has 40 problem solving techniques derived from methods inventros and patent holders used to get new patents. About 10-12 are general approaches. many organization sponsor classes in TRIZ that are used to solve business problems or general organiztational problems. You can take a look at TRIZ and dwonload a free internet booklet to see if you feel it shound be included per your selection process.

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Status.net

What is Problem Solving? (Steps, Techniques, Examples)

By Status.net Editorial Team on May 7, 2023 — 5 minutes to read

What Is Problem Solving?

Definition and importance.

Problem solving is the process of finding solutions to obstacles or challenges you encounter in your life or work. It is a crucial skill that allows you to tackle complex situations, adapt to changes, and overcome difficulties with ease. Mastering this ability will contribute to both your personal and professional growth, leading to more successful outcomes and better decision-making.

Problem-Solving Steps

The problem-solving process typically includes the following steps:

  • Identify the issue : Recognize the problem that needs to be solved.
  • Analyze the situation : Examine the issue in depth, gather all relevant information, and consider any limitations or constraints that may be present.
  • Generate potential solutions : Brainstorm a list of possible solutions to the issue, without immediately judging or evaluating them.
  • Evaluate options : Weigh the pros and cons of each potential solution, considering factors such as feasibility, effectiveness, and potential risks.
  • Select the best solution : Choose the option that best addresses the problem and aligns with your objectives.
  • Implement the solution : Put the selected solution into action and monitor the results to ensure it resolves the issue.
  • Review and learn : Reflect on the problem-solving process, identify any improvements or adjustments that can be made, and apply these learnings to future situations.

Defining the Problem

To start tackling a problem, first, identify and understand it. Analyzing the issue thoroughly helps to clarify its scope and nature. Ask questions to gather information and consider the problem from various angles. Some strategies to define the problem include:

  • Brainstorming with others
  • Asking the 5 Ws and 1 H (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How)
  • Analyzing cause and effect
  • Creating a problem statement

Generating Solutions

Once the problem is clearly understood, brainstorm possible solutions. Think creatively and keep an open mind, as well as considering lessons from past experiences. Consider:

  • Creating a list of potential ideas to solve the problem
  • Grouping and categorizing similar solutions
  • Prioritizing potential solutions based on feasibility, cost, and resources required
  • Involving others to share diverse opinions and inputs

Evaluating and Selecting Solutions

Evaluate each potential solution, weighing its pros and cons. To facilitate decision-making, use techniques such as:

  • SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
  • Decision-making matrices
  • Pros and cons lists
  • Risk assessments

After evaluating, choose the most suitable solution based on effectiveness, cost, and time constraints.

Implementing and Monitoring the Solution

Implement the chosen solution and monitor its progress. Key actions include:

  • Communicating the solution to relevant parties
  • Setting timelines and milestones
  • Assigning tasks and responsibilities
  • Monitoring the solution and making adjustments as necessary
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the solution after implementation

Utilize feedback from stakeholders and consider potential improvements. Remember that problem-solving is an ongoing process that can always be refined and enhanced.

Problem-Solving Techniques

During each step, you may find it helpful to utilize various problem-solving techniques, such as:

  • Brainstorming : A free-flowing, open-minded session where ideas are generated and listed without judgment, to encourage creativity and innovative thinking.
  • Root cause analysis : A method that explores the underlying causes of a problem to find the most effective solution rather than addressing superficial symptoms.
  • SWOT analysis : A tool used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to a problem or decision, providing a comprehensive view of the situation.
  • Mind mapping : A visual technique that uses diagrams to organize and connect ideas, helping to identify patterns, relationships, and possible solutions.

Brainstorming

When facing a problem, start by conducting a brainstorming session. Gather your team and encourage an open discussion where everyone contributes ideas, no matter how outlandish they may seem. This helps you:

  • Generate a diverse range of solutions
  • Encourage all team members to participate
  • Foster creative thinking

When brainstorming, remember to:

  • Reserve judgment until the session is over
  • Encourage wild ideas
  • Combine and improve upon ideas

Root Cause Analysis

For effective problem-solving, identifying the root cause of the issue at hand is crucial. Try these methods:

  • 5 Whys : Ask “why” five times to get to the underlying cause.
  • Fishbone Diagram : Create a diagram representing the problem and break it down into categories of potential causes.
  • Pareto Analysis : Determine the few most significant causes underlying the majority of problems.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis helps you examine the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats related to your problem. To perform a SWOT analysis:

  • List your problem’s strengths, such as relevant resources or strong partnerships.
  • Identify its weaknesses, such as knowledge gaps or limited resources.
  • Explore opportunities, like trends or new technologies, that could help solve the problem.
  • Recognize potential threats, like competition or regulatory barriers.

SWOT analysis aids in understanding the internal and external factors affecting the problem, which can help guide your solution.

Mind Mapping

A mind map is a visual representation of your problem and potential solutions. It enables you to organize information in a structured and intuitive manner. To create a mind map:

  • Write the problem in the center of a blank page.
  • Draw branches from the central problem to related sub-problems or contributing factors.
  • Add more branches to represent potential solutions or further ideas.

Mind mapping allows you to visually see connections between ideas and promotes creativity in problem-solving.

Examples of Problem Solving in Various Contexts

In the business world, you might encounter problems related to finances, operations, or communication. Applying problem-solving skills in these situations could look like:

  • Identifying areas of improvement in your company’s financial performance and implementing cost-saving measures
  • Resolving internal conflicts among team members by listening and understanding different perspectives, then proposing and negotiating solutions
  • Streamlining a process for better productivity by removing redundancies, automating tasks, or re-allocating resources

In educational contexts, problem-solving can be seen in various aspects, such as:

  • Addressing a gap in students’ understanding by employing diverse teaching methods to cater to different learning styles
  • Developing a strategy for successful time management to balance academic responsibilities and extracurricular activities
  • Seeking resources and support to provide equal opportunities for learners with special needs or disabilities

Everyday life is full of challenges that require problem-solving skills. Some examples include:

  • Overcoming a personal obstacle, such as improving your fitness level, by establishing achievable goals, measuring progress, and adjusting your approach accordingly
  • Navigating a new environment or city by researching your surroundings, asking for directions, or using technology like GPS to guide you
  • Dealing with a sudden change, like a change in your work schedule, by assessing the situation, identifying potential impacts, and adapting your plans to accommodate the change.
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What Is Problem Solving in Business?

Problem-solving in business is defined as implementing processes that reduce or remove obstacles that are preventing you or others from accomplishing operational and strategic business goals.

In business, a problem is a situation that creates a gap between the desired and actual outcomes. In addition, a true problem typically does not have an immediately obvious resolution.

Business problem-solving works best when it is approached through a consistent system in which individuals:

  • Identify and define the problem
  • Prioritize the problem based on size, potential impact, and urgency
  • Complete a root-cause analysis
  • Develop a variety of possible solutions
  • Evaluate possible solutions and decide which is most effective
  • Plan and implement the solution

Why Is Problem-Solving Important in Business?

Understanding the importance of problem-solving skills in the workplace will help you develop as a leader. Problem-solving skills will help you resolve critical issues and conflicts that you come across. Problem-solving is a valued skill in the workplace because it allows you to:

  • Apply a standard problem-solving system to all challenges
  • Find the root causes of problems
  • Quickly deal with short-term business interruptions
  • Form plans to deal with long-term problems and improve the organization
  • See challenges as opportunities
  • Keep your cool during challenges

How Do You Solve Business Problems Effectively?

