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Workplace problem-solving examples: real scenarios, practical solutions.

  • March 11, 2024

In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing work environment, problems are inevitable. From conflicts among employees to high levels of stress, workplace problems can significantly impact productivity and overall well-being. However, by developing the art of problem-solving and implementing practical solutions, organizations can effectively tackle these challenges and foster a positive work culture. In this article, we will delve into various workplace problem scenarios and explore strategies for resolution. By understanding common workplace problems and acquiring essential problem-solving skills, individuals and organizations can navigate these challenges with confidence and success.

Men in Hardhats

Understanding Workplace Problems

Before we can effectively solve workplace problems , it is essential to gain a clear understanding of the issues at hand. Identifying common workplace problems is the first step toward finding practical solutions. By recognizing these challenges, organizations can develop targeted strategies and initiatives to address them.

Identifying Common Workplace Problems

One of the most common workplace problems is conflict. Whether it stems from differences in opinions, miscommunication, or personality clashes, conflict can disrupt collaboration and hinder productivity. It is important to note that conflict is a natural part of any workplace, as individuals with different backgrounds and perspectives come together to work towards a common goal. However, when conflict is not managed effectively, it can escalate and create a toxic work environment.

In addition to conflict, workplace stress and burnout pose significant challenges. High workloads, tight deadlines, and a lack of work-life balance can all contribute to employee stress and dissatisfaction. When employees are overwhelmed and exhausted, their performance and overall well-being are compromised. This not only affects the individuals directly, but it also has a ripple effect on the entire organization.

Another common workplace problem is poor communication. Ineffective communication can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and errors. It can also create a sense of confusion and frustration among employees. Clear and open communication is vital for successful collaboration and the smooth functioning of any organization.

The Impact of Workplace Problems on Productivity

Workplace problems can have a detrimental effect on productivity levels. When conflicts are left unresolved, they can create a tense work environment, leading to decreased employee motivation and engagement. The negative energy generated by unresolved conflicts can spread throughout the organization, affecting team dynamics and overall performance.

Similarly, high levels of stress and burnout can result in decreased productivity, as individuals may struggle to focus and perform optimally. When employees are constantly under pressure and overwhelmed, their ability to think creatively and problem-solve diminishes. This can lead to a decline in the quality of work produced and an increase in errors and inefficiencies.

Poor communication also hampers productivity. When information is not effectively shared or understood, it can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and rework. This not only wastes time and resources but also creates frustration and demotivation among employees.

Furthermore, workplace problems can negatively impact employee morale and job satisfaction. When individuals are constantly dealing with conflicts, stress, and poor communication, their overall job satisfaction and engagement suffer. This can result in higher turnover rates, as employees seek a healthier and more supportive work environment.

In conclusion, workplace problems such as conflict, stress, burnout, and poor communication can significantly hinder productivity and employee well-being. Organizations must address these issues promptly and proactively to create a positive and productive work atmosphere. By fostering open communication, providing support for stress management, and promoting conflict resolution strategies, organizations can create a work environment that encourages collaboration, innovation, and employee satisfaction.

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The Art of Problem Solving in the Workplace

Now that we have a clear understanding of workplace problems, let’s explore the essential skills necessary for effective problem-solving in the workplace. By developing these skills and adopting a proactive approach, individuals can tackle problems head-on and find practical solutions.

Problem-solving in the workplace is a complex and multifaceted skill that requires a combination of analytical thinking, creativity, and effective communication. It goes beyond simply identifying problems and extends to finding innovative solutions that address the root causes.

Essential Problem-Solving Skills for the Workplace

To effectively solve workplace problems, individuals should possess a range of skills. These include strong analytical and critical thinking abilities, excellent communication and interpersonal skills, the ability to collaborate and work well in a team, and the capacity to adapt to change. By honing these skills, individuals can approach workplace problems with confidence and creativity.

Analytical and critical thinking skills are essential for problem-solving in the workplace. They involve the ability to gather and analyze relevant information, identify patterns and trends, and make logical connections. These skills enable individuals to break down complex problems into manageable components and develop effective strategies to solve them.

Effective communication and interpersonal skills are also crucial for problem-solving in the workplace. These skills enable individuals to clearly articulate their thoughts and ideas, actively listen to others, and collaborate effectively with colleagues. By fostering open and honest communication channels, individuals can better understand the root causes of problems and work towards finding practical solutions.

Collaboration and teamwork are essential for problem-solving in the workplace. By working together, individuals can leverage their diverse skills, knowledge, and perspectives to generate innovative solutions. Collaboration fosters a supportive and inclusive environment where everyone’s ideas are valued, leading to more effective problem-solving outcomes.

The ability to adapt to change is another important skill for problem-solving in the workplace. In today’s fast-paced and dynamic work environment, problems often arise due to changes in technology, processes, or market conditions. Individuals who can embrace change and adapt quickly are better equipped to find solutions that address the evolving needs of the organization.

The Role of Communication in Problem Solving

Communication is a key component of effective problem-solving in the workplace. By fostering open and honest communication channels, individuals can better understand the root causes of problems and work towards finding practical solutions. Active listening, clear and concise articulation of thoughts and ideas, and the ability to empathize are all valuable communication skills that facilitate problem-solving.

Active listening involves fully engaging with the speaker, paying attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues, and seeking clarification when necessary. By actively listening, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of the problem at hand and the perspectives of others involved. This understanding is crucial for developing comprehensive and effective solutions.

Clear and concise articulation of thoughts and ideas is essential for effective problem-solving communication. By expressing oneself clearly, individuals can ensure that their ideas are understood by others. This clarity helps to avoid misunderstandings and promotes effective collaboration.

Empathy is a valuable communication skill that plays a significant role in problem-solving. By putting oneself in the shoes of others and understanding their emotions and perspectives, individuals can build trust and rapport. This empathetic connection fosters a supportive and collaborative environment where everyone feels valued and motivated to contribute to finding solutions.

In conclusion, problem-solving in the workplace requires a combination of essential skills such as analytical thinking, effective communication, collaboration, and adaptability. By honing these skills and fostering open communication channels, individuals can approach workplace problems with confidence and creativity, leading to practical and innovative solutions.

Real Scenarios of Workplace Problems

Now, let’s explore some real scenarios of workplace problems and delve into strategies for resolution. By examining these practical examples, individuals can develop a deeper understanding of how to approach and solve workplace problems.

Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

Imagine a scenario where two team members have conflicting ideas on how to approach a project. The disagreement becomes heated, leading to a tense work environment. To resolve this conflict, it is crucial to encourage open dialogue between the team members. Facilitating a calm and respectful conversation can help uncover underlying concerns and find common ground. Collaboration and compromise are key in reaching a resolution that satisfies all parties involved.

In this particular scenario, let’s dive deeper into the dynamics between the team members. One team member, let’s call her Sarah, strongly believes that a more conservative and traditional approach is necessary for the project’s success. On the other hand, her colleague, John, advocates for a more innovative and out-of-the-box strategy. The clash between their perspectives arises from their different backgrounds and experiences.

As the conflict escalates, it is essential for a neutral party, such as a team leader or a mediator, to step in and facilitate the conversation. This person should create a safe space for both Sarah and John to express their ideas and concerns without fear of judgment or retribution. By actively listening to each other, they can gain a better understanding of the underlying motivations behind their respective approaches.

During the conversation, it may become apparent that Sarah’s conservative approach stems from a fear of taking risks and a desire for stability. On the other hand, John’s innovative mindset is driven by a passion for pushing boundaries and finding creative solutions. Recognizing these underlying motivations can help foster empathy and create a foundation for collaboration.

As the dialogue progresses, Sarah and John can begin to identify areas of overlap and potential compromise. They may realize that while Sarah’s conservative approach provides stability, John’s innovative ideas can inject fresh perspectives into the project. By combining their strengths and finding a middle ground, they can develop a hybrid strategy that incorporates both stability and innovation.

Ultimately, conflict resolution in the workplace requires effective communication, active listening, empathy, and a willingness to find common ground. By addressing conflicts head-on and fostering a collaborative environment, teams can overcome challenges and achieve their goals.

Dealing with Workplace Stress and Burnout

Workplace stress and burnout can be debilitating for individuals and organizations alike. In this scenario, an employee is consistently overwhelmed by their workload and experiencing signs of burnout. To address this issue, organizations should promote a healthy work-life balance and provide resources to manage stress effectively. Encouraging employees to take breaks, providing access to mental health support, and fostering a supportive work culture are all practical solutions to alleviate workplace stress.

In this particular scenario, let’s imagine that the employee facing stress and burnout is named Alex. Alex has been working long hours, often sacrificing personal time and rest to meet tight deadlines and demanding expectations. As a result, Alex is experiencing physical and mental exhaustion, reduced productivity, and a sense of detachment from work.

Recognizing the signs of burnout, Alex’s organization takes proactive measures to address the issue. They understand that employee well-being is crucial for maintaining a healthy and productive workforce. To promote a healthy work-life balance, the organization encourages employees to take regular breaks and prioritize self-care. They emphasize the importance of disconnecting from work during non-working hours and encourage employees to engage in activities that promote relaxation and rejuvenation.

Additionally, the organization provides access to mental health support services, such as counseling or therapy sessions. They recognize that stress and burnout can have a significant impact on an individual’s mental well-being and offer resources to help employees manage their stress effectively. By destigmatizing mental health and providing confidential support, the organization creates an environment where employees feel comfortable seeking help when needed.

Furthermore, the organization fosters a supportive work culture by promoting open communication and empathy. They encourage managers and colleagues to check in with each other regularly, offering support and understanding. Team members are encouraged to collaborate and share the workload, ensuring that no one person is overwhelmed with excessive responsibilities.

By implementing these strategies, Alex’s organization aims to alleviate workplace stress and prevent burnout. They understand that a healthy and balanced workforce is more likely to be engaged, productive, and satisfied. Through a combination of promoting work-life balance, providing mental health support, and fostering a supportive work culture, organizations can effectively address workplace stress and create an environment conducive to employee well-being.

Practical Solutions to Workplace Problems

Now that we have explored real scenarios, let’s discuss practical solutions that organizations can implement to address workplace problems. By adopting proactive strategies and establishing effective policies, organizations can create a positive work environment conducive to problem-solving and productivity.

Implementing Effective Policies for Problem Resolution

Organizations should have clear and well-defined policies in place to address workplace problems. These policies should outline procedures for conflict resolution, channels for reporting problems, and accountability measures. By ensuring that employees are aware of these policies and have easy access to them, organizations can facilitate problem-solving and prevent issues from escalating.

Promoting a Positive Workplace Culture

A positive workplace culture is vital for problem-solving. By fostering an environment of respect, collaboration, and open communication, organizations can create a space where individuals feel empowered to address and solve problems. Encouraging teamwork, recognizing and appreciating employees’ contributions, and promoting a healthy work-life balance are all ways to cultivate a positive workplace culture.

The Role of Leadership in Problem Solving

Leadership plays a crucial role in facilitating effective problem-solving within organizations. Different leadership styles can impact how problems are approached and resolved.

Leadership Styles and Their Impact on Problem-Solving

Leaders who adopt an autocratic leadership style may make decisions independently, potentially leaving their team members feeling excluded and undervalued. On the other hand, leaders who adopt a democratic leadership style involve their team members in the problem-solving process, fostering a sense of ownership and empowerment. By encouraging employee participation, organizations can leverage the diverse perspectives and expertise of their workforce to find innovative solutions to workplace problems.

Encouraging Employee Participation in Problem Solving

To harness the collective problem-solving abilities of an organization, it is crucial to encourage employee participation. Leaders can create opportunities for employees to contribute their ideas and perspectives through brainstorming sessions, team meetings, and collaborative projects. By valuing employee input and involving them in decision-making processes, organizations can foster a culture of inclusivity and drive innovative problem-solving efforts.

In today’s dynamic work environment, workplace problems are unavoidable. However, by understanding common workplace problems, developing essential problem-solving skills, and implementing practical solutions, individuals and organizations can navigate these challenges effectively. By fostering a positive work culture, implementing effective policies, and encouraging employee participation, organizations can create an environment conducive to problem-solving and productivity. With proactive problem-solving strategies in place, organizations can thrive and overcome obstacles, ensuring long-term success and growth.

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the work problem solving

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  • Turn your team into skilled problem sol ...

Turn your team into skilled problem solvers with these problem-solving strategies

Sarah Laoyan contributor headshot

Picture this, you're handling your daily tasks at work and your boss calls you in and says, "We have a problem." 

Unfortunately, we don't live in a world in which problems are instantly resolved with the snap of our fingers. Knowing how to effectively solve problems is an important professional skill to hone. If you have a problem that needs to be solved, what is the right process to use to ensure you get the most effective solution?

In this article we'll break down the problem-solving process and how you can find the most effective solutions for complex problems.

What is problem solving? 

Problem solving is the process of finding a resolution for a specific issue or conflict. There are many possible solutions for solving a problem, which is why it's important to go through a problem-solving process to find the best solution. You could use a flathead screwdriver to unscrew a Phillips head screw, but there is a better tool for the situation. Utilizing common problem-solving techniques helps you find the best solution to fit the needs of the specific situation, much like using the right tools.

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4 steps to better problem solving

While it might be tempting to dive into a problem head first, take the time to move step by step. Here’s how you can effectively break down the problem-solving process with your team:

1. Identify the problem that needs to be solved

One of the easiest ways to identify a problem is to ask questions. A good place to start is to ask journalistic questions, like:

Who : Who is involved with this problem? Who caused the problem? Who is most affected by this issue?

What: What is happening? What is the extent of the issue? What does this problem prevent from moving forward?

Where: Where did this problem take place? Does this problem affect anything else in the immediate area? 

When: When did this problem happen? When does this problem take effect? Is this an urgent issue that needs to be solved within a certain timeframe?

Why: Why is it happening? Why does it impact workflows?

How: How did this problem occur? How is it affecting workflows and team members from being productive?

Asking journalistic questions can help you define a strong problem statement so you can highlight the current situation objectively, and create a plan around that situation.

Here’s an example of how a design team uses journalistic questions to identify their problem:

Overarching problem: Design requests are being missed

Who: Design team, digital marketing team, web development team

What: Design requests are forgotten, lost, or being created ad hoc.

Where: Email requests, design request spreadsheet

When: Missed requests on January 20th, January 31st, February 4th, February 6th

How : Email request was lost in inbox and the intake spreadsheet was not updated correctly. The digital marketing team had to delay launching ads for a few days while design requests were bottlenecked. Designers had to work extra hours to ensure all requests were completed.

In this example, there are many different aspects of this problem that can be solved. Using journalistic questions can help you identify different issues and who you should involve in the process.

2. Brainstorm multiple solutions

If at all possible, bring in a facilitator who doesn't have a major stake in the solution. Bringing an individual who has little-to-no stake in the matter can help keep your team on track and encourage good problem-solving skills.

Here are a few brainstorming techniques to encourage creative thinking:

Brainstorm alone before hand: Before you come together as a group, provide some context to your team on what exactly the issue is that you're brainstorming. This will give time for you and your teammates to have some ideas ready by the time you meet.

Say yes to everything (at first): When you first start brainstorming, don't say no to any ideas just yet—try to get as many ideas down as possible. Having as many ideas as possible ensures that you’ll get a variety of solutions. Save the trimming for the next step of the strategy. 

Talk to team members one-on-one: Some people may be less comfortable sharing their ideas in a group setting. Discuss the issue with team members individually and encourage them to share their opinions without restrictions—you might find some more detailed insights than originally anticipated.

Break out of your routine: If you're used to brainstorming in a conference room or over Zoom calls, do something a little different! Take your brainstorming meeting to a coffee shop or have your Zoom call while you're taking a walk. Getting out of your routine can force your brain out of its usual rut and increase critical thinking.

3. Define the solution

After you brainstorm with team members to get their unique perspectives on a scenario, it's time to look at the different strategies and decide which option is the best solution for the problem at hand. When defining the solution, consider these main two questions: What is the desired outcome of this solution and who stands to benefit from this solution? 

Set a deadline for when this decision needs to be made and update stakeholders accordingly. Sometimes there's too many people who need to make a decision. Use your best judgement based on the limitations provided to do great things fast.

4. Implement the solution

To implement your solution, start by working with the individuals who are as closest to the problem. This can help those most affected by the problem get unblocked. Then move farther out to those who are less affected, and so on and so forth. Some solutions are simple enough that you don’t need to work through multiple teams.

After you prioritize implementation with the right teams, assign out the ongoing work that needs to be completed by the rest of the team. This can prevent people from becoming overburdened during the implementation plan . Once your solution is in place, schedule check-ins to see how the solution is working and course-correct if necessary.

Implement common problem-solving strategies

There are a few ways to go about identifying problems (and solutions). Here are some strategies you can try, as well as common ways to apply them:

Trial and error

Trial and error problem solving doesn't usually require a whole team of people to solve. To use trial and error problem solving, identify the cause of the problem, and then rapidly test possible solutions to see if anything changes. 

This problem-solving method is often used in tech support teams through troubleshooting.

The 5 whys problem-solving method helps get to the root cause of an issue. You start by asking once, “Why did this issue happen?” After answering the first why, ask again, “Why did that happen?” You'll do this five times until you can attribute the problem to a root cause. 

This technique can help you dig in and find the human error that caused something to go wrong. More importantly, it also helps you and your team develop an actionable plan so that you can prevent the issue from happening again.

Here’s an example:

Problem: The email marketing campaign was accidentally sent to the wrong audience.

“Why did this happen?” Because the audience name was not updated in our email platform.

“Why were the audience names not changed?” Because the audience segment was not renamed after editing. 

“Why was the audience segment not renamed?” Because everybody has an individual way of creating an audience segment.

“Why does everybody have an individual way of creating an audience segment?” Because there is no standardized process for creating audience segments. 

“Why is there no standardized process for creating audience segments?” Because the team hasn't decided on a way to standardize the process as the team introduced new members. 

In this example, we can see a few areas that could be optimized to prevent this mistake from happening again. When working through these questions, make sure that everyone who was involved in the situation is present so that you can co-create next steps to avoid the same problem. 

A SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis can help you highlight the strengths and weaknesses of a specific solution. SWOT stands for:

Strength: Why is this specific solution a good fit for this problem? 

Weaknesses: What are the weak points of this solution? Is there anything that you can do to strengthen those weaknesses?

Opportunities: What other benefits could arise from implementing this solution?

Threats: Is there anything about this decision that can detrimentally impact your team?

As you identify specific solutions, you can highlight the different strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of each solution. 

This particular problem-solving strategy is good to use when you're narrowing down the answers and need to compare and contrast the differences between different solutions. 

Even more successful problem solving

After you’ve worked through a tough problem, don't forget to celebrate how far you've come. Not only is this important for your team of problem solvers to see their work in action, but this can also help you become a more efficient, effective , and flexible team. The more problems you tackle together, the more you’ll achieve. 

Looking for a tool to help solve problems on your team? Track project implementation with a work management tool like Asana .

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Status.net

What is Problem Solving? (Steps, Techniques, Examples)

By Status.net Editorial Team on May 7, 2023 — 5 minutes to read

What Is Problem Solving?

Definition and importance.

Problem solving is the process of finding solutions to obstacles or challenges you encounter in your life or work. It is a crucial skill that allows you to tackle complex situations, adapt to changes, and overcome difficulties with ease. Mastering this ability will contribute to both your personal and professional growth, leading to more successful outcomes and better decision-making.

Problem-Solving Steps

The problem-solving process typically includes the following steps:

  • Identify the issue : Recognize the problem that needs to be solved.
  • Analyze the situation : Examine the issue in depth, gather all relevant information, and consider any limitations or constraints that may be present.
  • Generate potential solutions : Brainstorm a list of possible solutions to the issue, without immediately judging or evaluating them.
  • Evaluate options : Weigh the pros and cons of each potential solution, considering factors such as feasibility, effectiveness, and potential risks.
  • Select the best solution : Choose the option that best addresses the problem and aligns with your objectives.
  • Implement the solution : Put the selected solution into action and monitor the results to ensure it resolves the issue.
  • Review and learn : Reflect on the problem-solving process, identify any improvements or adjustments that can be made, and apply these learnings to future situations.

Defining the Problem

To start tackling a problem, first, identify and understand it. Analyzing the issue thoroughly helps to clarify its scope and nature. Ask questions to gather information and consider the problem from various angles. Some strategies to define the problem include:

  • Brainstorming with others
  • Asking the 5 Ws and 1 H (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How)
  • Analyzing cause and effect
  • Creating a problem statement

Generating Solutions

Once the problem is clearly understood, brainstorm possible solutions. Think creatively and keep an open mind, as well as considering lessons from past experiences. Consider:

  • Creating a list of potential ideas to solve the problem
  • Grouping and categorizing similar solutions
  • Prioritizing potential solutions based on feasibility, cost, and resources required
  • Involving others to share diverse opinions and inputs

Evaluating and Selecting Solutions

Evaluate each potential solution, weighing its pros and cons. To facilitate decision-making, use techniques such as:

  • SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
  • Decision-making matrices
  • Pros and cons lists
  • Risk assessments

After evaluating, choose the most suitable solution based on effectiveness, cost, and time constraints.

Implementing and Monitoring the Solution

Implement the chosen solution and monitor its progress. Key actions include:

  • Communicating the solution to relevant parties
  • Setting timelines and milestones
  • Assigning tasks and responsibilities
  • Monitoring the solution and making adjustments as necessary
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the solution after implementation

Utilize feedback from stakeholders and consider potential improvements. Remember that problem-solving is an ongoing process that can always be refined and enhanced.

Problem-Solving Techniques

During each step, you may find it helpful to utilize various problem-solving techniques, such as:

  • Brainstorming : A free-flowing, open-minded session where ideas are generated and listed without judgment, to encourage creativity and innovative thinking.
  • Root cause analysis : A method that explores the underlying causes of a problem to find the most effective solution rather than addressing superficial symptoms.
  • SWOT analysis : A tool used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to a problem or decision, providing a comprehensive view of the situation.
  • Mind mapping : A visual technique that uses diagrams to organize and connect ideas, helping to identify patterns, relationships, and possible solutions.

Brainstorming

When facing a problem, start by conducting a brainstorming session. Gather your team and encourage an open discussion where everyone contributes ideas, no matter how outlandish they may seem. This helps you:

  • Generate a diverse range of solutions
  • Encourage all team members to participate
  • Foster creative thinking

When brainstorming, remember to:

  • Reserve judgment until the session is over
  • Encourage wild ideas
  • Combine and improve upon ideas

Root Cause Analysis

For effective problem-solving, identifying the root cause of the issue at hand is crucial. Try these methods:

  • 5 Whys : Ask “why” five times to get to the underlying cause.
  • Fishbone Diagram : Create a diagram representing the problem and break it down into categories of potential causes.
  • Pareto Analysis : Determine the few most significant causes underlying the majority of problems.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis helps you examine the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats related to your problem. To perform a SWOT analysis:

  • List your problem’s strengths, such as relevant resources or strong partnerships.
  • Identify its weaknesses, such as knowledge gaps or limited resources.
  • Explore opportunities, like trends or new technologies, that could help solve the problem.
  • Recognize potential threats, like competition or regulatory barriers.

SWOT analysis aids in understanding the internal and external factors affecting the problem, which can help guide your solution.

Mind Mapping

A mind map is a visual representation of your problem and potential solutions. It enables you to organize information in a structured and intuitive manner. To create a mind map:

  • Write the problem in the center of a blank page.
  • Draw branches from the central problem to related sub-problems or contributing factors.
  • Add more branches to represent potential solutions or further ideas.

Mind mapping allows you to visually see connections between ideas and promotes creativity in problem-solving.

Examples of Problem Solving in Various Contexts

In the business world, you might encounter problems related to finances, operations, or communication. Applying problem-solving skills in these situations could look like:

  • Identifying areas of improvement in your company’s financial performance and implementing cost-saving measures
  • Resolving internal conflicts among team members by listening and understanding different perspectives, then proposing and negotiating solutions
  • Streamlining a process for better productivity by removing redundancies, automating tasks, or re-allocating resources

In educational contexts, problem-solving can be seen in various aspects, such as:

  • Addressing a gap in students’ understanding by employing diverse teaching methods to cater to different learning styles
  • Developing a strategy for successful time management to balance academic responsibilities and extracurricular activities
  • Seeking resources and support to provide equal opportunities for learners with special needs or disabilities

Everyday life is full of challenges that require problem-solving skills. Some examples include:

  • Overcoming a personal obstacle, such as improving your fitness level, by establishing achievable goals, measuring progress, and adjusting your approach accordingly
  • Navigating a new environment or city by researching your surroundings, asking for directions, or using technology like GPS to guide you
  • Dealing with a sudden change, like a change in your work schedule, by assessing the situation, identifying potential impacts, and adapting your plans to accommodate the change.
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35 problem-solving techniques and methods for solving complex problems

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All teams and organizations encounter challenges as they grow. There are problems that might occur for teams when it comes to miscommunication or resolving business-critical issues . You may face challenges around growth , design , user engagement, and even team culture and happiness. In short, problem-solving techniques should be part of every team’s skillset.

Problem-solving methods are primarily designed to help a group or team through a process of first identifying problems and challenges , ideating possible solutions , and then evaluating the most suitable .

Finding effective solutions to complex problems isn’t easy, but by using the right process and techniques, you can help your team be more efficient in the process.

So how do you develop strategies that are engaging, and empower your team to solve problems effectively?

In this blog post, we share a series of problem-solving tools you can use in your next workshop or team meeting. You’ll also find some tips for facilitating the process and how to enable others to solve complex problems.

Let’s get started! 

How do you identify problems?

How do you identify the right solution.

  • Tips for more effective problem-solving

Complete problem-solving methods

  • Problem-solving techniques to identify and analyze problems
  • Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions

Problem-solving warm-up activities

Closing activities for a problem-solving process.

Before you can move towards finding the right solution for a given problem, you first need to identify and define the problem you wish to solve. 

Here, you want to clearly articulate what the problem is and allow your group to do the same. Remember that everyone in a group is likely to have differing perspectives and alignment is necessary in order to help the group move forward. 

Identifying a problem accurately also requires that all members of a group are able to contribute their views in an open and safe manner. It can be scary for people to stand up and contribute, especially if the problems or challenges are emotive or personal in nature. Be sure to try and create a psychologically safe space for these kinds of discussions.

Remember that problem analysis and further discussion are also important. Not taking the time to fully analyze and discuss a challenge can result in the development of solutions that are not fit for purpose or do not address the underlying issue.

Successfully identifying and then analyzing a problem means facilitating a group through activities designed to help them clearly and honestly articulate their thoughts and produce usable insight.

With this data, you might then produce a problem statement that clearly describes the problem you wish to be addressed and also state the goal of any process you undertake to tackle this issue.  

Finding solutions is the end goal of any process. Complex organizational challenges can only be solved with an appropriate solution but discovering them requires using the right problem-solving tool.

After you’ve explored a problem and discussed ideas, you need to help a team discuss and choose the right solution. Consensus tools and methods such as those below help a group explore possible solutions before then voting for the best. They’re a great way to tap into the collective intelligence of the group for great results!

Remember that the process is often iterative. Great problem solvers often roadtest a viable solution in a measured way to see what works too. While you might not get the right solution on your first try, the methods below help teams land on the most likely to succeed solution while also holding space for improvement.

Every effective problem solving process begins with an agenda . A well-structured workshop is one of the best methods for successfully guiding a group from exploring a problem to implementing a solution.

In SessionLab, it’s easy to go from an idea to a complete agenda . Start by dragging and dropping your core problem solving activities into place . Add timings, breaks and necessary materials before sharing your agenda with your colleagues.

The resulting agenda will be your guide to an effective and productive problem solving session that will also help you stay organized on the day!

the work problem solving

Tips for more effective problem solving

Problem-solving activities are only one part of the puzzle. While a great method can help unlock your team’s ability to solve problems, without a thoughtful approach and strong facilitation the solutions may not be fit for purpose.

Let’s take a look at some problem-solving tips you can apply to any process to help it be a success!

Clearly define the problem

Jumping straight to solutions can be tempting, though without first clearly articulating a problem, the solution might not be the right one. Many of the problem-solving activities below include sections where the problem is explored and clearly defined before moving on.

This is a vital part of the problem-solving process and taking the time to fully define an issue can save time and effort later. A clear definition helps identify irrelevant information and it also ensures that your team sets off on the right track.

Don’t jump to conclusions

It’s easy for groups to exhibit cognitive bias or have preconceived ideas about both problems and potential solutions. Be sure to back up any problem statements or potential solutions with facts, research, and adequate forethought.

The best techniques ask participants to be methodical and challenge preconceived notions. Make sure you give the group enough time and space to collect relevant information and consider the problem in a new way. By approaching the process with a clear, rational mindset, you’ll often find that better solutions are more forthcoming.  

Try different approaches  

Problems come in all shapes and sizes and so too should the methods you use to solve them. If you find that one approach isn’t yielding results and your team isn’t finding different solutions, try mixing it up. You’ll be surprised at how using a new creative activity can unblock your team and generate great solutions.

Don’t take it personally 

Depending on the nature of your team or organizational problems, it’s easy for conversations to get heated. While it’s good for participants to be engaged in the discussions, ensure that emotions don’t run too high and that blame isn’t thrown around while finding solutions.

