All of us face problems at work. And life in general.
The trick is to learn how to solve them. Quickly. And efficiently.
Problem-solving is the first responsibility of all professionals. Problem-solving skills are essential for professionals in any industry.
Every invention and product is the result of market demand. The key, then, is realizing that all market demand is based on human needs.
To solve a problem, looking at every individual user of the service or product you are providing and finding creative ways to come up with answers to unique problems is essential.
Whether the problem is as simple as a fall in sales or as complex as the political landscape of global superpowers, it requires a viable and long-term solution.
The following key problem-solving steps can help you find solutions to even the most seemingly intractable problems.
Analyzing the problem
Problem-solving steps begin with the analysis of a problem. The best place to start is identifying the pain points for end-users and working backward towards finding a solution. To get to the root of a problem and find the best possible solution, research is one of the best problem-solving skills.
Data collection and categorization of data provides clarity about the bigger picture. At times, complex issues masquerade as simple everyday issues. By asking ‘why’ constantly and relentlessly, one can dig through ambiguity and get to the root of the problem.
You can use many frameworks for effective problem-solving. All have different steps and take a different approach.
Many problem-solving models rely largely on data collection, unbiased evaluation of the data, and finding a robust, perfect solution for the issue. One of them is the AQR framework.
Under the AQR framework, you ask the following three key questions:
A or Is the data Available?
What kind of data is available for the sample? Background research is essential for effective inquiry. One needs to define the problem clearly and derive clear questions. Sorting through the relevant data, one needs to highlight positive and negative factors affecting the issue.
Q or Is the data Qualitative (text, images, emotions, expressions, relatable) or Quantitative (numbers, stats, graphs, and absolute values)?
Quantitative data such as sales figures and profits are easier to sort, analyze and translate through graphs or charts. Statistical analysis of quantitative data can provide information on the quantitative impact of the problem. This also helps understand what factor needs to change in what percentage or degree.
Qualitative data, on the other hand, deals with what people feel about certain things. Being highly personal, it is difficult to compare it with qualitative data for a solution.
R or What kind of Research would be needed here?
Research can be of different kinds but it depends on the context and nature of the problem. The kind of research could also depend on the nature of data collected. If the data is subjective & non-numerical, then you implement qualitative research methods. On the other hand, when the data is objective and numerical, you use quantitative methods to conduct the research.
Finding the best possible solutions
After the research, you move to finding a solution. This problem-solving step is also known as brainstorming. Many big world problems were solved with this method that generates a truckload of ideas that may or may not fix the problems. No matter how far-fetched these ideas may seem during the discussions, it is important to discuss them as one irrelevant idea can also be transformed into a fitting solution with tweaks.
Don’t hesitate to seek help when you’re problem-solving. Different perspectives always generate more ideas and solutions. Different people possess different problem-solving skills. One never knows what might click!
Evaluating all the acquired solutions
To solve a problem, you need a perfect solution. For that, you need to understand where compromising is okay and where it is not. Evaluate all ideas generated during the brainstorming phase to find the perfect fit. Don’t forget to consider important factors such as cost, process, availability, sustainability, manpower, and resources, before proceeding with any of the solutions.
Problem-solving also means prioritizing the problems and suggested solutions. At times, you can combine two or more suggestions to generate a better and bolder solution. Problem-solving skills such as research, data collection, analysis and prototyping help in this step.
Implementing a plan
One of the last steps of problem-solving is implementing the plan. Once you have a viable and affordable solution, you need to execute it realistically. Be prepared for glitches. The key is to be persistent and not give up. Develop a process to hone your problem-solving skills at this stage.
Assessing the intervention for effectiveness
The process of problem-solving does not end after a plan is implemented. You have to evaluate it for functionality, sustainability, and of course, effectiveness. To solve a problem, you need to be certain that the intervention designed to solve a problem is working. Market research, customer reviews, fact-checking and gathering periodic evidence can help at this stage. If the plan doesn’t work, go back to the drawing board and start the problem-solving steps again.
Harappa Education’s insightful Creating Solutions course can help you learn problem-solving skills, how to solve a problem effectively and how to implement the problem-solving steps from world-renowned trainers and educators. Sign up to hone your problem-solving abilities at work.
Explore our Harappa Diaries section to know more about the topic related to the Solve habit such as Importance of Decision Making & Ethical Decision Making in order to develop your problem solving and decision making skills.