There are many different problem-solving strategies, but most can be broken into general steps. Here is a six-step method for business problem solving:

1) Identify the Details of the Problem: Gather enough information to accurately define the problem. This can include data on procedures being used, employee actions, relevant workplace rules, and so on. Write down the specific outcome that is needed, but don’t assume what the solution should be.

  • Use the Five Whys: When assessing a problem, a common strategy is to ask “why” five times. First, ask why the problem occurred. Then, take the answer and ask “why” again, and so on. The intention is to help you get down to the root cause of the problem so you can directly target that core issue with your solution.

2) Creatively Brainstorm Solutions:   State every solution you can think of. Write them down. Seek input from those who possess in-depth knowledge of or experience with the problem you’re trying to solve. These insights will provide you with valuable perspectives you can transform into tangible and impactful solutions.

3) Evaluate Solutions and Make a Decision:   Assess the feasibility of each solution. Is the deadline realistic? Are there readily available resources you can leverage to successfully implement the solution? What is the return on investment of each solution? If necessary, come up with alternative solutions or adjust the initial ones you brainstormed in step 2.

4) Make a Decision: Finally, make a firm decision on one solution. This final solution should clearly address the root cause of the problem.

  • Perform a SWOT Analysis: You can use a SWOT analysis to help you decide on the best solution. A SWOT analysis involves identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats linked to a specific decision. With this framework, your team can assess a decision from various angles, thereby gaining a holistic view of it.

5) Take Action:   Write up a detailed plan. This involves developing a comprehensive roadmap that outlines the steps required to implement your solution. The steps should specify milestones, deadlines, roles, and how to obtain the necessary approvals. To ensure accountability, your entire team should have access to this action plan. Each team member should be able to track and share their progress with the group.

6) Gather and Share Feedback: Problem-solving is not a “set it and forget it” process. It’s a dynamic journey that necessitates ongoing attention, deliberation, and refinement to achieve optimal results. Thus, periodic feedback is critical in validating whether the chosen solution creates the desired impact. It allows key stakeholders to check in and make any necessary changes.

What Are Problem-Solving Skills?

Problem-solving skills are specific procedures that can be used to complete one or more of the six general steps of problem-solving (discussed above). Here are five important examples:

Using Emotional Intelligence: You’ll solve problems more calmly when you learn to recognize your own emotional patterns and to empathize with and guide the emotions of others. Avoid knee-jerk responses and making assumptions.

Researching Problems: An effective solution requires an accurate description of the problem. Define simple problems using quick research methods such as asking, “What? Where? When? and How much?.” Difficult problems require more in-depth research, such as data exploration, surveys, and interviews.

Creative Brainstorming: When brainstorming with a group, encourage idea creation by listening attentively to everyone, and recognizing everyone’s unique contributions.

Logical Reasoning: Develop standard logical steps for analyzing possible solutions to problems. Study and apply ideas about logical fallacies, deductive reasoning, and other areas of analytical thought.

Decisiveness: Use an agreed-upon system for choosing a solution, which can include assigning pros and cons to solutions, identifying mandatory results, getting feedback about solutions, choosing the decision-maker(s), and finishing or repeating the process.

How Can You Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills?

Learning how to solve business problems takes time and effort. Though some people appear to have been born with superior problem-solving skills, great problem-solvers usually have taken the time to refine their abilities. You can develop high-level skills for solving problems too, through the following methods:

Ask and Listen: Don’t expect to solve every problem alone. Ask for advice, and listen to it carefully.

Practice Curiosity: Any time you’re involved in solving a problem, practice researching and defining the problem just a little longer than you would naturally.

Break Down Problems: Whenever possible, break large problems into their smallest units. Then, search for solutions to one unit at a time.

Don’t Label Yourself Negatively: Don’t allow a problem to mean something negative about you personally. Separate yourself from it. Look at it objectively and be part of the solution.

Enhance Your Problem-Solving Skills with CMOE

Problem-solving skills in business are not developed overnight. Developing then takes ongoing practice and the right guidance to get right. We encourage you to leverage CMOE’s Problem-Solving and Decision Making in the Workplace workshop to further develop your skills. We’ll help you identify new ways to solve problems methodically so you can create greater impact.

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What is an example of problem-solving?

What are the 5 steps to problem-solving, 10 effective problem-solving strategies, what skills do efficient problem solvers have, how to improve your problem-solving skills.

Problems come in all shapes and sizes — from workplace conflict to budget cuts.

Creative problem-solving is one of the most in-demand skills in all roles and industries. It can boost an organization’s human capital and give it a competitive edge. 

Problem-solving strategies are ways of approaching problems that can help you look beyond the obvious answers and find the best solution to your problem . 

Let’s take a look at a five-step problem-solving process and how to combine it with proven problem-solving strategies. This will give you the tools and skills to solve even your most complex problems.

Good problem-solving is an essential part of the decision-making process . To see what a problem-solving process might look like in real life, let’s take a common problem for SaaS brands — decreasing customer churn rates.

To solve this problem, the company must first identify it. In this case, the problem is that the churn rate is too high. 

Next, they need to identify the root causes of the problem. This could be anything from their customer service experience to their email marketing campaigns. If there are several problems, they will need a separate problem-solving process for each one. 

Let’s say the problem is with email marketing — they’re not nurturing existing customers. Now that they’ve identified the problem, they can start using problem-solving strategies to look for solutions. 

This might look like coming up with special offers, discounts, or bonuses for existing customers. They need to find ways to remind them to use their products and services while providing added value. This will encourage customers to keep paying their monthly subscriptions.

They might also want to add incentives, such as access to a premium service at no extra cost after 12 months of membership. They could publish blog posts that help their customers solve common problems and share them as an email newsletter.

The company should set targets and a time frame in which to achieve them. This will allow leaders to measure progress and identify which actions yield the best results.

team-meeting-problem-solving-strategies

Perhaps you’ve got a problem you need to tackle. Or maybe you want to be prepared the next time one arises. Either way, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the five steps of problem-solving. 

Use this step-by-step problem-solving method with the strategies in the following section to find possible solutions to your problem.

1. Identify the problem

The first step is to know which problem you need to solve. Then, you need to find the root cause of the problem. 

The best course of action is to gather as much data as possible, speak to the people involved, and separate facts from opinions. 

Once this is done, formulate a statement that describes the problem. Use rational persuasion to make sure your team agrees .

2. Break the problem down 

Identifying the problem allows you to see which steps need to be taken to solve it. 

First, break the problem down into achievable blocks. Then, use strategic planning to set a time frame in which to solve the problem and establish a timeline for the completion of each stage.

3. Generate potential solutions

At this stage, the aim isn’t to evaluate possible solutions but to generate as many ideas as possible. 

Encourage your team to use creative thinking and be patient — the best solution may not be the first or most obvious one.

Use one or more of the different strategies in the following section to help come up with solutions — the more creative, the better.

4. Evaluate the possible solutions

Once you’ve generated potential solutions, narrow them down to a shortlist. Then, evaluate the options on your shortlist. 

There are usually many factors to consider. So when evaluating a solution, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will my team be on board with the proposition?
  • Does the solution align with organizational goals ?
  • Is the solution likely to achieve the desired outcomes?
  • Is the solution realistic and possible with current resources and constraints?
  • Will the solution solve the problem without causing additional unintended problems?

woman-helping-her-colleague-problem-solving-strategies

5. Implement and monitor the solutions

Once you’ve identified your solution and got buy-in from your team, it’s time to implement it. 