You’re all in it together, and even if your team or area is seeing problems, that isn’t necessarily a disparagement of you personally. Using facilitation skills to manage group dynamics is one effective method of helping conversations be more constructive.

Get the right people in the room

Your problem-solving method is often only as effective as the group using it. Getting the right people on the job and managing the number of people present is important too!

If the group is too small, you may not get enough different perspectives to effectively solve a problem. If the group is too large, you can go round and round during the ideation stages.

Creating the right group makeup is also important in ensuring you have the necessary expertise and skillset to both identify and follow up on potential solutions. Carefully consider who to include at each stage to help ensure your problem-solving method is followed and positioned for success.

Document everything

The best solutions can take refinement, iteration, and reflection to come out. Get into a habit of documenting your process in order to keep all the learnings from the session and to allow ideas to mature and develop. Many of the methods below involve the creation of documents or shared resources. Be sure to keep and share these so everyone can benefit from the work done!

Bring a facilitator 

Facilitation is all about making group processes easier. With a subject as potentially emotive and important as problem-solving, having an impartial third party in the form of a facilitator can make all the difference in finding great solutions and keeping the process moving. Consider bringing a facilitator to your problem-solving session to get better results and generate meaningful solutions!

Develop your problem-solving skills

It takes time and practice to be an effective problem solver. While some roles or participants might more naturally gravitate towards problem-solving, it can take development and planning to help everyone create better solutions.

You might develop a training program, run a problem-solving workshop or simply ask your team to practice using the techniques below. Check out our post on problem-solving skills to see how you and your group can develop the right mental process and be more resilient to issues too!

Design a great agenda

Workshops are a great format for solving problems. With the right approach, you can focus a group and help them find the solutions to their own problems. But designing a process can be time-consuming and finding the right activities can be difficult.

Check out our workshop planning guide to level-up your agenda design and start running more effective workshops. Need inspiration? Check out templates designed by expert facilitators to help you kickstart your process!

In this section, we’ll look at in-depth problem-solving methods that provide a complete end-to-end process for developing effective solutions. These will help guide your team from the discovery and definition of a problem through to delivering the right solution.

If you’re looking for an all-encompassing method or problem-solving model, these processes are a great place to start. They’ll ask your team to challenge preconceived ideas and adopt a mindset for solving problems more effectively.

  • Six Thinking Hats
  • Lightning Decision Jam
  • Problem Definition Process
  • Discovery & Action Dialogue
Design Sprint 2.0
  • Open Space Technology

1. Six Thinking Hats

Individual approaches to solving a problem can be very different based on what team or role an individual holds. It can be easy for existing biases or perspectives to find their way into the mix, or for internal politics to direct a conversation.

Six Thinking Hats is a classic method for identifying the problems that need to be solved and enables your team to consider them from different angles, whether that is by focusing on facts and data, creative solutions, or by considering why a particular solution might not work.

Like all problem-solving frameworks, Six Thinking Hats is effective at helping teams remove roadblocks from a conversation or discussion and come to terms with all the aspects necessary to solve complex problems.

2. Lightning Decision Jam

Featured courtesy of Jonathan Courtney of AJ&Smart Berlin, Lightning Decision Jam is one of those strategies that should be in every facilitation toolbox. Exploring problems and finding solutions is often creative in nature, though as with any creative process, there is the potential to lose focus and get lost.

Unstructured discussions might get you there in the end, but it’s much more effective to use a method that creates a clear process and team focus.

In Lightning Decision Jam, participants are invited to begin by writing challenges, concerns, or mistakes on post-its without discussing them before then being invited by the moderator to present them to the group.

From there, the team vote on which problems to solve and are guided through steps that will allow them to reframe those problems, create solutions and then decide what to execute on. 

By deciding the problems that need to be solved as a team before moving on, this group process is great for ensuring the whole team is aligned and can take ownership over the next stages. 

Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ)   #action   #decision making   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #innovation   #design   #remote-friendly   The problem with anything that requires creative thinking is that it’s easy to get lost—lose focus and fall into the trap of having useless, open-ended, unstructured discussions. Here’s the most effective solution I’ve found: Replace all open, unstructured discussion with a clear process. What to use this exercise for: Anything which requires a group of people to make decisions, solve problems or discuss challenges. It’s always good to frame an LDJ session with a broad topic, here are some examples: The conversion flow of our checkout Our internal design process How we organise events Keeping up with our competition Improving sales flow

3. Problem Definition Process

While problems can be complex, the problem-solving methods you use to identify and solve those problems can often be simple in design. 

By taking the time to truly identify and define a problem before asking the group to reframe the challenge as an opportunity, this method is a great way to enable change.

Begin by identifying a focus question and exploring the ways in which it manifests before splitting into five teams who will each consider the problem using a different method: escape, reversal, exaggeration, distortion or wishful. Teams develop a problem objective and create ideas in line with their method before then feeding them back to the group.

This method is great for enabling in-depth discussions while also creating space for finding creative solutions too!

Problem Definition   #problem solving   #idea generation   #creativity   #online   #remote-friendly   A problem solving technique to define a problem, challenge or opportunity and to generate ideas.

4. The 5 Whys 

Sometimes, a group needs to go further with their strategies and analyze the root cause at the heart of organizational issues. An RCA or root cause analysis is the process of identifying what is at the heart of business problems or recurring challenges. 

The 5 Whys is a simple and effective method of helping a group go find the root cause of any problem or challenge and conduct analysis that will deliver results. 

By beginning with the creation of a problem statement and going through five stages to refine it, The 5 Whys provides everything you need to truly discover the cause of an issue.

The 5 Whys   #hyperisland   #innovation   This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. As the title suggests, the group defines a problems, then asks the question “why” five times, often using the resulting explanation as a starting point for creative problem solving.

5. World Cafe

World Cafe is a simple but powerful facilitation technique to help bigger groups to focus their energy and attention on solving complex problems.

World Cafe enables this approach by creating a relaxed atmosphere where participants are able to self-organize and explore topics relevant and important to them which are themed around a central problem-solving purpose. Create the right atmosphere by modeling your space after a cafe and after guiding the group through the method, let them take the lead!

Making problem-solving a part of your organization’s culture in the long term can be a difficult undertaking. More approachable formats like World Cafe can be especially effective in bringing people unfamiliar with workshops into the fold. 

World Cafe   #hyperisland   #innovation   #issue analysis   World Café is a simple yet powerful method, originated by Juanita Brown, for enabling meaningful conversations driven completely by participants and the topics that are relevant and important to them. Facilitators create a cafe-style space and provide simple guidelines. Participants then self-organize and explore a set of relevant topics or questions for conversation.

6. Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)

One of the best approaches is to create a safe space for a group to share and discover practices and behaviors that can help them find their own solutions.

With DAD, you can help a group choose which problems they wish to solve and which approaches they will take to do so. It’s great at helping remove resistance to change and can help get buy-in at every level too!

This process of enabling frontline ownership is great in ensuring follow-through and is one of the methods you will want in your toolbox as a facilitator.

Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)   #idea generation   #liberating structures   #action   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   DADs make it easy for a group or community to discover practices and behaviors that enable some individuals (without access to special resources and facing the same constraints) to find better solutions than their peers to common problems. These are called positive deviant (PD) behaviors and practices. DADs make it possible for people in the group, unit, or community to discover by themselves these PD practices. DADs also create favorable conditions for stimulating participants’ creativity in spaces where they can feel safe to invent new and more effective practices. Resistance to change evaporates as participants are unleashed to choose freely which practices they will adopt or try and which problems they will tackle. DADs make it possible to achieve frontline ownership of solutions.

7. Design Sprint 2.0

Want to see how a team can solve big problems and move forward with prototyping and testing solutions in a few days? The Design Sprint 2.0 template from Jake Knapp, author of Sprint, is a complete agenda for a with proven results.

Developing the right agenda can involve difficult but necessary planning. Ensuring all the correct steps are followed can also be stressful or time-consuming depending on your level of experience.

Use this complete 4-day workshop template if you are finding there is no obvious solution to your challenge and want to focus your team around a specific problem that might require a shortcut to launching a minimum viable product or waiting for the organization-wide implementation of a solution.

8. Open space technology

Open space technology- developed by Harrison Owen – creates a space where large groups are invited to take ownership of their problem solving and lead individual sessions. Open space technology is a great format when you have a great deal of expertise and insight in the room and want to allow for different takes and approaches on a particular theme or problem you need to be solved.

Start by bringing your participants together to align around a central theme and focus their efforts. Explain the ground rules to help guide the problem-solving process and then invite members to identify any issue connecting to the central theme that they are interested in and are prepared to take responsibility for.

Once participants have decided on their approach to the core theme, they write their issue on a piece of paper, announce it to the group, pick a session time and place, and post the paper on the wall. As the wall fills up with sessions, the group is then invited to join the sessions that interest them the most and which they can contribute to, then you’re ready to begin!

Everyone joins the problem-solving group they’ve signed up to, record the discussion and if appropriate, findings can then be shared with the rest of the group afterward.

Open Space Technology   #action plan   #idea generation   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #large group   #online   #remote-friendly   Open Space is a methodology for large groups to create their agenda discerning important topics for discussion, suitable for conferences, community gatherings and whole system facilitation

Techniques to identify and analyze problems

Using a problem-solving method to help a team identify and analyze a problem can be a quick and effective addition to any workshop or meeting.

While further actions are always necessary, you can generate momentum and alignment easily, and these activities are a great place to get started.

We’ve put together this list of techniques to help you and your team with problem identification, analysis, and discussion that sets the foundation for developing effective solutions.

Let’s take a look!

  • The Creativity Dice
  • Fishbone Analysis
  • Problem Tree
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Agreement-Certainty Matrix
  • The Journalistic Six
  • LEGO Challenge
  • What, So What, Now What?
  • Journalists

Individual and group perspectives are incredibly important, but what happens if people are set in their minds and need a change of perspective in order to approach a problem more effectively?

Flip It is a method we love because it is both simple to understand and run, and allows groups to understand how their perspectives and biases are formed. 

Participants in Flip It are first invited to consider concerns, issues, or problems from a perspective of fear and write them on a flip chart. Then, the group is asked to consider those same issues from a perspective of hope and flip their understanding.  

No problem and solution is free from existing bias and by changing perspectives with Flip It, you can then develop a problem solving model quickly and effectively.

Flip It!   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   Often, a change in a problem or situation comes simply from a change in our perspectives. Flip It! is a quick game designed to show players that perspectives are made, not born.

10. The Creativity Dice

One of the most useful problem solving skills you can teach your team is of approaching challenges with creativity, flexibility, and openness. Games like The Creativity Dice allow teams to overcome the potential hurdle of too much linear thinking and approach the process with a sense of fun and speed. 

In The Creativity Dice, participants are organized around a topic and roll a dice to determine what they will work on for a period of 3 minutes at a time. They might roll a 3 and work on investigating factual information on the chosen topic. They might roll a 1 and work on identifying the specific goals, standards, or criteria for the session.

Encouraging rapid work and iteration while asking participants to be flexible are great skills to cultivate. Having a stage for idea incubation in this game is also important. Moments of pause can help ensure the ideas that are put forward are the most suitable. 

The Creativity Dice   #creativity   #problem solving   #thiagi   #issue analysis   Too much linear thinking is hazardous to creative problem solving. To be creative, you should approach the problem (or the opportunity) from different points of view. You should leave a thought hanging in mid-air and move to another. This skipping around prevents premature closure and lets your brain incubate one line of thought while you consciously pursue another.

11. Fishbone Analysis

Organizational or team challenges are rarely simple, and it’s important to remember that one problem can be an indication of something that goes deeper and may require further consideration to be solved.

Fishbone Analysis helps groups to dig deeper and understand the origins of a problem. It’s a great example of a root cause analysis method that is simple for everyone on a team to get their head around. 

Participants in this activity are asked to annotate a diagram of a fish, first adding the problem or issue to be worked on at the head of a fish before then brainstorming the root causes of the problem and adding them as bones on the fish. 

Using abstractions such as a diagram of a fish can really help a team break out of their regular thinking and develop a creative approach.

Fishbone Analysis   #problem solving   ##root cause analysis   #decision making   #online facilitation   A process to help identify and understand the origins of problems, issues or observations.

12. Problem Tree 

Encouraging visual thinking can be an essential part of many strategies. By simply reframing and clarifying problems, a group can move towards developing a problem solving model that works for them. 

In Problem Tree, groups are asked to first brainstorm a list of problems – these can be design problems, team problems or larger business problems – and then organize them into a hierarchy. The hierarchy could be from most important to least important or abstract to practical, though the key thing with problem solving games that involve this aspect is that your group has some way of managing and sorting all the issues that are raised.

Once you have a list of problems that need to be solved and have organized them accordingly, you’re then well-positioned for the next problem solving steps.

Problem tree   #define intentions   #create   #design   #issue analysis   A problem tree is a tool to clarify the hierarchy of problems addressed by the team within a design project; it represents high level problems or related sublevel problems.

13. SWOT Analysis

Chances are you’ve heard of the SWOT Analysis before. This problem-solving method focuses on identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is a tried and tested method for both individuals and teams.

Start by creating a desired end state or outcome and bare this in mind – any process solving model is made more effective by knowing what you are moving towards. Create a quadrant made up of the four categories of a SWOT analysis and ask participants to generate ideas based on each of those quadrants.

Once you have those ideas assembled in their quadrants, cluster them together based on their affinity with other ideas. These clusters are then used to facilitate group conversations and move things forward. 

SWOT analysis   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   #meeting facilitation   The SWOT Analysis is a long-standing technique of looking at what we have, with respect to the desired end state, as well as what we could improve on. It gives us an opportunity to gauge approaching opportunities and dangers, and assess the seriousness of the conditions that affect our future. When we understand those conditions, we can influence what comes next.

14. Agreement-Certainty Matrix

Not every problem-solving approach is right for every challenge, and deciding on the right method for the challenge at hand is a key part of being an effective team.

The Agreement Certainty matrix helps teams align on the nature of the challenges facing them. By sorting problems from simple to chaotic, your team can understand what methods are suitable for each problem and what they can do to ensure effective results. 

If you are already using Liberating Structures techniques as part of your problem-solving strategy, the Agreement-Certainty Matrix can be an invaluable addition to your process. We’ve found it particularly if you are having issues with recurring problems in your organization and want to go deeper in understanding the root cause. 

Agreement-Certainty Matrix   #issue analysis   #liberating structures   #problem solving   You can help individuals or groups avoid the frequent mistake of trying to solve a problem with methods that are not adapted to the nature of their challenge. The combination of two questions makes it possible to easily sort challenges into four categories: simple, complicated, complex , and chaotic .  A problem is simple when it can be solved reliably with practices that are easy to duplicate.  It is complicated when experts are required to devise a sophisticated solution that will yield the desired results predictably.  A problem is complex when there are several valid ways to proceed but outcomes are not predictable in detail.  Chaotic is when the context is too turbulent to identify a path forward.  A loose analogy may be used to describe these differences: simple is like following a recipe, complicated like sending a rocket to the moon, complex like raising a child, and chaotic is like the game “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”  The Liberating Structures Matching Matrix in Chapter 5 can be used as the first step to clarify the nature of a challenge and avoid the mismatches between problems and solutions that are frequently at the root of chronic, recurring problems.

Organizing and charting a team’s progress can be important in ensuring its success. SQUID (Sequential Question and Insight Diagram) is a great model that allows a team to effectively switch between giving questions and answers and develop the skills they need to stay on track throughout the process. 

Begin with two different colored sticky notes – one for questions and one for answers – and with your central topic (the head of the squid) on the board. Ask the group to first come up with a series of questions connected to their best guess of how to approach the topic. Ask the group to come up with answers to those questions, fix them to the board and connect them with a line. After some discussion, go back to question mode by responding to the generated answers or other points on the board.

It’s rewarding to see a diagram grow throughout the exercise, and a completed SQUID can provide a visual resource for future effort and as an example for other teams.

SQUID   #gamestorming   #project planning   #issue analysis   #problem solving   When exploring an information space, it’s important for a group to know where they are at any given time. By using SQUID, a group charts out the territory as they go and can navigate accordingly. SQUID stands for Sequential Question and Insight Diagram.

16. Speed Boat

To continue with our nautical theme, Speed Boat is a short and sweet activity that can help a team quickly identify what employees, clients or service users might have a problem with and analyze what might be standing in the way of achieving a solution.

Methods that allow for a group to make observations, have insights and obtain those eureka moments quickly are invaluable when trying to solve complex problems.

In Speed Boat, the approach is to first consider what anchors and challenges might be holding an organization (or boat) back. Bonus points if you are able to identify any sharks in the water and develop ideas that can also deal with competitors!   

Speed Boat   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   Speedboat is a short and sweet way to identify what your employees or clients don’t like about your product/service or what’s standing in the way of a desired goal.

17. The Journalistic Six

Some of the most effective ways of solving problems is by encouraging teams to be more inclusive and diverse in their thinking.

Based on the six key questions journalism students are taught to answer in articles and news stories, The Journalistic Six helps create teams to see the whole picture. By using who, what, when, where, why, and how to facilitate the conversation and encourage creative thinking, your team can make sure that the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the are covered exhaustively and thoughtfully. Reporter’s notebook and dictaphone optional.

The Journalistic Six – Who What When Where Why How   #idea generation   #issue analysis   #problem solving   #online   #creative thinking   #remote-friendly   A questioning method for generating, explaining, investigating ideas.

18. LEGO Challenge

Now for an activity that is a little out of the (toy) box. LEGO Serious Play is a facilitation methodology that can be used to improve creative thinking and problem-solving skills. 

The LEGO Challenge includes giving each member of the team an assignment that is hidden from the rest of the group while they create a structure without speaking.

What the LEGO challenge brings to the table is a fun working example of working with stakeholders who might not be on the same page to solve problems. Also, it’s LEGO! Who doesn’t love LEGO! 

LEGO Challenge   #hyperisland   #team   A team-building activity in which groups must work together to build a structure out of LEGO, but each individual has a secret “assignment” which makes the collaborative process more challenging. It emphasizes group communication, leadership dynamics, conflict, cooperation, patience and problem solving strategy.

19. What, So What, Now What?

If not carefully managed, the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the problem-solving process can actually create more problems and misunderstandings.

The What, So What, Now What? problem-solving activity is designed to help collect insights and move forward while also eliminating the possibility of disagreement when it comes to identifying, clarifying, and analyzing organizational or work problems. 

Facilitation is all about bringing groups together so that might work on a shared goal and the best problem-solving strategies ensure that teams are aligned in purpose, if not initially in opinion or insight.

Throughout the three steps of this game, you give everyone on a team to reflect on a problem by asking what happened, why it is important, and what actions should then be taken. 

This can be a great activity for bringing our individual perceptions about a problem or challenge and contextualizing it in a larger group setting. This is one of the most important problem-solving skills you can bring to your organization.

W³ – What, So What, Now What?   #issue analysis   #innovation   #liberating structures   You can help groups reflect on a shared experience in a way that builds understanding and spurs coordinated action while avoiding unproductive conflict. It is possible for every voice to be heard while simultaneously sifting for insights and shaping new direction. Progressing in stages makes this practical—from collecting facts about What Happened to making sense of these facts with So What and finally to what actions logically follow with Now What . The shared progression eliminates most of the misunderstandings that otherwise fuel disagreements about what to do. Voila!

20. Journalists  

Problem analysis can be one of the most important and decisive stages of all problem-solving tools. Sometimes, a team can become bogged down in the details and are unable to move forward.

Journalists is an activity that can avoid a group from getting stuck in the problem identification or problem analysis stages of the process.

In Journalists, the group is invited to draft the front page of a fictional newspaper and figure out what stories deserve to be on the cover and what headlines those stories will have. By reframing how your problems and challenges are approached, you can help a team move productively through the process and be better prepared for the steps to follow.

Journalists   #vision   #big picture   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   This is an exercise to use when the group gets stuck in details and struggles to see the big picture. Also good for defining a vision.

Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions 

The success of any problem-solving process can be measured by the solutions it produces. After you’ve defined the issue, explored existing ideas, and ideated, it’s time to narrow down to the correct solution.

Use these problem-solving techniques when you want to help your team find consensus, compare possible solutions, and move towards taking action on a particular problem.

  • Improved Solutions
  • Four-Step Sketch
  • 15% Solutions
  • How-Now-Wow matrix
  • Impact Effort Matrix

21. Mindspin  

Brainstorming is part of the bread and butter of the problem-solving process and all problem-solving strategies benefit from getting ideas out and challenging a team to generate solutions quickly. 

With Mindspin, participants are encouraged not only to generate ideas but to do so under time constraints and by slamming down cards and passing them on. By doing multiple rounds, your team can begin with a free generation of possible solutions before moving on to developing those solutions and encouraging further ideation. 

This is one of our favorite problem-solving activities and can be great for keeping the energy up throughout the workshop. Remember the importance of helping people become engaged in the process – energizing problem-solving techniques like Mindspin can help ensure your team stays engaged and happy, even when the problems they’re coming together to solve are complex. 

MindSpin   #teampedia   #idea generation   #problem solving   #action   A fast and loud method to enhance brainstorming within a team. Since this activity has more than round ideas that are repetitive can be ruled out leaving more creative and innovative answers to the challenge.

22. Improved Solutions

After a team has successfully identified a problem and come up with a few solutions, it can be tempting to call the work of the problem-solving process complete. That said, the first solution is not necessarily the best, and by including a further review and reflection activity into your problem-solving model, you can ensure your group reaches the best possible result. 

One of a number of problem-solving games from Thiagi Group, Improved Solutions helps you go the extra mile and develop suggested solutions with close consideration and peer review. By supporting the discussion of several problems at once and by shifting team roles throughout, this problem-solving technique is a dynamic way of finding the best solution. 

Improved Solutions   #creativity   #thiagi   #problem solving   #action   #team   You can improve any solution by objectively reviewing its strengths and weaknesses and making suitable adjustments. In this creativity framegame, you improve the solutions to several problems. To maintain objective detachment, you deal with a different problem during each of six rounds and assume different roles (problem owner, consultant, basher, booster, enhancer, and evaluator) during each round. At the conclusion of the activity, each player ends up with two solutions to her problem.

23. Four Step Sketch

Creative thinking and visual ideation does not need to be confined to the opening stages of your problem-solving strategies. Exercises that include sketching and prototyping on paper can be effective at the solution finding and development stage of the process, and can be great for keeping a team engaged. 

By going from simple notes to a crazy 8s round that involves rapidly sketching 8 variations on their ideas before then producing a final solution sketch, the group is able to iterate quickly and visually. Problem-solving techniques like Four-Step Sketch are great if you have a group of different thinkers and want to change things up from a more textual or discussion-based approach.

Four-Step Sketch   #design sprint   #innovation   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   The four-step sketch is an exercise that helps people to create well-formed concepts through a structured process that includes: Review key information Start design work on paper,  Consider multiple variations , Create a detailed solution . This exercise is preceded by a set of other activities allowing the group to clarify the challenge they want to solve. See how the Four Step Sketch exercise fits into a Design Sprint

24. 15% Solutions

Some problems are simpler than others and with the right problem-solving activities, you can empower people to take immediate actions that can help create organizational change. 

Part of the liberating structures toolkit, 15% solutions is a problem-solving technique that focuses on finding and implementing solutions quickly. A process of iterating and making small changes quickly can help generate momentum and an appetite for solving complex problems.

Problem-solving strategies can live and die on whether people are onboard. Getting some quick wins is a great way of getting people behind the process.   

It can be extremely empowering for a team to realize that problem-solving techniques can be deployed quickly and easily and delineate between things they can positively impact and those things they cannot change. 

15% Solutions   #action   #liberating structures   #remote-friendly   You can reveal the actions, however small, that everyone can do immediately. At a minimum, these will create momentum, and that may make a BIG difference.  15% Solutions show that there is no reason to wait around, feel powerless, or fearful. They help people pick it up a level. They get individuals and the group to focus on what is within their discretion instead of what they cannot change.  With a very simple question, you can flip the conversation to what can be done and find solutions to big problems that are often distributed widely in places not known in advance. Shifting a few grains of sand may trigger a landslide and change the whole landscape.

25. How-Now-Wow Matrix

The problem-solving process is often creative, as complex problems usually require a change of thinking and creative response in order to find the best solutions. While it’s common for the first stages to encourage creative thinking, groups can often gravitate to familiar solutions when it comes to the end of the process. 

When selecting solutions, you don’t want to lose your creative energy! The How-Now-Wow Matrix from Gamestorming is a great problem-solving activity that enables a group to stay creative and think out of the box when it comes to selecting the right solution for a given problem.

Problem-solving techniques that encourage creative thinking and the ideation and selection of new solutions can be the most effective in organisational change. Give the How-Now-Wow Matrix a go, and not just for how pleasant it is to say out loud. 

How-Now-Wow Matrix   #gamestorming   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   When people want to develop new ideas, they most often think out of the box in the brainstorming or divergent phase. However, when it comes to convergence, people often end up picking ideas that are most familiar to them. This is called a ‘creative paradox’ or a ‘creadox’. The How-Now-Wow matrix is an idea selection tool that breaks the creadox by forcing people to weigh each idea on 2 parameters.

26. Impact and Effort Matrix

All problem-solving techniques hope to not only find solutions to a given problem or challenge but to find the best solution. When it comes to finding a solution, groups are invited to put on their decision-making hats and really think about how a proposed idea would work in practice. 

The Impact and Effort Matrix is one of the problem-solving techniques that fall into this camp, empowering participants to first generate ideas and then categorize them into a 2×2 matrix based on impact and effort.

Activities that invite critical thinking while remaining simple are invaluable. Use the Impact and Effort Matrix to move from ideation and towards evaluating potential solutions before then committing to them. 

Impact and Effort Matrix   #gamestorming   #decision making   #action   #remote-friendly   In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.

27. Dotmocracy

If you’ve followed each of the problem-solving steps with your group successfully, you should move towards the end of your process with heaps of possible solutions developed with a specific problem in mind. But how do you help a group go from ideation to putting a solution into action? 

Dotmocracy – or Dot Voting -is a tried and tested method of helping a team in the problem-solving process make decisions and put actions in place with a degree of oversight and consensus. 

One of the problem-solving techniques that should be in every facilitator’s toolbox, Dot Voting is fast and effective and can help identify the most popular and best solutions and help bring a group to a decision effectively. 

Dotmocracy   #action   #decision making   #group prioritization   #hyperisland   #remote-friendly   Dotmocracy is a simple method for group prioritization or decision-making. It is not an activity on its own, but a method to use in processes where prioritization or decision-making is the aim. The method supports a group to quickly see which options are most popular or relevant. The options or ideas are written on post-its and stuck up on a wall for the whole group to see. Each person votes for the options they think are the strongest, and that information is used to inform a decision.

All facilitators know that warm-ups and icebreakers are useful for any workshop or group process. Problem-solving workshops are no different.

Use these problem-solving techniques to warm up a group and prepare them for the rest of the process. Activating your group by tapping into some of the top problem-solving skills can be one of the best ways to see great outcomes from your session.

  • Check-in/Check-out
  • Doodling Together
  • Show and Tell
  • Constellations
  • Draw a Tree

28. Check-in / Check-out

Solid processes are planned from beginning to end, and the best facilitators know that setting the tone and establishing a safe, open environment can be integral to a successful problem-solving process.

Check-in / Check-out is a great way to begin and/or bookend a problem-solving workshop. Checking in to a session emphasizes that everyone will be seen, heard, and expected to contribute. 

If you are running a series of meetings, setting a consistent pattern of checking in and checking out can really help your team get into a groove. We recommend this opening-closing activity for small to medium-sized groups though it can work with large groups if they’re disciplined!

Check-in / Check-out   #team   #opening   #closing   #hyperisland   #remote-friendly   Either checking-in or checking-out is a simple way for a team to open or close a process, symbolically and in a collaborative way. Checking-in/out invites each member in a group to be present, seen and heard, and to express a reflection or a feeling. Checking-in emphasizes presence, focus and group commitment; checking-out emphasizes reflection and symbolic closure.

29. Doodling Together  

Thinking creatively and not being afraid to make suggestions are important problem-solving skills for any group or team, and warming up by encouraging these behaviors is a great way to start. 

Doodling Together is one of our favorite creative ice breaker games – it’s quick, effective, and fun and can make all following problem-solving steps easier by encouraging a group to collaborate visually. By passing cards and adding additional items as they go, the workshop group gets into a groove of co-creation and idea development that is crucial to finding solutions to problems. 

Doodling Together   #collaboration   #creativity   #teamwork   #fun   #team   #visual methods   #energiser   #icebreaker   #remote-friendly   Create wild, weird and often funny postcards together & establish a group’s creative confidence.

30. Show and Tell

You might remember some version of Show and Tell from being a kid in school and it’s a great problem-solving activity to kick off a session.

Asking participants to prepare a little something before a workshop by bringing an object for show and tell can help them warm up before the session has even begun! Games that include a physical object can also help encourage early engagement before moving onto more big-picture thinking.

By asking your participants to tell stories about why they chose to bring a particular item to the group, you can help teams see things from new perspectives and see both differences and similarities in the way they approach a topic. Great groundwork for approaching a problem-solving process as a team! 

