If having a problem-solving mindset is something that you’re aiming for, do not worry. Problem solving may sound complex but once you learn a little more about it, you’ll be able to learn how to solve almost any problem that comes your way. All it takes is to keep in mind a few techniques and tips and you’re on your way to being a great problem solver.
Problem Solving 101
Problem solvers are truly invaluable, especially in the workforce. To begin understanding this concept, the three main ways of thinking must be discussed. These include: problem solving, critical thinking, and creative thinking. They are closely related to one another and you can use all three of them whenever life throws one of its many curveballs.
Just what do problem solvers have that sets them apart from others? First of all, they usually exhibit three main habits:
- An association with the past. This means relying on past successful behavior in order to determine what will work best in the current situation.
- Seeing and understanding patterns. Everything consists of patterns that create both circumstances and problem, and a successful problem solver always recognizes these patterns and applies them to the current situation.
- Probing deep enough for a solution. You can’t always solve problems quickly. Indeed, it often takes the ability to probe deep enough into the situation so that the right solution can be found.
In addition, problem solvers always develop their mindset in part due to their beliefs and attitudes. These include:
- They make sure that they do things in a careful manner. This means being detail-oriented and overlooking or forgetting nothing.
- They expect that the problem can be solved. No, problem solvers don’t go into the situation wondering if it can be done. Instead, they expect right from the beginning that a solution will be found.
- They never give up. If they don’t solve the problem the first time, they always solve it the next time. This involves a lot of persistence on their part.
- They enjoy the process. They look at problem solving as a challenge and they revel in the process.
- They do not consider failures a bad thing. Instead, they look at failure as a learning tool and a way to improve their skills for the next time.
- They look to others for suggestions on success. They realize that there is more than one way to succeed and they are open to things that have worked for other people.
- They look for more than one solution to the problem. After all, not all problems are solved in the same way. Each problem is different and problem solvers expand the possibilities so that the best solution can be found.
- They maintain a constant sense of curiosity. Curiosity can easily lead to simpler, more effective ways to solve many different problems.
Things That All Problem Solvers Have in Common
Obtaining the perfect problem-solving mindset means accepting that certain behaviors are necessary if you wish to be successful. These behaviors and characteristics include:
- They are willing to take risks. This is an important characteristic. Few things get accomplished if you aren’t willing to take the risks necessary to get the job done.
- They are enthusiastic. Can you imagine solving a problem without being excited about it? It doesn’t work that way.
- They are flexible. They always adapt to the unexpected and they are ready if they discover that they need to take a different path to their goals.
- They are playful and lighthearted. They take problem solving seriously but they do not let it consume them. They always have a lighthearted attitude.
- They can think outside of the box. They realize that solutions to problems aren’t always found in a neat little box and they are willing to expand their knowledge and curiosity to use non-conforming methods.
- They are detail-oriented. They are meticulous in their search for answers and they look at all of the available solutions.
- They have open minds. Again, the solution to a particular problem can be found anywhere so they make sure that they consider all options.
- They are proactive. This is an important characteristic. They do not wait for solutions to fall into their laps. Instead, they go out and look for them, sometimes even before those solutions are needed.
There Is a Method to Their Madness
Do problem solvers simply plunge right into the problem so that a solution can be found? Not necessarily. Most problem solvers have a step-by-step method for success even though they sometimes have to adapt and alter their plans to be successful in the end. These include the following steps.
- They identify the problem in writing. They always make sure that the problem is in written form and is very detailed so that they can know what they’re aiming for.
- They question the problem. They ask the important questions concerning the problem, such as what, when, where, how, who, etc.
- They hypothesize certain causes of the problem. After all, in order to solve a problem, you have to first determine the possible reasons why the problem exists.
- They reframe the problem. They look at it from different angles, including how it may appear to others or even to themselves if they looked at it in future years.
- They determine what outcomes they would like to see. Visualizing solutions in their minds is a great way to discovering the correct end result.
- They rely on their pasts to give them insight. This includes their past experiences and even their past mistakes. Their past can give them a great idea of what to do in the present.
Ready to Move Forward
Problem solvers put a lot of thought into the process of coming up with solutions to problems and they don’t stop until the solution is right in front of them. This includes the following steps:
- They explore all of their solutions and strategies. They have to choose the right one in the end so they place all of their options on the table.