But the work doesn’t stop there. You need to monitor your solution to see whether it actually solves your problem. 

Request regular feedback from the team members involved and have a monitoring and evaluation plan in place to measure progress.

If the solution doesn’t achieve your desired results, start this step-by-step process again.

There are many different ways to approach problem-solving. Each is suitable for different types of problems. 

The most appropriate problem-solving techniques will depend on your specific problem. You may need to experiment with several strategies before you find a workable solution.

Here are 10 effective problem-solving strategies for you to try:

  • Use a solution that worked before
  • Brainstorming
  • Work backward
  • Use the Kipling method
  • Draw the problem
  • Use trial and error
  • Sleep on it
  • Get advice from your peers
  • Use the Pareto principle
  • Add successful solutions to your toolkit

Let’s break each of these down.

1. Use a solution that worked before

It might seem obvious, but if you’ve faced similar problems in the past, look back to what worked then. See if any of the solutions could apply to your current situation and, if so, replicate them.

2. Brainstorming

The more people you enlist to help solve the problem, the more potential solutions you can come up with.

Use different brainstorming techniques to workshop potential solutions with your team. They’ll likely bring something you haven’t thought of to the table.

3. Work backward

Working backward is a way to reverse engineer your problem. Imagine your problem has been solved, and make that the starting point.

Then, retrace your steps back to where you are now. This can help you see which course of action may be most effective.

4. Use the Kipling method

This is a method that poses six questions based on Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “ I Keep Six Honest Serving Men .” 

  • What is the problem?
  • Why is the problem important?
  • When did the problem arise, and when does it need to be solved?
  • How did the problem happen?
  • Where is the problem occurring?
  • Who does the problem affect?

Answering these questions can help you identify possible solutions.

5. Draw the problem

Sometimes it can be difficult to visualize all the components and moving parts of a problem and its solution. Drawing a diagram can help.

This technique is particularly helpful for solving process-related problems. For example, a product development team might want to decrease the time they take to fix bugs and create new iterations. Drawing the processes involved can help you see where improvements can be made.

woman-drawing-mind-map-problem-solving-strategies

6. Use trial-and-error

A trial-and-error approach can be useful when you have several possible solutions and want to test them to see which one works best.

7. Sleep on it

Finding the best solution to a problem is a process. Remember to take breaks and get enough rest . Sometimes, a walk around the block can bring inspiration, but you should sleep on it if possible.

A good night’s sleep helps us find creative solutions to problems. This is because when you sleep, your brain sorts through the day’s events and stores them as memories. This enables you to process your ideas at a subconscious level. 

If possible, give yourself a few days to develop and analyze possible solutions. You may find you have greater clarity after sleeping on it. Your mind will also be fresh, so you’ll be able to make better decisions.

8. Get advice from your peers

Getting input from a group of people can help you find solutions you may not have thought of on your own. 

For solo entrepreneurs or freelancers, this might look like hiring a coach or mentor or joining a mastermind group. 

For leaders , it might be consulting other members of the leadership team or working with a business coach .

It’s important to recognize you might not have all the skills, experience, or knowledge necessary to find a solution alone. 

9. Use the Pareto principle

The Pareto principle — also known as the 80/20 rule — can help you identify possible root causes and potential solutions for your problems.

Although it’s not a mathematical law, it’s a principle found throughout many aspects of business and life. For example, 20% of the sales reps in a company might close 80% of the sales. 

You may be able to narrow down the causes of your problem by applying the Pareto principle. This can also help you identify the most appropriate solutions.

10. Add successful solutions to your toolkit

Every situation is different, and the same solutions might not always work. But by keeping a record of successful problem-solving strategies, you can build up a solutions toolkit. 

These solutions may be applicable to future problems. Even if not, they may save you some of the time and work needed to come up with a new solution.

three-colleagues-looking-at-computer-problem-solving-strategies

Improving problem-solving skills is essential for professional development — both yours and your team’s. Here are some of the key skills of effective problem solvers:

  • Critical thinking and analytical skills
  • Communication skills , including active listening
  • Decision-making
  • Planning and prioritization
  • Emotional intelligence , including empathy and emotional regulation
  • Time management
  • Data analysis
  • Research skills
  • Project management

And they see problems as opportunities. Everyone is born with problem-solving skills. But accessing these abilities depends on how we view problems. Effective problem-solvers see problems as opportunities to learn and improve.

Ready to work on your problem-solving abilities? Get started with these seven tips.

1. Build your problem-solving skills

One of the best ways to improve your problem-solving skills is to learn from experts. Consider enrolling in organizational training , shadowing a mentor , or working with a coach .

2. Practice

Practice using your new problem-solving skills by applying them to smaller problems you might encounter in your daily life. 

Alternatively, imagine problematic scenarios that might arise at work and use problem-solving strategies to find hypothetical solutions.

3. Don’t try to find a solution right away

Often, the first solution you think of to solve a problem isn’t the most appropriate or effective.

Instead of thinking on the spot, give yourself time and use one or more of the problem-solving strategies above to activate your creative thinking. 

two-colleagues-talking-at-corporate-event-problem-solving-strategies

4. Ask for feedback

Receiving feedback is always important for learning and growth. Your perception of your problem-solving skills may be different from that of your colleagues. They can provide insights that help you improve. 

5. Learn new approaches and methodologies

There are entire books written about problem-solving methodologies if you want to take a deep dive into the subject. 

We recommend starting with “ Fixed — How to Perfect the Fine Art of Problem Solving ” by Amy E. Herman. 

6. Experiment

Tried-and-tested problem-solving techniques can be useful. However, they don’t teach you how to innovate and develop your own problem-solving approaches. 

Sometimes, an unconventional approach can lead to the development of a brilliant new idea or strategy. So don’t be afraid to suggest your most “out there” ideas.

7. Analyze the success of your competitors

Do you have competitors who have already solved the problem you’re facing? Look at what they did, and work backward to solve your own problem. 

For example, Netflix started in the 1990s as a DVD mail-rental company. Its main competitor at the time was Blockbuster. 

But when streaming became the norm in the early 2000s, both companies faced a crisis. Netflix innovated, unveiling its streaming service in 2007. 

If Blockbuster had followed Netflix’s example, it might have survived. Instead, it declared bankruptcy in 2010.

Use problem-solving strategies to uplevel your business

When facing a problem, it’s worth taking the time to find the right solution. 

Otherwise, we risk either running away from our problems or headlong into solutions. When we do this, we might miss out on other, better options.

Use the problem-solving strategies outlined above to find innovative solutions to your business’ most perplexing problems.

If you’re ready to take problem-solving to the next level, request a demo with BetterUp . Our expert coaches specialize in helping teams develop and implement strategies that work.

Boost your productivity

Maximize your time and productivity with strategies from our expert coaches.

Elizabeth Perry, ACC

Elizabeth Perry is a Coach Community Manager at BetterUp. She uses strategic engagement strategies to cultivate a learning community across a global network of Coaches through in-person and virtual experiences, technology-enabled platforms, and strategic coaching industry partnerships. With over 3 years of coaching experience and a certification in transformative leadership and life coaching from Sofia University, Elizabeth leverages transpersonal psychology expertise to help coaches and clients gain awareness of their behavioral and thought patterns, discover their purpose and passions, and elevate their potential. She is a lifelong student of psychology, personal growth, and human potential as well as an ICF-certified ACC transpersonal life and leadership Coach.