Show and Tell   #gamestorming   #action   #opening   #meeting facilitation   Show and Tell taps into the power of metaphors to reveal players’ underlying assumptions and associations around a topic The aim of the game is to get a deeper understanding of stakeholders’ perspectives on anything—a new project, an organizational restructuring, a shift in the company’s vision or team dynamic.

31. Constellations

Who doesn’t love stars? Constellations is a great warm-up activity for any workshop as it gets people up off their feet, energized, and ready to engage in new ways with established topics. It’s also great for showing existing beliefs, biases, and patterns that can come into play as part of your session.

Using warm-up games that help build trust and connection while also allowing for non-verbal responses can be great for easing people into the problem-solving process and encouraging engagement from everyone in the group. Constellations is great in large spaces that allow for movement and is definitely a practical exercise to allow the group to see patterns that are otherwise invisible. 

Constellations   #trust   #connection   #opening   #coaching   #patterns   #system   Individuals express their response to a statement or idea by standing closer or further from a central object. Used with teams to reveal system, hidden patterns, perspectives.

32. Draw a Tree

Problem-solving games that help raise group awareness through a central, unifying metaphor can be effective ways to warm-up a group in any problem-solving model.

Draw a Tree is a simple warm-up activity you can use in any group and which can provide a quick jolt of energy. Start by asking your participants to draw a tree in just 45 seconds – they can choose whether it will be abstract or realistic. 

Once the timer is up, ask the group how many people included the roots of the tree and use this as a means to discuss how we can ignore important parts of any system simply because they are not visible.

All problem-solving strategies are made more effective by thinking of problems critically and by exposing things that may not normally come to light. Warm-up games like Draw a Tree are great in that they quickly demonstrate some key problem-solving skills in an accessible and effective way.

Draw a Tree   #thiagi   #opening   #perspectives   #remote-friendly   With this game you can raise awarness about being more mindful, and aware of the environment we live in.

Each step of the problem-solving workshop benefits from an intelligent deployment of activities, games, and techniques. Bringing your session to an effective close helps ensure that solutions are followed through on and that you also celebrate what has been achieved.

Here are some problem-solving activities you can use to effectively close a workshop or meeting and ensure the great work you’ve done can continue afterward.

  • One Breath Feedback
  • Who What When Matrix
  • Response Cards

How do I conclude a problem-solving process?

All good things must come to an end. With the bulk of the work done, it can be tempting to conclude your workshop swiftly and without a moment to debrief and align. This can be problematic in that it doesn’t allow your team to fully process the results or reflect on the process.

At the end of an effective session, your team will have gone through a process that, while productive, can be exhausting. It’s important to give your group a moment to take a breath, ensure that they are clear on future actions, and provide short feedback before leaving the space. 

The primary purpose of any problem-solving method is to generate solutions and then implement them. Be sure to take the opportunity to ensure everyone is aligned and ready to effectively implement the solutions you produced in the workshop.

Remember that every process can be improved and by giving a short moment to collect feedback in the session, you can further refine your problem-solving methods and see further success in the future too.

33. One Breath Feedback

Maintaining attention and focus during the closing stages of a problem-solving workshop can be tricky and so being concise when giving feedback can be important. It’s easy to incur “death by feedback” should some team members go on for too long sharing their perspectives in a quick feedback round. 

One Breath Feedback is a great closing activity for workshops. You give everyone an opportunity to provide feedback on what they’ve done but only in the space of a single breath. This keeps feedback short and to the point and means that everyone is encouraged to provide the most important piece of feedback to them. 

One breath feedback   #closing   #feedback   #action   This is a feedback round in just one breath that excels in maintaining attention: each participants is able to speak during just one breath … for most people that’s around 20 to 25 seconds … unless of course you’ve been a deep sea diver in which case you’ll be able to do it for longer.

34. Who What When Matrix 

Matrices feature as part of many effective problem-solving strategies and with good reason. They are easily recognizable, simple to use, and generate results.

The Who What When Matrix is a great tool to use when closing your problem-solving session by attributing a who, what and when to the actions and solutions you have decided upon. The resulting matrix is a simple, easy-to-follow way of ensuring your team can move forward. 

Great solutions can’t be enacted without action and ownership. Your problem-solving process should include a stage for allocating tasks to individuals or teams and creating a realistic timeframe for those solutions to be implemented or checked out. Use this method to keep the solution implementation process clear and simple for all involved. 

Who/What/When Matrix   #gamestorming   #action   #project planning   With Who/What/When matrix, you can connect people with clear actions they have defined and have committed to.

35. Response cards

Group discussion can comprise the bulk of most problem-solving activities and by the end of the process, you might find that your team is talked out! 

Providing a means for your team to give feedback with short written notes can ensure everyone is head and can contribute without the need to stand up and talk. Depending on the needs of the group, giving an alternative can help ensure everyone can contribute to your problem-solving model in the way that makes the most sense for them.

Response Cards is a great way to close a workshop if you are looking for a gentle warm-down and want to get some swift discussion around some of the feedback that is raised. 

Response Cards   #debriefing   #closing   #structured sharing   #questions and answers   #thiagi   #action   It can be hard to involve everyone during a closing of a session. Some might stay in the background or get unheard because of louder participants. However, with the use of Response Cards, everyone will be involved in providing feedback or clarify questions at the end of a session.

Save time and effort discovering the right solutions

A structured problem solving process is a surefire way of solving tough problems, discovering creative solutions and driving organizational change. But how can you design for successful outcomes?

With SessionLab, it’s easy to design engaging workshops that deliver results. Drag, drop and reorder blocks  to build your agenda. When you make changes or update your agenda, your session  timing   adjusts automatically , saving you time on manual adjustments.

Collaborating with stakeholders or clients? Share your agenda with a single click and collaborate in real-time. No more sending documents back and forth over email.

Explore  how to use SessionLab  to design effective problem solving workshops or  watch this five minute video  to see the planner in action!

the work problem solving

Over to you

The problem-solving process can often be as complicated and multifaceted as the problems they are set-up to solve. With the right problem-solving techniques and a mix of creative exercises designed to guide discussion and generate purposeful ideas, we hope we’ve given you the tools to find the best solutions as simply and easily as possible.

Is there a problem-solving technique that you are missing here? Do you have a favorite activity or method you use when facilitating? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you! 

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thank you very much for these excellent techniques

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Certainly wonderful article, very detailed. Shared!

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Your list of techniques for problem solving can be helpfully extended by adding TRIZ to the list of techniques. TRIZ has 40 problem solving techniques derived from methods inventros and patent holders used to get new patents. About 10-12 are general approaches. many organization sponsor classes in TRIZ that are used to solve business problems or general organiztational problems. You can take a look at TRIZ and dwonload a free internet booklet to see if you feel it shound be included per your selection process.

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7 Examples of Problem-Solving Scenarios in the Workplace (With Solutions)

What is problem-solving anyway, problem-solving scenario #1: tight deadlines and heavy workload.

  • Problem-solving Scenario #2: Handling a Product Launch

Problem-solving Scenario #3: Internal Conflicts in the Team

Problem-solving scenario #4: team not meeting targets, problem-solving scenario #5: team facing high turnover, problem-solving scenario #6: team member facing discrimination, problem-solving scenario #7: new manager unable to motivate a team, building an effective problem-solving framework, wrapping up, frequently asked questions for managers.

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Problem-Solving Scenarios for Managers

  • Talk to the team members: John begins by asking what’s holding them back. Based on their responses, he realizes that he needs to delegate better. Immediately, John schedules meetings to  clarify each member’s expectations , priorities, and roles and ensure everyone is on the same page. He also makes a note to work on his delegation skills.
  • Plan things: John creates a project timeline or task list that outlines the deadlines and deliverables for each team member and shares this with the team to ensure that everyone is aware of what is expected of them.
  • Support the team: The team sits together to establish regular check-ins or progress updates to ensure members can ask questions or raise concerns.

Problem-solving Scenario # 2 : Handling a Product Launch

  • Review and redraw plans:  Emily revisited the project plan and identified areas where the team could reduce the scope or prioritize features to meet the budget constraints.
  • Go for alternatives:  The team then explored alternative resources or suppliers to find cost-effective options. Are there any underutilized resources, equipment, or personnel from other projects or departments that can be temporarily assigned to this project? Moreover, they revisited their suppliers and negotiated further.
  • Outsourcing parts of the project:  Emily considered outsourcing some project functions to external contractors or freelancers. Eventually, they outsourced the marketing to another team and continued working on the core features.
  • Upgrade the available capacity:  Emily and her team invested in upskilling the present workforce with additional skills. It allowed some team members to explore exciting areas and supplemented the team.
  • Get both sides onboard: Taylor begins the conflict resolution process by talking to both team members. She recognizes the issue and first goes into individual discussions with both. Later, she sets up a meeting for both to share their perspectives.
  • Mediation:  In the next step, the manager encourages the two team members to talk to each other and resolve the conflict independently. Taylor describes how the optimal contribution can look different for different team members. Additionally, she encourages them to be more open and collaborative so that they understand what the other one does.
  • Preventing mistakes again:  The team holds a meeting to discuss the issue and allow other team members to express their thoughts and feelings. By not hiding the problem that happened in front of everyone, Taylor acknowledges the issues and shows that she cares about the things happening inside the team. Further, by discussing and sharing, they can build a healthy relationship to prevent similar issues in the future. 
  • Use formal tools: Lastly, they establish clear guidelines and expectations for behavior and communication within the team to prevent future conflicts. Training and coaching are also added to help team members improve their communication and conflict-resolution skills.
  • Discussions with the Sales Representatives: Donna starts by having one-on-one conversations with each team member to understand their perspectives on why the targets are not being met. After gathering insights from personal discussions, Donna calls for a team meeting. During the session, she allows team members to share their experiences, challenges, and suggestions openly. 
  • Analysis of Sales Process: Donna conducts a detailed sales process analysis, from lead generation to closing deals. She identifies bottlenecks and areas where the team might be facing difficulties. This analysis helps her pinpoint specific stages that need improvement. 
  • Setting Realistic Targets: Donna understands that overly ambitious targets might be demotivating. She collaborates with her team to develop more achievable yet challenging sales targets based on their current performance and market conditions. She organizes training sessions and workshops to help team members develop the necessary skills and knowledge to excel. 
  • Recognition and Incentives: Donna introduces a recognition program and incentives for meeting and exceeding targets to motivate the team. This helps boost morale and encourages healthy competition within the team. She closely monitors the team’s progress toward the revised targets. 
  • Conduct Exit Interviews:  As the stream of resignation continues, Neil adopts a realistic approach and starts by attempting to understand the issues his former team members face. He conducts exit interviews with the people leaving and tries to determine what’s wrong. 
  • Understand the current team:  In the next step, Neil tries to learn the perspectives of staying people. Through surveys and conversations, he lists the good parts of working in his team and emphasizes them. He also finds the challenges and works on reducing them. 
  • Change and adapt to employee needs:  These conversations help Neil enable a better work environment to help him contain turnover and attract top talent. Moving forward, he ensures that pay is competitive and work is aligned with the employee’s goals. He also involves stakeholders to create development and growth opportunities for his team.
  • Be approachable and open: Erica first ensures she can gather all the details from the team members. She provides them with a safe space and comfort to express their concern and ensures that action will be taken. She supports the targeted team members, such as access to counselling or other resources.
  • Adopt and follow an official policy: Developing and enforcing anti-discrimination policies that clearly state the organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is the first step to creating a safe workplace. Erica refers to the policy and takes immediate action accordingly, including a thorough investigation.
  • Reiterating commitment and goals: Providing diversity and inclusion training to all team members to help them understand the impact of discrimination and how to prevent it is essential to create a safe workplace. Erica ensures that the team members are aware of the provisions, the DEI goals set by the organization, and 
  • Connect with the team: Andrew starts by conducting one-on-one meetings with team members to understand their personal and professional goals, challenges, and strengths. Observing team dynamics and identifying any issues or obstacles hindering motivation and productivity also helps.
  • Involving team members in the process: Seeking feedback from team members on what motivates them and what they want to see from their manager to feel more inspired.
  • Enabling and empowering: Offering opportunities for growth and development, such as training, mentoring, or leadership roles, helped Andrew contribute to his team’s development. 
  • Take help from Merlin: Andrew reached out to Merlin, the AI chatbot of Risely, to get tips whenever he got stuck. Merlin sought details about his issues and shared some tips to help out Andrew. Here is what it looked like: 

andrew motivating a new team

  • Develop a problem-solving process: To get problem-solving right for multiple scenarios repeatedly, the key is to remember and set a problem-solving approach that works across the board. A wide-ranged problem-solving process that begins with identification and concludes at the resolution helps managers navigate various challenges the profession throws us. 
  • Learn to identify problems: The key to solving problems is placing them at the right moment. If you let some problems pester for long, they can become more significant issues for the teams. Hence, building the understanding to identify issues is essential for managers.
  • Think from multiple perspectives: As a problem-solver, you must care for various parties and stakeholders. Thus, thinking from numerous perspectives and considering ideas from a broad spectrum of people is a core skill. 
  • Consistently work on skills: Like other managerial skills, problem-solving skills need constant practice and review. Over time, your skills can become more robust with the help of assessments and toolkits. Tools like Risely can help you with resources and constant guidance to overcome managerial challenges. Check out Risely today to start reaching your true potential.

problem solving scenarios

Suprabha Sharma

Suprabha, a versatile professional who blends expertise in human resources and psychology, bridges the divide between people management and personal growth with her novel perspectives at Risely. Her experience as a human resource professional has empowered her to visualize practical solutions for frequent managerial challenges that form the pivot of her writings.

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The Future World of Work

5 Examples of Problem-Solving in The Workplace

Christina J Colclough

By Christina Colclough

Last updated: January 12, 2024

When you’re in a job interview, you can almost bet on being asked about your problem-solving experiences. This skill is always high on employers’ wish lists. Walk in with a few solid examples up your sleeve and talk about them with confidence – that’s what grabs their attention.

Problem-Solving discussion

In this post, I’ll guide you through picking the right problem-solving in workplace examples and articulating them in a way that will make you stand out.

In this article:

What is problem solving.

At its core, this skill is all about spotting issues and then working out the smartest ways to sort them out. In the workplace, this skill keeps things running smoothly because challenges always pop up.

In any job, you’re bound to bump into a range of problems. It could be meeting a tight deadline, handling customer complaints, or resolving misunderstandings among team members. Each of these difficult situations needs a cool head and a clear strategy.

Dealing with these issues well is crucial because it keeps the wheels turning. Effective problem-solving means fewer hiccups in projects, better teamwork, and happier customers. It’s like oiling the cogs of a machine.

That is why interviewers like myself often drill down into the candidates’ problem-solving abilities with questions like “ Tell me about a time you solved a problem ” or “ Can you describe a situation where you had to overcome a significant challenge? “

We want to know if you’re the kind of person who faces challenges head-on or if you tend to sweep them under the rug. We’re looking for someone who not only spots issues but also comes up with smart solutions and puts them into action. It’s all about ensuring that, when the going gets tough, you’ve got the skills to keep things on track.

How to Answer Problem-Solving Interview Questions

Close up interviewer

When you’re in an interview and asked about problem-solving, it’s a golden opportunity to show your skills. In my experience, a great approach is to use the STAR technique. This strategy helps structure your answer in a clear and compelling way.

Let’s break down what each part of STAR stands for:

  • Situation : Describe the context within which you had to solve a problem.
  • Task : Explain the actual problem or challenge you were facing.
  • Action : Describe the actions you took to address the problem.
  • Result : Share the outcomes of your actions.

In this step, your goal is to give the interviewer a snapshot of your scenario.

Let’s say you had to deal with a significant drop in team morale and productivity. At the beginning of your response, you want to set the context for your story. This should include where you were working, your role, and the initial problem.

The key here is to be concise but provide enough detail to paint a clear picture like this:

“In my previous role as a team leader, I noticed a sudden drop in team morale and productivity. This was unusual for our normally energetic and efficient team.”

Common Situations

Here are some other common situations you can mention in your answer:

  • Resolving an issue with a difficult client when they complain about a product or service
  • Figuring out a solution when equipment or technology breaks down or fails
  • Dealing with a mistake you’ve made on an important project
  • Handling a tight deadline when unexpected challenges threaten completion
  • Settling a dispute between colleagues who aren’t getting along
  • Improving productivity for a team that is underperforming
  • Persuading colleagues to get on board with an idea they are resistant to

How to Answer With Limited Experience

answering questions during an interview

Don’t worry if you just graduated or have little work experience. Think about examples from school group projects, internships, or part-time jobs like these:

  • Coordinating schedules for a group presentation when everyone has different availabilities
  • Resolving a disagreement over roles for a big class project
  • Finding ways to improve your team’s process when a professor gives feedback
  • Managing deadlines and deliverables with classmates who had competing priorities
  • Convincing peers to adopt your proposed solution for an assignment
  • Addressing complaints from a classmate about unequal workloads

Clarify the problem you had to tackle. What was expected of you? What complex challenge did you need to address? Here, you’re setting up the specific problem that you were tasked with solving.

Remember, the focus is on the problem, not yet on your actions. Using the above example, here is what you can talk about:

“My task was to identify the causes of this decline and implement a strategy to boost morale and productivity. I needed to make sure our team could return to its usual high-performance level.”

Describe the steps you took to solve the problem. Think about how you analyzed the situation, decided on a course of action, and implemented it. It should show your critical thinking and analytical skills.

“To tackle this, I first conducted one-on-one meetings with team members to understand their concerns and gather feedback. Based on these insights, I realized that a recent change in company policy was causing stress.

I advocated for my team’s concerns with upper management and worked with them to modify the policy. At the same time, I initiated team-building activities and regular check-ins to foster a more supportive and open team environment.”

Finally, talk about the outcomes of your actions. Employers want to know your problem-solving drives real improvements. Also, highlight any positive feedback from your boss or team members, and if possible, quantify the success.

“As a result of these actions, we saw a significant improvement in team morale within a month. Productivity levels bounced back, and the team’s overall satisfaction with their work environment increased.

This experience not only taught me valuable lessons about team dynamics but also reinforced the importance of proactive communication and advocacy for team needs.”

Here are some other outcomes to highlight in your answer:

  • Resolving an issue with a difficult client : Client satisfaction restored, future business secured
  • Fixing broken equipment : Equipment operational again, no more disruptions to operations
  • Dealing with a mistake : Error corrected, a new process implemented to prevent recurrence
  • Handling a deadline : Project completed on time, client received deliverable as promised
  • Settling a dispute : Conflict resolved, team collaboration and morale improved
  • Boosting team productivity : Increased output, goals reached, performance metrics improved
  • Persuading colleagues : Proposal approved, a new initiative launched successfully

5 Examples Of Problem-Solving Skills

Problem-Solving Skills

1. Improving Collaboration in a Stalled Project

Here is a sample you can use when explaining how you improved team collaboration on a project:

“Our team was tasked with developing a new financial management web application. However, we hit a snag and missed two crucial milestones. The core issue was a breakdown in communication – team members were not proactively sharing updates on delays or challenges they encountered.

To address this, I instituted daily 15-minute standup meetings. These sessions provided a platform for everyone to voice concerns and update the team on their progress. We also started tracking tasks in a shared spreadsheet so everyone had more visibility into the project.

Within two weeks, collaboration and communication improved significantly. We renegotiated the timeline with stakeholders, and the project team delivered the web app only 1 week after the original deadline.

The processes we put in place didn’t just help us with this project but also significantly boosted our efficiency on later projects.”

2. Revitalizing a Marketing Campaign

This is how you can describe a time you turned around a marketing campaign:

“In my last marketing role, I was responsible for a campaign promoting a new line of eco-friendly skincare products. Midway through, we found that our engagement metrics were dismal, particularly with our targeted demographic of people aged 20-30.

Upon reviewing our approach, I realized our messaging was too generic and failed to connect with this specific group’s interests and values. I spearheaded a strategy shift, focusing on the environmental benefits and ethical sourcing, aspects we found resonated more with a slightly older demographic, females aged 25-35, who were more invested in sustainable living.

We also pivoted our advertising to platforms popular with this demographic, like eco-conscious lifestyle blogs and organic beauty forums. This shift led to a 40% increase in engagement and contributed greatly to the success of our product launch, exceeding our initial sales targets.”

3. Streamlining Operational Processes

Here’s an example to illustrate how you tackled inefficiencies in operational processes:

“As an operations manager at a mid-sized electronics manufacturer, I noticed our product delivery was consistently delayed.

I identified the root cause as a bottleneck in our supply chain. In particular, a stage where manual data entry from manufacturing to logistics was causing significant hold-ups.

Realizing the need for efficiency, I proposed automating this stage. We collaborated with the IT department and implemented a barcode scanning system that integrated manufacturing output with our logistics database.

This change cut down the processing time by 30%, drastically improving our on-time delivery rate. It not only led to an upswing in customer satisfaction but also streamlined our inventory management, reducing both operational delays and costs.”

4. Resolving Communication Barriers Between Teams

This example demonstrates a solution for inter-departmental communication issues:

“In my previous role, I observed recurring conflicts between the sales and product development teams. These were mainly due to misunderstandings and a lack of clear communication about product updates. This led to promises being made to customers that the product team couldn’t fulfill.

To bridge this gap, I proposed and facilitated a series of joint workshops between the two teams. These sessions focused on aligning the teams’ understanding of product capabilities and timelines. Additionally, I initiated a bi-weekly newsletter and a shared digital workspace where both teams could update each other on developments and feedback.

The result was a significant improvement in inter-team collaboration. The sales team was better informed about product limitations and timelines, leading to more realistic commitments to customers.

Meanwhile, the product team received valuable market feedback directly from the sales team. It helped them tailor developments to customer needs. This collaborative approach not only reduced conflicts but also led to better product-market alignment.”

5. Resolving Customer Complaints and Enhancing Service Quality

customer service

This highlights an approach to customer service challenges:

“In my role as a customer service manager, I was faced with increasing customer complaints regarding delayed response times. This issue was affecting customer satisfaction and had the potential to harm our company’s reputation.

I started by analyzing our customer service processes and discovered that our response system was outdated and inefficient. To rectify this, I led the implementation of a new customer relationship management (CRM) system that streamlined our customer service workflow.

This system included automated responses for common queries and a more efficient ticketing process for complex issues. I also organized a series of training sessions for the customer service team to ensure they were well-versed in using the new system and could provide more effective solutions to customers.

Implementing these changes led to a huge reduction in response time and a significant drop in customer complaints. Our team also received positive feedback for improved service quality, which was reflected in our customer satisfaction surveys.”

Tips on Improving Problem-Solving Skills

Problem-solving is a career-long skill, not just needed for some interviews. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pro, honing these skills can make a big difference in how you handle challenges at work.

Understand Before Assuming

Jumping to conclusions can be a trap. When a problem arises, take a step back and get a clear picture of what’s actually going on. This means holding off on assumptions until you’ve gathered all the facts.

Sometimes, the real issue isn’t what it seems at first glance. Doing a bit of digging to understand the root cause can lead you to a more effective solution.

Research and Learn from the Past

History often repeats itself, and this is true for workplace problems, too. When faced with a challenge, look into whether similar issues have popped up before.

How were they handled? What worked and what didn’t? Learning from past experiences, whether your own or someone else’s, can be a goldmine of insights.

Brainstorm With Creative Thinking

When thinking about potential solutions, avoid locking yourself into the first idea that comes to mind. Brainstorming can open up a world of possibilities and creative solutions. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Sometimes, the most unconventional ideas turn out to be the best solutions.

Always Have a Plan B

Even the best-laid plans can go awry. That’s why having a contingency plan is a must.

Think about what could go wrong and how to contain any further issues. This doesn’t mean you’re expecting the worst, but rather, you’re prepared to handle it efficiently if it does happen.

Team Decisions and Communication

Solving problems isn’t a solo mission. Make decisions as a team and keep everyone in the loop.

Clear communication is a valuable soft skill that helps everyone understand the plan and their role in it. Plus, this is how you can bring new perspectives and ideas to the table and make your solution even stronger.

Timeframe and Flexibility

Set a timeframe for your action plan, but be flexible. If something isn’t working, be ready to pivot and try a different approach. Sticking rigidly to a plan that’s not delivering results won’t do anyone any favors.

See more interview tips: How To Write A Follow-Up Email After Interview 3 Examples For Thank-You Email After Interview 8 Examples of Challenges You Have Overcome At Work 6 sample answers of accomplishments at work 5 Examples of Problem-Solving in The Workplace How To Ask for Feedback After Job Rejection How to Explain The Reason for Leaving a Job on Applications For Interview Question: What Do You Like To Do For Fun? What Are You Most Passionate About? What Are You Looking For In Your Next Job? Why Are You Interested In This Position? What Accomplishments Are You Most Proud Of?

Frequently Asked Questions

Are problem-solving skills that important.

Absolutely. No matter where you work, there’s always a curveball now and then. Having the knack to quickly think on your feet, break down a problem, and come up with a solution is a game-changer.

How Do I Sell Myself as a Problem Solver?

Storytelling is your best bet here. The trick is to paint a picture where you’re the person who spots the problem and then creatively solves it, not just someone who follows instructions.

How Do I Choose Good Examples for a Job Interview?

Pick examples that show you’re not just a one-trick pony. What I find impressive is when someone can demonstrate their thought process – how they analyzed the issue, got creative with solutions, and then put their plan into action.

What Are the Key Attributes of a Good Problem Solver?

They’re the kind of people who don’t rush to conclusions. Instead, they take their time to understand the problem, explore different angles, and weigh their options.

Adaptability is also key – they can roll with the punches and adjust their plans as needed. And, of course, they’re great at getting their point across, ensuring everyone’s on the same page.

What Are the Major Obstacles to Problem Solving?

From what I’ve seen, the big hurdles are often not having enough info, sticking too rigidly to old mindsets, and letting biases lead the way. It’s easy to get tunnel vision, especially if you’re used to doing things a certain way.

Also, not bringing different perspectives to the table can really limit your options.

As you step into the next interview, remember two key things: confidence and clarity. Trust in your abilities and the experiences you bring to the table. Learn how the above problem-solving examples can paint a vivid picture of your challenge and how you tackled it. Most importantly, let those stories reflect your skills and how you can be an asset to any team.

Christina J. Colclough

Dr Christina J. Colclough is an expert on The Future World of Work and the politics of digital technology advocating globally for the importance of the workers’ voice. She has extensive regional and global labour movement experience, is a sought-after keynote speaker, coach, and strategist advising progressive governments and worker organisations.

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MindManager Blog

What is problem-solving? And why is it important in the workplace?

September 28, 2023 by MindManager Blog

If there’s one thing you can count on as a business professional, it’s that you’ll never run short of new problems to solve. Thankfully, whether it includes handling difficult or unexpected situations in the workplace, or resolving complex organizational challenges, we all have the capacity to develop our business problem-solving skills.

The best way to get better at tackling problems productively is to start at the beginning. After all, the better you understand what problem-solving is – and the significant role it plays in every organization – the easier you’ll find it to improve on problem-solving skills in the workplace.

Let’s dive in!

What is problem-solving?

Problem-solving refers to the act of find solutions to difficult or complex issues.

A good problem-solving definition might be finding solutions to difficult or complex issues . In practice, however, solving problems in the workplace is a little more immersive than that.

In the workplace, problem-solving includes a variety of tools, resources, and techniques to:

  • Identify what’s not working.
  • Figure out why it’s broken.
  • Determine the best course of action to fix it.

Whether you know them as obstacles, glitches, or setbacks, problems are a part of our everyday lives. The good news is that our brains excel at reasoning out intricate scenarios and making calculations in situations we’ve never experienced before. That means every one of us is hard-wired to be an adept problem-solver.

The trick is to learn how to take that innate ability and apply it in a deliberate and practiced way.

However, one thing is certain: successfully resolving business and workplace issues is essential.

Not only does effective problem-solving create value that encourages growth, it goes hand-in-hand with impactful decision making.

What are the benefits of problem-solving in business?

Practically speaking, problem-solving provides a golden opportunity to improve your processes, products, and systems – especially when you work through those challenges with others.

Learning to face difficulties calmly, and deal with them intentionally, can also:

  • Ramp up your confidence.
  • Increase your resilience.
  • Help you develop valuable critical thinking skills.

Applying problem-solving skills in the face of an obstacle that seems insurmountable trains you to shift your perspective and look at potential hurdles in a different way.

It also gets you used to examining multiple options for dealing with a problem, which can help you feel more confident in the direction you take.

Solving problems as a team

Business problem solving as a team offers an even wider range of benefits since active collaboration tends to make good things happen at both the individual and group level.

For example:

  • Team-based problem-solving is akin to having a built-in sounding board when you explore new approaches and ideas.
  • As each team member’s critical thinking skills evolve, they bring fresh insights to the collective problem-solving process, bearing out the old adage that many heads are better than one.
  • Solving problems as a team also reduces the feeling of personal risk and exposure that’s common when one person is tasked with solving a puzzle. When that same problem is shared, the sense of risk gets dispersed, and individual team members are less likely to feel singled out.

Not only is there less chance of arriving at an unreasonable or biased solution when you problem-solve as a group, team members assigned to carry that solution out will feel more invested in its success.

