How to Solve Problems (With Skills, Steps and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 March 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

In the workplace, it's normal to sometimes experience challenging situations. Understanding how to solve problems effectively will help you succeed no matter what your job is. In this article, we discuss how to solve problems and highlight some problem-solving skills.

How to solve problems

Here's how to find a solution to a problem:

1. Define the problem

Understanding the root cause of a problem can help you solve it and also prevent it from recurring. Here are some questions to ask yourself when defining the problem you face:

  • What's the problem?

  • Why's the problem significant?

  • When did the problem arise, and how much time is available to solve it?

  • How did the problem happen?

  • Where is the problem occurring?

  • Who does the problem affect?

When defining the problem, be sure to differentiate fact from personal opinion. Here are some tips to help you define the problem you face objectively:

  • avoid making assumptions

  • be specific

  • consult persons related

  • write a problem statement

Related: Step by Step Guide: How to Write a Problem Statement

2. Create a list of potential solutions

Brainstorm potential solutions to your problem, and list down every one. You can ask for advice or suggestions from your colleagues and/or trusted friends if you need more ideas.

3. Project the potential consequences of each solution

Before deciding which solution is best, try to project the realistic outcome of undertaking each solution you are considering. You can also make a pros and cons list for each solution to stay organised.

4. Identify the best solution and take action

Once you have a detailed list of workable solutions, you can pick the best one and implement it. If executing the solution involves a lot of work or a long process, help yourself stay on track by creating a step-by-step plan.

5. Consult an expert

If the problem you're trying to solve is outside your area of expertise or too complicated to tackle alone, you may want to consider bringing in an expert to help you save time and effort.

Related: What Does a Consultant Do? Key Duties for Each Speciality

6. Evaluate the efficacy of the solution

After the solution has been implemented, evaluate its efficacy and try to figure out what lessons you can learn from the entire problem-solving process.

Problem-solving skills

There are various skills you can develop to help you solve problems more quickly and efficiently in the workplace. Here are some examples:

Active listening

If your problem involves and/or affects another person outside of yourself, active listening can help you both minimise the conflict and resolve it more effectively. Active listening helps others feel heard and acknowledged, and also provides you with more in-depth information about the problem so you are better equipped to fix it.

Creativity and innovation

Sometimes, the solutions to problems are not straightforward. Complex problems may require innovative and unconventional solutions. Creative thinkers are better able to think outside of the box and invent never-before-tried solutions to resolve their problems.

Related: What Is Lateral Thinking? (With Examples and Steps)

Assertive decision-making

Being assertive in your decision-making process can make you a better problem-solver as it reduces self-doubt, and helps you commit fully to your decision of choice.

Communication skills

Many interpersonal problems in the workplace are caused by miscommunication. Having strong communication skills and being able to clearly and concisely convey information to your colleagues and superiors will help you avoid problems, and also resolve them more effectively when they arise.

Related: How to Overcome Fear at Work: 7 Steps You Can Take

Tips to help you improve your problem-solving skills

Here are some ways you can improve your problem-solving skills:

Seek out problem-solving opportunities

Practice makes progress, so it follows that the more you practice using your problem-solving skills the better at them you will be.

Role-play with people you trust

If you'd like to practice problem-solving without an actual problem, consider role-playing different scenarios with friends and/or colleagues. Act out common workplace conflicts or problems, and brainstorm ways of solving them together.

Learn from others

Those who are older, wiser and/or more experienced than you have probably already faced - and solved - a lot of problems in their lives. Learning from their mistakes and their triumphs can help you know what works and what doesn't, so you don't have to go through their experiences yourself.

Related: Effective Ways to Enhance Your Personal Development Skills

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