8 creative solutions to your most challenging problems

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What Is Creative Problem-Solving & Why Is It Important?

Business team using creative problem-solving

  • 01 Feb 2022

One of the biggest hindrances to innovation is complacency—it can be more comfortable to do what you know than venture into the unknown. Business leaders can overcome this barrier by mobilizing creative team members and providing space to innovate.

There are several tools you can use to encourage creativity in the workplace. Creative problem-solving is one of them, which facilitates the development of innovative solutions to difficult problems.

Here’s an overview of creative problem-solving and why it’s important in business.

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What Is Creative Problem-Solving?

Research is necessary when solving a problem. But there are situations where a problem’s specific cause is difficult to pinpoint. This can occur when there’s not enough time to narrow down the problem’s source or there are differing opinions about its root cause.

In such cases, you can use creative problem-solving , which allows you to explore potential solutions regardless of whether a problem has been defined.

Creative problem-solving is less structured than other innovation processes and encourages exploring open-ended solutions. It also focuses on developing new perspectives and fostering creativity in the workplace . Its benefits include:

  • Finding creative solutions to complex problems : User research can insufficiently illustrate a situation’s complexity. While other innovation processes rely on this information, creative problem-solving can yield solutions without it.
  • Adapting to change : Business is constantly changing, and business leaders need to adapt. Creative problem-solving helps overcome unforeseen challenges and find solutions to unconventional problems.
  • Fueling innovation and growth : In addition to solutions, creative problem-solving can spark innovative ideas that drive company growth. These ideas can lead to new product lines, services, or a modified operations structure that improves efficiency.

Design Thinking and Innovation | Uncover creative solutions to your business problems | Learn More

Creative problem-solving is traditionally based on the following key principles :

1. Balance Divergent and Convergent Thinking

Creative problem-solving uses two primary tools to find solutions: divergence and convergence. Divergence generates ideas in response to a problem, while convergence narrows them down to a shortlist. It balances these two practices and turns ideas into concrete solutions.

2. Reframe Problems as Questions

By framing problems as questions, you shift from focusing on obstacles to solutions. This provides the freedom to brainstorm potential ideas.

3. Defer Judgment of Ideas

When brainstorming, it can be natural to reject or accept ideas right away. Yet, immediate judgments interfere with the idea generation process. Even ideas that seem implausible can turn into outstanding innovations upon further exploration and development.

4. Focus on "Yes, And" Instead of "No, But"

Using negative words like "no" discourages creative thinking. Instead, use positive language to build and maintain an environment that fosters the development of creative and innovative ideas.

Creative Problem-Solving and Design Thinking

Whereas creative problem-solving facilitates developing innovative ideas through a less structured workflow, design thinking takes a far more organized approach.

Design thinking is a human-centered, solutions-based process that fosters the ideation and development of solutions. In the online course Design Thinking and Innovation , Harvard Business School Dean Srikant Datar leverages a four-phase framework to explain design thinking.

The four stages are:

The four stages of design thinking: clarify, ideate, develop, and implement

  • Clarify: The clarification stage allows you to empathize with the user and identify problems. Observations and insights are informed by thorough research. Findings are then reframed as problem statements or questions.
  • Ideate: Ideation is the process of coming up with innovative ideas. The divergence of ideas involved with creative problem-solving is a major focus.
  • Develop: In the development stage, ideas evolve into experiments and tests. Ideas converge and are explored through prototyping and open critique.
  • Implement: Implementation involves continuing to test and experiment to refine the solution and encourage its adoption.

Creative problem-solving primarily operates in the ideate phase of design thinking but can be applied to others. This is because design thinking is an iterative process that moves between the stages as ideas are generated and pursued. This is normal and encouraged, as innovation requires exploring multiple ideas.

Creative Problem-Solving Tools

While there are many useful tools in the creative problem-solving process, here are three you should know:

Creating a Problem Story

One way to innovate is by creating a story about a problem to understand how it affects users and what solutions best fit their needs. Here are the steps you need to take to use this tool properly.

1. Identify a UDP

Create a problem story to identify the undesired phenomena (UDP). For example, consider a company that produces printers that overheat. In this case, the UDP is "our printers overheat."

2. Move Forward in Time

To move forward in time, ask: “Why is this a problem?” For example, minor damage could be one result of the machines overheating. In more extreme cases, printers may catch fire. Don't be afraid to create multiple problem stories if you think of more than one UDP.

3. Move Backward in Time

To move backward in time, ask: “What caused this UDP?” If you can't identify the root problem, think about what typically causes the UDP to occur. For the overheating printers, overuse could be a cause.

Following the three-step framework above helps illustrate a clear problem story:

  • The printer is overused.
  • The printer overheats.
  • The printer breaks down.

You can extend the problem story in either direction if you think of additional cause-and-effect relationships.

4. Break the Chains

By this point, you’ll have multiple UDP storylines. Take two that are similar and focus on breaking the chains connecting them. This can be accomplished through inversion or neutralization.

  • Inversion: Inversion changes the relationship between two UDPs so the cause is the same but the effect is the opposite. For example, if the UDP is "the more X happens, the more likely Y is to happen," inversion changes the equation to "the more X happens, the less likely Y is to happen." Using the printer example, inversion would consider: "What if the more a printer is used, the less likely it’s going to overheat?" Innovation requires an open mind. Just because a solution initially seems unlikely doesn't mean it can't be pursued further or spark additional ideas.
  • Neutralization: Neutralization completely eliminates the cause-and-effect relationship between X and Y. This changes the above equation to "the more or less X happens has no effect on Y." In the case of the printers, neutralization would rephrase the relationship to "the more or less a printer is used has no effect on whether it overheats."

Even if creating a problem story doesn't provide a solution, it can offer useful context to users’ problems and additional ideas to be explored. Given that divergence is one of the fundamental practices of creative problem-solving, it’s a good idea to incorporate it into each tool you use.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a tool that can be highly effective when guided by the iterative qualities of the design thinking process. It involves openly discussing and debating ideas and topics in a group setting. This facilitates idea generation and exploration as different team members consider the same concept from multiple perspectives.

Hosting brainstorming sessions can result in problems, such as groupthink or social loafing. To combat this, leverage a three-step brainstorming method involving divergence and convergence :

  • Have each group member come up with as many ideas as possible and write them down to ensure the brainstorming session is productive.
  • Continue the divergence of ideas by collectively sharing and exploring each idea as a group. The goal is to create a setting where new ideas are inspired by open discussion.
  • Begin the convergence of ideas by narrowing them down to a few explorable options. There’s no "right number of ideas." Don't be afraid to consider exploring all of them, as long as you have the resources to do so.

Alternate Worlds

The alternate worlds tool is an empathetic approach to creative problem-solving. It encourages you to consider how someone in another world would approach your situation.

For example, if you’re concerned that the printers you produce overheat and catch fire, consider how a different industry would approach the problem. How would an automotive expert solve it? How would a firefighter?

Be creative as you consider and research alternate worlds. The purpose is not to nail down a solution right away but to continue the ideation process through diverging and exploring ideas.

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Whether you’re an entrepreneur, marketer, or business leader, learning the ropes of design thinking can be an effective way to build your skills and foster creativity and innovation in any setting.

If you're ready to develop your design thinking and creative problem-solving skills, explore Design Thinking and Innovation , one of our online entrepreneurship and innovation courses. If you aren't sure which course is the right fit, download our free course flowchart to determine which best aligns with your goals.