Examples of problem solving skills in the workplace

Improving on your problem-solving skills helps you make the most of your brain’s natural capacity to analyze and reason things out.

There are dozens of problem-solving skills that play out in the average workplace – all of which can contribute to your ability to correct oversights, resolve conflict , and work around unexpected obstructions.

Here are a few common examples of problem-solving skills in the workplace, and tips on how to improve them.

1. Data gathering

Figuring out the cause of a problem hinges on collecting relevant data. Consulting efficiently with colleagues, conducting online research, and brainstorming with your team are all valuable data gathering skills.

2. Active listening

As opposed to listening in a purely supportive or empathetic way, active listening involves concentrating fully on what the other person is saying so you can understand the content, respond accordingly, and remember what was said later.

3. Troubleshooting

The ability to analyze and troubleshoot a situation with the help of any data and human input you’ve gathered is essential for drilling down into the core of a problem, and scrutinizing potential solutions.

4. Brainstorming

Brainstorming has become synonymous with creative thinking, innovative idea generation, and problem-solving. The more productive your brainstorming sessions, the more likely you and your group are to put together a list of quality, workable solutions.

It’s interesting to note that effective decision making is both a contributor to, and a by-product of, effective problem-solving.

For example, honing your analytical abilities and other problem-solving skills will inevitably help you make better decisions. The more efficient your decision-making process becomes, meanwhile, the better you’ll get at uncovering and acting on the most promising solution to any dilemma.

A simple problem-solving scenario

It’s clear that we can all benefit from getting more comfortable with problem-solving in the workplace.

Examples of situations where your problem-solving skills will come in handy aren’t difficult to find, and might include:

  • Fixing a technical issue for your customer.
  • Improving your student’s test performance.
  • Reducing the theft of your in-store merchandise.
  • Bumping up your marketing reach.

But, here’s the interesting thing. While it’s evident in each of these situations that there’s a problem to be solved, the exact nature of that problem isn’t so obvious.

In the student’s case, for example, you’d need additional input to help you figure out why they’re performing poorly. Only then would you be able to take steps to find the best-fit solution and achieve the desired learning outcome.

Here’s a simple scenario to help demonstrate that idea:

Bringing new customers onboard in a timely manner is an important part of your client relations strategy. Since hiring Alex a few weeks ago, however, your onboarding process has been taking longer than it should and team members are beginning to complain.

While you can see that the problem in this scenario is the fact that your team isn’t meeting their client onboarding goals, the key is to get clear on exactly what’s causing the hold-up.

You could jump to the conclusion that Alex has time management issues and that it’s time to start looking for a replacement. But, since one of the most common mistakes in business problem-solving is attempting to seize on a solution right away, that might cause you to waste time and resources on a remedy that ultimately proves unnecessary, or that doesn’t provide a viable fix.

Instead, it’s time to put your problem-solving skills to work.

Using data gathering and troubleshooting to pinpoint and clarify the bottleneck in your onboarding process – and active listening to interpret the situation from Alex’s perspective – you soon determine that the real cause of the problem is not what you thought.

In truth, an administrative oversight during the hiring process (yet another problem to be solved!) left Alex unaware of, and without access to, the business process map that’s so vital to efficiently onboarding new customers. Once you provide the necessary resources, it doesn’t take Alex long to get up to speed – and your client onboarding process to revert back to the well-oiled machine that it was.

Even with a team of eager problem-solvers by your side, the truth is that it’s often necessary to have the right problem-solving tools in place to achieve your desired results. That’s where versatile mind mapping software can help.

Not only does MindManager® provide a visual framework that fully supports the problem-solving process, it improves comprehension, inspires more creative solutions, and boosts your ability to make the best possible decisions.

Ready to take the next step?

MindManager helps boost collaboration and productivity among remote and hybrid teams to achieve better results, faster.

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Why choose MindManager?

MindManager® helps individuals, teams, and enterprises bring greater clarity and structure to plans, projects, and processes. It provides visual productivity tools and mind mapping software to help take you and your organization to where you want to be.

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  • Jun 15, 2022

How to Solve Problems at Work: A Step-by-Step Guide

Got 99 problems at work? Here’s how to solve them.

Melina Theodorou

Melina Theodorou

Career and Culture Writer

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

How to solve problems at work

The ability to solve problems effectively is one of the most valuable skills you can have.

Regardless your line of work, you’ve probably been faced with numerous situations, both in your personal and professional life , that required swift action to prevent further escalation of the problem. Whether you have to deal with an ongoing cross-department feud, staff shortages, project delivery delays or dysfunctional equipment, there are always fires that need to be put out at work.

Problem solving is often an intuitive process, but certain problems may require a more tactical and meticulous approach to ensure that they’re resolved successfully. In this article, we’ll walk you through the necessary steps you need to follow to become a better problem-solver at work — and beyond.

Step 1: Define the problem

Before you go into problem-solving mode, you must first establish what the problem is and get a solid understanding of all its components.

Start by answering a few questions, such as:

  • Who is involved?
  • What exactly happened?
  • What caused the situation?
  • Where did this problem occur?
  • Why did it happen?
  • What are the immediate effects of this problem?
  • How is this problem affecting others?
  • How is this problem affecting workflow?

By tackling some of these questions, you’ll be able to understand the full scale of the problem you’re facing, as well as all the aspects you’ll need to consider before you begin working on a solution.

Step 2: Collect feedback

If the problem at hand involves different people, then it's vital to let them offer their insights, too.

Each person may have a different view of what the problem is and what may be causing it. By allowing others to voice their concerns and share their perspective, you can gain a well-rounded understanding of the issue at hand. That said, to be able to come up with an effective solution, you must separate opinion from fact.

You must also take people’s interests into account. How is this problem affecting them? What solution would benefit them? Using tools such as surveys and hosting discussions could be an effective way to receive honest feedback and suggestions.

Step 3: Identify the source of the issue

Beyond defining the problem that you’re faced with, you may also need to identify the root of the problem. This will guide you towards a solution that not only fixes the problem that lies at the surface but also resolve a far deeper issue that could cause more problems to arise in the future.

Using the information you’ve collected, along with the feedback you received, you’ll be able to determine what may be the underlying cause of the problem you’re facing.

For example, you may be working on a collaborative project with colleagues from different departments and teams. However, you’re facing constant delays due to wires getting constantly crossed.

The apparent problem might be a lack of communication and team effort but, in reality, the source of the issue could be that the team didn’t come up with an action plan and set any clear objectives before embarking on the project. Therefore, to come up with a solution, you must first understand where the problem is stemming from.

Step 4: Brainstorm for solutions

Once you’ve determined what the problem is, it’s time to start brainstorming for ways to resolve it. Depending on the nature of the issue, you could brainstorm independently or have others participate in this process.

At this stage, you’ll need to take into consideration all the information, insights and feedback you have received to come up with appropriate solutions that could address the problem without creating new issues in the process.

Allow your imagination to run wild, and consider options from different angles. That said, give yourself a framework to work with; you’ll need to define what the objectives and desired outcomes of these solutions are, as well as any other considerations and limitations that need to be taken into account. You’ll also need to set a deadline, both for this step and the entire process ahead.

Step 5: Utilize problem-solving techniques

When faced with a problem that needs to be resolved quickly and effectively, there are a few techniques you can integrate within the process, including:

The five whys

Use this method to get to the root cause of a problem. Start by defining the problem and then ask why this is occurring. Your answer must be objective and grounded in fact. Then, ask why again in succession to your first answer. Repeat this process three more times, each time framing your “why” around your latest response.

Six thinking hats

This technique allows you to view the outstanding problem from six different perspectives; by the time you have ‘’tried’’ all the hats, you will have a richer insight into the situation. If you’re working on a problem as a team, each person can ‘’wear’’ a different hat.

The blue hat manages the decision-making process , focusing on summarizing all information. The green hat explores creative ideas and solutions. The red hat prioritizes emotions and feelings. The yellow hat focuses on the positive side of each idea. The white hat represents facts and figures. Finally, the black hat uses criticism to cancel out bad ideas.

Failure mode and effects analysis

With this method, you can identify potential failures and problems within your solution strategy. This could require a deeper analysis as well as previous data to support this process. In the end, you’ll be able to take preventative measures before you implement any solutions.

This technique facilitates discussion among bigger groups, helping them approach a problem in a more relaxed and creative setting. To start, create a space modeled after a café, and then let participants discuss and explore ongoing problems.

Step 6: Evaluate the alternatives

Once the brainstorming stage has been completed, you’ll need to evaluate your ideas, considering their merits and fallbacks.

The alternative you choose needs to meet certain criteria. For example, it needs to be aligned to the objectives and goals you established. Furthermore, you must ensure that everyone involved in this process agrees with the choice. More importantly, you should take the feasibility of this solution into account by considering budget constraints, resources, time, and company policies.

Utilizing SWOT analysis will certainly help here. With it, you can identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats attached to each possible solution. Ultimately, this will allow you to select the most appropriate choice.

By measuring these alternatives against these guidelines, you’ll be able to evaluate them individually and determine which one is the wisest choice.

Step 7: Implement the chosen solution

So, you’ve defined the problem, brainstormed a solution, evaluated your options and made your choice on how to address the issue. Now, it’s time to create an implementation strategy and set its wheels in motion.

If you’re working on resolving a problem individually, then you’ll need to determine how to best implement the solution to the problem. Whether it’s a step-by-step action plan, a detailed to-do list or a multitiered scheme, breaking down the process in more digestible sections will help you get started.

Meanwhile, if you’re working as part of a team, tasks will need to be distributed accordingly and allocated to each team member based on their roles. It’s important to check in with others during this stage and ensure that the implementation strategy is going to plan. And in case it isn’t, you’ll need to reconvene accordingly.

Step 8: Monitor progress

Once you have implemented your solution, you’ll need to monitor the progress that is made. This will enable you to identify areas that might need to be adjusted or changed so that you can meet your initial objectives.

If this was a collective effort, then having open channels of communication with the rest of your team will help you gather necessary feedback, too.

Step 9: Document everything

An important step that you should enforce throughout this process is keeping a detailed record of everything. This could include minutes from brainstorming sessions, notes on the initial problem, and plans on the implementation strategy.

By doing so, you’ll be able to preserve everything that was discussed, considered and examined while working towards solving this problem, and it will also help you reevaluate certain decisions and outcomes as you monitor progress.

Key takeaways

When faced with complex situations, you must take the time to create a solution that will address the problem effectively and, hopefully, prevent it from reoccurring.

Use the above steps as a blueprint to guide yourself, and your team, through the problem-solving process. Before you can find a solution, you must first understand the problem in detail and gain insight into why it happened. From there on, you’ll be able to come up with an appropriate strategy that will address the issue at hand.

Got a question or want to share your own tips and thoughts on solving problems at work? Let us know in the comments section below.

Workplace Issues

Problem-Solving Skills

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the work problem solving

Tackling Workplace Challenges: How to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills

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Max 11 min read

Tackling Workplace Challenges: How to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills

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Picture this: you’re in the middle of your workday, and suddenly, a problem arises. Maybe it’s a miscommunication between team members, a tight deadline that’s getting closer, or an unhappy customer you need to appease.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The thing is, facing challenges at work is pretty much inevitable. But what sets successful professionals apart is their knack for tackling these issues head-on with a problem-solving mindset.

You see, being a great problem solver is a game-changer in any work environment. It helps us navigate through obstacles, come up with creative solutions, and turn potential setbacks into opportunities for growth.

In this article, we will dive into some common workplace problems and explore real-life examples of problem-solving scenarios.

We’ll also share practical solutions and strategies that you can use to tackle these challenges, ultimately empowering you to become a more effective problem solver and team player.

Common Workplace Problems Businesses Experience

Common Workplace Problems Businesses Experience

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of problem-solving scenarios, let’s take a quick look at some of the most common workplace problems that almost every professional encounters at some point in their career.

By understanding these challenges, we’ll be better equipped to recognize and address them effectively.

Communication breakdowns

Miscommunications and misunderstandings can happen to the best of us. With team members working together, sometimes remotely or across different time zones, it’s not surprising that communication breakdowns can occur. These issues can lead to confusion, missed deadlines, and even strained relationships within the team if left unaddressed.

Some examples of communication breakdowns include:

  • Unclear instructions
  • Lack of updates on project progress
  • Messages lost in a sea of emails

Fostering open communication channels and utilizing collaboration tools can help teams stay connected and informed.

Conflicting priorities and resource allocation

With limited resources and multiple projects competing for attention, it can be challenging to determine which tasks should take precedence. Juggling conflicting priorities and allocating resources efficiently is a common workplace problem that can result in decreased productivity and increased stress if not managed properly.

For example, two high-priority projects might be scheduled simultaneously, leaving team members stretched thin and struggling to meet deadlines. Developing a clear project prioritization framework and regularly reviewing priorities can help teams stay focused and manage their resources effectively.

Employee performance issues

It’s not unusual for team members to face performance-related challenges occasionally. Employee performance issues can affect team productivity and morale, whether it’s due to a lack of skills, motivation, or other factors. Identifying and addressing these concerns early on is crucial for maintaining a high-performing and engaged team.

For instance, employees may struggle to keep up with their workload due to a skills gap or personal issues. Providing coaching, training, and support can help employees overcome performance challenges and contribute positively to the team’s success.

Customer satisfaction challenges

Meeting customer expectations and delivering exceptional service are goals for most organizations. However, addressing customer satisfaction challenges can be tricky, especially when dealing with diverse customer needs, tight deadlines, or limited resources.

Ensuring a customer-centric approach to problem-solving can help overcome these obstacles and keep your customers happy.

For example, a product might not meet customer expectations, resulting in negative feedback and returns. By actively listening to customer concerns, involving them in the solution process, and implementing improvements, organizations can turn customer dissatisfaction into opportunities for growth and enhanced customer loyalty.

Adapting to change

Change is inevitable in the modern workplace, whether due to new technology, evolving market conditions, or organizational restructuring. Adapting to change can be difficult for some team members, leading to resistance or fear of the unknown.

Embracing a flexible mindset and developing strategies to cope with change is essential for maintaining a productive and resilient work environment.

For instance, a company might introduce new software that requires employees to learn new skills, causing anxiety and frustration. By providing training, resources, and support, leaders can help team members adapt to change more effectively and even become champions of new initiatives.

How to Identify Workplace Problems

How to Identify Workplace Problems

A problem-free workplace doesn’t exist.

Even if you run a well-oiled machine with many happy employees, it’s still a good idea to proactively search for any problems.

The earlier you can get ahead of issues, the easier it will be to put things right and avoid any breakdowns in productivity. Here’s how you can go about that:

Recognizing the Signs of Potential Issues

Before diving into problem-solving strategies, it’s essential first to identify the workplace problems that need attention.

Look out for signs that could indicate potential issues, such as decreased productivity and efficiency, increased employee turnover or dissatisfaction, frequent miscommunications, and conflicts, or declining customer satisfaction and recurring complaints. These red flags might signal underlying problems that require your attention and resolution.

Proactive Problem Identification Strategies

To stay ahead of potential issues, it’s crucial to adopt a proactive approach to problem identification. Open communication channels with your team members and encourage them to share their concerns, ideas, and feedback.

Regular performance reviews and feedback sessions can also help identify areas for improvement or potential problems before they escalate.

Fostering a culture of transparency and trust within the organization makes it easier for employees to voice their concerns without fear of retribution. Additionally, utilizing data-driven analysis and performance metrics can help you spot trends or anomalies that may indicate underlying problems.

Seeking Input from Various Sources

When identifying workplace problems, gathering input from various sources is crucial to ensure you’re getting a comprehensive and accurate picture of the situation. Employee surveys and suggestion boxes can provide valuable insights into potential issues.

At the same time, team meetings and brainstorming sessions can stimulate open discussions and creative problem-solving.

Cross-departmental collaboration is another effective way to identify potential problems, enabling different teams to share their perspectives and experiences. In some cases, it might be helpful to seek external expert consultations or benchmark against industry standards to gain a broader understanding of potential issues and identify best practices for resolving them.

Problem-Solving Scenario Examples and Solutions

Problem-Solving Scenario Examples and Solutions

Let’s dive into some real-life problem-solving scenarios, exploring the challenges and their practical solutions. We’ll discuss communication issues, conflicting priorities, employee performance, customer satisfaction, and managing change.

Remember, every situation is unique; these examples are just a starting point to inspire your problem-solving process.

Scenario 1: Resolving communication issues within a team

  • Identifying the root causes: Let’s say your team has been missing deadlines and experiencing confusion due to poor communication. The first step is identifying the root causes, such as ineffective communication tools, unclear instructions, or a lack of regular updates.
  • Implementing effective communication strategies: Implement strategies to improve communication. For example, consider adopting collaboration tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams to streamline communication, establish clear channels for updates, and create guidelines for concise and transparent instructions.
  • Encouraging a culture of openness and feedback: Cultivate a team culture that values openness and feedback. Encourage team members to voice concerns, ask questions, and share ideas. Regularly hold check-ins and retrospectives to discuss communication challenges and opportunities for improvement.

Scenario 2: Balancing conflicting priorities and resource constraints

  • Evaluating project requirements and resources: In this scenario, you’re juggling two high-priority projects with limited resources. Start by evaluating each project’s requirements, resources, and potential impact on the organization.
  • Prioritization techniques and delegation: Use prioritization techniques like the Eisenhower Matrix or MoSCoW method to rank tasks and allocate resources accordingly. Delegate tasks efficiently by matching team members’ skills and expertise with project requirements.
  • Continuous monitoring and adjustment: Regularly monitor project progress and adjust priorities and resources as needed. Keep stakeholders informed about changes and maintain open lines of communication to ensure alignment and avoid surprises.

Scenario 3: Addressing employee performance concerns

  • Identifying performance gaps: When an employee’s performance is below expectations, identify the specific areas that need improvement. Is it a skills gap, lack of motivation, or external factors like personal issues?
  • Providing constructive feedback and support: Provide clear, constructive feedback to the employee, highlighting areas for improvement and offering support, such as training, coaching, or mentorship.
  • Developing performance improvement plans: Collaborate with the employee to develop a performance improvement plan , outlining specific goals, timelines, and resources. Regularly review progress and adjust the plan as needed.

Scenario 4: Improving customer satisfaction

  • Analyzing customer feedback and pain points: In this scenario, customers are dissatisfied with a product, resulting in negative feedback and returns. Analyze customer feedback to identify common pain points and areas for improvement.
  • Implementing customer-centric solutions: Work with your team to develop and implement solutions that address customer concerns, such as enhancing product features or improving customer support.
  • Monitoring progress and iterating for success: Regularly monitor customer satisfaction levels and gather feedback to assess the effectiveness of your solutions. Iterate and improve as needed to ensure continuous progress toward higher customer satisfaction.

Scenario 5: Managing change and uncertainty

  • Assessing the impact of change on the organization: When faced with change, such as the introduction of new software, assess the potential impact on the organization, including the benefits, challenges, and required resources.
  • Developing a change management plan: Create a comprehensive change management plan that includes communication strategies, training, and support resources to help team members adapt to the change.
  • Fostering resilience and adaptability among team members: Encourage a culture of resilience and adaptability by providing ongoing support, celebrating small wins, and recognizing the efforts of team members who embrace and champion the change.

Scenario 6: Navigating team conflicts

  • Identifying the sources of conflict: When conflicts arise within a team, it’s crucial to identify the underlying issues, such as personality clashes, competing interests, or poor communication.
  • Facilitating open discussions and mediation: Arrange a meeting with the involved parties to discuss the conflict openly and objectively. Consider using a neutral third party to mediate the conversation, ensuring everyone’s perspective is heard and understood.
  • Developing and implementing conflict resolution strategies: Work together to develop strategies for resolving the conflict, such as setting clear expectations, improving communication, or redefining roles and responsibilities. Monitor progress and adjust strategies as needed to ensure long-term resolution.

Scenario 7: Overcoming deadline pressure and time management challenges

  • Assessing project progress and priorities: If a team is struggling to meet deadlines, assess project progress and review priorities. Identify tasks that are behind schedule, and determine if any can be reprioritized or delegated.
  • Implementing time management techniques: Encourage the team to adopt effective time management techniques, such as the Pomodoro Technique or time blocking, to maximize productivity and stay focused on tasks.
  • Adjusting project scope and resources as needed: In some cases, it may be necessary to adjust the project scope or allocate additional resources to ensure successful completion. Communicate any changes to stakeholders and maintain transparency throughout the process.

Scenario 8: Tackling low employee morale and engagement

  • Identifying the causes of low morale: When faced with low employee morale, it’s essential to identify the contributing factors, such as lack of recognition, insufficient growth opportunities, or unrealistic expectations.
  • Implementing targeted initiatives to boost morale: Develop and implement initiatives to address these factors, such as offering regular feedback and recognition, providing professional development opportunities, or reassessing workload and expectations.
  • Monitoring and adjusting efforts to improve engagement: Regularly monitor employee morale and engagement through surveys or informal conversations. Adjust your initiatives to ensure continuous improvement and maintain a positive work environment.

Developing Problem-Solving Skills in the Workplace

Developing Problem-Solving Skills in the Workplace

As we’ve seen, problem-solving is a crucial skill for navigating the myriad challenges that can arise in the workplace. To become effective problem solvers, you must develop hard and soft skills that will allow you to tackle issues head-on and find the best solutions.

Let’s dive into these skills and discuss how to cultivate them in the workplace.

Soft Skills

Soft skills are non-technical, interpersonal abilities that help you interact effectively with others, navigate social situations, and perform well in the workplace. They are often referred to as “people skills” or “emotional intelligence” because they involve understanding and managing emotions and building relationships with colleagues, clients, and stakeholders.

Soft skills are typically learned through life experiences and personal development rather than formal education or training.

Examples of soft skills include:

  • Critical thinking: Critical thinking is the ability to analyze a situation objectively, considering all relevant information before making a decision. To develop this skill, practice asking open-ended questions, challenging assumptions, and considering multiple perspectives when approaching a problem.
  • Effective communication: Strong communication skills are vital for problem-solving, as they enable you to express your ideas clearly and listen actively to others. To improve your communication skills, focus on being concise, empathetic, and open to feedback. Remember that nonverbal communication, such as body language and tone, can be just as important as the words you choose.
  • Collaboration and teamwork: Problem-solving often requires collaboration, as multiple minds can bring diverse perspectives and fresh ideas to the table. Foster a sense of teamwork by being open to others’ input, sharing knowledge, and recognizing the contributions of your colleagues.
  • Emotional intelligence: The ability to recognize and manage your emotions, as well as empathize with others, can significantly impact your problem-solving abilities. To cultivate emotional intelligence, practice self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy when dealing with challenges or conflicts.
  • Adaptability and resilience: In a constantly changing work environment, the ability to adapt and bounce back from setbacks is essential. Develop your adaptability and resilience by embracing change, learning from failure, and maintaining a growth mindset.

Hard Skills

Hard skills, on the other hand, are specific, teachable abilities that can be acquired through formal education, training, or on-the-job experience. These skills are typically technical, industry-specific, or job-related and can be easily quantified and measured.

Hard skills are often necessary for performing specific tasks or operating specialized tools and equipment.

Examples of hard skills include:

  • Project management: Effective problem-solving often involves managing resources, timelines, and tasks. Improve your project management skills by learning popular methodologies (e.g., Agile, Scrum, or Waterfall), setting clear goals, and monitoring progress.
  • Data analysis and interpretation: Many problems require data analysis to identify trends, patterns, or insights that inform decision-making. Strengthen your data analysis skills by familiarizing yourself with relevant tools and software, such as Excel or Tableau, and practicing critical thinking when interpreting results.
  • Technical proficiency: Depending on your industry, various technical skills may be crucial for problem-solving. Stay current with your field’s latest tools, technologies, and best practices by participating in workshops, online courses, or industry events.
  • Decision-making: Strong decision-making skills are vital for problem-solving, as they enable you to evaluate options and choose the best course of action. Develop your decision-making abilities by learning about decision-making models (e.g., SWOT analysis, cost-benefit analysis, or decision trees) and applying them in real-life situations.

Both types of skills—soft and hard—play a crucial role in achieving success in the workplace, as they work together to create a well-rounded and highly effective employee. When combined, these skills enable individuals to excel in their roles and contribute significantly to their organization’s performance and productivity.

Boosting Your Problem-Solving Skills in the Workplace

Boosting Your Problem-Solving Skills in the Workplace

Boosting your problem-solving skills in the workplace is essential for success, personal growth, and increased productivity.

To effectively improve these skills, consider the following strategies:

  • Cultivate a growth mindset by embracing challenges as learning opportunities, being open to feedback, and believing in your ability to develop and improve.
  • Enhance critical thinking and creativity by objectively analyzing information, considering multiple perspectives, and brainstorming innovative solutions.
  • Develop effective communication skills, including active listening and clear articulation of your thoughts, to facilitate collaboration and problem-solving.
  • Foster empathy and emotional intelligence to understand others’ emotions, perspectives, and needs, which can help you devise better solutions.
  • Learn from experienced colleagues, study successful problem-solving strategies, and participate in professional development courses or workshops to gain new insights and techniques.
  • Adopt a systematic approach to problem-solving by defining the problem, gathering and analyzing relevant information, generating and evaluating potential solutions, and implementing the chosen solution while monitoring its effectiveness.
  • Stay organized and manage your time effectively by prioritizing tasks based on urgency and importance and breaking complex problems into smaller, more manageable parts.
  • Embrace change, be resilient and adaptable, and learn from failures and setbacks to stay flexible and open to new ideas.

By dedicating time and effort to improving these aspects of your problem-solving skills, you can become a more effective problem-solver, contributing positively to your workplace and enhancing your career prospects.

Problems in the workplace will continuously develop and evolve over time if left unaddressed. Proactively dealing with these issues is the most effective method to ensure a positive and productive work environment.

By honing your problem-solving skills, embracing a growth mindset, and fostering open communication, you can tackle challenges head-on and prevent minor issues from escalating into significant obstacles.

Remember, staying proactive, adaptable, and continuously refining your problem-solving strategies is crucial for professional success and personal growth in the ever-changing world of work.

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5 Simple Steps to Effective Problem Solving

5 Steps to Problem Solving

The ability to solve problems is a crucial skill in the modern workplace. It can make the difference between success and failure, and it can help you navigate the complexities of a fast-paced environment. But what exactly is effective problem solving? And how can you develop the skills needed to solve problems efficiently and effectively?

Effective problem solving involves several key steps that can help you identify the root cause of a problem, develop a plan of action, and implement that plan to achieve a successful outcome . Here are five simple steps you can take to develop your problem-solving skills and tackle any challenge that comes your way in the workplace.

Introduction

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’re faced with a workplace problem, and you’re not sure where to start? Whether it’s a customer complaint, a team conflict, or a project delay, it’s essential to address it promptly to maintain productivity and morale. In this article, we’ll provide practical steps that can help you effectively solve problems at your workplace.

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Step 1: Define the Problem

The first step in effective problem solving is to define the problem clearly. Take the time to analyze the issue and gather as much information as possible. It’s crucial to identify the cause of the problem and its impact on your team or organization. For example, if a team member is underperforming, it’s essential to understand the root cause of the issue and how it’s affecting the team’s productivity. Is it a lack of training, motivation, or resources? Are there external factors, such as personal issues or workload, that are affecting their performance?

Once you have a clear understanding of the problem, you can begin to develop a plan of action to address it. It’s important to involve all stakeholders in this process, including those who are directly affected by the problem, to ensure that you have a complete picture of the situation. Involving others in the process can also help you gain different perspectives and insights, which can be valuable in developing an effective solution.

Step 2: Brainstorm Possible Solutions

After identifying the problem, the next step is to brainstorm possible solutions. It’s important to be creative and come up with as many solutions as possible, even if they seem unrealistic or impractical. Brainstorming can be done individually or in a group setting, where team members can bounce ideas off each other. In a group setting, it’s important to create an open and safe environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas. Remember to focus on generating ideas, without evaluating or criticizing them during the brainstorming session.

Once you have a list of possible solutions, evaluate each one based on their feasibility, potential impact, and costs. It’s important to consider the pros and cons of each solution before selecting the most appropriate one. Keep in mind that the solution may not be perfect, but it should be the best one available given the resources and constraints. By considering different options, you can increase the chances of finding an effective solution that addresses the problem.

Step 3: Evaluate the Solutions

When evaluating the solutions, it’s important to keep an open mind and consider different perspectives. Seek feedback from other team members or colleagues who may have a different point of view. It’s also important to consider the long-term effects of each solution, rather than just the immediate impact. For instance, while changing the project scope may seem like a quick fix to a delayed project, it could cause further delays or even impact the project’s success in the long run.

During the evaluation process, it’s essential to prioritize solutions based on their impact on the problem and their feasibility. Consider the resources, time, and effort required to implement each solution. Some solutions may be quick fixes that can be implemented immediately, while others may require more planning and preparation. It’s important to choose a solution that addresses the problem effectively while also being feasible to implement within the given resources and timeframe.

It’s also important to remember that not all solutions may work as expected. Be prepared to modify or pivot to a different solution if the initial solution does not yield the desired results. Additionally, ensure that the chosen solution aligns with the company’s policies and values and does not violate any ethical standards.

