The Biggest Secret of Problem-Solving

problem-solving skills

What if I gave you only one tip that would dramatically improve your problem-solving skills?

That one thing that separates the best problem-solvers from those who struggle. One secret that saves you time, energy and prevents going in circles forever. The ultimate technique.

 

 Sounds good?

Then get ready.

 

The ultimate tip is this:

FOLLOW THE PROCESS.

 

Disappointed? I hope not. Because this is the best piece of advice there is.

It doesn’t matter how many creative techniques you master, or how good your idea-generation skills are. If you don’t have a certain structure while solving problems, you are wasting time and energy.

 

And it’s not a rocket science.

Problem-solving process is actually really straightforward. 

I mean it.

Think about times when you go shopping for food.

You enter the shop. You think of what you need: “I want salad”. Then you look at all available alternatives at the counter (cucumber, tomatoes, etc.). And then you evaluate those alternatives and make your selection: “I take cucumber, avocado, two tomatoes, some salad leaves and two of those funny fruits that I never heard of”.

That’s it.

The problem-solving process includes just three stages.

1. Examine the problem.

2. Explore available solutions.

3. Evaluate them.

 

We follow this process every time we need to make a decision.

“Duh!” – you say, “I’ve heard it before. It is common sense.”

Yes, it is.

 

But common sense is not always a common practice!  

Very often people tend to move directly into idea-generation or implementation mode, rather than solve problems methodically. Let’s admit. We’ve all done it.

 

And it’s not our fault.

What makes things complicated is the fact that most of this process happens on the unconscious level.

And our unconscious prefers to take shortcuts. Hence, all the first assumptions about the problem and possible solutions that exist in our head are considered to be The Absolute Truth.

 

Our unconscious does not like to challenge assumptions. It will keep you safe and comfortable, staying on the proven track. 

Good when choosing a salad in a supermarket.

Not so good when you are trying to develop an innovative product.

 

I’ve seen enough projects which started in the “solution-search” mode, jumping right into “Explore” phase, before making sure that the right problem is being solved. And I’ve seen plenty of small businesses that began with choosing an idea and then developing it, without taking time to consider the problem (“Is there a market?”) or looking for alternative solutions. In both cases, the results were not-so-spectacular.

 

So what can you do to get better at problem-solving and coming up with innovative solutions?

 

The answer is simple. Run through the Examine-Explore-Evaluate process CONSIOUSLY.

Here are just some of the questions you might want to ask when you are facing a problem that needs to be solved:

 

  • EXAMINE

o   What is the problem really about?

o   Why does it occur? Why else?

o   What is my ideal result?

o   What benefits will I get if I solve it? What else?

o   How else can I get similar benefits? (for example by solving a different problem)

o   Write down the main requirements for your product and rank their importance

 

  • EXPLORE

o   What are all the possible alternatives to solve the problem?

o   What are all the possible alternatives to solve the problem? (no, it’s not a typo. You WILL need to ask this question several times before you come up with a reasonable number of alternatives)

o   Are there any solutions that you consider to be unrealistic at the moment? Why? What has to change for them to become possible?

o   Has someone else already solved similar problem? How?

 

  • EVALUATE

o   Which solution does bring the biggest benefit at a smallest expense?

o   Check the list with the requirements from the “Examine” phase and rank how well each solution satisfies the requirements

o   List strengths, weaknesses and unique points for each solution

o   Ask the users

 

And please, please, please, make sure you actually SCHEDULE the time for each of the stages, otherwise you will be back into unconscious “common sense” mode, taking shortcut to the obvious solutions.

No matter if the project is large or small. If it is a small problem, the schedule could look like this:  Examine 10min, Explore 30min, Evaluate 20min. Or, for a larger project, like this: Examine 10 days, Explore 20 days, Evaluate 5 days.

 The times will vary depending on

a) the type of the problem you got, and

b) on how well you understand the problem already (be humble when assessing this one).

 

So, to summarise, here is the problem-solving process once again:

1. Examine the problem.

2. Explore available solutions.

3. Evaluate them.

 

Next time you are about to make an important decision, stop and think – did you go through Examine-Explore-Evaluate process CONSCIOUSLY? Did you spend enough time on each stage of it? Do you know what the problem exactly is? Have you considered all the options?

 

If you’d like some additional techniques that would help you to become a better problem-solver using Examine-Explore-Evaluate process, just click here, fill in the form, and I will send you selected 24 cards from the Innovation Deck.

 

Looking forward to hearing from you.

 

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