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Welcome to the daily solving of our PROBLEM OF THE DAY with Yash Dwivedi. We will discuss the entire problem step-by-step and work towards developing an optimized solution. This will not only help you brush up on your concepts of Dynamic Programming but also build up problem-solving skills. You are given a number n , Return the count of total numbers from 1 to n containing 4 as a digit.

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What is AI (artificial intelligence)?

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Humans and machines: a match made in productivity  heaven. Our species wouldn’t have gotten very far without our mechanized workhorses. From the wheel that revolutionized agriculture to the screw that held together increasingly complex construction projects to the robot-enabled assembly lines of today, machines have made life as we know it possible. And yet, despite their seemingly endless utility, humans have long feared machines—more specifically, the possibility that machines might someday acquire human intelligence  and strike out on their own.

Get to know and directly engage with senior McKinsey experts on AI

Sven Blumberg is a senior partner in McKinsey’s Düsseldorf office; Michael Chui is a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute and is based in the Bay Area office, where Lareina Yee is a senior partner; Kia Javanmardian is a senior partner in the Chicago office, where Alex Singla , the global leader of QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey, is also a senior partner; Kate Smaje and Alex Sukharevsky are senior partners in the London office.

But we tend to view the possibility of sentient machines with fascination as well as fear. This curiosity has helped turn science fiction into actual science. Twentieth-century theoreticians, like computer scientist and mathematician Alan Turing, envisioned a future where machines could perform functions faster than humans. The work of Turing and others soon made this a reality. Personal calculators became widely available in the 1970s, and by 2016, the US census showed that 89 percent of American households had a computer. Machines— smart machines at that—are now just an ordinary part of our lives and culture.

Those smart machines are also getting faster and more complex. Some computers have now crossed the exascale threshold, meaning they can perform as many calculations in a single second as an individual could in 31,688,765,000 years . And beyond computation, which machines have long been faster at than we have, computers and other devices are now acquiring skills and perception that were once unique to humans and a few other species.

About QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey

QuantumBlack, McKinsey’s AI arm, helps companies transform using the power of technology, technical expertise, and industry experts. With thousands of practitioners at QuantumBlack (data engineers, data scientists, product managers, designers, and software engineers) and McKinsey (industry and domain experts), we are working to solve the world’s most important AI challenges. QuantumBlack Labs is our center of technology development and client innovation, which has been driving cutting-edge advancements and developments in AI through locations across the globe.

AI is a machine’s ability to perform the cognitive functions we associate with human minds, such as perceiving, reasoning, learning, interacting with the environment, problem-solving, and even exercising creativity. You’ve probably interacted with AI even if you don’t realize it—voice assistants like Siri and Alexa are founded on AI technology, as are some customer service chatbots that pop up to help you navigate websites.

Applied AI —simply, artificial intelligence applied to real-world problems—has serious implications for the business world. By using artificial intelligence, companies have the potential to make business more efficient and profitable. But ultimately, the value of AI isn’t in the systems themselves. Rather, it’s in how companies use these systems to assist humans—and their ability to explain to shareholders and the public what these systems do—in a way that builds trust and confidence.

For more about AI, its history, its future, and how to apply it in business, read on.

Learn more about QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey .

Circular, white maze filled with white semicircles.

Introducing McKinsey Explainers : Direct answers to complex questions

What is machine learning.

Machine learning is a form of artificial intelligence that can adapt to a wide range of inputs, including large sets of historical data, synthesized data, or human inputs. (Some machine learning algorithms are specialized in training themselves to detect patterns; this is called deep learning. See Exhibit 1.) These algorithms can detect patterns and learn how to make predictions and recommendations by processing data, rather than by receiving explicit programming instruction. Some algorithms can also adapt in response to new data and experiences to improve over time.

The volume and complexity of data that is now being generated, too vast for humans to process and apply efficiently, has increased the potential of machine learning, as well as the need for it. In the years since its widespread deployment, which began in the 1970s, machine learning has had an impact on a number of industries, including achievements in medical-imaging analysis  and high-resolution weather forecasting.

The volume and complexity of data that is now being generated, too vast for humans to process and apply efficiently, has increased the potential of machine learning, as well as the need for it.

What is deep learning?

Deep learning is a more advanced version of machine learning that is particularly adept at processing a wider range of data resources (text as well as unstructured data including images), requires even less human intervention, and can often produce more accurate results than traditional machine learning. Deep learning uses neural networks—based on the ways neurons interact in the human brain —to ingest data and process it through multiple neuron layers that recognize increasingly complex features of the data. For example, an early layer might recognize something as being in a specific shape; building on this knowledge, a later layer might be able to identify the shape as a stop sign. Similar to machine learning, deep learning uses iteration to self-correct and improve its prediction capabilities. For example, once it “learns” what a stop sign looks like, it can recognize a stop sign in a new image.

What is generative AI?

Case study: vistra and the martin lake power plant.

Vistra is a large power producer in the United States, operating plants in 12 states with a capacity to power nearly 20 million homes. Vistra has committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. In support of this goal, as well as to improve overall efficiency, QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey worked with Vistra to build and deploy an AI-powered heat rate optimizer (HRO) at one of its plants.

“Heat rate” is a measure of the thermal efficiency of the plant; in other words, it’s the amount of fuel required to produce each unit of electricity. To reach the optimal heat rate, plant operators continuously monitor and tune hundreds of variables, such as steam temperatures, pressures, oxygen levels, and fan speeds.

Vistra and a McKinsey team, including data scientists and machine learning engineers, built a multilayered neural network model. The model combed through two years’ worth of data at the plant and learned which combination of factors would attain the most efficient heat rate at any point in time. When the models were accurate to 99 percent or higher and run through a rigorous set of real-world tests, the team converted them into an AI-powered engine that generates recommendations every 30 minutes for operators to improve the plant’s heat rate efficiency. One seasoned operations manager at the company’s plant in Odessa, Texas, said, “There are things that took me 20 years to learn about these power plants. This model learned them in an afternoon.”

Overall, the AI-powered HRO helped Vistra achieve the following:

  • approximately 1.6 million metric tons of carbon abated annually
  • 67 power generators optimized
  • $60 million saved in about a year

Read more about the Vistra story here .

Generative AI (gen AI) is an AI model that generates content in response to a prompt. It’s clear that generative AI tools like ChatGPT and DALL-E (a tool for AI-generated art) have the potential to change how a range of jobs  are performed. Much is still unknown about gen AI’s potential, but there are some questions we can answer—like how gen AI models are built, what kinds of problems they are best suited to solve, and how they fit into the broader category of AI and machine learning.

For more on generative AI and how it stands to affect business and society, check out our Explainer “ What is generative AI? ”

What is the history of AI?

The term “artificial intelligence” was coined in 1956  by computer scientist John McCarthy for a workshop at Dartmouth. But he wasn’t the first to write about the concepts we now describe as AI. Alan Turing introduced the concept of the “ imitation game ” in a 1950 paper. That’s the test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior, now known as the “Turing test.” He believed researchers should focus on areas that don’t require too much sensing and action, things like games and language translation. Research communities dedicated to concepts like computer vision, natural language understanding, and neural networks are, in many cases, several decades old.

MIT physicist Rodney Brooks shared details on the four previous stages of AI:

Symbolic AI (1956). Symbolic AI is also known as classical AI, or even GOFAI (good old-fashioned AI). The key concept here is the use of symbols and logical reasoning to solve problems. For example, we know a German shepherd is a dog , which is a mammal; all mammals are warm-blooded; therefore, a German shepherd should be warm-blooded.