Step 4: Implement the Solution

Implementing the chosen solution requires careful planning and execution. The team needs to work together to ensure that the solution is implemented smoothly and efficiently. The plan should include a timeline, specific tasks, and deadlines. Assigning roles and responsibilities to each team member is crucial to ensure that everyone understands their role in the implementation process.

Effective communication is also essential during the implementation phase. The team should communicate regularly to discuss progress, identify any obstacles, and adjust the plan if necessary. For example, if the team decides to implement a new customer service strategy, they should train the customer service team, provide them with the necessary tools, and communicate the new strategy to customers.

It’s also important to track the progress of the implementation to ensure that everything is on track. Regular check-ins can help identify any problems early on and provide an opportunity to address them before they become bigger issues.

Step 5: Monitor and Adjust

Monitoring and adjusting the solution is crucial in ensuring that the problem is fully resolved. It’s essential to track the progress of the solution and evaluate its effectiveness. If the solution is not working as planned, it’s important to adjust it accordingly. This step requires flexibility and open communication among team members.

For example, if the team decided to adjust the project timeline, they should monitor the progress regularly and make adjustments if necessary. They should also communicate any changes to the stakeholders involved in the project. If the new timeline is not working, the team should be open to making further adjustments, such as revising the project scope or adding more resources.

Feedback plays a vital role in this step. It’s important to gather feedback from team members and stakeholders to ensure that the solution is meeting their needs. Feedback can also help identify any potential issues that may arise and allow the team to address them promptly.

Learning from mistakes is also an important aspect of effective problem solving. Every problem presents an opportunity to learn and grow. By reflecting on the process and the outcome, team members can identify areas for improvement and apply them in future problem-solving situations.

So, there you have it – a five-step process to solve any workplace problem like a pro! Whether it’s a pesky customer complaint, a tricky team conflict, or a stubborn project delay, you can tackle it with ease.

Remember, the first step is to define the problem – analyze it, gather information, and understand the root cause. Next, brainstorm possible solutions, even if they seem unrealistic or impractical. Get creative and come up with as many solutions as possible!

After that, evaluate the solutions by identifying their pros and cons, and choose the one that’s most feasible and practical. Make sure to consider the potential risks and benefits of each solution. Then, it’s time to implement the most practical solution. Develop a plan, communicate it to everyone involved, and assign roles and responsibilities.

Last but not least, monitor the progress and adjust the solution if necessary. Keep track of the progress and be open to feedback. Remember, learning from your mistakes is the key to success!

So, the next time you face a workplace problem, take a deep breath and follow these simple steps. You’ll be able to find a solution that works for everyone and become a valuable asset to your team or organization. With effective problem solving skills, you can maintain productivity, boost morale, and achieve success!

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What Are Problem-Solving Skills? Definition and Examples

Zoe Kaplan

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Forage puts students first. Our blog articles are written independently by our editorial team. They have not been paid for or sponsored by our partners. See our full  editorial guidelines .

Why do employers hire employees? To help them solve problems. Whether you’re a financial analyst deciding where to invest your firm’s money, or a marketer trying to figure out which channel to direct your efforts, companies hire people to help them find solutions. Problem-solving is an essential and marketable soft skill in the workplace. 

So, how can you improve your problem-solving and show employers you have this valuable skill? In this guide, we’ll cover:

Problem-Solving Skills Definition

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Problem-solving skills are the ability to identify problems, brainstorm and analyze answers, and implement the best solutions. An employee with good problem-solving skills is both a self-starter and a collaborative teammate; they are proactive in understanding the root of a problem and work with others to consider a wide range of solutions before deciding how to move forward. 

Examples of using problem-solving skills in the workplace include:

  • Researching patterns to understand why revenue decreased last quarter
  • Experimenting with a new marketing channel to increase website sign-ups
  • Brainstorming content types to share with potential customers
  • Testing calls to action to see which ones drive the most product sales
  • Implementing a new workflow to automate a team process and increase productivity

Problem-solving skills are the most sought-after soft skill of 2022. In fact, 86% of employers look for problem-solving skills on student resumes, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2022 survey . 

It’s unsurprising why employers are looking for this skill: companies will always need people to help them find solutions to their problems. Someone proactive and successful at problem-solving is valuable to any team.

“Employers are looking for employees who can make decisions independently, especially with the prevalence of remote/hybrid work and the need to communicate asynchronously,” Eric Mochnacz, senior HR consultant at Red Clover, says. “Employers want to see individuals who can make well-informed decisions that mitigate risk, and they can do so without suffering from analysis paralysis.”

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Problem-solving includes three main parts: identifying the problem, analyzing possible solutions, and deciding on the best course of action.

>>MORE: Discover the right career for you based on your skills with a career aptitude test .

Research is the first step of problem-solving because it helps you understand the context of a problem. Researching a problem enables you to learn why the problem is happening. For example, is revenue down because of a new sales tactic? Or because of seasonality? Is there a problem with who the sales team is reaching out to? 

Research broadens your scope to all possible reasons why the problem could be happening. Then once you figure it out, it helps you narrow your scope to start solving it. 

Analysis is the next step of problem-solving. Now that you’ve identified the problem, analytical skills help you look at what potential solutions there might be.

“The goal of analysis isn’t to solve a problem, actually — it’s to better understand it because that’s where the real solution will be found,” Gretchen Skalka, owner of Career Insights Consulting, says. “Looking at a problem through the lens of impartiality is the only way to get a true understanding of it from all angles.”

Decision-Making

Once you’ve figured out where the problem is coming from and what solutions are, it’s time to decide on the best way to go forth. Decision-making skills help you determine what resources are available, what a feasible action plan entails, and what solution is likely to lead to success.

On a Resume

Employers looking for problem-solving skills might include the word “problem-solving” or other synonyms like “ critical thinking ” or “analytical skills” in the job description.

“I would add ‘buzzwords’ you can find from the job descriptions or LinkedIn endorsements section to filter into your resume to comply with the ATS,” Matthew Warzel, CPRW resume writer, advises. Warzel recommends including these skills on your resume but warns to “leave the soft skills as adjectives in the summary section. That is the only place soft skills should be mentioned.”

On the other hand, you can list hard skills separately in a skills section on your resume .

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In a Cover Letter or an Interview

Explaining your problem-solving skills in an interview can seem daunting. You’re required to expand on your process — how you identified a problem, analyzed potential solutions, and made a choice. As long as you can explain your approach, it’s okay if that solution didn’t come from a professional work experience.

“Young professionals shortchange themselves by thinking only paid-for solutions matter to employers,” Skalka says. “People at the genesis of their careers don’t have a wealth of professional experience to pull from, but they do have relevant experience to share.”

Aaron Case, career counselor and CPRW at Resume Genius, agrees and encourages early professionals to share this skill. “If you don’t have any relevant work experience yet, you can still highlight your problem-solving skills in your cover letter,” he says. “Just showcase examples of problems you solved while completing your degree, working at internships, or volunteering. You can even pull examples from completely unrelated part-time jobs, as long as you make it clear how your problem-solving ability transfers to your new line of work.”

Learn How to Identify Problems

Problem-solving doesn’t just require finding solutions to problems that are already there. It’s also about being proactive when something isn’t working as you hoped it would. Practice questioning and getting curious about processes and activities in your everyday life. What could you improve? What would you do if you had more resources for this process? If you had fewer? Challenge yourself to challenge the world around you.

Think Digitally

“Employers in the modern workplace value digital problem-solving skills, like being able to find a technology solution to a traditional issue,” Case says. “For example, when I first started working as a marketing writer, my department didn’t have the budget to hire a professional voice actor for marketing video voiceovers. But I found a perfect solution to the problem with an AI voiceover service that cost a fraction of the price of an actor.”

Being comfortable with new technology — even ones you haven’t used before — is a valuable skill in an increasingly hybrid and remote world. Don’t be afraid to research new and innovative technologies to help automate processes or find a more efficient technological solution.

Collaborate

Problem-solving isn’t done in a silo, and it shouldn’t be. Use your collaboration skills to gather multiple perspectives, help eliminate bias, and listen to alternative solutions. Ask others where they think the problem is coming from and what solutions would help them with your workflow. From there, try to compromise on a solution that can benefit everyone.

If we’ve learned anything from the past few years, it’s that the world of work is constantly changing — which means it’s crucial to know how to adapt . Be comfortable narrowing down a solution, then changing your direction when a colleague provides a new piece of information. Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone, whether with your personal routine or trying a new system at work.

Put Yourself in the Middle of Tough Moments

Just like adapting requires you to challenge your routine and tradition, good problem-solving requires you to put yourself in challenging situations — especially ones where you don’t have relevant experience or expertise to find a solution. Because you won’t know how to tackle the problem, you’ll learn new problem-solving skills and how to navigate new challenges. Ask your manager or a peer if you can help them work on a complicated problem, and be proactive about asking them questions along the way.

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Companies always need people to help them find solutions — especially proactive employees who have practical analytical skills and can collaborate to decide the best way to move forward. Whether or not you have experience solving problems in a professional workplace, illustrate your problem-solving skills by describing your research, analysis, and decision-making process — and make it clear that you’re the solution to the employer’s current problems. 

Looking to learn more workplace professional skills? Check out Two Sigma’s Professional Skills Development Virtual Experience Program .

Image Credit: Christina Morillo / Pexels 

Zoe Kaplan

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How to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills (and Show Them Off in Your Job Hunt)

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Problem-solving skills are critical for any career path—no matter where you work or what job you have, you’ll face problems big and small all the time. If you want to succeed in your career, being able to effectively navigate (and solve!) those problems is a must. And if you’re on the job hunt, showcasing your problem-solving skills can help you land your dream gig.

But what, exactly, are problem-solving skills? What can you do to improve them? And if you’re looking for a new position, how can you show off your problem-solving skills during your job search to help you land an awesome job?

Consider this your guide to all things problem-solving. Let’s get started.

What Are Problem-Solving Skills and Why Are They Important?

“Problem-solving skills are skills that allow you to identify and define a situation that needs changing,” says Doug Noll , an attorney and adjunct faculty member at the Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University’s Caruso School of Law, where he teaches graduate-level classes in decision-making and problem-solving. Once you identify what needs changing, problem-solving skills also enable you to “identify the best outcomes, define potential processes for achieving the best outcomes, and evaluate how the process achieved (or failed to achieve) the desired outcome,” he says. “Every job imaginable involves problem-solving.”

Being able to effectively solve problems can help you succeed and impress, regardless of what kind of job you have or career you plan to pursue. “A person who sorts out problems and makes decisions—or at least brings potential solutions to the table—is seen as someone who can get things done,” says organizational consultant Irial O’Farrell , author of the upcoming book The Manager’s Dilemma: How to Empower Your Team’s Problem Solving . “This makes managers’ lives easier—and managers notice people who make their lives easier, who get things done, and who don’t have to be told [what to do] the whole time. In turn, opportunities are put their way, enhancing their career.”

And the further you progress in your career, the more important those skills become, Noll says. “As you rise in an organization, the problems become more complex, ambiguous, uncertain, and risky. Only people able to solve these types of problems are promoted.” So as you hone your problem-solving skills, you become more valuable to any organization—and will be able to climb the ladder more easily as a result.

The 6 Steps of Problem-Solving—and the Skills You Need for Each One

Problem-solving is a process. And, like any process, there are certain steps you need to take in order to get to the finish line:

Step #1: Identify and Assess the Problem

You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know what the problem is. So “the first step is to recognize that an issue—or potential issue—exists,” O’Farrell says. In order to do that, you’ll need “a certain amount of knowledge or awareness of what should be happening as compared to what is actually happening.”

Once you recognize there’s a problem, you’ll need to evaluate its potential impact. “Is this going to affect three people or 203 people? Is this going to cost us $10 or $100,000? How material is this issue?” O’Farrell says. “Being able to evaluate the size, impact, and costs [of a problem] is a key skill here.”

When you understand the scope of the problem, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re dealing with—and will be able to come up with appropriate, relevant solutions as a result.

Skills needed during this step of the problem-solving process include:

  • Attention to detail
  • Data collection
  • Forecasting

Step #2: Get to the Source of the Problem

Once you know what the problem is (and what its potential impact might be), it’s time to figure out where the problem is coming from or why it’s happening—as identifying the source of the problem will give you key insights into how to fix it.

“Often we notice a problem because of its symptoms, rather than its root cause. As a result, it is common to focus on resolving the symptoms, rather than what is causing the symptoms,” O’Farrell says. But “by understanding the root causes, a better, longer-term solution can be identified.”

There are a variety of techniques to help you dig deeper and understand what’s causing the problem at hand. For example, a 5 Whys analysis could help you uncover the root cause of a problem by having you ask “Why?” five times in a row, with each “Why?” building off the previous answer. Or you might try the fishbone diagram —also known as a cause-and-effect analysis—which encourages looking at the different categories that could be causing a problem and brainstorming potential root causes within each of those categories.

During this stage of the problem-solving process, curiosity is key; you’ll need it to explore all the different factors that could be contributing to the problem.

  • Analysis (including root-cause analysis)
  • Brainstorming
  • Critical thinking

Step #3: Brainstorm Potential Solutions

Once you’ve identified the problem (and the root of the problem), “the next step is to brainstorm potential options that will resolve it,” O’Farrell says.

How much brainstorming you’ll need to do will depend on the problem you’re dealing with. “If it’s a fairly small, straightforward issue, then identifying a few options might be sufficient,” O’Farrell says. Especially for a bigger issue, “Taking some time to think beyond the obvious might lead to a better and longer-term solution.”

The size and scope of the problem will also determine who needs to be involved in this step. In some cases, you may be able to brainstorm solutions yourself. But if you’re dealing with a larger, more complex issue, getting more people involved (and choosing the right people, i.e. those best equipped to handle the problem) is important. You’ll need to be able to judge what kind of problem it is and who to bring in to help and lead a productive brainstorming session.

One of the most important skills you’ll draw on at this stage is creativity. The more creative you are during your brainstorm, the more (and better) potential solutions you’ll be able to come up with—and the more likely one of those solutions will be the solution you’re looking for.

Skills you might need during this step of the problem-solving process include:

  • Communication
  • Meeting facilitation

Step #4: Evaluate Solutions

Once you have a list of potential solutions from your brainstorming session, the next step is to examine each one carefully and narrow down your list so only the best solutions remain.

In order to succeed during this stage of the problem-solving process, you’ll need to be able to dig into each potential solution and evaluate how viable it is. You may make a pros and cons list for each potential solution, talk through the benefits and drawbacks with your team, and then narrow down your options to the solutions that have the most potential upsides.

All the work you put into the problem-solving process up to this point will also come in handy as you’re evaluating which of your potential solutions might ultimately be the most effective. “Having a strong understanding of what the issue is, why it’s an issue, and what is causing it helps in being able to determine if each of the solutions will sort the issue out,” O’Farrell says.

  • Fact-checking
  • Prioritization

Step #5: Choose the Best Solution

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potential solutions—and weighed the pros and cons of each—it’s time for you (or your supervisor or another decision-maker) to choose one.

“Depending on the type and impact of the issue and your role and authority, you may be the one making the decision or you may be presenting the issue and potential solutions to your boss,” O’Farrell says.

Knowing who should make the call is a key part of this step; if the problem is complex or will have a major impact on your organization that goes beyond your level of responsibility, it’s probably best to bring potential solutions to your boss and/or other stakeholders—and give them the final say.

  • Decision-making
  • Public speaking

Step #6: Implement the Decision and Reflect on the Outcome

Choosing a solution in and of itself doesn’t fix anything. You need to actually implement that solution—and do it well. That means developing a plan and coordinating with other key players in your organization to put that plan into action—which requires a host of skills (such as communication, collaboration, and project management).

Before you can hang up your problem-solving hat, you’ll also need to “go back and evaluate if the solution sorted out the issue” or if it caused any unintended consequences, O’Farrell says.

For example, let’s say your organization has a problem with taking too long to address customer service requests—and you rolled out a new ticket management system in order to deal with the issue. Once you implement that new system, you’ll want to follow up to make sure it’s allowing your customer service reps to deal with requests faster and hasn’t caused any new, different, or unexpected issues (for example, tickets getting lost in the queue or customers being less satisfied with the quality of support they received).

  • Adaptability
  • Collaboration
  • Data analysis
  • Goal setting
  • Organization
  • Project management
  • Project planning
  • Time management

How to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills

Clearly, solving problems is a complex process—and it’s a process you need to nail if you want to grow in your career. But how can you improve your problem-solving skills so they can help you thrive in your career?

  • Put on your student hat. One of the best ways to improve here is to study how to effectively solve problems. “Read case studies of complex problems,” Noll says. (For example, if you want to land a marketing job, you might search for case studies on how other companies were able to increase their qualified leads or drive more traffic to their website.) Noll also suggests reading books about different problem-solving techniques—or, if you really want to level up your skills, investing in a general course in critical thinking and problem-solving. “A good course should teach you how to think,” he says—and critical thinking plays a huge role in problem-solving.
  • Try different brainstorming techniques. If you want to be a better problem solver, try pushing yourself to think outside of the box. “Learning some brainstorming techniques and expanding your thinking beyond the obvious solutions is also a way to make your problem-solving skills stand out,” O’Farrell says. Brainstorming techniques like brainwriting (a nonverbal brainstorming technique for teams) or rapid ideation (which pushes you to come up with as many ideas as possible in a short time frame) can help spark creative thinking—and help you become a more creative problem solver in the process.
  • Ask expert problem-solvers how they solve problems. People in your professional (or personal!) life who excel at solving problems can be a great resource for leveling up your own problem-solving skills. “Talk to senior mentors about how they approached complex problems,” Noll says. “Get them to talk about their failures and mistakes,” he says, not just their successes. Seeing how other people solve problems and what they’ve learned from their experiences can help you approach problems in a different way and can make you a more versatile problem solver.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Like with anything else, if you want to improve your problem-solving skills, you need to practice solving problems. “Most people jump to the easy, intuitive answer rather than [carefully thinking] through the problem,” O’Farrell says. So next time you’re confronted with a problem, rather than jump to a hasty solution, take your time to go through the entire problem-solving process. And if you don’t have any real problems to deal with? Attempting to solve hypothetical problems can be just as helpful.

How to Show Off Your Problem-Solving Skills During the Job Search

Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for people with problem-solving skills who can help them, their team, and their company achieve their goals even in the face of obstacles and setbacks. So if you want to stand out, nail the interview, and score the job, you’ll need to showcase your problem-solving skills throughout your job search.

Here are a few ways to show off your problem-solving skills:

On a Resume

You can show potential employers that you’re a problem solver right on your resume. As you write your bullets for each past job and other experiences, “Incorporate one main challenge that you had to overcome, and give a brief synopsis of how you approached it, what the solution was and, most importantly, what the positive outcome was,” O’Farrell says.

For example, let’s say you’re a marketing manager and you had to figure out a way to launch a new product with a minimal budget. Under your current role, you might include a bullet point that says:

  • Launched new sunscreen line across digital and traditional channels with <$10,000 budget by exploring up-and-coming distribution channels and negotiating wide-scale distribution agreements, bringing in $60,000 in new product sales within 90 days of launch

O’Farrell also recommends using action verbs (like “ analyze,” “evaluate,” or “identify”) to call out your problem-solving skills on a resume.

In a Cover Letter

In your cover letter, you’ll have more room and flexibility to showcase your problem-solving skills—and you should definitely take advantage of the opportunity.

Noll suggests using your cover letter to tell a quick story (think two to three sentences) about when and how you’ve solved a relevant problem. In your story, you want to include:

  • What the problem was
  • How you approached it/came to a solution
  • What the outcomes of your problem-solving were
  • What lessons you learned

Another strategy is to highlight how you would use your problem-solving skills within the context of the role you’re applying for. “I’d recommend reviewing the job description and identifying what types of problems you might have to deal with in the role,” O’Farrell says. Then you can speak directly to how you might approach them.

For example, let’s say you’re applying for an executive assistant position that requires extensive scheduling and calendar management for an exec who is often traveling for business. In that situation, you might explain how you’d solve the problem of scheduling while the exec is out of office (for example, by developing an appointment approval system that allows the exec to approve all appointment requests remotely, with a plan for how to notify the exec of appointment requests that need immediate attention).

During Interviews

The interview process offers the best opportunity for your problem-solving skills to shine, so you’ll want to come prepared.

“In preparation for the interview, select two to three situations where you used your problem-solving skills,” O’Farrell says. That way, when the interviewer asks you for examples of problems you’ve faced in your career—and how you solved them—you’ll have relevant stories ready. If you’re not sure how to tell your story effectively, the STAR method (which breaks down your story into four parts: S ituation, T ask, A ction, and R esult) can be helpful.

As a potential candidate, it’s also important to ask how you’ll need to use your skills on the job, Noll says. So you might ask the interviewers to share some of the issues or problems they’re hoping to solve by filling this position.

And if they turn around and ask you how you’d solve those problems? Don’t panic! If you have a story of a similar problem you’ve solved in the past, this is a great opportunity to share it. Otherwise, just talk through how you would approach it. Remember, the interviewers don’t expect you to come up with detailed solutions for problems their company is facing on the spot; they just want to get a sense of how you would begin to think about those problems if you were hired.

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Brain Power

5 steps (and 4 techniques) for effective problem solving.

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Problem solving is the process of reviewing every element of an issue so you can get to a solution or fix it. Problem solving steps cover multiple aspects of a problem that you can bring together to find a solution. Whether that’s in a group collaboratively or independently, the process remains the same, but the approach and the steps can differ.

To find a problem solving approach that works for you, your team, or your company, you have to take into consideration the environment you’re in and the personalities around you.

Knowing the characters in the room will help you decide on the best approach to try and ultimately get to the best solution.

Table of Contents

5 problem solving steps, 4 techniques to encourage problem solving, the bottom line.

No matter what the problem is, to solve it, you nearly always have to follow these problem solving steps. Missing any of these steps can cause the problem to either resurface or the solution to not be implemented correctly.

Once you know these steps, you can then get creative with the approach you take to find the solutions you need.

1. Define the Problem

You must define and understand the problem before you start, whether you’re solving it independently or as a group. If you don’t have a single view of what the problem is, you could be fixing something that doesn’t need fixing, or you’ll fix the wrong problem.

Spend time elaborating on the problem, write it down, and discuss everything, so you’re clear on why the problem is occurring and who it is impacting.

Once you have clarity on the problem, you then need to start thinking about every possible solution . This is where you go big and broad, as you want to come up with as many alternative solutions as possible. Don’t just take the first idea; build out as many as you can through active listening, as the more you create, the more likely you’ll find a solution that has the best impact on the team.

3. Decide on a Solution

Whichever solution you pick individually or as a team, make sure you think about the impact on others if you implement this solution. Ask questions like:

  • How will they react to this change?
  • Will they need to change anything?
  • Who do we need to inform of this change?

4. Implement the Solution

At this stage of problem solving, be prepared for feedback, and plan for this. When you roll out the solution, request feedback on the success of the change made.

5. Review, Iterate, and Improve

Making a change shouldn’t be a one time action. Spend time reviewing the results of the change to make sure it’s made the required impact and met the desired outcomes.

Make changes where needed so you can further improve the solution implemented.

Each individual or team is going to have different needs and may need a different technique to encourage each of the problem solving steps. Try one of these to stimulate the process.

1-2-4 All Approach + Voting

The 1-2-4-All is a good problem solving approach that can work no matter how large the group is. Everyone is involved, and you can generate a vast amount of ideas quickly.

Ideas and solutions are discussed and organized rapidly, and what is great about this approach is the attendees own their ideas, so when it comes to implementing the solutions, you don’t have more work to gain buy-in.

As a facilitator, you first need to present the group with a question explaining the problem or situation. For example, “What actions or ideas would you recommend to solve the company’s lack of quiet working areas?”

With the question clear for all to see, the group then spends 5 minutes to reflect on the question individually. They can jot down their thoughts and ideas on Post-Its.

Now ask the participants to find one or two other people to discuss their ideas and thoughts with. Ask the group to move around to find a partner so they can mix with new people.

Ask the pairs to spend 5 minutes discussing their shared ideas and thoughts.

Next, put the group into groups of two or three pairs to make groups of 4-6. Each group shouldn’t be larger than six as the chances of everyone being able to speak reduces.

Ask the group to discuss one interesting idea they’ve heard in previous rounds, and each group member shares one each.

The group then needs to pick their preferred solution to the problem. This doesn’t have to be voted on, just one that resonated most with the group.

Then ask for three actions that could be taken to implement this change.

Bring everyone back together as a group and ask open questions like “What is the one thing you discussed that stood out for you?” or “Is there something you now see differently following these discussions?”

By the end of the session, you’ll have multiple approaches to solve the problem, and the whole group will have contributed to the future solutions and improvements.

The Lightning Decision Jam

The Lightning Decision Jam is a great way to solve problems collaboratively and agree on one solution or experiment you want to try straight away. It encourages team decision making, but at the same time, the individual can get their ideas and feedback across. [1]

If, as a team, you have a particular area you want to improve upon, like the office environment, for example, this approach is perfect to incorporate in the problem solving steps.

The approach follows a simple loop.

Make a Note – Stick It on The Wall – Vote – Prioritize

Using sticky notes, the technique identifies major problems, encourages solutions, and opens the group up for discussion. It allows each team member to play an active role in identifying both problems and ways to solve them.

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a fantastic visual thinking tool that allows you to bring problems to life by building out the connections and visualizing the relationships that make up the problem.

You can use a mind map to quickly expand upon the problem and give yourself the full picture of the causes of the problem, as well as solutions [2] .

Problem Solving with Mind Maps (Tutorial) - Focus

The goal of a mind map is to simplify the problem and link the causes and solutions to the problem.

To create a mind map, you must first create the central topic (level 1). In this case, that’s the problem.

Next, create the linked topics (level 2) that you place around and connect to the main central topic with a simple line.

If the central topic is “The client is always changing their mind at the last minute,” then you could have linked topics like:

  • How often does this happen?
  • Why are they doing this?
  • What are they asking for?
  • How do they ask for it?
  • What impact does this have?

Adding these linking topics allows you to start building out the main causes of the problem as you can begin to see the full picture of what you need to fix. Once you’re happy that you’ve covered the breadth of the problem and its issues, you can start to ideate on how you’re going to fix it with the problem solving steps.

Now, start adding subtopics (level 3) linking to each of the level 2 topics. This is where you can start to go big on solutions and ideas to help fix the problem.

For each of the linked topics (level 2), start to think about how you can prevent them, mitigate them, or improve them. As this is just ideas on paper, write down anything that comes to mind, even if you think the client will never agree to it!

The more you write down, the more ideas you’ll have until you find one or two that could solve the main problem.

Once you run out of ideas, take a step back and highlight your favorite solutions to take forward and implement.

The 5 Why’s

The five why’s can sound a little controversial, and you shouldn’t try this without prepping the team beforehand.

Asking “why” is a great way to go deep into the root of the problem to make the individual or team really think about the cause. When a problem arises, we often have preconceived ideas about why this problem has occurred, which is usually based on our experiences or beliefs.

Start with describing the problem, and then the facilitator can ask “Why?” fives time or more until you get to the root of the problem. It’s tough at first to keep being asked why, but it’s also satisfying when you get to the root of the problem [3] .

The 5 Whys

As a facilitator, although the basic approach is to ask why, you need to be careful not to guide the participant down a single route.

To help with this, you can use a mind map with the problem at the center. Then ask a why question that will result in multiple secondary topics around the central problem. Having this visual representation of the problem helps you build out more useful why questions around it.

Once you get to the root of the problem, don’t forget to be clear in the actions to put a fix in place to resolve it.

Learn more about how to use the five why’s here .

To fix a problem, you must first be in a position where you fully understand it. There are many ways to misinterpret a problem, and the best way to understand them is through conversation with the team or individuals who are experiencing it.

Once you’re aligned, you can then begin to work on the solutions that will have the greatest impact through effective problem solving steps.

For the more significant or difficult problems to solve, it’s often advisable to break the solution up into smaller actions or improvements.

Trial these improvements in short iterations, and then continue the conversations to review and improve the solution. Implementing all of these steps will help you root out the problems and find useful solutions each time.

[1]^UX Planet:
[2]^Focus:
[3]^Expert Program Management:

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Career Sidekick

26 Expert-Backed Problem Solving Examples – Interview Answers

Published: February 13, 2023

Interview Questions and Answers

Actionable advice from real experts:

picture of Biron Clark

Biron Clark

Former Recruiter

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Contributor

Dr. Kyle Elliott

Career Coach

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Hayley Jukes

Editor-in-Chief

Biron Clark

Biron Clark , Former Recruiter

Kyle Elliott , Career Coach

Image of Hayley Jukes

Hayley Jukes , Editor

As a recruiter , I know employers like to hire people who can solve problems and work well under pressure.

 A job rarely goes 100% according to plan, so hiring managers are more likely to hire you if you seem like you can handle unexpected challenges while staying calm and logical.

But how do they measure this?

Hiring managers will ask you interview questions about your problem-solving skills, and they might also look for examples of problem-solving on your resume and cover letter. 

In this article, I’m going to share a list of problem-solving examples and sample interview answers to questions like, “Give an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem?” and “Describe a time when you had to solve a problem without managerial input. How did you handle it, and what was the result?”

