6 Approaches to Problem Solving- How Does Your Mind Work?
Your ability to solve problems impacts personal success in life, success as a team, and ultimately, the success of your business. That’s why it is so important to understand your strengths and weaknesses as you approach problems. This awareness can help you gage whether or not the situation requires your skill, the skill of another team member or a combination of the two. Effective problem solving offers an opportunity to move forward, rather than mitigate a setback. If you approach a problem in that light, your solution changes, your process changes and so does your team dynamic. As a leader or manager, consider identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your team as they relate to problem solving. Once you do, you will be able to tackle problems as a powerful team and create a competitive advantage for your organization.
Here are Six Common Approaches to Problem Solving:
How does YOUR mind work?
1: Analytical Problem Solving
An analytical thinker has the ability to get into the detail of a problem, evaluate all components & perspectives to understand it and determine what’s missing. Analytical thinkers ask questions to fill in any gaps they see in order to foresee next steps. They have confidence in their ability and make assumptions & decisions because of their constructive fact finding process. Although their assumptions are credible & decisions well supported, they may not move quickly enough to a solution if they do not have all the facts. Because their fact-finding process takes time, they may not offer any opinions unless specifically asked.
2: Logical Problem Solving
A logical thinker has the ability to continuously collect detail and put it into sequence, allowing them to see the big picture & evaluate where the problem exists and why. Then using historical data, they infer solutions based on similar situations. If this worked before in a similar situation, it will work again in this one. The problem with inferring solutions based on past situations occurs when past situations do not exist. When the search for past situations has been exhausted or a new solution is required, the logical problem solver may be at a loss.
3: Rational Problem Solving
A rational problem solver has the ability to take information that is available & make assumptions based on that information, deducting the most optimal solution given their personal perspective. A rational person may use the words “From my perspective here is the problem and the best approach to solve it is xyz in order to achieve what I believe to be the best solution.” The problem is that although the approach may be rational for that individual, the starting point of that reasoning may be completely unjust to another. Rational problem solvers often do not see the world from perspectives other than their own.
4: Absolute Problem Solving
An absolute problem solver has the ability to see a problem as black or white and a solution as right or wrong. Absolute thinkers believe there is a right way of doing something and if there is a problem it is because those involved were unaware of the solution that exists. They try to find that solution by seeking an authoritative source that can confirm the answer. These individuals often have difficulty moving past a problem, they do not like making decisions without affirmation that they are moving forward with an accepted approach. Absolute thinkers also tend to group their thoughts based on information that they have confidence in; inferring a solution that worked elsewhere must work in a parallel situation.
5: Creative Problem Solving
A creative problem solver has the ability to envision several outcomes, make assumptions as to what needs to be done to achieve an outcome & is willing to take risks because they have confidence in their own judgment. Creative thinkers start from scratch and are not limited by steps or processes; instead they create unique paths and new solutions. The limitation of creative problem solving is often that there is no limit to the creative process. If a problem has a deadline or budget constraint, creative thinkers may struggle because they have difficulty focusing and can lose sight of more obvious solutions.
6: Positive Problem Solving
A positive problem solver has the ability to compartmentalize a problem as an individual event and seek solutions with an open mind. Positive thinkers are not restricted by fears or past results, instead they predict improvement and are more open to finding ways of achieving it. Thus they listen for opportunities to improve and collaborate. The limitation of positive thinkers is that they may not hold situations or individuals accountable when they are required to do so. This makes it possible that problems reoccur several times before solutions are put in place because they are not pragmatic enough to solve the issues.
So which approach to problem solving do you usually take? Do you find that it works for you all the time? Some of the time? Never?
Most people are skilled at one approach vs. another because that’s where their mindset naturally takes them. But when you understand the different paths, you can open the door to the best problem solving technique for a given situation.
Now that you have taken the first step of “self” evaluation, what about the people on your team? Chances are you have more than one type of problem solver among you. I challenge you to cultivate these talents and make them into a competitive advantage. Your team’s ability to solve problems quickly, creatively and successfully can be a competitive advantage for your organization. It is one thing to say your problem has been solved, it is another to say that you were able to use it as a means of improving and strengthening your business; catapulting you forward. That should be your goal, leave the short-term problem solving bandages for your competition!
4 Steps to Making Your Team’s Problem Solving Strategy a Competitive Advantage
First, align yourself, and each of your team members with one of the 6 problem solving STRENGTHS:
- Ability to get into the detail of a problem and evaluate all components & perspectives to understand it and determine what’s missing.
- Ability to continuously collect detail and put it into sequence, see the big picture, evaluate where the problem exists and why.
- Ability to take information that is available and make assumptions based on that information, deducting the most optimal solution based on personal perspective.
- Ability to see a problem as black or white and a solution as right or wrong by seeking authoritative approval & consensus.
- Ability to envision several outcomes, make assumptions as to what needs to be done to achieve an outcome & is willing to take risks because they have confidence in their own judgment.
- Ability to compartmentalize a problem as an individual event and seek solutions with an open mind.
Second, take the same approach to align yourself and your team with one or more of the 6 problem solving WEAKNESSES:
- Difficulty moving quickly enough to a solution without all the facts.
- Difficulty developing a unique solution when comparative situations from the past do not exist.
- Difficulty seeing things from perspectives other than their own.
- Difficulty making decisions to move past a problem, without affirmation that they are moving forward with an accepted approach.
- Difficulty focusing when faced with a deadline or budget constraint, losing sight of more obvious solutions.
- Difficulty being pragmatic enough to solve the issues, allowing problems to reoccur several times before a solution is put in place.
Third, discuss the Problem Solving Evaluation Process, Strengths & Weaknesses with your team as a whole, as well as the Individual Evaluation with each team member one-on-one.
- Train your team on each of the problem solving mindsets, making it an open discussion amongst them. This will help you tackle problems more strategically when they do indeed occur.
- Work with each individual to overcome their weaknesses by leaning on other team members who can use their strengths to assist.
- Once you meet with everyone individually, it is up to you whether or not to share the conclusions with the entire team. Personally, I believe this is an important step, but it really depends on your team and if you think they are ready to share the information. You may choose to wait until positive steps have been taken to improve weaknesses, then share. Team members may also decide to share the information on their own.
Fourth and finally, you are now ready to tackle your next business problem!
Once a problem is identified-
- Assign the problem to one team member to lead the solution process based on their strengths.
- Assign other team members as support based on leader’s weaknesses.
This team approach will get you to the best, most competitive solution faster.
It all starts with the ability to self reflect and develop your own skills. Here is a really useful tool to get you and your team started, 4 Essential Skills for Leaders, Managers & High Potentials.
Written by Lisa Woods, President ManagingAmericans.com & Lisa Woods Consulting. Lisa, a thought leader in Business Management and Leadership, founded ManagingAmericans.com in 2011 after 20+ years successfully leading and driving growth in the corporate world. Her objective is to help mentor and develop professionals to be better leaders, managers, team players and individual contributors in a “do-it-yourself” learning environment using unique & practical tools to support the process. Lisa’s career spans from Global Sales & Marketing to General Management of Multinational Conglomerates. Today she continues to consult small business owners through her private practice. Lisa’s publications include: • 4 Essential Skills for Leaders, Managers & High Potentials © 2013 • The Cross Functional Business: Beyond Teams © 2015 • Action Item List: Drive Your Team With One Simple Tool © 2016 • Small Business Planning Made Simple: What To Consider Before You Invest © 2017