- They participate in brainstorming sessions with themselves to come up with the right solution. This includes 15- to 30-minute sessions throughout the day.
- They sleep on the problem. After they come up with a solution that they think will work, they often sleep on it for a day or two to make certain that they didn’t forget anything important.
- They prioritize the solutions to determine which one will work best. After all, there are usually numerous solutions to most problems.
As you can see, having the right problem-solving mindset takes more than just a few steps. It takes work and concentration and you have to have a specific plan to make it work.
More Tips for Success
Solving problems takes a certain type of lifestyle and skills. It includes a lot of mental preparation and the right can-do spirit. It also takes a lot of the following:
- They have emotional intelligence. In other words, they do not overreact when things go wrong and they never use emotions to make decisions.
- They listen actively. They are good listeners, which goes a long way when exploring different options and considering all sides to a problem.
- They do not ignore a problem; instead, they take responsibility for it and consider it their job to find a solution.
- They reflect on the situation so that they can make the best decisions from start to finish. Constant reflection is an important step in the process. It takes time, but it is well worth it in the end.
Problem solvers also tend to think and re-think the problem in order to come up with a solution. This includes considering:
- What would happen if they did the opposite of what they are considering doing
- How to solve a problem in the most creative and innovative way possible
- What product or service would help solve the problem
- How they can solve the problem while thinking positively and not getting angry when it doesn’t happen as quickly as they wanted it to
They also adhere to the following behaviors:
- They do not focus on what they want but consider what is best for those who will benefit from the solution.
- They accept that problems will always be a part of life.
- They consider that there may be no solution to the problem so far and that they may have to come up with it.
- They consistently monitor their progress so that they will know if they are on track with their goals.
- They have a tentative execution date even if it has to be altered at some point.
- They put aside all of their preconceived notions and prejudices in order to find the best solution.
- They never make hasty judgments.
- They periodically reassess their goals, steps, and plans.
- They consider all possibilities as long as they’re reasonable.
Things to Avoid
Just as with many other aspects in life, the problem-solving mindset cannot be achieved if certain bad habits are still a part of your life. If you have any of the following habits or characteristics, get rid off them immediately if you ever want to be considered a great problem solver.
- You are a procrastinator. Procrastination will never solve problems. In fact, it can only make problems worse.
- You are a worrier or get over-stressed. Self-confidence and relaxation is always a much better way to find solutions.
- You never get enough sleep. Your mind and body work together and you can only think clearly when your body is rested.
- You think that you have to do everything yourself. Realizing that you can’t do it alone is not exactly a sign of weakness. It simply means that you have the confidence to allow others to help you come up with the best solution.
- You think only with your head. Instead, problem solving requires communication skills, which includes the way you give a presentation.
Putting Everything in Perspective
If you are constantly saying “I can’t”, you will never solve any problems. Instead, you have to change that statement to “How can I?”. If you think that solving problems is a minor or unimportant skill, think again. There are many benefits to having a problem-solving mindset in the workforce and below are just a few of them.
- Better long-term growth strategies
- Better coordination among team members
- Better diagnosis of workplace problems
- Better evaluations of relevant research
- Less likelihood of errors of omission
- Better explanations of protocols and policies
- Better management and use of information systems
- Easier analysis of your staffing needs
- Better analysis of possible solutions
- Better communication with customers and clients
- Better allocation of resources
- Better interpretation and analyzation of risks
- Ease of hiring and promoting leaders
In short, businesses simply operate much more smoothly and more successfully when there are problem solvers in the bunch. To solve problems effectively with the right mindset, you have to wear many hats. You have to have the mindset of a:
- Worker bee
Take charge but accept other people’s help when developing the best strategies and solutions. You become way more valuable and can therefore make a lot more money when you have the mindset of a true problem solver.
Mindsets don’t happen overnight. If you want to become a problem solver, you can do so. You just have to work hard and practice certain techniques. As with many other personality traits, the more you practice this mindset, the better you will be at it. Flexibility is also important because regardless of how much you plan, not everything is going to happen as you think that it will.
Solving problems can also be thought of as a learned behavior. Most people are not problem solvers at birth but this doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. You can do it if you make up your mind to do so and it is much easier than you think.