  • Problem-solving involves identifying, prioritizing, analyzing, and solving problems using a variety of skills like critical thinking, creativity, decision making, and communication.
  • Describe the Situation, Task, Action, and Result ( STAR method ) when discussing your problem-solving experiences.
  • Tailor your interview answer with the specific skills and qualifications outlined in the job description.
  • Provide numerical data or metrics to demonstrate the tangible impact of your problem-solving efforts.

What are Problem Solving Skills? 

Problem-solving is the ability to identify a problem, prioritize based on gravity and urgency, analyze the root cause, gather relevant information, develop and evaluate viable solutions, decide on the most effective and logical solution, and plan and execute implementation. 

Problem-solving encompasses other skills that can be showcased in an interview response and your resume. Problem-solving skills examples include:

  • Critical thinking
  • Analytical skills
  • Decision making
  • Research skills
  • Technical skills
  • Communication skills
  • Adaptability and flexibility

Why is Problem Solving Important in the Workplace?

Problem-solving is essential in the workplace because it directly impacts productivity and efficiency. Whenever you encounter a problem, tackling it head-on prevents minor issues from escalating into bigger ones that could disrupt the entire workflow. 

Beyond maintaining smooth operations, your ability to solve problems fosters innovation. It encourages you to think creatively, finding better ways to achieve goals, which keeps the business competitive and pushes the boundaries of what you can achieve. 

Effective problem-solving also contributes to a healthier work environment; it reduces stress by providing clear strategies for overcoming obstacles and builds confidence within teams. 

Examples of Problem-Solving in the Workplace

  • Correcting a mistake at work, whether it was made by you or someone else
  • Overcoming a delay at work through problem solving and communication
  • Resolving an issue with a difficult or upset customer
  • Overcoming issues related to a limited budget, and still delivering good work through the use of creative problem solving
  • Overcoming a scheduling/staffing shortage in the department to still deliver excellent work
  • Troubleshooting and resolving technical issues
  • Handling and resolving a conflict with a coworker
  • Solving any problems related to money, customer billing, accounting and bookkeeping, etc.
  • Taking initiative when another team member overlooked or missed something important
  • Taking initiative to meet with your superior to discuss a problem before it became potentially worse
  • Solving a safety issue at work or reporting the issue to those who could solve it
  • Using problem solving abilities to reduce/eliminate a company expense
  • Finding a way to make the company more profitable through new service or product offerings, new pricing ideas, promotion and sale ideas, etc.
  • Changing how a process, team, or task is organized to make it more efficient
  • Using creative thinking to come up with a solution that the company hasn’t used before
  • Performing research to collect data and information to find a new solution to a problem
  • Boosting a company or team’s performance by improving some aspect of communication among employees
  • Finding a new piece of data that can guide a company’s decisions or strategy better in a certain area

Problem-Solving Examples for Recent Grads/Entry-Level Job Seekers

  • Coordinating work between team members in a class project
  • Reassigning a missing team member’s work to other group members in a class project
  • Adjusting your workflow on a project to accommodate a tight deadline
  • Speaking to your professor to get help when you were struggling or unsure about a project
  • Asking classmates, peers, or professors for help in an area of struggle
  • Talking to your academic advisor to brainstorm solutions to a problem you were facing
  • Researching solutions to an academic problem online, via Google or other methods
  • Using problem solving and creative thinking to obtain an internship or other work opportunity during school after struggling at first

How To Answer “Tell Us About a Problem You Solved”

When you answer interview questions about problem-solving scenarios, or if you decide to demonstrate your problem-solving skills in a cover letter (which is a good idea any time the job description mentions problem-solving as a necessary skill), I recommend using the STAR method.

STAR stands for:

It’s a simple way of walking the listener or reader through the story in a way that will make sense to them. 

Start by briefly describing the general situation and the task at hand. After this, describe the course of action you chose and why. Ideally, show that you evaluated all the information you could given the time you had, and made a decision based on logic and fact. Finally, describe the positive result you achieved.

Note: Our sample answers below are structured following the STAR formula. Be sure to check them out!

EXPERT ADVICE

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Dr. Kyle Elliott , MPA, CHES Tech & Interview Career Coach caffeinatedkyle.com

How can I communicate complex problem-solving experiences clearly and succinctly?

Before answering any interview question, it’s important to understand why the interviewer is asking the question in the first place.

When it comes to questions about your complex problem-solving experiences, for example, the interviewer likely wants to know about your leadership acumen, collaboration abilities, and communication skills, not the problem itself.

Therefore, your answer should be focused on highlighting how you excelled in each of these areas, not diving into the weeds of the problem itself, which is a common mistake less-experienced interviewees often make.

Tailoring Your Answer Based on the Skills Mentioned in the Job Description

As a recruiter, one of the top tips I can give you when responding to the prompt “Tell us about a problem you solved,” is to tailor your answer to the specific skills and qualifications outlined in the job description. 

Once you’ve pinpointed the skills and key competencies the employer is seeking, craft your response to highlight experiences where you successfully utilized or developed those particular abilities. 

For instance, if the job requires strong leadership skills, focus on a problem-solving scenario where you took charge and effectively guided a team toward resolution. 

By aligning your answer with the desired skills outlined in the job description, you demonstrate your suitability for the role and show the employer that you understand their needs.

Amanda Augustine expands on this by saying:

“Showcase the specific skills you used to solve the problem. Did it require critical thinking, analytical abilities, or strong collaboration? Highlight the relevant skills the employer is seeking.”  

Interview Answers to “Tell Me About a Time You Solved a Problem”

Now, let’s look at some sample interview answers to, “Give me an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem,” or “Tell me about a time you solved a problem,” since you’re likely to hear different versions of this interview question in all sorts of industries.

The example interview responses are structured using the STAR method and are categorized into the top 5 key problem-solving skills recruiters look for in a candidate.

1. Analytical Thinking

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Situation: In my previous role as a data analyst , our team encountered a significant drop in website traffic.

Task: I was tasked with identifying the root cause of the decrease.

Action: I conducted a thorough analysis of website metrics, including traffic sources, user demographics, and page performance. Through my analysis, I discovered a technical issue with our website’s loading speed, causing users to bounce. 

Result: By optimizing server response time, compressing images, and minimizing redirects, we saw a 20% increase in traffic within two weeks.

2. Critical Thinking

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Situation: During a project deadline crunch, our team encountered a major technical issue that threatened to derail our progress.

Task: My task was to assess the situation and devise a solution quickly.

Action: I immediately convened a meeting with the team to brainstorm potential solutions. Instead of panicking, I encouraged everyone to think outside the box and consider unconventional approaches. We analyzed the problem from different angles and weighed the pros and cons of each solution.

Result: By devising a workaround solution, we were able to meet the project deadline, avoiding potential delays that could have cost the company $100,000 in penalties for missing contractual obligations.

3. Decision Making

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Situation: As a project manager , I was faced with a dilemma when two key team members had conflicting opinions on the project direction.

Task: My task was to make a decisive choice that would align with the project goals and maintain team cohesion.

Action: I scheduled a meeting with both team members to understand their perspectives in detail. I listened actively, asked probing questions, and encouraged open dialogue. After carefully weighing the pros and cons of each approach, I made a decision that incorporated elements from both viewpoints.

Result: The decision I made not only resolved the immediate conflict but also led to a stronger sense of collaboration within the team. By valuing input from all team members and making a well-informed decision, we were able to achieve our project objectives efficiently.

4. Communication (Teamwork)

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Situation: During a cross-functional project, miscommunication between departments was causing delays and misunderstandings.

Task: My task was to improve communication channels and foster better teamwork among team members.

Action: I initiated regular cross-departmental meetings to ensure that everyone was on the same page regarding project goals and timelines. I also implemented a centralized communication platform where team members could share updates, ask questions, and collaborate more effectively.

Result: Streamlining workflows and improving communication channels led to a 30% reduction in project completion time, saving the company $25,000 in operational costs.

5. Persistence 

Situation: During a challenging sales quarter, I encountered numerous rejections and setbacks while trying to close a major client deal.

Task: My task was to persistently pursue the client and overcome obstacles to secure the deal.

Action: I maintained regular communication with the client, addressing their concerns and demonstrating the value proposition of our product. Despite facing multiple rejections, I remained persistent and resilient, adjusting my approach based on feedback and market dynamics.

Result: After months of perseverance, I successfully closed the deal with the client. By closing the major client deal, I exceeded quarterly sales targets by 25%, resulting in a revenue increase of $250,000 for the company.

Tips to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills

Throughout your career, being able to showcase and effectively communicate your problem-solving skills gives you more leverage in achieving better jobs and earning more money .

So to improve your problem-solving skills, I recommend always analyzing a problem and situation before acting.

 When discussing problem-solving with employers, you never want to sound like you rush or make impulsive decisions. They want to see fact-based or data-based decisions when you solve problems.

Don’t just say you’re good at solving problems. Show it with specifics. How much did you boost efficiency? Did you save the company money? Adding numbers can really make your achievements stand out.

To get better at solving problems, analyze the outcomes of past solutions you came up with. You can recognize what works and what doesn’t.

Think about how you can improve researching and analyzing a situation, how you can get better at communicating, and deciding on the right people in the organization to talk to and “pull in” to help you if needed, etc.

Finally, practice staying calm even in stressful situations. Take a few minutes to walk outside if needed. Step away from your phone and computer to clear your head. A work problem is rarely so urgent that you cannot take five minutes to think (with the possible exception of safety problems), and you’ll get better outcomes if you solve problems by acting logically instead of rushing to react in a panic.

You can use all of the ideas above to describe your problem-solving skills when asked interview questions about the topic. If you say that you do the things above, employers will be impressed when they assess your problem-solving ability.

More Interview Resources

  • 3 Answers to “How Do You Handle Stress?”
  • How to Answer “How Do You Handle Conflict?” (Interview Question)
  • Sample Answers to “Tell Me About a Time You Failed”

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About the Author

Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions. Follow on Twitter and LinkedIn .

Read more articles by Biron Clark

About the Contributor

Kyle Elliott , career coach and mental health advocate, transforms his side hustle into a notable practice, aiding Silicon Valley professionals in maximizing potential. Follow Kyle on LinkedIn .

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About the Editor

Hayley Jukes is the Editor-in-Chief at CareerSidekick with five years of experience creating engaging articles, books, and transcripts for diverse platforms and audiences.

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POWERING WORKPLACE PERFORMANCE

20 december, 2022, why problem solving skills matter in the workplace.

the work problem solving

Whether you’re an artist, a software developer or a CEO of a multinational conglomerate, problem solving skills are a critical asset in any professional setting.

Closely linked to other cognitive competencies including self-management and critical thinking, problem solving is a key workplace skill that empowers employees to manage change, communicate effectively and bring a fresh perspective to old problems. But to harness the benefits of logical and adaptive thinking in the workplace, organisations must take concerted action to foster problem solving skills in their employees.

What do problem solving skills in the workplace look like?

Workplace problem solving has several prominent distinctions when compared to problem solving in other contexts. This includes the formal and goal-oriented structure of the problem, as well as the critical role of teamwork in reaching a solution. An individual who shows competence in problem solving outside the workplace may not necessarily thrive when confronting a workplace issue.

A lack of problem solving skills in the workplace can be detrimental to businesses. Problem solving skills enable employees to evaluate and effectively resolve daily challenges.  Every job role within a business will face challenges and unexpected situations. Problem solving skills provide employees with the ability to recognise and analyse problems, identify and evaluate a range of potential solutions and then decide on and implement the most effective solution.

A workforce equipped with problem solving skills will be adaptive and ready to face the challenges of the constantly evolving modern workplace. Its employees will demonstrate an ability to:

  • Listen actively
  • Think analytically and creatively
  • Come up with innovative solutions
  • Communicate effectively
  • Make decisions confidently based on evidence
  • Work together as a team

The importance of problem solving skills in the workplace

Problem solving is a vital skill in the workplace. The ability to think logically and creatively empowers individuals to tackle challenges and seize opportunities in all levels of business. This in turn helps to achieve the following benefits of problem solving skills in the workplace:

Time and resources are used efficiently

All businesses have limited time and resources. This means that when a problem arises, it must be resolved as quickly as possible leveraging available resources. One of the major benefits of problem solving skills in the workplace is that employees can utilise their innovative thinking to prioritise tasks and focus on pressing challenges facing the business. This will result in them providing effective solutions that utilise available resources within the time frame available.

Improved problem solving skills also lead to improved time management as employees learn to make quick and effective decisions. Problem solving skills become even more critical where employees are expected to  provide solutions to complex or urgent problems.

The business can better respond to changing client needs

One of the primary purposes of a business is to deliver reliable and excellent service to their clients. Satisfied clients buy more goods or services, create positive advertising by word-of-mouth and generate referrals. But businesses operate in a changing world, which leads to changing client needs that must be anticipated as early as possible.

Employees must be able to take the initiative to respond to those changing needs. A workforce equipped with problem solving skills can quickly reposition itself to better meet shifts in client needs and developments in the environment in which those clients operate.

The business stays ahead of the curve

To stay ahead of the curve, a business must be proactive across all levels. Change in the modern workplace is constant and businesses must come up with fast solutions to problems and be prepared to take advantage of new opportunities as they arise.  Employees must be confident to continually challenge the norm and swiftly adapt to changes in the business and the market.

A team that can confidently solve problems will see problems as an opportunity to initiate change and growth, which will help to keep the business ahead of competitors.

The business can anticipate risk

Employees equipped with problem solving skills can handle difficult situations that arise in the workplace. They can expertly deal with challenges that create risk for the business.

A successful business must be able to assess the probability of something going wrong and be able to anticipate the negative consequences if it does. Problem solving skills assist employees to foresee the likely sources of risk to the business and to make considered decisions as to the best way to manage those risks. These skills also play a key role in refining an organisation’s internal talent pipeline.

Strategies for developing problem solving in employees

When developing problem solving in the workplace, it is critical to take a flexible approach that addresses the needs of both current and future employees.

Emphasise problem solving in recruitment and assessment

Whether they are entry level, managers or senior executives, problem solving is a crucial skill for all your employees. Skills that indicate a strong problem solving ability are listening skills, analytical thinking skills, creative thinking skills and communication skills. These skills should be sought out and encouraged in both recruitment and assessment.

One way to identify problem solving skills in interviews is by giving candidates problems that they must solve on the spot within a limited time frame. Interviewers can then assess both the solution that the candidate came up with as well as how they responded to the unexpected challenge.

Self management, not micromanagement

Micromanagement can impede a business’ ability to reach its goals. Instead of raising productivity, micromanagement is more likely to lower the morale of your employees, stifle creativity and damage trust. Employees must have the ability and be given the opportunity to manage their own workflow and productivity without constantly relying on a supervisor.

Problem solving skills will help equip your employees with the ability to self manage their tasks and projects. Through purposeful self management , they will be able to take initiative to solve both the straightforward and complex problems faced in their role.

Give employees goals rather than instructions

Giving employees step-by-step instructions as to how to complete each aspect of their job will not result in an agile and innovative workforce. Rather, it will restrict their ability to seek out new methods and evaluate current contexts.

By providing employees with goals rather than limiting instructions, businesses can increase employee engagement and productivity. This in turn can help empower employees to contribute meaningfully to larger business objectives.

Promote a culture of innovation and collaboration

A successful and resilient business supports its employees with a culture that promotes innovation and collaboration. Problem solving skills will allow your employees to build relationships and excel at daily decision making processes.

Good problem solvers possess good communication skills and can collaborate effectively with their team. They can also think laterally and creatively to find innovative solutions to problems and find opportunities for business development.

Ensure employees have the resources to solve problems

In order to identify issues and discover impactful solutions, employees must have access to relevant tools that provide them with in-depth insights into internal and external contexts. Even the most innovative thinker will struggle to fully capitalise on their problem solving skills without the right resources to support them.

Of course, the nature of these resources will depend on the employee’s role and the context in which they work. Resources may include software, subscriptions, technological equipment and specific communication channels. For all of their differences, these resources will ideally assist the employee to integrate root cause analysis into day-to-day processes.

Provide training

Despite common misconception, problem solving skills are not necessarily innate. Rather, analytical and creative thinking skills can be fostered through purposeful training that provides individuals with a toolkit of problem solving techniques. It also offers an open space for employees to build on existing skill sets through hypothetical scenarios that will test their ability to extempromise, communicate proactively and think creatively.

Start building problem solving skills today

All businesses have the power to create proficient problem solvers within their existing and future workforce. Contact our team today to find out how a bespoke DeakinCo. learning solution could help your employees build on their problem solving skill sets through purposeful, relevant training.

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What is problem-solving and how to do it right steps, processes, exercises.

The better your problem-solving skills are, the better (and easier!) your life will be. Organized problem-solving is a killer career skill - learn all about it here.

Whether we’re trying to solve a technical problem at work, or trying to navigate around a roadblock that Google Maps doesn’t see – most people are problem-solving every single day . 

But how effective are you at tackling the challenges in your life? Do you have a bullet-proof process you follow that ensures solid outcomes, or... Do you act on a whim of inspiration (or lack thereof) to resolve your pressing problems?

Here’s the thing: the better your problem-solving skills are - the better (and easier!) your life will be (both professionally and personally). Organized problem-solving is a killer career (and life!) skill, so if you want to learn how to do it in the most efficient way possible, you’ve come to the right place.  

Read along to learn more about the steps, techniques and exercises of the problem-solving process.

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What is Problem-Solving?

We’re faced with the reality of having to solve problems every day, both in our private and professional lives. So why do we even need to learn about problem-solving? Aren’t we versed in it well enough already?

Well, what separates problem-solving from dealing with the usual day-to-day issues is that it’s a distinct process that allows you to go beyond the standard approaches to solving a problem and allows you to come up with more effective and efficient solutions. Or in other words, problem-solving allows you to knock out those problems with less effort. 

Just like with any other skill, there’s an efficient way to solve problems, and a non-efficient one. While it might be tempting to go for the quickest fix for your challenge without giving it much thought, it will only end up costing you more time down the road. Quick fixes are rarely (if ever!) effective and end up being massive time wasters. 

What separates problem-solving from dealing with the usual day-to-day issues is that it’s a distinct process that allows you to go beyond the standard approaches to solving a problem and allows you to come up with more effective and efficient solutions.

On the other hand, following a systemized clear process for problem-solving allows you to shortcut inefficiencies and time-wasters, turn your challenges into opportunities, and tackle problems of any scope without the usual stress and hassle. 

What is the process that you need to follow, then? We’re glad you asked...

The Five Stages of Problem-Solving

So what’s the best way to move through the problem-solving process? There’s a 5-step process that you can follow that will allow you to solve your challenges more efficiently and effectively. In short, you need to move through these 5 steps: 

  • Defining a problem
  • Ideating on a solution
  • Committing to a course of action
  • Implementing your solution
  • And finally – analyzing the results. 

The 5 stages of problem-solving

Let’s look at each of those stages in detail.

Step 1: Defining The Problem

The first step might sound obvious, but trust us, you don’t want to skip it! Clearly defining and framing your challenge will help you guide your efforts and make sure you’re focussing on the things that matter, instead of being distracted by a myriad of other options, problems and issues that come up. 

For once, you have to make sure you’re trying to solve the root cause, and not trying to mend the symptoms of it. For instance, if you keep losing users during your app onboarding process, you might jump to the conclusion that you need to tweak the process itself: change the copy, the screens, or the sequence of steps.

But unless you have clear evidence that confirms your hypothesis, your challenge might have an entirely different root cause, e.g. in confusing marketing communication prior to the app download. 

Clearly defining and framing your challenge will help you guide your efforts and make sure you’re focussing on the things that matter, all the while ensuring that you’re trying to solve the root cause, and not trying to mend the symptoms of it

That’s why it’s essential you take a close look at the entire problem, not just at a fraction of it.

There are several exercises that can help you get a broader, more holistic view of the problem, some of our all-time favorites include Expert Interviews, How Might We, or The Map. Check out the step-by-step instructions on how to run them (along with 5 more exercises for framing your challenge!) here. 

When in doubt, map out your challenge, and always try to tackle the bottlenecks that are more upstream - it’s likely that solving them will solve a couple of other challenges down the flow.

You also have to be mindful of how you frame the challenge: resist the urge to include a pre-defined solution into your problem statement. Priming your solutions to a predestined outcome destroys the purpose of following a step-by-step process in the first place!  

Steer clear of formulations like:

We need to change the onboarding process... or We need to improve ad copy to increase conversions. 

Instead, opt for more neutral, problem-oriented statements that don’t include a solution suggestion in them:

The drop off rate during the onboarding process is too high or Our ad conversion rates are below the norm.

Pro tip: Reframing your challenge as a ‘How Might We’ statement is a great way to spark up new ideas, opening your problem to a broader set of solutions, and is just a great way to reframe your problem into a more positive statement (without implying the possible solution!)

For example, following the onboarding drop-off rate problem we mentioned earlier, instead of framing it as a problem, you could opt for:

How Might We decrease the drop-off rate during the onboarding process? 

Find out more about the best exercises for problem framing here!

Now that you have a clear idea of what you’re trying to solve, it’s move on to the next phase of the problem-solving process.

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Step 2: ideating a solution.

Get ready to roll up your sleeves and challenge the status quo! This step of the problem-solving process is all about thinking outside of the box, challenging old assumptions, and thinking laterally. 

This stage is the one that tends to cause the most overwhelm in teams because it requires just the right balance of creativity and critical thinking, which tends to cause a lot of friction.

Our best advice?

Let go of the pressure to produce a polished, thought-through solution at this stage. You can hash out the details at a later point. Our goal right now is to come up with a direction, a prototype if you may, of where we want to move towards. 

Embrace the “quantity over quality” motto, and let your creative juices flow! Now, we’re not saying you should roll with sub-par ideas. But you shouldn’t get too fixated on feasibility and viability just yet . 

Your main goal during this step is to spark ideas, kick off your thinking process in the right direction, venture out of the familiar territories and think outside the box. 

For the ideation to be the most effective your team will have to feel safe to challenge the norm and wide-spread assumptions. So lay judgment by side, there is no space for “that’s the way it’s always been done” in this step.

For your ideation sessions to be as efficient as possible, we highly recommend to run them in a workshop setting: this helps reduce the usual drawbacks of open discussions in teams (i.e. groupthink & team politics!)

Our favorite exercises to run during this phase include Lightning Demos, Sketching, and variations of Brainstorming.  We crafted an entire article on how to run and facilitate these exercises in a separate article, so check it out of you’re going to be running an ideation session anytime soon!

Step 3: Choosing the Best Strategy & Committing

It’s time to decide which of the ideas that you generated in the last step will be the one you’ll implement. 

This step is arguably the hardest one to complete smoothly: groupthink, team politics, differences in opinions and communication styles all make it very hard to align a team on a common course of action. 

If you want to avoid the usual pitfalls of team decision-making, we recommend you steer clear of open unstructured discussion. While it’s useful in some scenarios, it’s a poor choice for when you need to make a decision, because it tends to reward the loudest people in the room, rather than give way to the best ideas. 

It’s crucial you not only commit to a course of action but get full buy-in from the team. If your team members don’t understand the reasons for a decision, or are not fully onboard, the implementation of your decision will be half-hearted, and that’s definitely not what you want! 

To achieve that, opt for anonymized, multi-layered voting, and include guided exercises like Storyboarding to prioritize your ideas. 

We’ve gathered the list of our top-rated decision-making exercises, along with step-by-step instructions on how to run them in this article!

As a bonus tip, we recommend you involve a facilitator throughout the entire process. They will help align the team, and guide them through prioritizing and de-prioritizing solutions, as well as defining the next steps. 

Pro tip : If you’re not the ultimate decision maker on the issue you’re trying to solve, make sure they’re in the room when the call is being made! Having a Decider in the room ensures that the decisions you come to will actually get executed on after, instead of getting shut down by your superiors after. 

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Step 4: implementing your solution.

Here’s a truth that might be hard to swallow: it doesn’t matter how innovative, creative, or original your idea is, if your execution is weak. 

One of our favourite illustrations of how this works in practice comes from the book “ Anything you want ” by Derek Sivers. He reveals that ideas should be treated as multipliers of execution. What this means is that a mediocre, “so-so” idea could be worth millions if executed well, while a “brilliant” idea can completely flop with bad execution. 

That’s why this step is crucial if you want to really master the problem-solving process. 

What do we mean by execution? Everything that happens after the whiteboards are wiped clean and your team starts to action the outcomes of your sessions, be it prototyping, development, or promotion. 

But don’t just take our word for it, look at the example of how execution affected Nintendo’s sales:

In the past few years, Nintendo has come up with 3 products: the Wii, the Wii U and the Switch. Check out their sales figures on the graph below - Wii is the clear-cut leader, followed by Switch, and finally Wii U lagging behind.

Nintendo's sales figure for 2018

The Wii was unbelievably successful - it was a genuinely unique, “brilliant”-level idea and it had a “brilliant” execution (20x $10 million = $200 million). It is  one of the fastest selling game consoles of all time and it completely took over the market.

The next product was called Wii U and it was a “great” concept but the execution was absolutely terrible. So even though this product was very interesting and innovative, the end result was 15x $1,000 = $15,000. 

Finally, Nintendo took the Wii U concept and tried it again with the Switch. The idea was “so so” as it was already done before, but the execution was “brilliant”. So, 5x $10 million = $50 million! Much better.

Excellent execution is more important than a good idea.

Bottom line?  

The same idea can either make no dent in the market and damage your share price OR become a market hit and increase your share price dramatically. The only difference between the two scenarios – execution.

So shift your focus from coming up with crazy, innovative, outlandish ideas that will disrupt the market, and concentrate on really nailing down your execution instead. 

This is likely the least “workshoppy” step out of the entire problem-solving process because it requires less alignment and decision-making and more..well.. Execution!

But hey, we wouldn’t be called “Workshopper” if we didn't offer you at least one way to optimize and workshopify (yup, we’re making it a thing) your execution process. 

Cue in….prototyping. 

We’re huge fans of prototyping all big solutions (and testing them!) The main reason?

This saves us time AND money! Prototyping and testing your solutions (especially if they’re time and investment-demanding) is a great way to make sure you’re creating something that is actually needed. 

The key with prototyping the right way is to keep it simple. Don’t invest too much time, or resources into it. The goal is to gather data for your future decisions, not to create a near-to-perfect mockup of your solution.  

There are LOADS of prototyping forms and techniques, and if you’d like to learn more on the subject you should definitely check out our extensive prototyping guide.  

Step 5: Analyzing the Results

You’re nearly done, woo! Now that you have defined the right problem to tackle, brainstormed the solutions, aligned your team on the course of action, and put your plan into action it’s time to take stock of your efforts. 

Seek feedback from all involved parties, analyze the data you’ve gathered, look at the bottom line of your efforts, and  take a hard look at your problem: did it get solved? And even more than that, did the process feel smoother, easier, and more efficient than it normally is?

Running a retrospective is a great way to highlight things that went well and that you should keep for your next round of problem.solving, as well as pinpoint inefficiencies that you can eliminate.

‍ But which kind of retrospective should you run? There are loads of options, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by them all, so we gathered our favorite retrospective variations in this article.

And there you have it, you just completed the cycle of  problem-solving. We highly recommend you follow through with all the steps, without leaving any out. They all complement and build on each other, and it’s the combination of all 5 of them that makes the process effective. 

Now that you have the problem solving process down, you might be wondering…

Do I need any special skills in order to be able to move through that process?

And the answer is… sort of! More in this in the next section.

Problem-Solving Skills 

While your skill set will need to adapt and change based on the challenges you’ll be working on, most efficient problem-solvers have a solid foundation of these key skills:   

  • Active listening. While you might be the expert in the area of your challenge, there’s not a single person on Earth that knows it all! Being open to others’ perspectives and practicing active listening will come in very handy during step 1 of the process, as you’re trying to define the scope and the exact angle of the problem you’re working on.
  • Analytical approach. Your analytical skills will help you understand problems and effectively develop solutions. You will also need analytical skills during research to help distinguish between effective and ineffective solutions.
  • Communication. Is there a single area of expertise that DOESN’T require strong communication skills? We honestly don’t think so! Just like with any other life area, clear communication can make or break your problem-solving process. Being able to clearly communicate why you need to solve this challenge to your team, as well as align your team on the course of action are crucial for the success of the process. 
  • Decision-making. Ultimately, you will need to make a decision about how to solve problems that arise. A process without outcomes–regardless of how well thought-out and elaborate–is useless! If you want your problem-solving huddles to be effective, you have to come to grips with prioritization techniques and decision-making frameworks. 
  • Facilitation. Problem-solving revolves around being able to guide a group or a team to a common decision, and facilitation skills are essential in making that happen. Knowing how to facilitate will make it easy to keep the group focussed on the challenge, shortcut circular discussions, and make sure you’re moving along to solving the problem instead of just treading waters with fruitless discussions. 

Not checking every single skill of your list just yet? Not to worry, the next section will give you practical tools on how to level up and improve your problem-solving skills.

How to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills

Just like with any other skill, problem-solving is not an innate talent that you either have or you don’t.  There are concrete steps you can take to improve your skills. 

Here are some things that will get you closer to mastering the problem-solving process:

  • Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice makes perfect, and problem-solving skills are no exception! Seek opportunities to utilize and develop these skills any time you can. 

