ArkaLAB 2018 just ended, and it was an exciting adventure in innovating and problem-solving for the participants. But the ability to solve problems isn’t only important for engineers and programmers: it’s a vital workplace skill for everyone, from managers to new recruits. That’s because problems are an unavoidable part of every business (and personal) environment.
Some people are better at problem-solving than others. But the good news is that it’s a skill you can learn, and here are seven simple steps to follow that will make you better at it.
- Know what you can and can’t solve. This is crucial. Remember that there are some things you can do nothing about. They’re not problems per se; they’re facts of life. Don’t waste time banging your head against the wall trying to fix the unfixable!
- Be sure to define the problem clearly. You can’t jump into solution mode even before you fully understand the issues. Think carefully about what the problem is, and remember that other people might have different opinions about it Take every aspect of the problem into consideration before you decide on a definition. Establishing real clarity will smooth the path ahead of you.
- List every possible solution. Try to consider every idea for a solution, even if some of them seem a little absurd at first. It’s important to keep an open mind because it’s often the crazy ideas that trigger other, more viable solutions. The more solutions you come up with, the more likely you’ll discover the right one. In problem-solving, the quality of the solution is usually in direct proportion to the quantity of solutions considered. So do some brainstorming, and let your imagination flow.
- Carefully evaluate the solutions. What are the pros and cons of each? Are any of the solutions easily actionable? Are some of the solutions you came up with actually pie-in-the-sky ideas which, upon reflection, aren’t really feasible? Be honest with yourself and let go of any unworkable ideas.
- Prioritize the best options. Select the best solution. If there are several that seem doable, ask yourself whether there’s a way to combine some of them together for a more satisfactory outcome. Remember, a satisfactory and easily doable solution is usually superior to an exceptional solution that’s more complex and time-consuming. There’s a saying: every big problem was once a small problem that could have been solved easily – if solved earlier!
- Decide on a course of action. Once you’ve selected a solution, it’s time to decide on the next steps to take. How will your solution be implemented? Who will carry out the solution or the different elements of the solution? How will you monitor compliance and follow-through? Also think about how you can evaluate the success of your chosen solution. For example, you can use the “Let’s try it this way for three months and then re-evaluate” approach.
- Be proud of your success. When you do find a solution that puts an end to a problem, large or small, remember to thank everyone for their assistance, ideas, and hard work – including yourself!
People who are good at problem solving are some of the most valuable and respected people in business. In fact, most recruiters list problem-solving as one of the top 10 skills they search for in every candidate today, no matter what the career field.