The main problem with symbolic AI is that humans still need to manually encode their knowledge of the world into the symbolic AI system, rather than allowing it to observe and encode relationships on its own. As a result, symbolic AI systems struggle with situations involving real-world complexity. They also lack the ability to learn from large amounts of data.

Symbolic AI was the dominant paradigm of AI research until the late 1980s.

Neural networks (1954, 1969, 1986, 2012). Neural networks are the technology behind the recent explosive growth of gen AI. Loosely modeling the ways neurons interact in the human brain , neural networks ingest data and process it through multiple iterations that learn increasingly complex features of the data. The neural network can then make determinations about the data, learn whether a determination is correct, and use what it has learned to make determinations about new data. For example, once it “learns” what an object looks like, it can recognize the object in a new image.

Neural networks were first proposed in 1943 in an academic paper by neurophysiologist Warren McCulloch and logician Walter Pitts. Decades later, in 1969, two MIT researchers mathematically demonstrated that neural networks could perform only very basic tasks. In 1986, there was another reversal, when computer scientist and cognitive psychologist Geoffrey Hinton and colleagues solved the neural network problem presented by the MIT researchers. In the 1990s, computer scientist Yann LeCun made major advancements in neural networks’ use in computer vision, while Jürgen Schmidhuber advanced the application of recurrent neural networks as used in language processing.

In 2012, Hinton and two of his students highlighted the power of deep learning. They applied Hinton’s algorithm to neural networks with many more layers than was typical, sparking a new focus on deep neural networks. These have been the main AI approaches of recent years.

Traditional robotics (1968). During the first few decades of AI, researchers built robots to advance research. Some robots were mobile, moving around on wheels, while others were fixed, with articulated arms. Robots used the earliest attempts at computer vision to identify and navigate through their environments or to understand the geometry of objects and maneuver them. This could include moving around blocks of various shapes and colors. Most of these robots, just like the ones that have been used in factories for decades, rely on highly controlled environments with thoroughly scripted behaviors that they perform repeatedly. They have not contributed significantly to the advancement of AI itself.

But traditional robotics did have significant impact in one area, through a process called “simultaneous localization and mapping” (SLAM). SLAM algorithms helped contribute to self-driving cars and are used in consumer products like vacuum cleaning robots and quadcopter drones. Today, this work has evolved into behavior-based robotics, also referred to as haptic technology because it responds to human touch.

  • Behavior-based robotics (1985). In the real world, there aren’t always clear instructions for navigation, decision making, or problem-solving. Insects, researchers observed, navigate very well (and are evolutionarily very successful) with few neurons. Behavior-based robotics researchers took inspiration from this, looking for ways robots could solve problems with partial knowledge and conflicting instructions. These behavior-based robots are embedded with neural networks.

Learn more about  QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey .

What is artificial general intelligence?

The term “artificial general intelligence” (AGI) was coined to describe AI systems that possess capabilities comparable to those of a human . In theory, AGI could someday replicate human-like cognitive abilities including reasoning, problem-solving, perception, learning, and language comprehension. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: the key word here is “someday.” Most researchers and academics believe we are decades away from realizing AGI; some even predict we won’t see AGI this century, or ever. Rodney Brooks, an MIT roboticist and cofounder of iRobot, doesn’t believe AGI will arrive until the year 2300 .

The timing of AGI’s emergence may be uncertain. But when it does emerge—and it likely will—it’s going to be a very big deal, in every aspect of our lives. Executives should begin working to understand the path to machines achieving human-level intelligence now and making the transition to a more automated world.

For more on AGI, including the four previous attempts at AGI, read our Explainer .

What is narrow AI?

Narrow AI is the application of AI techniques to a specific and well-defined problem, such as chatbots like ChatGPT, algorithms that spot fraud in credit card transactions, and natural-language-processing engines that quickly process thousands of legal documents. Most current AI applications fall into the category of narrow AI. AGI is, by contrast, AI that’s intelligent enough to perform a broad range of tasks.

How is the use of AI expanding?

AI is a big story for all kinds of businesses, but some companies are clearly moving ahead of the pack . Our state of AI in 2022 survey showed that adoption of AI models has more than doubled since 2017—and investment has increased apace. What’s more, the specific areas in which companies see value from AI have evolved, from manufacturing and risk to the following:

  • marketing and sales
  • product and service development
  • strategy and corporate finance

One group of companies is pulling ahead of its competitors. Leaders of these organizations consistently make larger investments in AI, level up their practices to scale faster, and hire and upskill the best AI talent. More specifically, they link AI strategy to business outcomes and “ industrialize ” AI operations by designing modular data architecture that can quickly accommodate new applications.

What are the limitations of AI models? How can these potentially be overcome?

We have yet to see the longtail effect of gen AI models. This means there are some inherent risks involved in using them—both known and unknown.

The outputs gen AI models produce may often sound extremely convincing. This is by design. But sometimes the information they generate is just plain wrong. Worse, sometimes it’s biased (because it’s built on the gender, racial, and other biases of the internet and society more generally).

It can also be manipulated to enable unethical or criminal activity. Since gen AI models burst onto the scene, organizations have become aware of users trying to “jailbreak” the models—that means trying to get them to break their own rules and deliver biased, harmful, misleading, or even illegal content. Gen AI organizations are responding to this threat in two ways: for one thing, they’re collecting feedback from users on inappropriate content. They’re also combing through their databases, identifying prompts that led to inappropriate content, and training the model against these types of generations.

But awareness and even action don’t guarantee that harmful content won’t slip the dragnet. Organizations that rely on gen AI models should be aware of the reputational and legal risks involved in unintentionally publishing biased, offensive, or copyrighted content.

These risks can be mitigated, however, in a few ways. “Whenever you use a model,” says McKinsey partner Marie El Hoyek, “you need to be able to counter biases  and instruct it not to use inappropriate or flawed sources, or things you don’t trust.” How? For one thing, it’s crucial to carefully select the initial data used to train these models to avoid including toxic or biased content. Next, rather than employing an off-the-shelf gen AI model, organizations could consider using smaller, specialized models. Organizations with more resources could also customize a general model based on their own data to fit their needs and minimize biases.

It’s also important to keep a human in the loop (that is, to make sure a real human checks the output of a gen AI model before it is published or used) and avoid using gen AI models for critical decisions, such as those involving significant resources or human welfare.

It can’t be emphasized enough that this is a new field. The landscape of risks and opportunities is likely to continue to change rapidly in the coming years. As gen AI becomes increasingly incorporated into business, society, and our personal lives, we can also expect a new regulatory climate to take shape. As organizations experiment—and create value—with these tools, leaders will do well to keep a finger on the pulse of regulation and risk.

What is the AI Bill of Rights?

The Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights, prepared by the US government in 2022, provides a framework for how government, technology companies, and citizens can collectively ensure more accountable AI. As AI has become more ubiquitous, concerns have surfaced  about a potential lack of transparency surrounding the functioning of gen AI systems, the data used to train them, issues of bias and fairness, potential intellectual property infringements, privacy violations, and more. The Blueprint comprises five principles that the White House says should “guide the design, use, and deployment of automated systems to protect [users] in the age of artificial intelligence.” They are as follows:

  • The right to safe and effective systems. Systems should undergo predeployment testing, risk identification and mitigation, and ongoing monitoring to demonstrate that they are adhering to their intended use.
  • Protections against discrimination by algorithms. Algorithmic discrimination is when automated systems contribute to unjustified different treatment of people based on their race, color, ethnicity, sex, religion, age, and more.
  • Protections against abusive data practices, via built-in safeguards. Users should also have agency over how their data is used.
  • The right to know that an automated system is being used, and a clear explanation of how and why it contributes to outcomes that affect the user.
  • The right to opt out, and access to a human who can quickly consider and fix problems.