If you don’t know where or how to start just yet, here’s a suggestion that will get you up and running in no time: run a quick problem-solving session on a challenge that has been bothering your team for a while now. 

It doesn’t need to be the big strategic decision or the issue defining the future of the company. Something easy and manageable (like optimizing office space or improving team communication) will do. 

As you start feeling more comfortable with the problem-solving techniques, you can start tackling bigger challenges. Before you know it, you’ll master the art of creative problem-solving!

  • Use a tried and tested problem-solving workshop

Facilitation is one of the essential skills for problem-solving. But here’s the thing… Facilitation skills on their own won’t lead you to a solved challenge.

While being able to shortcut aimless discussions is a great skill, you have to make sure your problem-solving session has tangible outcomes. Using a tried and tested method, a workshop, is one of the easiest ways to do that. 

Our best advice is to get started with a tried and tested problem-solving workshop like the Lightning Decision Jam . The LDJ has all the right ingredients for quick, effective problem solving that leads to tangible outcomes. Give it a go!

  • Learn from your peers

You may have colleagues who are skilled problem solvers. Observing how those colleagues solve problems can help you improve your own skills. 

If possible, ask one of your more experienced colleagues if you can observe their techniques. Ask them relevant questions and try to apply as many of the new found skills i your career as possible. 

  • Learn & Practice the best problem-solving exercises

Having a toolbox of problem-solving exercises to pull from that can fit any type of challenge will make you a more versatile problem-solver and will make solving challenges that much easier for you! 

Once you get used to the groove of learning how to combine them into effective sessions or workshops, there’ll be no stopping you. What are some of the most effective problem-solving exercises? Glad you asked! We’ve gathered our favorite ones here, check it out! 

And there you have it, you’re now fully equipped for running creative problem-sessions with confidence and ease! Whichever method or exercise you choose, remember to keep track of your wins, and learn as much as you can from your losses! 

Anastasia Ushakova

Brand Strategist, Digital Marketer, and a Workshopper.

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Some Attempts to Solve the Woman Problem

/ AHA Resource Library

/ Some Attempts to Solve the Woman Problem

Published Date

June 1, 1944

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

The material on this page is provided for use as a primary source through which to understand the period and the historical context in which it was produced. Historians recognize the importance of maintaining documents that might no longer align with the ideas and values of an individual or organization reproducing those documents.

From GI Roundtable 31: Do You Want Your Wife to Work after the War? (1944)

While Pvt. Pro and Pvt. Con may come near to blows in their debate, they must agree, whether Con likes it or not, that times are changing. Family problems are produced by social changes and often can only be solved by further changes. Perhaps the woman problem of how to get a balanced ration of work and children can never be completely solved, but attempts have been made and are being made to solve the problem.

The Nazi program in its original form insisted that a woman’s real function was to be mother and homemaker. Hitler, Goebbels, and their crowd, however, talked about “womanly work” but never seemed quite clear as to just what they meant by that phrase. They finally appointed a woman, Fran Scholz-Klink, as leader of German women, but she also was none too clear on this point. At first “womanly work” for married women seemed to be work within the home combined with motherhood. Over a million marriage loans were granted by the state to be canceled in proportion to the number of children born. But the economic demands of the Nazi program of armament and war made it difficult to carry out the original theory, and the demand for labor, especially cheap labor, was so great that during every year of the Hitler regime there was an actual increase in the number of women gainfully employed.

“Womanly work” might mean lighter work, but under war conditions restrictions were swept away and even mothers tended machines. Women were crowded out of good jobs and restricted as to university training. But the need for trained leaders on the home front, especially women doctors, tended to reverse this policy. The pendulum swung back and the exclusive wife-and-mother role for’ women remained only a theory.

In Soviet Russia the government theory has been the opposite of the Nazi one. Women are expected to work outside the home and to work in all kinds of jobs as the equals of men. They are granted a few months leave for the birth of a child, but cooperative dwellings and cooperative nurseries have been provided as far as possible to free them sufficiently from housekeeping and child care so that they can readily do outside work.

After the Russian Revolution the long years of reconstruction and industrialization provided jobs for everyone, so that there was no problem of feminine competition. The war has created an even greater need for working women, but it is possible that when peace comes the pendulum there, too, may swing back.

In the United States all sorts of theories, some of them derived in part from European experience, are being discussed and the arguments for and against them are being debated. Various possibilities are being tried out in one way or another. It may be of interest to look briefly at a few of these plans and at the ideas of the people who advocate them.

1. One is a big program of social insurance. It is rather generally agreed that the majority of working wives work from need rather than inclination. Some people have suggested that an umbrella of social insurance spread over the entire population to ward off ills ranging from the privations of unemployment to the expense of sickness and childbirth might make the working of wives more a matter of choice and less of chance. It is of course very doubtful that the expense of such a program could be borne if all the fifty million American women of working age performed only household tasks (even assuming for the sake of argument that they were willing to limit themselves to such tasks), and critics of the idea question that such an insurance would be adequate to remove the need that impels them to work.

2. Endowment of families or perhaps just mothers is another possibility that has been discussed, with much attention to European experiments along this line. The fact that the burdens of childbearing fall unequally upon families and individuals has much to do with the “woman problem.” A family with numerous children may need more income, while a childless couple, both employed, may need less than they receive. In France before the war employers contributed to a fund out of which wages were supplemented in proportion to the number of children born. In Sweden various goods and services are made available to the larger families or given directly to the children themselves. In Germany rather extensive subsidies are paid to families in proportion to the number of children, aside from the marriage loans previously mentioned.

Such practices have not been adopted in the United States, though we have certain income tax exemptions. Those who favor an endowment plan argue that if women are to be freed from dependence upon their husbands and are to achieve a more satisfactory balance of work and childbearing, the government must take a hand in what formerly was regarded as a private matter. They suggest that under the plan taxes would be taken from the unmarried, the childless, the young and the old, and the rich to provide a maternity fund as an endowment of motherhood.

According to this plan, women giving up jobs and having children, instead of paying into the fund, would begin to draw from it roughly in proportion to their prior earnings and the number of children they rear. Thus there would be an equalization of the burdens of children, and money would be available for children at the time when it was most needed. Women would be free to manage the job of child rearing with undivided attention given to children during early years. When, with the growth of children, payments ceased and taxes began again, there would be an incentive for women to take up once more their work outside the home. Pvts. Pro and Con probably would argue this last point, and Pro might assert the right of a married woman to use part of her subsidy to provide assistance in the home while she used her own special training and skill in outside employment.. Many variations in the basic idea of family endowment have been suggested by those who favor such a plan.

3. Schemes have been presented for making motherhood more of a profession, and these probably would have special interest for Pvt. Con. If more training were given for the job of homemaking and child rearing, it might gain in dignity and efficiency. The shaping of a child’s personality unquestionably demands skill, and efficient household management is a challenge even to a highly intelligent woman. The basic difficulty in educating women for what their life activity is actually to be lies in the uncertainty as to whether they will marry or not. Some people have suggested that perhaps the changes brought by the war will include a change in public opinion that will recognize greater initiative on the part of women in finding mates for themselves.

4. To put a good deal of economic production back into the home is another way, according to some people, in which motherhood might be combined with satisfactory work activity. Advocates of this idea think that many things now produced on a large scale in mills and factories could be made more happily and often better and more economically in homes by the use of small electric machines. They argue, for example, that the spinning, weaving, and sewing of textiles, and the working of many forms of wood, leather, and metal could be done on home machinery.

To some this will sound like a case of putting Humpty Dumpty together again after he was knocked off the wall when modern machinery made factory production more or less identical with efficient production. Yet others point out that power need not necessarily be transmitted by belts. They say that light machines driven by electricity might work almost as efficiently in homes as they do gathered together under a single factory roof. Possibly electric sewing machines and home workshop lathes, Victory gardens, and pressure canners are only the beginning of a restoration to women of some of the work activities taken from them by the factory.

5. Another suggestion is that of part-time work for women, which might be a solution that would meet with Pvt. Pro’s approval. The policy would be to move with the trend toward large-scale production, but with adjustments in recognition of women’s problems. War conditions already have forced the realization upon employers that to tap the working power of married women they must provide part-time employment. With women an ever larger proportion of the working force, industry would perhaps be less dominated by the man’s point of view and recognize increasingly that the work of the world includes child rearing and homemaking.

6. Yet another suggestion has to do with cooperative arrangements which might make it possible for wives to work with somewhat less annoyance to the Pvt. Cons. Again the war, with its encouragement of day nurseries and the like, has provided a push in this direction. Community heating plants, cooperative laundries, centralized food preparation, and child-care services could make the job of homemaking more compatible with the work of wives outside the home. There seems to be no good reason why married women could not, if they wished, pool their various skills. One woman’s skill in child care might take care of a dozen instead of one, while others would find it more economical to cook for a dozen or more than for three. In such ways, those who favor cooperative arrangements argue, many wives could be freed for other work.

7. Sharing of housework by men is a suggested solution which we may be sure Pvt. Con would heartily dislike. Yet there seems to be no unanswerable reason why men could not share in almost every task about the house. It seems natural that women should do most of the housework because that is the tradition from the past. If women received equal pay outside the home, however, they might very properly ask whether there is any reason why men should not share equally in the housework and care of the children. Pvt. Con probably could recruit a goodly number of males to fight tooth and nail against any such upset in the traditional scheme of things.

So there are many theories and possibilities that can be argued back and forth, with the chance of much disagreement between those who favor and those who oppose particular ideas. One thing is certain, and that is that the world after the war will not stand still. Just as the war brought changes in our ways of living, so peace is likely to bring changes. The arguments will go on. Pvt. Con will continue to argue not only with Pvt. Pro, but probably also with Mrs. Con. The age-old problem will continue both in old and in new forms. Women will continue to want babies and to want work that is satisfying. New ideas which may or may not prove effective are being debated and tried out in attempts to solve the old problem, and it seems probable that yet other ideas will be experimented with in future efforts by men and women to reconcile these two aspects of living.

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August 30, 2017

The Decision to Secede and Establish the Confederacy: A Selection of Primary Sources

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A New Blueprint

How AI Can Help Build More Intentional Meetings

Meetings should be meaningful and effective. Technology can help.

Illustration by Miguel Porlan

M Meetings can spark ideas, solve problems, and strengthen teams —but they can also be a source of stress. More than a third of people say they have too many meetings, and that most are inefficient, according to our global survey of more than 18,000 people. 1 “The amount of time spent in meetings is beyond any other use of our time,” says Nicole Herskowitz, Vice President, Microsoft 365 and Teams. “If we don’t make them more intentional, then we’re burning our most important resource: our people.” eetings can spark ideas, solve problems, and strengthen teams —but they can also be a source of stress. More than a third of people say they have too many meetings, and that most are inefficient, according to our global survey of more than 18,000 people. 1 “The amount of time spent in meetings is beyond any other use of our time,” says Nicole Herskowitz, Vice President, Microsoft 365 and Teams. “If we don’t make them more intentional, then we’re burning our most important resource: our people.”

The good news? Organizations can use AI to help create a more thoughtful meeting culture—with fewer, better check-ins; clearly defined agendas and follow-ups; and purposeful engagement. People can quickly access summaries of missed meetings and ask Microsoft Copilot for key takeaways, action items, and next steps—”a huge time-saver,” Herskowitz says.

A more intentional meeting culture helps the bottom line: Keep in mind that a one-hour meeting with five people who make $100,000 a year costs $350, according to a calculator from Harvard Business Review . Multiply that across the organization, and those sums add up fast. Anecdotally, business leaders say better meetings have other benefits, too, from reducing employee frustration to speeding up problem-solving. Here’s how AI can help improve meetings—now and in the future.

Prep for success: As a product executive, a big part of Herskowitz’s job is meeting with customers—and there’s often little time to prepare. So she uses Copilot to quickly surface the background she needs. “I often ask Copilot to show me all the relevant emails, chats, and documents about the customer and our previous interactions. It helps me get up to speed so that I can best address customer questions,” Herskowitz says. Copilot can pull data from across all your work tools—emails, meetings, chats, documents, and more—which saves you time in searching for and compiling the information you need.

Sharpen the agenda: When people are busy, they don’t do enough to plan for meetings, “especially when it comes to expressing the meeting goal,” says Sean Rintel, a Senior Principal Researcher at Microsoft who has studied collaboration for more than a decade. “Lo and behold, we have lots of ineffective meetings.” To fight that tendency, use AI to draft a better meeting invitation that includes an agenda. Tell Copilot about your meeting, then ask it to craft an invitation that clearly articulates the goal, and includes specific agenda items and desired outcomes, Rintel suggests.

What would make meetings better?

People want clear and pre-defined goals when they meet

What would make meetings better? When we surveyed 18,100 workers across 12 markets, we asked what factors would help them collaborate more effectively at work. Some 79 percent of people want clear and pre-defined goals when they meet. Seventy-seven percent want to know where to find the info they need for meetings. Some 76 percent want to know their exact roles and responsibilities when they’re invited to a meeting, while the same percentage wants tools to handle admin tasks, like note-taking, during a meeting. Seventy-five percent of people want more focus time to prepare for meetings.

When we surveyed 18,100 workers across 12 markets, we asked what factors would help them collaborate more effectively at work.

Free up calendars: Dr. Carrie Goucher, founder of the consultancy FewerFasterBolder, has a saying: Consult wide, meet small. Instead of bringing a large group of 10 or more people into a decision-making meeting, leaders might prepare in advance by gathering feedback from the broader team (asking Copilot to synthesize responses if they are particularly numerous), then inviting a small group who will represent those views and make the final call. It’s one way to “reduce meeting load and make enough space so that people can do their real thinking work in the working day, not at home at 10 o’clock at night,” Goucher says. Having a smaller meeting also enables more candid conversation.

It also allows others to cut down on unnecessary meetings. According to our 2023 Work Trend Index , the top reason meetings were worthwhile was, “I will receive information that will help me do my job better.” Because AI turns meetings into more than just a fleeting moment of time , it liberates people from attending an hour-long sync to get one minute of job-critical insight. Instead, they can query Copilot about what they missed—and you can keep your meeting to only the essential players.

Get feedback in real time: Worried you’re talking too much in a meeting? Not enough? Copilot can let you know. During meetings, Goucher also asks Copilot questions like: Can you tell me the pros and cons of this person’s suggestion? What question could I ask to help us make progress? How can we speed up this decision? Who hasn’t spoken much? Who has spoken the most today? As Goucher says, Copilot can be “a sort of personal meeting coach.”

Let AI do the note-taking: “I used to be one of those people who furiously takes notes, all through meetings,” Herskowitz says. But in her quest to capture everything, she wasn’t always fully present for the conversation. Now she relies on Copilot, asking simple questions after the call: What were the key points from this meeting? What are the follow-ups? Were any decisions made? Knowing that Copilot is keeping track of everything, Herskowitz says, “I can really focus on the discussion and be engaged.”

Four Ways to Get More Out of Your Meetings

Adapt on the fly: Different types of meetings have different goals. Brainstorming sessions can be open and free. Some meetings require decision-making, others update the team, and some are about togetherness. “We use the same word, ‘meeting,’ to refer to all these activities that are actually very different,” Rintel says. “And for the moment, meeting interfaces are one size fits all.” But what if the interface could adapt to different or shifting goals? Already, you can ask Copilot to generate a collaborative whiteboard during a brainstorming session to visualize what you’re talking about. Our researchers at Microsoft are exploring what might be next. Perhaps one day the meeting interface will shape-shift automatically—so if your conversation segues into data analysis, a spreadsheet could pop up. Or if you don’t have relevant experts on hand, one or more AI agents with access to the right expertise could join the conversation. The idea is to apply AI to the meeting context in a more engaging, less fatiguing way, and to enhance the purpose of each meeting.

Keep you accountable: AI tools can already articulate next steps coming out of a meeting, helping cross-functional teams work together better. “What if Copilot could track those next steps, make sure people are making progress on them, and suggest when to put them back on the agenda?” Herskowitz says. “I want Copilot to be that proactive partner, to help us move projects forward, bring the business forward.”

Intentional meetings get to ideas and solutions more efficiently, and that’s good for more than just your bottom line. “If I’m able to reduce the time to solving a customer problem, that is real money back into the hands of my company, but that’s also a real benefit for the customer,” Herskowitz says. It’s a benefit for your people, too, freeing them up for the work that’s most strategic, creative, and ultimately rewarding.

And remember: While AI can help streamline meetings, it’s ultimately on the meeting organizer to ensure every gathering is purposeful and inclusive. You’re the pilot—so take charge, set the agenda, and steer your meetings toward success.

1 Our survey was conducted by an independent research firm, Edelman Data x Intelligence, among 18,100 full-time employed or self-employed workers across 12 markets between July 21, 2023, and November 1, 2023. To read more results from this survey, check out our Work Trend Index Special Report .

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Customer Zero

Our Year with Copilot: What Microsoft Has Learned About AI at Work

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Americans’ Dismal Views of the Nation’s Politics

1. the biggest problems and greatest strengths of the u.s. political system, table of contents.

  • The impact of partisan polarization
  • Persistent concerns over money in politics
  • Views of the parties and possible changes to the two-party system
  • Other important findings
  • Explore chapters of this report
  • In their own words: Americans on the political system’s biggest problems
  • In their own words: Americans on the political system’s biggest strengths
  • Are there clear solutions to the nation’s problems?
  • Evaluations of the political system
  • Trust in the federal government
  • Feelings toward the federal government
  • The relationship between the federal and state governments
  • Americans’ ratings of their House member, governor and local officials
  • Party favorability ratings
  • Most characterize their party positively
  • Quality of the parties’ ideas
  • Influence in congressional decision-making
  • Views on limiting the role of money in politics
  • Views on what kinds of activities can change the country for the better
  • How much can voting affect the future direction of the country?
  • Views of members of Congress
  • In their own words: Americans’ views of the major problems with today’s elected officials
  • How much do elected officials care about people like me?
  • What motivates people to run for office?
  • Quality of recent political candidates
  • In elections, is there usually at least one candidate who shares your views?
  • What the public sees as most important in political candidates
  • Impressions of the people who will be running for president in 2024
  • Views about presidential campaigns
  • How much of an impact does who is president have on your life?
  • Whose priorities should the president focus on?
  • How different are the Republican and Democratic parties?
  • Views of how well the parties represent people’s interests
  • What if there were more political parties?
  • Would more parties make solving problems easier or harder?
  • How likely is it that an independent candidate will become president?
  • Americans who feel unrepresented by the parties have highly negative views of the political system
  • Views of the Electoral College
  • Should the size of the U.S. House of Representatives change?
  • Senate seats and population size
  • Younger adults more supportive of structural changes
  • Politics in a single word or phrase: An outpouring of negative sentiments
  • Negative emotions prevail when Americans think about politics
  • Americans say the tone of political debate in the country has worsened
  • Which political topics get too much – and too little – attention?
  • Majority of Americans find it stressful to talk politics with people they disagree with
  • Acknowledgments

The public sees a number of specific problems with American politics. Partisan fighting, the high cost of political campaigns, and the outsize influence of special interests and lobbyists are each seen as characteristic of the U.S. political system by at least 84% of Americans.

Yet 63% also say that “ordinary Americans care about making the political system work well” is a good description of U.S. politics today. Still, when asked to describe a strength of the political system in their own words, more than half either say “nothing” (22%) or decline to give an answer (34%).

Americans view negative statements as better descriptions of the political system than positive ones

Chart shows widely shared criticisms of politics: Partisan fights, costly campaigns, influence of special interests

More than eight-in-ten adults say that each of the following is at least a somewhat good description of the U.S. political system today:

  • Republicans and Democrats are more focused on fighting each other than on solving problems (86%);
  • The cost of political campaigns makes it hard for good people to run for office (85%);
  • Special interest groups and lobbyists have too much say in what happens in politics (84%).

About six-in-ten (63%) think ordinary Americans want to make the political system work well. This is the rare positive sentiment that a majority views as a good descriptor of the political system.

Fewer than half of adults hold the view that the government deserves more credit than it gets: Majorities say that “the federal government does more for ordinary Americans than people give it credit for” (59%) and “Congress accomplishes more than people give it credit for” (65%) are both bad descriptions of the political system.

Nearly seven-in-ten adults express frustration with the availability of unbiased information about politics: 68% say the statement “it is easy to find unbiased information about what is happening in politics” is not a good description of the political system.

And just 22% of Americans say that political leaders facing consequences for acting unethically is a good description of the political system. They are more than three times as likely to say that this is a bad description (76% say this).

Many critiques of the political system are bipartisan

Partisans have similar views of many of the descriptions of the political system included in the survey.

Chart shows Partisans largely agree in views of many problems with the political system

Overwhelming majorities in both parties think there is too much partisan fighting, campaigns cost too much, and lobbyists and special interests have too much say in politics. And just 24% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents and 20% of Republicans and Republican leaners say that political leaders face consequences if they act unethically.

The widest partisan gap is over a description of the federal government. Democrats are roughly twice as likely as Republicans to say “the federal government does more for ordinary Americans than people give it credit for” (54% vs. 26%).

There is a narrower gap in views of Congress’ accomplishments: 37% of Democrats and 28% of Republicans say it accomplishes more than people give it credit for.

Democrats are also more likely to say, “It is easy to find unbiased information about what is happening in politics” (36% of Democrats and 25% of Republicans say this is a good description of the political system today), while Republicans are slightly more likely than Democrats to view ordinary Americans as wanting to make the political system work well (67% of Republicans and 61% of Democrats say this is a good description).

Chart shows roughly a third of Americans say ‘politicians’ are the biggest problem with the political system today

When asked to describe in their own words the biggest problem with the political system in the U.S. today, Americans point to a wide range of factors.

Negative characteristics attributed to politicians and political leaders are a common complaint: 31% of U.S. adults say politicians are the biggest problem with the system, including 15% who point to greed or corruption and 7% who cite dishonesty or a lack of trustworthiness.

The biggest problem, according to one woman in her 50s, is that politicians are “hiding the truth and fulfilling their own agendas.” Similarly, a man in his 30s says, “They don’t work for the people. They are too corrupt and busy filling their pockets.”

Explore more voices: The political system’s biggest problems

What do you see as the biggest problem with the political system in the U.S. today?

“An almost total lack of credibility and trust. Coupled with a media that’s so biased, that they’ve lost all objectivity.” –Man, 70s

“Lying about intentions or not following through with what elected officials said they would do.” –Woman, 20s

“Blind faith in political figures.” –Woman, 50s

“Our elected officials would rather play political games than serve the needs of their constituents.” –Woman, 50s

“Same politicians in office too long.” –Woman, 30s

“Extremism on both sides exploited by the mainstream media for ratings. It is making it impossible for both parties to work together.” –Man, 30s

“It has become too polarized. No one is willing to compromise or be moderate.” –Woman, 40s

“Too much money in politics coming from large corporations and special interest.” –Man, 30s

“The people have no say in important matters, we have NO representation at all. Our lawmakers are isolated and could care less what we want.” –Man, 60s

About two-in-ten adults cite deep divisions between the parties as the biggest problem with the U.S. political system, with respondents describing a lack of cooperation between the parties or among elected leaders in Washington.

“Both of the political parties are so busy trying to stop the other party, they are wasting their opportunities to solve the problems faced by our nation,” in the view of one man in his 70s.

Even as some blame polarization, others (10% of respondents) identify the other party as the system’s biggest problem. Some Republicans say that the biggest problem is “Democrats” while some Democrats simply say “Republicans.”

Smaller but substantial shares of adults name the media and political discourse (9%), the influence of money in politics (7%), government’s perceived failures (6%), specific policy areas and issues (6%) or problems with elections and voting (4%) as the biggest problem with the political system today.

Chart shows those who see strengths in the U.S. political system often cite constitutional principles, democratic values

Far fewer adults name a specific strength of the political system today when asked to describe the system’s biggest strength in their own words. More than half either say that the system lacks a biggest strength (22%) or decline to answer (34%). As one woman in her 60s writes, “I’m not seeing any strengths!”

Among those who do identify strengths of the U.S. political system, the structure of political institutions and the principles that define the constitutional order are named most frequently (by 12% of respondents). Many respondents specifically point to the Constitution itself or refer to the separation of powers or the checks and balances created by the Constitution.

A man in his 20s believes that the “separation of powers and federalism work pretty well,” while one in his 30s writes that the system’s greatest strength is “the checks and balances to make sure that monumental changes aren’t made unilaterally.”

Explore more voices: The political system’s biggest strengths

What do you see as the biggest strength of the U.S. political system today?

“Everyone getting a say; democracy.” –Woman, 40s

“The right to have your opinions heard.” –Man, 60s

“In spite of our differences, we are still a democracy, and I believe there are people within our government who still care and are interested in the betterment of our country.” –Woman, 50s

“The freedom of speech and religion” –Woman, 50s

“If we have fair, honest elections we can vote out the corruption and/or incompetent politicians.” –Man, 70s

“The Constitution.” –Man, 50s

“The checks and balances to control the power of any office. The voice of the people and the options to remove an official from office.” –Man, 60s

“New, younger voices in government.” –Woman, 40s

“If we can’t get more bipartisanship we’ll become weaker. Our biggest strength is our working together.” –Woman, 60s

“The way that every two years the people get to make their voice heard.” –Man, 30s

About one-in-ten (9%) refer to individual freedoms and related democratic values, while a similar share (8%) discuss the right to vote and the existence of free elections. A woman in her 70s echoes many similar comments when she points to “the possibility of change in upcoming elections.”

However, even some of the descriptions of positive characteristics of the system are couched in respondents’ doubts about the way the system is working today. One woman in her 50s adds a qualification to what she views as the system’s biggest strength, saying, “Theoretically every voter has a say.”

Smaller shares of the public point to the positive characteristics of some politicians (4%) or the positive characteristics of the American people (4%) as reasons for optimism.

The public remains roughly evenly split over whether there are clear solutions to the biggest issues facing the country. Half of Americans today say there are clear solutions to most of the big issues facing the country, while about as many (48%) say most big issues don’t have clear solutions.

Chart shows Americans are split over whether there are clear solutions to big national issues

There are relatively modest demographic and political differences in perceptions of whether the solutions to the nations’ problems are clear or not.

While both men and women are relatively divided on this question, women are 6 percentage points more likely to think the big issues facing the country don’t have clear solutions.

Race and ethnicity

While 43% of Hispanic adults and about half of Black (50%) and White (48%) adults say there aren’t clear solutions for most big issues, that rises to 62% among Asian adults.

Age differences on this question are modest, but those under 30 are slightly more likely than those 30 and older to say most big issues have clear solutions.

Partisanship and political engagement

Both Republicans and Democrats are relatively split on this question, though Republicans are slightly more likely to say there are clear solutions to most big issues.

Those with higher levels of political engagement are more likely to say there are clear solutions to most big issues facing the country.

About six-in-ten adults with high levels of political engagement (61%) say there are clear solutions to big issues today, compared with half of those with medium levels of engagement and 41% of those with lower engagement.

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  • ACM Technical Awards 2023

ACM Recognizes Innovators Who Solve Real World Problems

Award recipients’ work has impacted internet privacy, operating system software, graph processing, and ai.

New York, NY, June 18, 2024 – ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, today announced the recipients of four prestigious technical awards. These four awards in diverse categories celebrate the hard work and creativity which underpin many of today’s most important technologies.

Prateek Mittal , Princeton University, is the recipient of the 2023 ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award for foundational contributions to safeguarding Internet privacy and security using a cross-layer approach.

The unifying theme in Mittal’s research is to leverage foundational techniques from network science, comprising graph-theoretical mechanics, data mining, and inferential modeling for tackling privacy and security challenges. For example, his research orchestrates and exploits graph-theoretic properties of the Internet topology for protecting privacy and detecting attacks. Moreover, Mittal applies these techniques in a manner that allows for complex interactions across traditional layers and boundaries of our networked systems, i.e., a cross-layer approach.

By conducting Internet-scale experiments with over 50,000 routers, Mittal’s research showed that an adversary can exploit the insecurity of internet routing to intercept traffic from trusted certificate authorities, and then allow an adversary to obtain a cryptographic key that is vouch safe by trusted authorities. To mitigate these attacks, Mittal helped develop the ingenuous idea of trusted certificate authorities validating website domain ownership from multiple vantage points on the Internet. This technology has already led to the secure issuance of over 2.5 billion digital certificates used by 350 million websites. Taken together, his contributions are impacting the privacy and integrity of global commerce, financial services, online healthcare, and everyday communications.

The ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award   is given to the outstanding young computer professional of the year, selected on the basis of a single recent major technical or service contribution. This award is accompanied by a prize of $35,000. The candidate must have been 35 years of age or less at the time the qualifying contribution was made. Financial support for this award is provided by Microsoft.

Andrew S. Tanenbaum , Vrije Universiteit, receives the  ACM Software System Award  for MINIX, which influenced the teaching of Operating Systems principles to multiple generations of students and contributed to the design of widely used operating systems, including Linux.

Tanenbaum created MINIX 1.0 in 1987 to accompany his textbook, “Operating Systems: Design and Implementation.” MINIX was a small microkernel-based UNIX operating system for the IBM PC, which was popular at the time. It was roughly 12,000 lines of code, and in addition to the microkernel, included a memory manager, file system and core UNIX utility programs. It became free open-source software in 2000.

