What was the last problem you faced at work?
- An employee issue?
- A difficult client?
- Vendor mismanagement?
Problems are inevitable. The question is — how do you solve these problems?
As defined by MIT, “problem-solving is the process of identifying a problem, developing possible solution paths, and taking the appropriate course of action.”
Problem-solving mindset is an important skill set for any professional especially if you are an entrepreneur, manager, or someone in the leadership team in an organization.
Be it in life or at the workplace, a problem-solving mindset helps to keep the surrounding under control while exploring new opportunities. Here are some tips to help you develop a problem-solving mindset.
6 steps to develop a problem-solving mindset
No business is immune to problems. If you are in a management role, you will be focusing a lot of your time in identifying and solving problems.
Having a problem-solving mindset is the skill that will help you in the long run. Here’s how you can develop a problem-solving mindset.
1. Embrace the problem
The word “problem” has a negative impact on our minds.
When someone says “there is a problem” the brain starts focusing more on the problem and suppresses the mind to come up with a solution. When you embrace a problem and acknowledge it as a part and parcel of life and work, you will have a more open outlook towards it. This will help you focus more on the solution instead of just brooding over the problem.
Here is a quick tip: Every morning get up from sleep expecting to encounter problems at work. When your mind is prepared to encounter a problem, you will do better at solving it.
2. Focus on the solution
You can spend time obsessing over what’s gone wrong or you can shift your focus on coming up with solutions. The choice is yours.
Instead of focussing on the problem, adopt a solution-focused approach. The key principle of this approach is are based on two simple ideas:
Here is a classic example of how Honda did away with what didn’t work for them and focused on what worked for them when they forayed into the US motorcycle market.
As quoted in HBR, “In 1958, the American motorcycle market was dominated by robust players like Harley Davidson and Honda’s bike was not able to compete with it.
At the same time, it was found by Honda that its smaller motorcycles that were mainly used by its employees to run errands in town were gaining popularity among young buyers who wanted affordable, convenient, and independent transportation.
Soon, Honda realized this and changed its strategy. Instead of its giant bikes, it started focusing on selling its small bikes. Thus, Honda from no presence in the US market made 63% of the market in 1959.”
3. Come up with all possible solutions
Start with listing down all the solutions that you can think of. If needed, brainstorm with your team to come up with all the possible solutions.
Let’s say, a recent employee survey revealed that your employees are dissatisfied with the leadership communication. Now, that’s a problem.
What can be the possible solutions?
When you make a list of all possible solutions, you’re in a better place to evaluate options and measure effectiveness.
It’s a good idea to use mind mapping tools to visualize all the possible solutions, weigh their pros and cons, and make a more informed decision.
4. Analyze the root cause
To nurture a positive mindset you need to focus more on the solution. To do so, analyze the root cause of the problem.
Sakichi Toyoda’s 5 Why Technique initially used at Toyota is a fantastic tool to analyze the root cause. The philosophy of this technique is simple. Whenever there is a problem, ask the question ‘Why’ five times. This helps to devise a countermeasure for the problem. You then follow through it until the problem is solved and stop recurring.
This technique works well when the problem is simple to moderate. For more critical problems, different techniques like cause and effect analysis or failure mode and effects analysis might be more suitable.
5. Take on a new perspective
See your problems as opportunities to grow.
If you are too bothered with a nagging issue, take a step back and try to look at it with a new perspective. Brainstorming sessions with others also help you to see things with a new perspective which you might have missed out on otherwise.
When you see a problem with a fresh perspective, you see it as an opportunity to grow and come up with a new solution.
6. Implement solutions and monitor them
Once you identify the problem and come up with all the possible solutions, put down all your information in one place. The more information you have, the chances for a positive outcome is better. Now, go through all the options, choose the best-suited one for the situation and set measurable goals.
Finally, it is time to implement the solution. So, if the problem was exceeding budgets for overheads, measure and monitor if the new solution has been able to reduce it? If not, you need to relook at your solution and come up with an alternative solution.
A problem-solving mindset is an asset to any organization. It is more than just a skill.
A person with a problem-solving mindset sees a problem as an opportunity to grow and is motivated to find solutions, thereby focussing on growth and achieving positive results. ___________________________________________________________________________
Adela Belin is a content marketer and blogger at Writers Per Hour. She is passionate about sharing stories with the hope to make a difference in people’s lives and contribute to their personal and professional growth. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.