5 Steps To Become A Better Problem Solver

Problems are a natural, everyday occurrence of life, especially if you live in Nigeria. Whether in our relationships, at our jobs or even on the road, our problem-solving skills are put to the test continuously.

Problem solving is a critical skill for success in business and it’s often what you are paid to do. Being able to effectively solve the problems you face will save you time, make you money and reduce your frustration levels tremendously; so how do you get better at overcoming these inevitable problems? Well here are five steps to help you become a better problem solver:


1). Identify the problem and the cause

When faced with a problem, the first step to solving it is not just to identify the problem but what caused it as well. For instance, if you run a business and one of your staff decides to quit, this represents a problem that you have to solve.

Solving the problem will include you searching for a new staff to restore the normal order of business.

Solving the cause however, will require you to look beyond the surface problem to identify why the staff decided to quit. Was it salary? A career opportunity? Bad management?

Having to answer these questions may be hard and time-consuming initially but it will pay off in the long run. Identifying the underlying cause will enable you to focus on solving a problem that may be an ongoing issue in your business.

When you solve a problem, you want a solution that deals with the cause of the problem and not just the symptoms. You have to identify the cause of the problem to get the best solution.


2). Devise possible solutions 

Once you identify the problem, the next step is to come up with a solution and this may require a mindset change. Rather than view your problem as a hindrance, look at it as an opportunity.

An opportunity to capitalize on a situation, an opportunity to help, an opportunity to improve. The mindset you approach a problem with, will determine what your solution looks like.

If the problem is that children are starving in North East Nigeria, what does your solution look like? Is your solution: To start an initiative to help them grow food locally or start a company that sends food packages to them periodically?

There are usually many solutions to a problem, you need to gather as many facts as you can on the problem to get a better picture of what your solution will look like. You can then create a list of possible solutions to choose from and decide on the best one.


3. Choose your best solution

The next step is to choose your best solution. To decide on the best solution, list out the advantages and disadvantages of each solution you have and then test the solution against these three questions:

  • Is it effective (how well does it solve the problem)
  • Is it efficient (affordable)
  • Does it have the fewest side effects (limited consequences)

When answering these questions, it is important that you think as objectively as you can, to get the best results. The solution that tests the highest after these three questions is your best one.


4). Take action


The next step is to implement your best solution. Good solutions are often only as good as the way they are implemented. In this step, you will need to cover what/who will be involved in your solution, how you will implement it and when you will take action.

These will depend on the resources available to you and your objectives, what you aim to achieve by solving the problem. Clearly outline these objectives and use them as a guide for your implementation.

You can then determine if your solution is effective or not, which leads us to the final step.


5). Evaluate your solution

The final step is to evaluate if your solution was successful or not. It is important that you review what worked, what didn’t work and what impact your solution had, based on your objectives.

If your solution was unsuccessful, don’t give up, you have learnt something new in the process. Just repeat these problem-solving steps with the new information you have and try to find a better solution.

If your solution was successful however, note down what you did right to improve your problem-solving process. If you ever face a similar problem in the future, you will have a good idea of what works which you can then apply to the new problem.


Femi Awoniyi

Femi Awoniyi is a BSc Computer Science and MSc Investment and Finance graduate. He currently works as a Consultant and runs an online magazine called DailyKobo , which provides advice on career and personal development, entrepreneurship and investment to help you achieve Financial Freedom. Twitter handle is @Femi_fabio.

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