At present, more than 60 countries or blocs have national strategies governing the responsible use of AI (Exhibit 2). These include Brazil, China, the European Union, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States. The approaches taken vary from guidelines-based approaches, such as the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights in the United States, to comprehensive AI regulations that align with existing data protection and cybersecurity regulations, such as the EU’s AI Act, due in 2024.

There are also collaborative efforts between countries to set out standards for AI use. The US–EU Trade and Technology Council is working toward greater alignment between Europe and the United States. The Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence, formed in 2020, has 29 members including Brazil, Canada, Japan, the United States, and several European countries.

Even though AI regulations are still being developed, organizations should act now to avoid legal, reputational, organizational, and financial risks. In an environment of public concern, a misstep could be costly. Here are four no-regrets, preemptive actions organizations can implement today:

  • Transparency. Create an inventory of models, classifying them in accordance with regulation, and record all usage across the organization that is clear to those inside and outside the organization.
  • Governance. Implement a governance structure for AI and gen AI that ensures sufficient oversight, authority, and accountability both within the organization and with third parties and regulators.
  • Data management. Proper data management includes awareness of data sources, data classification, data quality and lineage, intellectual property, and privacy management.
  • Model management. Organizations should establish principles and guardrails for AI development and use them to ensure all AI models uphold fairness and bias controls.
  • Cybersecurity and technology management. Establish strong cybersecurity and technology to ensure a secure environment where unauthorized access or misuse is prevented.
  • Individual rights. Make users aware when they are interacting with an AI system, and provide clear instructions for use.

How can organizations scale up their AI efforts from ad hoc projects to full integration?

Most organizations are dipping a toe into the AI pool—not cannonballing. Slow progress toward widespread adoption is likely due to cultural and organizational barriers. But leaders who effectively break down these barriers will be best placed to capture the opportunities of the AI era. And—crucially—companies that can’t take full advantage of AI are already being sidelined by those that can, in industries like auto manufacturing and financial services.

To scale up AI, organizations can make three major shifts :

  • Move from siloed work to interdisciplinary collaboration. AI projects shouldn’t be limited to discrete pockets of organizations. Rather, AI has the biggest impact when it’s employed by cross-functional teams with a mix of skills and perspectives, enabling AI to address broad business priorities.
  • Empower frontline data-based decision making . AI has the potential to enable faster, better decisions at all levels of an organization. But for this to work, people at all levels need to trust the algorithms’ suggestions and feel empowered to make decisions. (Equally, people should be able to override the algorithm or make suggestions for improvement when necessary.)
  • Adopt and bolster an agile mindset. The agile test-and-learn mindset will help reframe mistakes as sources of discovery, allaying the fear of failure and speeding up development.

Learn more about QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey , and check out AI-related job opportunities if you’re interested in working at McKinsey.

Articles referenced:

  • “ As gen AI advances, regulators—and risk functions—rush to keep pace ,” December 21, 2023, Andreas Kremer, Angela Luget , Daniel Mikkelsen , Henning Soller , Malin Strandell-Jansson, and Sheila Zingg
  • “ What is generative AI? ,” January 19, 2023
  • “ Tech highlights from 2022—in eight charts ,” December 22, 2022
  • “ Generative AI is here: How tools like ChatGPT could change your business ,” December 20, 2022, Michael Chui , Roger Roberts , and Lareina Yee  
  • “ The state of AI in 2022—and a half decade in review ,” December 6, 2022, Michael Chui , Bryce Hall , Helen Mayhew , Alex Singla , and Alex Sukharevsky  
  • “ Why businesses need explainable AI—and how to deliver it ,” September 29, 2022, Liz Grennan , Andreas Kremer, Alex Singla , and Peter Zipparo
  • “ Why digital trust truly matters ,” September 12, 2022, Jim Boehm , Liz Grennan , Alex Singla , and Kate Smaje
  • “ McKinsey Technology Trends Outlook 2023 ,” July 20, 2023, Michael Chui , Mena Issler, Roger Roberts , and Lareina Yee  
  • “ An AI power play: Fueling the next wave of innovation in the energy sector ,” May 12, 2022, Barry Boswell, Sean Buckley, Ben Elliott, Matias Melero , and Micah Smith  
  • “ Scaling AI like a tech native: The CEO’s role ,” October 13, 2021, Jacomo Corbo, David Harvey, Nicolas Hohn, Kia Javanmardian , and Nayur Khan
  • “ What the draft European Union AI regulations mean for business ,” August 10, 2021, Misha Benjamin, Kevin Buehler , Rachel Dooley, and Peter Zipparo
  • “ Winning with AI is a state of mind ,” April 30, 2021, Thomas Meakin , Jeremy Palmer, Valentina Sartori , and Jamie Vickers
  • “ Breaking through data-architecture gridlock to scale AI ,” January 26, 2021, Sven Blumberg , Jorge Machado , Henning Soller , and Asin Tavakoli  
  • “ An executive’s guide to AI ,” November 17, 2020, Michael Chui , Brian McCarthy, and Vishnu Kamalnath
  • “ Executive’s guide to developing AI at scale ,” October 28, 2020, Nayur Khan , Brian McCarthy, and Adi Pradhan
  • “ An executive primer on artificial general intelligence ,” April 29, 2020, Federico Berruti , Pieter Nel, and Rob Whiteman
  • “ The analytics academy: Bridging the gap between human and artificial intelligence ,” McKinsey Quarterly , September 25, 2019, Solly Brown, Darshit Gandhi, Louise Herring , and Ankur Puri  

This article was updated in April 2024; it was originally published in April 2023.

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As gen AI advances, regulators—and risk functions—rush to keep pace

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  1. 8 Steps For Effective Problem Solving

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  2. Group Problem Solving

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  3. Accelerating your company's problem-solving skills

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  4. 25+ Good Examples of Problem Solving in the Workplace

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  5. Making Your Best Business: How to Approach ANY Problem

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  6. Corporate Problem Solving Skills can Advance your Career and your

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VIDEO

  1. IZUSA DIAMOND JEWELLERY NEWS ON ZEE UP/UK

  2. Secondary School Maths Workshops

  3. Problem solving company PT.SIRAJA BUAH

  4. Creative Problem Solving: A Case Study

  5. Team Tic Tac Toe

  6. Pernin Équipments and Ebsray: Solving Customer LPG Problems

COMMENTS

  1. Business problem solving

    But seasoned problem solvers show you differently. The most elegant problem solving is that which makes the solution obvious. The late economist Herb Simon put it this way: "Solving a problem simply means representing it so as to make the solution transparent." 10 Herbert Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1969.

  2. How to master the seven-step problem-solving process

    To discuss the art of problem solving, I sat down in California with McKinsey senior partner Hugo Sarrazin and also with Charles Conn. Charles is a former McKinsey partner, entrepreneur, executive, and coauthor of the book Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill That Changes Everything [John Wiley & Sons, 2018].

  3. The McKinsey guide to problem solving

    Become a better problem solver with insights and advice from leaders around the world on topics including developing a problem-solving mindset, solving problems in uncertain times, problem solving with AI, and much more.

