Last week, in Problem-Solving – Part I, we discussed the Why and How of problem-solving. But what if problem-solving skills don’t come naturally? Well, problem-solving is a soft skill, which means it comes naturally to some and is harder to learn for others. But the good news is that you can still refine the skill until it’s a sharp and ready tool in your work belt! We’ve put together a toolbox of tips to help you along the way.
Tips and Tools for Sharpening Problem Solving Skills
- Ask Good Questions: Ask for advice. Get input from other, well-practiced problem solvers. Watch the patterns and strategies they use in tackling their Asking for help isn’t easy, but it’s a great way to learn.
- Detach Yourself: Step back from your emotions. Emotional intelligence is being aware of your own emotions, how they affect you, others, and your decision-making process — you cannot make decisions based on temporary feelings. If a personal attitude or behavior contributes to the situation, take responsibility, and adjust accordingly, but don’t make the problem all about you either.
- Analyze in Parts: It can be very helpful to view problems in chunks rather than as a whole. Doing this makes it less overwhelming and much more manageable. While all the “chunks” tie together in the long run, take each part step by step.
- Take Your Time: Take a deep breath and don’t be afraid to play detective. Take your time to research the situation. Be intentional. Give yourself some grace — there is no need to rush pell-mell into the fray.
- Don’t Run Away: Don’t shove those problems off to the next guy. Face them head-on. Be like the “little engine that could,” and keep going! With each problem you solve, your confidence will grow, as well as your ability to tackle whatever comes your way.
- Teamwork: Your team is your best tool. You can’t do it alone. It is tempting to try, but your first idea is rarely the best or only idea. Feed off the ideas and help of others to create the best solutions.
- Creativity: Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Try taking the unbeaten path. You never know — you might be surprised at where imagination takes you.
- Play Games: It’s been proven that strategy-laden board and video games increase your problem-solving skills. Some are even timed, putting you under pressure to move and make decisions more quickly. Games are a low-consequence way to train your brain power to be faster and sharper!