Lesson 11: Problem-solving techniques
No one likes problems, especially at work. However, they’re part of our everyday work routine. In this lesson, we will talk about 5 of the most common tried and tested problem-solving techniques that you can use to easily solve difficult situations at work or in your personal life.
Breathe in and breathe out
Let’s start with the basics. No matter how bad the problem, how serious the situation, you can do one simple thing—breathe in and breathe out.
Most people get stressed out at the very mention of a problem. They feel like they need to come up with an answer immediately, they look for someone to blame and they want a quick and easy exit. All of a sudden, facing a problem becomes a problem of its own.
For this very reason, it’s important to slow down and take a breather. When we are stressed out, we make one critical mistake – we resort to something called binary problem-solving. In other words, we limit our options by trying out proven solutions to problems instead of trying out something new and more efficient.
Ask great questions as the first problem-solving stage
Asking questions is a part of the pre-problem-solving stage. When you ask questions, your brain can come up with different scenarios and ways to make a decision. The more questions you ask, the easier it will be to find a solution to your problem.
Don’t just trust yourself
We know this sounds crazy, but hear us out. One of the many reasons why problems come up and stay unsolved is because we are too lazy or busy to distance ourselves from them. In other words, we just think from our own perspective instead of zooming out and looking at the bigger picture.
For example, if you’re in our industry (SaaS), you may have a situation where people sign up for your app and disappear after the trial period. Sure, you could try generating more traffic to your website, but there are other things you can do. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- Has my business industry changed?
- Does my app really meet my customers’ needs?
- Does my sales strategy need improvement?
Conclusion: Look at the big picture before trying to tackle a specific problem.
Do some heavy brainstorming to help solve the problems
One of the most effective ways to solve any problem is a brainstorming session. Of course, the prerequisite for any brainstorming session is a nonjudgmental, friendly environment.
Now, if you want to brainstorm like a pro, you need to take the following steps.
HMW or How Might We
Start the session with a question such as “How might we…” to inspire creativity among your team. The question should be open enough to inspire and foster creativity. However, it should also be focused and narrow enough to keep your session participants focused on the problem at hand.
Write down everything
Every member of your brainstorming session should write down all of their ideas, either on a board or on sticky notes. Once you have all of your ideas, put them down on a common board. If you can’t come up with enough ideas, repeat the session with the same question.
Discuss your ideas
Use phrases such as “I like…”, “I wish…”, “What if…”, and others to discuss each of the ideas you and your team came up with.
Select the best ideas
Now that you have all of your ideas in one place, it’s time to find the best one. For example, you could let the participants vote using sticky notes. You can also create buckets for ideas, such as “Rational choice”, “The best solution for everyone”, and others.
Using this approach, you’ll be able to save some ideas that at first seem crazy but actually make a lot of sense in the long run.
Figure out problem-solving strategies
At this stage, you have your best brainstorming ideas. This is the time to choose the best ones and come up with a plan on how to make them come to life.
- HMW or How Might We
The 5 Whys
When you quickly want to get to the root of a problem, try out this technique. All you need to do is ask the question “Why” five times. Start with the problem at hand and ask why it happened, making sure that your answer is objective. Continue asking “Why” four more times. At some point, you’ll reach the true answer to your question and you can start looking for a solution.
The biggest challenge with this technique is giving rational, objective answers to each “why”. Fight the urge to answer from your own point of view. Instead, think of the logical reason why something happened. Remember, admitting that you don’t know something is far better than giving an answer that is subjective.
The most important point to remember is that problems happen all the time and they will keep happening. It’s on you how you will solve them and now you know how you can do that!