By Ken Etete
Problem solving is an accredited hallmark for business success; and the first step to successfully solve a problem is to develop a problem-solving mindset.”
Solving problems is part and parcel of all successful businesses. It is an essential skill in the workplace and personal situations.
Effective problem solving is all about using logic, creativity and imagination to make sense of your situation and come up with an intelligent solution. As it has been defined, problem solving consists of using generic or ad hoc methods; in an orderly manner; of finding solutions to problem.
What is a problem? The Oxford Dictionary defines a problem as “A doubtful or difficult matter requiring a solution; something hard to understand or accomplish or deal with.” The crux is that, problem solving is the process of working through details to reach solutions to difficult or complex issues.
Most businesses fail as a result of poor problem solving skills. As a business owner, you can benefit from having problem solving skills because in business you will encounter problems on a daily basis. In fact, you must understand that there are always going to be problems to encounter. Some of these problems may be more severe or complex than others but it will be a thing of joy to have the ability to solve the problems efficiently and without much difficulty in a timely manner. One of the measures of business successes, is not a matter of whether you have a tough problem to solve, but whether you have the ability to solve the problem.
Problem solving is a process. The main goal of a good problem solving process is to make us and our businesses conflict-friendly and conflict-competent. There are two important concepts to bear in mind about problems. First of all, when problems occur, it is an opportunity to improve the business system or process. Secondly, problems provide us with information that we can use to fix what needs fixing and ultimately increase performance. When you encounter problems in business, what you need to do is think the problem through with a view to getting a solution in the long run.
Effective Problem Solving Process
Effective problem solving takes time and attention, more of the former than the latter. The approach is generally designed for problem solving in a business, but can be easily adapted at an individual level and life generally. Here are some steps to take in solving a complex problem. It must be understood that working through this process may not always be a rigid approach because you may have to cycle back to an earlier step to help get a clearer picture that will enable a deliberate move towards the desired solution. The problem solving processes are;
- Identify the Problem – The first and most important phase of solving any problem is to be clear about what the problem is about. When you encounter a problem, the questions you should always ask are, what is the problem, the nature of the problem and how can the problem be best defined? This is in a bid to get a clear idea about the problem. Make sure you dwell here, fairly enough, to really get the details of the problem. This is because you don’t want to fit a square peg in a round hole.
- Talk to other people about the Problem – The main reason for talking to people about the problem is to help you see things from a different perspective and to open up potential solutions, even solutions you never perceived. An old adage says, “A problem shared is a problem half solved.” Put down your differences for a while and listen to people’s opinion with the intention to understand, it can get you to the desired solution or at least half way through it.
- List the possible solutions (Options) – Allow room for creativity, innovative imagination and do some brainstorming. Start thinking about possible solutions to the problem. Write down whatever solutions or options that come to mind. You can develop a mind mapping board.
- Evaluate the Options – Look at the possible solutions and carefully analyze them by evaluating them and making sure it is with a view of selecting the preferred or most suitable solution. Make sure you creatively gather enough options.
- Select an Option or Options – Review the selected option and act on it immediately you have resolved to use the solution.
- Document the agreement(s) – Document the outcome and ensure you have lessons learnt included in your documentation. Every detail of opinions and implications collected in the process should also be properly documented for possible future reference.
- Agree on Contingencies, Monitoring & Evaluation – This involves reviewing the outcomes of the problem solving process over a period of time because conditions may change. This step also helps keep a check on or measure the success of the process. Make contingency agreements about foreseeable future circumstances by monitoring compliance and follow through where necessary. This process is typical of Monitoring & Evaluating and it is for the purpose of gaining a constructive feedback from people affected by any changes that occurred, if at all.
Developing and maintaining a problem solving mindset or skill can make a huge difference in your business and life in general. It will always give you a huge advantage over your competitors. Business success is as a result of constantly solving problems even as they get bigger. The maxim will then be that “The bigger the problems you encounter and able to solve, the more successful you tend to become”.
Your business success will depend on your ability to solve problems quickly. If you can step up with appropriate solutions to just about any problem you come upon, you stand a good chance of succeeding in your business, career and life in general.