  4. 10 Step Process for Effective Business Problem Solving

    By following this 10-step process, you can develop your problem-solving skills and approach any issue that arises with confidence. 1. Define the problem. When a problem arises, it can be very easy to jump right into creating a solution. However, if you don't thoroughly examine what led to the problem in the first place, you may create a ...

  5. A Better Framework for Solving Tough Problems

    Start with trust and end with speed. May 22, 2024. When it comes to solving complicated problems, the default for many organizational leaders is to take their time to work through the issues at hand.

  6. Why Problem-Solving Skills Are Essential for Leaders

    4 Problem-Solving Skills All Leaders Need. 1. Problem Framing. One key skill for any leader is framing problems in a way that makes sense for their organization. Problem framing is defined in Design Thinking and Innovation as determining the scope, context, and perspective of the problem you're trying to solve.

  7. How to Solve Problems

    How to Solve Problems. To bring the best ideas forward, teams must build psychological safety. Teams today aren't just asked to execute tasks: They're called upon to solve problems. You'd ...

  8. Problem Solving Strategies for the Workplace [2024] • Asana

    4 steps to better problem solving. While it might be tempting to dive into a problem head first, take the time to move step by step. Here's how you can effectively break down the problem-solving process with your team: 1. Identify the problem that needs to be solved. One of the easiest ways to identify a problem is to ask questions.

  9. The Right Way to Solve Complex Business Problems

    All episodes. Details. Transcript. December 04, 2018. Corey Phelps, a strategy professor at McGill University, says great problem solvers are hard to find. Even seasoned professionals at the ...

  10. The Problem Solving Company

    Maths Workshops. The Problem Solving Company offers maths workshops for both Primary and Secondary Schools throughout the UK. Our National Curriculum based workshops are a great way to improve the image of maths in your school. Using large resources enables maximum participation for the groups and helps encourage communication and team skills.

  11. Workplace Problem-Solving Examples: Real Scenarios, Practical Solutions

    Problem-solving in the workplace is a complex and multifaceted skill that requires a combination of analytical thinking, creativity, and effective communication. It goes beyond simply identifying problems and extends to finding innovative solutions that address the root causes. Essential Problem-Solving Skills for the Workplace

  12. 7 Steps to Effective Business Problem Solving

    A CEO or business owner should possess level-headed problem-solving skills to be mirrored by the employees. With effective problem-solving techniques, the company and staff are better placed to deal with issues more effectively and even establish and refine how they deal with challenges in the future.

  13. 35 problem-solving techniques and methods for solving complex problems

    All teams and organizations encounter challenges as they grow. There are problems that might occur for teams when it comes to miscommunication or resolving business-critical issues.You may face challenges around growth, design, user engagement, and even team culture and happiness.In short, problem-solving techniques should be part of every team's skillset.

  14. What is Problem Solving? (Steps, Techniques, Examples)

    The problem-solving process typically includes the following steps: Identify the issue: Recognize the problem that needs to be solved. Analyze the situation: Examine the issue in depth, gather all relevant information, and consider any limitations or constraints that may be present. Generate potential solutions: Brainstorm a list of possible ...

  15. What Is Problem Solving in Business?

    Problem-solving in business is defined as implementing processes that reduce or remove obstacles that are preventing you or others from accomplishing operational and strategic business goals. In business, a problem is a situation that creates a gap between the desired and actual outcomes. In addition, a true problem typically does not have an ...

  16. 10 Problem-solving strategies to turn challenges on their head

    One of the best ways to improve your problem-solving skills is to learn from experts. Consider enrolling in organizational training, shadowing a mentor, or working with a coach. 2. Practice. Practice using your new problem-solving skills by applying them to smaller problems you might encounter in your daily life.

  17. What is Problem Solving? Steps, Process & Techniques

    Finding a suitable solution for issues can be accomplished by following the basic four-step problem-solving process and methodology outlined below. Step. Characteristics. 1. Define the problem. Differentiate fact from opinion. Specify underlying causes. Consult each faction involved for information. State the problem specifically.

  18. Adopting the right problem-solving approach

    In our 2013 classic from the Quarterly, senior partner Olivier Leclerc highlights the value of taking a number of different approaches simultaneously to solve difficult problems. Read on to discover the five flexons, or problem-solving languages, that can be applied to the same problem to generate richer insights and more innovative solutions.

  19. 7 Problem-Solving Skills That Can Help You Be a More ...

    Although problem-solving is a skill in its own right, a subset of seven skills can help make the process of problem-solving easier. These include analysis, communication, emotional intelligence, resilience, creativity, adaptability, and teamwork. 1. Analysis. As a manager, you'll solve each problem by assessing the situation first.

  20. What Is Creative Problem-Solving & Why Is It Important?

    Creative problem-solving helps overcome unforeseen challenges and find solutions to unconventional problems. Fueling innovation and growth: In addition to solutions, creative problem-solving can spark innovative ideas that drive company growth. These ideas can lead to new product lines, services, or a modified operations structure that improves ...

  21. 14 Effective Problem-Solving Strategies

    7. Work backward. Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to work backward to solve it. This can be helpful if you need to recreate specific events to locate the root cause of a problem. For example, a car manufacturer may want to produce a vehicle that is better than their competitor's newest model.

  22. 12 Approaches To Problem-Solving for Every Situation

    Here are the seven steps of the rational approach: Define the problem. Identify possible causes. Brainstorm options to solve the problem. Select an option. Create an implementation plan. Execute the plan and monitor the results. Evaluate the solution. Read more: Effective Problem Solving Steps in the Workplace.

  23. What Are Critical Thinking Skills and Why Are They Important?

    Problem-solving: Problem-solving is perhaps the most important skill that critical thinkers can possess. The ability to solve issues and bounce back from conflict is what helps you succeed, be a leader, and effect change. One way to properly solve problems is to first recognize there's a problem that needs solving. By determining the issue at ...

  24. Structured Problem-Solving and Analytical Tools for Engineers

    Minitab provides a multitude of solutions for engineers to aid in problem solving and analytics. Attack problems with brainstorming tools, plan projects and process improvements through visual tools, and then collect data and analyze it, all within the Minitab ecosystem. Our solutions can help you find the answers you need using graphical tools ...

  25. AT&T resolves outage that left some customers without service ...

    AT&T says it has resolved an outage that left some customers in the dark on Tuesday. Earlier, the company said a problem prevented many AT&T customers from completing calls between carriers.

  26. PDF Building a problem-solving culture that lasts

    cated problem-solving techniques until it captures all that can be learned from the simple ones. The main objective is to uncover problems, ask the right questions, engage everyone in the problem-solving effort, and develop the organization's problem-solving muscles. An effective process for identifying and solving problems involves five ...

  27. PROBLEM OF THE DAY : 12/06/2024

    Welcome to the daily solving of our PROBLEM OF THE DAY with Yash Dwivedi. We will discuss the entire problem step-by-step and work towards developing an optimized solution. This will not only help you brush up on your concepts of Dynamic Programming but also build up problem-solving skills. You are given a number n, Return the count of total numbers from 1 to n containing 4 as a digit.

  28. What is AI (artificial intelligence)?

    The term "artificial general intelligence" (AGI) was coined to describe AI systems that possess capabilities comparable to those of a human. In theory, AGI could someday replicate human-like cognitive abilities including reasoning, problem-solving, perception, learning, and language comprehension.