Guide to Problem Solving

Resolving workplace problems through creative and critical thinking

Problem solving in the workplace isn't so different from problem solving in your personal life; it requires creative and critical thinking, an ability to look at the situation from multiple perspectives, and an awareness of the primary factors contributing to the problem.

There is one major difference, however: Business problem solving usually requires the participation of several people, at several levels, from top management to administrative assistants. That's why it's important that your problem solving sessions are structured; instead of everyone randomly throwing out ideas, it helps to follow a specific plan, which you can develop on your own or with the help of an expert.

Methods of successful problem solving in business include:
  1. Creating "what-if" scenarios or considering several outcomes
  2. Examining the problem from multiple perspectives, or employing multiple problem solving tools
  3. Breaking a problem down into smaller, more manageable parts
  4. Identifying both the internal and external factors contributing to a problem
  5. Understanding how these multiple factors interact with each other

Stimulate your creative thinking skills with online or computer-based problem solving tools

Sometimes, you just need something to spark your creative thinking skills, and help you approach a problem from a different perspective. Many websites devoted to management, leadership and problem solving feature online tools to get you and your team started. These tools may include articles outlining various problem solving processes, free downloadable worksheets or workbooks to guide you through these methods, problem solving exercises, and even free newsletters to offer ongoing problem solving guidance.

Learn workplace problem solving techniques at a workshop or seminar

For more intensive problem solving training, enroll in a workshop or seminar. Many last just a day or two, and are offered either at your site or at another location such as a university. Team leaders or upper management can attend, and then bring the principles back to the office, or, for smaller groups in particular, the entire team can attend together. This is an effective way to instruct all the staff at once, and help them practice effective problem solving in the workplace in the future, not just in response to a specific issue.

Get expert problem management help from a consultant

Training and tools can take you a long way in resolving workplace problems, but some circumstances require the aid of an expert. Problem solving consultants have years of experience, and because they've likely worked with companies in several fields and with a wide variety of problems, they bring a well-rounded approach that may help them see more options. They may have also seen your problem before, or have experience in your industry, and so know the unique challenges you face. Just as important, outside consultants are neutral about the situation, making it easier for them to be objective because they're not as attached the way things have always been done as longtime employees may be.
  • Problem solving in business isn't just for times of change or crisis; it's an essential skill that can prevent problems and promote continual improvement of the organization. Make problem solving a standard part of employee training, so your staff will be skilled in spotting potential problems, and already know to address any issues that arise. And you may want to periodically apply problem solving methods to even successful areas of your business, just to see if there are opportunities for improvement.

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