Beyond enabling the success of Tanenbaum’s textbook, the impact of MINIX has been phenomenal. It was an inspiration for LINUX, which has grown into the most successful open-source operating system powering cloud servers, mobile phones and IoT devices. MINIX was also the basis for the MeikOS operating system for Meikotransputer-based computers and runs inside popular microchips. A later version of MINIX, MINIX 3.0 is intended for resource-limited and embedded computers and for applications requiring high reliability. Beyond the direct impact of MINIX, Tanenbaum’s advocacy for microkernel design has impacted generations of operating system designers.

The ACM Software System Award   is presented to an institution or individual(s) recognized for developing a software system that has had a lasting influence, reflected in contributions to concepts, in commercial acceptance, or both. The Software System Award carries a prize of $35,000. Financial support for the Software System Award is provided by IBM.

Guy E. Blelloch,  Carnegie Mellon University; Laxman Dhulipala , University of Maryland; and Julian Shun , Massachusetts Institute of Technology, receive the ACM Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award for contributions to algorithm engineering, including the Ligra, GBBS, and Aspen frameworks which revolutionized large-scale graph processing on shared-memory machines.

Beginning in 2013, Blelloch, Dhulipala and Shun began to explore how to analyze huge graphs (billions of vertices and hundreds of billions of edges) on relatively inexpensive shared-memory multiprocessors. They built several frameworks (Ligra, Ligra +, Julienne, GBBS, and Aspen) that make it much easier for programmers to efficiently solve a wide variety of graph problems. They have obtained many truly outstanding results in which their provably efficient algorithms running on an inexpensive multi-core shared-memory machine are faster than any prior algorithms, even those running on much bigger and more expensive machines. Examples of such results include clustering, clique counting, and various forms of connectivity. These ideas and implementations are being used in industry to handle real-world problems and have also had tremendous impact on research in the field.

One important upshot of this work was the paradigm-changing demonstration that shared-memory computers are an ideal platform for analyzing large graphs. At the time Ligra was first developed, the predominant approach used to analyze large graphs was distributed systems such as Pregel (developed by Google). This was overturned when, for many important large real-world graph problems, the Ligra approach turned out to be much more efficient in terms of energy, cost, and end-to-end running time.

Their work on graph processing also allows algorithms with provable performance guarantees in the PRAM model to live up to their theoretical performance in practice. Recently, the nominees addressed the emerging setting of processing streaming graphs, which models graphs that change in real time and developed Aspen, a novel graph streaming system that uses new purely functional data structures to enable low-latency updates and snapshots on massive graph datasets.

The ACM Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award   honors specific theoretical accomplishments that have had a significant and demonstrable effect on the practice of computing. This award is accompanied by a prize of $10,000 and is endowed by contributions from the Kanellakis family, with additional financial support provided by ACM’s Special Interest Groups on Algorithms and Computation Theory (SIGACT), Design Automation (SIGDA), Management of Data (SIGMOD), and Programming Languages (SIGPLAN), the ACM SIG Projects Fund, and individual contributions.  

David Blei , Columbia University, receives the ACM - AAAI Allen Newell Award .

Blei is recognized for significant contributions to machine learning, information retrieval, and statistics. His signature accomplishment is in the machine learning area of “topic modeling", which he pioneered in the foundational paper “Latent Dirichlet Allocation” (LDA). The applications of topic modelling can be found throughout the social, physical, and biological sciences, in areas such as medicine, finance, political science, commerce, and the digital humanities.

Blei has also been a leader in variational inference (VI), another research area that connects computer science to statistics. VI is an optimization-based methodology for approximate probabilistic inference. Blei’s major contribution to VI has been to develop a novel framework—stochastic variational inference (SVI)—that yielded a quantum leap in the size of problems that can be solved with VI. SVI is in wide use in the AI industry and across the sciences.

Additionally, in his work on discrete choice modelling, Blei has developed a methodology for answering counterfactual queries about changes in prices, which helps to identify complimentary and substitutable pairs of products. This work has built a bridge between computer science and econometrics and has been cited for its impactful use of machine learning modeling.

The ACM - AAAI Allen Newell Award is presented to an individual selected for career contributions that have breadth within computer science, or that bridge computer science and other disciplines. The Newell award is accompanied by a prize of $10,000, provided by ACM and the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), and by individual contributions.

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery , is the world's largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting educators, researchers, and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources, and address the field's challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession's collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.

Contact: Jim Ormond 212-626-0505 [email protected]

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She's turning her home into a child care site. It may solve a big problem in Alabama

Andrea Hsu, photographed for NPR, 11 March 2020, in Washington DC.

MEETING CHILD CARE NEEDS IN TUSCALOOSA

Lakethia Clark stands between a bookcase full of children's books and a toddler bed.

Lakethia Clark stands in her son's bedroom in her home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Clark will soon open her own home-based child care business. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Lakethia Clark has spent most of her adult life taking care of children, first at a church day care and later in a child care center. She loves children, but after 15 years, she was getting paid too little and looking after too many kids.

So like many child care workers, she quit. Clark became a housekeeper at a hospital, which paid better, but she missed her old profession.

"It kind of broke my heart," she says. "I miss my babies."

She had long thought about starting her own child care business but always found the licensing process and the startup costs daunting.

Today, however, Clark is getting ready to return to a line of work she loves — on her own terms. She's starting her own small business, caring for as many as six children. And she's doing it right in her own home.

For months, she has been working hard to turn her three-bedroom ranch house and her tree-lined backyard into a children's wonderland.

How have rising prices affected you? What questions do you have about inflation?

How have rising prices affected you? What questions do you have about inflation?

Clark is among the first participants in a program called 3by3. It's the brainchild of Holly Glasgow, a longtime child development educator at Shelton State Community College.

Her vision for the program: dramatically growing the number of small, home-based child care businesses, formally known as family child care homes. It's a program that could prove important for Alabama, by providing more child care options to help boost the state's workforce.

Home-based child care is not new, but Glasgow's exhaustive efforts to provide wrap-around training and guidance, elevating the often invisible child care workforce, have drawn attention and even visitors from states including Colorado and California.

To go to work, parents need child care

The initiative is one of many being piloted around the U.S. as federal and state governments, along with the business community, have come to recognize child care as essential to economic growth.

A bookshelf in Clark's home holds a selection of children's picture books.

Clark has a collection of books in her son's room and will add more once she begins caring for kids out of her home. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

It's an especially pressing issue in Alabama, a state with one of the country's lowest labor force participation rates.

To get her program going, Glasgow got creative, "blending and braiding" funding from a number of sources, including the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which aims to help job seekers move into high-quality careers.

Other funders include the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama as well as the Women's Foundation of Alabama, a philanthropic organization focused on accelerating economic opportunity for women.

"It's an interesting narrative shift, that child care isn't just on the mom," says Lillian Brand, vice president of external affairs at the Women’s Foundation of Alabama. "It's really on the entire economy in order to keep us all moving forward."

D'Koya Mathis holds her 2-year-old daughter Zharia's hand as they walk into Ms. Pat's Child Care & Development Center in Madison, Ala.

An Alabama manufacturer shows how to retain working moms: child care

Child care needs are severely unmet.

The need for more child care is evident in the numbers. Glasgow estimates Tuscaloosa County has over 12,000 children under age 5 but just over 3,000 child care spots.

Some of those spots are at the community-based pre-K center on the campus of Shelton State, which Glasgow oversees.

While a couple of kids paint pictures at an arts and crafts station, others check in on caterpillars on their journey of metamorphosis. Across the room, more children take turns playing customer and shopkeeper in a make-believe flower shop.

"Happy, healthy, safe is our goal," says Glasgow.

Holly Glasgow sits at a table with three children in the pre-K program she directs on the campus of Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa.

Holly Glasgow talks to children in the pre-K program she directs on the campus of Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa. Given the high cost of building child care centers like this one, Glasgow is focused on developing another model of child care — family child care homes. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

She would love for every young child in Alabama to have a spot at a center like this one. But she knows that's impossible. The main impediment is cost.

When an Alabama nonprofit foundation approached her with a fundraising proposal and asked how many child care centers could be built with $10 million, she told them: less than one.

"They were floored," she says.

So instead, Glasgow is focusing her efforts on family child care homes. She believes these small businesses can achieve the same level of quality as larger centers but at a much lower cost and in a way that may better suit Tuscaloosa's working parents.

A diversity of child care needs

Among the top employers in this region are hospitals and manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz and the food company Smucker's, which has been recruiting workers for a brand-new plant not far away.

Glasgow points out that these employers need workers around the clock, but few child care providers offer care in the evenings, on weekends and overnight.

$400-a-month pandemic bonuses were life-changing for child care workers. That's over

$400-a-month pandemic bonuses were life-changing for child care workers. That's over

Family child care homes, which are typically run by women who care for their own children and a handful of others, can be more flexible with their hours. They can also provide a more homelike environment, which many parents who work overnight shifts prefer, Glasgow says.

"Your kids still go to bed in a bedroom," she says. "They still have breakfast at the kitchen table."

"Can't wait"

The first cohort of 3by3 participants wrapped up their coursework this spring. This included five intensive weeks of classes on child development, health and safety, and how to run a small business.

On top of that, there are the home visits.

Glasgow stands on the sidewalk outside Clark's home on a corner lot in a Tuscaloosa neighborhood.

Glasgow visits the home of Lakethia Clark to help her reconfigure her living quarters into play areas for children. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

On a recent sunny morning, Glasgow headed to Clark's home on a corner lot to help her reimagine her living quarters as play and learning spaces and to ensure that everything is up to code.

Glasgow works quickly, whipping out a laser measuring tool as she sketches a floor plan.

"Miss Holly ... that lady is awesome," says a smiling Clark.

Clark lays out her vision for her formal living room: one sofa moved to the side, another one taken out to make room for children's tables, a couple of carpets, and shelves for toys and books.

"I can't wait to put stuff on the walls," she says.

Glasgow sits with Clark in Clark's living room, holding a pencil and clipboard as she begins to work on a floor plan, transforming the room into a play and learning space for kids.

Glasgow works with Clark to reimagine Clark's living room as a play and learning space. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

Glasgow has $5,000 to $10,000 to spend on furniture and supplies for each new family child care home. Paths for Success, the nonprofit foundation that originally approached Glasgow about building child care centers, provides the health and safety materials, including fire extinguishers, hardwired smoke detectors, flashlights, and cribs and cots.

It's the assist Clark needed to get her business off the ground. Before now, she says, her finances always got in the way.

Although she had worked in child care for years, Clark's hourly wage never topped $13.50 an hour. For a while, she worked a second job at Taco Casa to save enough money for the down payment on her house.

Now, she is looking forward to becoming a small-business owner. There are tax benefits, including being able to deduct part of her mortgage as a business expense. She may qualify for a new Alabama tax credit for child care providers.

Best of all, she'll get to be her own boss.

Lakethia Clark stands in the backyard of her home in Tuscaloosa.

Clark jumped at the opportunity to open her own home-based child care business. She expects to receive her license sometime this summer. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

Looking out over her spacious, shady backyard, she imagines children covering her wooden fence with chalk drawings, something she loved watching kids do at her last child care job.

"The owners of the day care used to get so mad," she says, laughing. "It's just artwork! It's going to disappear."

Already, parents she knew from her old job have been calling her, hoping to send her their younger kids.

"They know what type of worker I was," she says. "They know I always put the kids first."

With all her paperwork submitted, Clark is hoping to get final clearance this summer, in time to welcome kids into her home.

  • women in the workforce
  • home-based care

How one water-management company is using AI to unlock insights from its 100-year past

  • Ecolab manages water-purification and water-treatment systems.
  • The company, which has been around for a century, uses AI to inform new projects.
  • This article is part of " CXO AI Playbook " — straight talk from business leaders on how they're testing and using AI.

Insider Today

For "CXO AI Playbook," Business Insider takes a look at mini case studies about AI adoption across industries, company sizes, and technology DNA. We've asked each of the featured companies to tell us about the problems they're trying to solve with AI, who's making these decisions internally, and their vision for using AI in the future.

Ecolab, a company headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, focusing on water management, hygiene, and infection prevention, works across 40 industries. Tens of thousands of its associates help optimize water use and maintain safe water environments for millions of customers in more than 170 countries.

Situation analysis: What problem was the company trying to solve?

Kevin Doyle, Ecolab's chief digital officer, told Business Insider that while Ecolab has deep institutional knowledge, digging into it to help clients can sometimes be tricky. "We've got water expertise that we've had for 100 years and have been out working with clients and customers assessing those operations and making recommendations" based on that history, he said.

Ecolab's business involves assessing a client's operations to understand their needs and challenges. Those findings are then used to develop plans to drive water and energy savings through tailored programs that include science-based chemistry, digital insights, and extensive expertise.

Ecolab's associates — generally chemical engineers — carry out these assessments and make recommendations to customers. Doyle said decades-old recommendations could be valuable for clients' current decision-making, but only if the company has access to them.

"That could have been lost on that person's hard drive or in that person's mind only," he said. "What's now happening is it's documented in a repository of data that we're then able to serve up" to associates using generative AI.

Key staff and partners

Ecolab's AI acceleration lab initiated the project, which is now used by thousands of employees working directly with customers and uploading data to the system . Doyle said those field associates also use generative AI to analyze information stored in the company's existing filing systems.

AI in action

The system started with a mobile application and a recommendation screen, and a chatbot was added later, Doyle said. "We could see either a recommendation based on best practices or what was contained in a knowledge repository, or somebody could ask a question, like, 'I'm trying to install water meters on this size pipe, what type of meter should I order?'" he said.

Adopting generative AI means Ecolab's representatives can harness information and insights from clients around the world.

"Maybe it's another person in southeast Iowa who goes into a similar-type plant, they have a similar customer with similar characteristics," he said. "It will make a recommendation based on the AI that will say, 'You could implement these programs and projects,' or 'Your peers have done this to create value: Is it something that's interesting to you?'"

Did it work, and how did leaders know?

Doyle said Ecolab had seen benefits from integrating generative AI in customer outreach, advisory, and briefing processes.

"It has enabled those out in the field to make decisions and ensures their on-the-ground insights are not lost within the organization," he said.

"We've seen increases already in the early stages of that program in the hundreds of millions of dollars of value creation and value potential," he added.

Doyle said AI will help the company make quicker decisions, which means "our existing team will be able to serve more customers and deliver greater value."

What's next?

Doyle said Ecolab's AI acceleration lab was testing further ways to use generative AI. "We're trying to apply that to even broader knowledge sets and certainly across all of our businesses," he said, referring to firms within the 40 industries Ecolab serves. Those broader knowledge sets include the nuanced processes in each industry, such as an associate's experience with supporting cooling water systems or identifying product quality issues.

By applying AI to new data, Doyle said they're able to take in more information to "get our people to the most impactful locations, whether that's to create value through a project or to fix something that's not operating as it should and causing other problems."

We want to hear from you. If you are interested in sharing your company's AI journey, email [email protected] .

the work problem solving

  • Main content

the work problem solving

She's turning her home into a child care site. It may solve a big problem in Alabama

Lakethia Clark stands in her son's bedroom in her home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Clark will soon open her own home-based child care business.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Lakethia Clark has spent most of her adult life taking care of children, first at a church day care and later in a child care center. She loves children, but after 15 years, she was getting paid too little and looking after too many kids.

So like many child care workers, she quit. Clark became a housekeeper at a hospital, which paid better, but she missed her old profession.

"It kind of broke my heart," she says. "I miss my babies."

She had long thought about starting her own child care business but always found the licensing process and the startup costs daunting.

Today, however, Clark is getting ready to return to a line of work she loves — on her own terms. She's starting her own small business, caring for as many as six children. And she's doing it right in her own home.

For months, she has been working hard to turn her three-bedroom ranch house and her tree-lined backyard into a children's wonderland.

Clark is among the first participants in a program called 3by3. It's the brainchild of Holly Glasgow, a longtime child development educator at Shelton State Community College.

Her vision for the program: dramatically growing the number of small, home-based child care businesses, formally known as family child care homes. It's a program that could prove important for Alabama, by providing more child care options to help boost the state's workforce.

Home-based child care is not new, but Glasgow's exhaustive efforts to provide wrap-around training and guidance, elevating the often invisible child care workforce, have drawn attention and even visitors from states including Colorado and California.

To go to work, parents need child care

The initiative is one of many being piloted around the U.S. as federal and state governments, along with the business community, have come to recognize child care as essential to economic growth.

Clark has a collection of books in her son's room and will add more once she begins caring for kids out of her home.

It's an especially pressing issue in Alabama, a state with one of the country's lowest labor force participation rates.

To get her program going, Glasgow got creative, "blending and braiding" funding from a number of sources, including the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which aims to help job seekers move into high-quality careers.

Other funders include the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama as well as the Women's Foundation of Alabama, a philanthropic organization focused on accelerating economic opportunity for women.

"It's an interesting narrative shift, that child care isn't just on the mom," says Lillian Brand, vice president of external affairs at the Women’s Foundation of Alabama. "It's really on the entire economy in order to keep us all moving forward."

Child care needs are severely unmet

The need for more child care is evident in the numbers. Glasgow estimates Tuscaloosa County has over 12,000 children under age 5 but just over 3,000 child care spots.

Some of those spots are at the community-based pre-K center on the campus of Shelton State, which Glasgow oversees.

While a couple of kids paint pictures at an arts and crafts station, others check in on caterpillars on their journey of metamorphosis. Across the room, more children take turns playing customer and shopkeeper in a make-believe flower shop.

"Happy, healthy, safe is our goal," says Glasgow.

Holly Glasgow talks to children in the pre-K program she directs on the campus of Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa. Given the high cost of building child care centers like this one, Glasgow is focused on developing another model of child care — family child care homes.

She would love for every young child in Alabama to have a spot at a center like this one. But she knows that's impossible. The main impediment is cost.

When an Alabama nonprofit foundation approached her with a fundraising proposal and asked how many child care centers could be built with $10 million, she told them: less than one.

"They were floored," she says.

So instead, Glasgow is focusing her efforts on family child care homes. She believes these small businesses can achieve the same level of quality as larger centers but at a much lower cost and in a way that may better suit Tuscaloosa's working parents.

A diversity of child care needs

Among the top employers in this region are hospitals and manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz and the food company Smucker's, which has been recruiting workers for a brand-new plant not far away.

Glasgow points out that these employers need workers around the clock, but few child care providers offer care in the evenings, on weekends and overnight.

Family child care homes, which are typically run by women who care for their own children and a handful of others, can be more flexible with their hours. They can also provide a more homelike environment, which many parents who work overnight shifts prefer, Glasgow says.

"Your kids still go to bed in a bedroom," she says. "They still have breakfast at the kitchen table."

"Can't wait"

The first cohort of 3by3 participants wrapped up their coursework this spring. This included five intensive weeks of classes on child development, health and safety, and how to run a small business.

On top of that, there are the home visits.

Glasgow visits the home of Lakethia Clark to help her reconfigure her living quarters into play areas for children.

On a recent sunny morning, Glasgow headed to Clark's home on a corner lot to help her reimagine her living quarters as play and learning spaces and to ensure that everything is up to code.

Glasgow works quickly, whipping out a laser measuring tool as she sketches a floor plan.

"Miss Holly ... that lady is awesome," says a smiling Clark.

Clark lays out her vision for her formal living room: one sofa moved to the side, another one taken out to make room for children's tables, a couple of carpets, and shelves for toys and books.

"I can't wait to put stuff on the walls," she says.

Glasgow works with Clark to reimagine Clark's living room as a play and learning space.

Glasgow has $5,000 to $10,000 to spend on furniture and supplies for each new family child care home. Paths for Success, the nonprofit foundation that originally approached Glasgow about building child care centers, provides the health and safety materials, including fire extinguishers, hardwired smoke detectors, flashlights, and cribs and cots.

It's the assist Clark needed to get her business off the ground. Before now, she says, her finances always got in the way.

Although she had worked in child care for years, Clark's hourly wage never topped $13.50 an hour. For a while, she worked a second job at Taco Casa to save enough money for the down payment on her house.

Now, she is looking forward to becoming a small-business owner. There are tax benefits, including being able to deduct part of her mortgage as a business expense. She may qualify for a new Alabama tax credit for child care providers.

Best of all, she'll get to be her own boss.

Clark jumped at the opportunity to open her own home-based child care business. She expects to receive her license sometime this summer.

Looking out over her spacious, shady backyard, she imagines children covering her wooden fence with chalk drawings, something she loved watching kids do at her last child care job.

"The owners of the day care used to get so mad," she says, laughing. "It's just artwork! It's going to disappear."

Already, parents she knew from her old job have been calling her, hoping to send her their younger kids.

"They know what type of worker I was," she says. "They know I always put the kids first."

With all her paperwork submitted, Clark is hoping to get final clearance this summer, in time to welcome kids into her home.

Copyright 2024 NPR

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  1. Workplace Problem-Solving Examples: Real Scenarios, Practical Solutions

    Problem-solving in the workplace is a complex and multifaceted skill that requires a combination of analytical thinking, creativity, and effective communication. It goes beyond simply identifying problems and extends to finding innovative solutions that address the root causes. Essential Problem-Solving Skills for the Workplace

  2. Problem Solving Strategies for the Workplace [2024] • Asana

    4 steps to better problem solving. While it might be tempting to dive into a problem head first, take the time to move step by step. Here's how you can effectively break down the problem-solving process with your team: 1. Identify the problem that needs to be solved. One of the easiest ways to identify a problem is to ask questions.

  3. How To Put Problem-Solving Skills To Work in 6 Steps

    Here are the basic steps involved in problem-solving: 1. Define the problem. The first step is to analyze the situation carefully to learn more about the problem. A single situation may solve multiple problems. Identify each problem and determine its cause. Try to anticipate the behavior and response of those affected by the problem.

  4. What is Problem Solving? (Steps, Techniques, Examples)

    Definition and Importance. Problem solving is the process of finding solutions to obstacles or challenges you encounter in your life or work. It is a crucial skill that allows you to tackle complex situations, adapt to changes, and overcome difficulties with ease. Mastering this ability will contribute to both your personal and professional ...

  5. 35 problem-solving techniques and methods for solving complex problems

    After a team has successfully identified a problem and come up with a few solutions, it can be tempting to call the work of the problem-solving process complete. That said, the first solution is not necessarily the best, and by including a further review and reflection activity into your problem-solving model, you can ensure your group reaches ...

  6. 7 Problem-Solving Skills That Can Help You Be a More ...

    Although problem-solving is a skill in its own right, a subset of seven skills can help make the process of problem-solving easier. These include analysis, communication, emotional intelligence, resilience, creativity, adaptability, and teamwork. 1. Analysis. As a manager, you'll solve each problem by assessing the situation first.

  7. 7 Examples of Problem-Solving Scenarios in the Workplace (With ...

    Problem-solving Scenario #1: Tight Deadlines and Heavy Workload. Problem-solving Scenario #2: Handling a Product Launch. Problem-solving Scenario #3: Internal Conflicts in the Team. Problem-solving Scenario #4: Team not Meeting Targets. Problem-solving Scenario #5: Team Facing High Turnover.

  8. What is Problem Solving? Steps, Process & Techniques

    Finding a suitable solution for issues can be accomplished by following the basic four-step problem-solving process and methodology outlined below. Step. Characteristics. 1. Define the problem. Differentiate fact from opinion. Specify underlying causes. Consult each faction involved for information. State the problem specifically.

  9. Problem-Solving Skills: What They Are and How to Improve Yours

    Here we explore what problem-solving skills are, the most important skills in the workplace, steps to solve problems, and tips for improving this skill set. Problem-solving skills defined. Problem-solving skills are skills that allow individuals to efficiently and effectively find solutions to issues. This attribute is a primary skill that ...

  10. 12 Approaches To Problem-Solving for Every Situation

    Brainstorm options to solve the problem. Select an option. Create an implementation plan. Execute the plan and monitor the results. Evaluate the solution. Read more: Effective Problem Solving Steps in the Workplace. 2. Collaborative. This approach involves including multiple people in the problem-solving process.

  11. 5 Examples of Problem-Solving in The Workplace

    5 Examples Of Problem-Solving Skills. 1. Improving Collaboration in a Stalled Project. Here is a sample you can use when explaining how you improved team collaboration on a project: "Our team was tasked with developing a new financial management web application. However, we hit a snag and missed two crucial milestones.

  12. What is problem solving? And why is it important at work?

    A good problem-solving definition might be finding solutions to difficult or complex issues. In practice, however, solving problems in the workplace is a little more immersive than that. In the workplace, problem-solving includes a variety of tools, resources, and techniques to: Identify what's not working. Figure out why it's broken.

  13. How to Solve Problems at Work: A Step-by-Step Guide

    Step 3: Identify the source of the issue. Beyond defining the problem that you're faced with, you may also need to identify the root of the problem. This will guide you towards a solution that not only fixes the problem that lies at the surface but also resolve a far deeper issue that could cause more problems to arise in the future.

  14. Examples of Problem-Solving Scenarios in The Workplace

    Developing Problem-Solving Skills in the Workplace. As we've seen, problem-solving is a crucial skill for navigating the myriad challenges that can arise in the workplace. To become effective problem solvers, you must develop hard and soft skills that will allow you to tackle issues head-on and find the best solutions.

  15. Effective Problem Solving in 5 Simple Steps by Synergogy

    In this article, we'll provide practical steps that can help you effectively solve problems at your workplace. Step 1: Define the Problem. The first step in effective problem solving is to define the problem clearly. Take the time to analyze the issue and gather as much information as possible. It's crucial to identify the cause of the ...

  16. Why is problem-solving important in the workplace? (And tips)

    By using problem-solving, you may effectively determine the course of action or prioritise work. It also helps you strategise solutions, helping others recognise and use their strengths and potential to contribute to projects. Problem-solving abilities are especially useful when a team is experiencing a high volume of work, for example, a ...

  17. What Are Problem-Solving Skills? Definition and Examples

    Problem-solving skills are the ability to identify problems, brainstorm and analyze answers, and implement the best solutions. An employee with good problem-solving skills is both a self-starter and a collaborative teammate; they are proactive in understanding the root of a problem and work with others to consider a wide range of solutions ...

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    "Problem-solving skills are skills that allow you to identify and define a situation that needs changing," says Doug Noll, an attorney and adjunct faculty member at the Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University's Caruso School of Law, where he teaches graduate-level classes in decision-making and problem-solving.Once you identify what needs changing, problem-solving ...

  19. 5 Steps (And 4 Techniques) for Effective Problem Solving

    4. Implement the Solution. At this stage of problem solving, be prepared for feedback, and plan for this. When you roll out the solution, request feedback on the success of the change made. 5. Review, Iterate, and Improve. Making a change shouldn't be a one time action.

  20. 26 Expert-Backed Problem Solving Examples

    Effective problem-solving also contributes to a healthier work environment; it reduces stress by providing clear strategies for overcoming obstacles and builds confidence within teams. Examples of Problem-Solving in the Workplace. Correcting a mistake at work, whether it was made by you or someone else

  21. The Importance of Problem Solving Skills in the Workplace

    Thinking outside of the box is an important problem-solving skill in the workplace, because it can often lead to better outcomes than the originally expected ones. 4. Ability to work under pressure. This is often one of the most important benefits of problem-solving skills in the workplace.

  22. WHY PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS MATTER IN THE WORKPLACE

    When developing problem solving in the workplace, it is critical to take a flexible approach that addresses the needs of both current and future employees. Emphasise problem solving in recruitment and assessment. Whether they are entry level, managers or senior executives, problem solving is a crucial skill for all your employees. Skills that ...

  23. What Is Problem-Solving? Steps, Processes, Exercises to do it Right

    There's a 5-step process that you can follow that will allow you to solve your challenges more efficiently and effectively. In short, you need to move through these 5 steps: Defining a problem. Ideating on a solution. Committing to a course of action. Implementing your solution. And finally - analyzing the results.

  24. Some Attempts to Solve the Woman Problem

    Family problems are produced by social changes and often can only be solved by further changes. Perhaps the woman problem of how to get a balanced ration of work and children can never be completely solved, but attempts have been made and are being made to solve the problem.

  25. How AI Can Help Build More Intentional Meetings

    M Meetings can spark ideas, solve problems, and strengthen teams—but they can also be a source of stress. More than a third of people say they have too many meetings, and that most are inefficient, according to our global survey of more than 18,000 people. 1 "The amount of time spent in meetings is beyond any other use of our time," says Nicole Herskowitz, Vice President, Microsoft 365 ...

  26. Biggest problems and greatest strengths of the US political system

    Republicans and Democrats are more focused on fighting each other than on solving problems (86%); The cost of political campaigns makes it hard for good people to run for office (85%); ... A man in his 20s believes that the "separation of powers and federalism work pretty well," while one in his 30s writes that the system's greatest ...

  27. ACM Recognizes Innovators Who Solve Real World Problems

    These ideas and implementations are being used in industry to handle real-world problems and have also had tremendous impact on research in the field. One important upshot of this work was the paradigm-changing demonstration that shared-memory computers are an ideal platform for analyzing large graphs.

  28. She's turning her home into a child care site. It may solve a big

    It may solve a big problem in Alabama. June 20, 2024 6:00 AM ET. Andrea Hsu ... They can also provide a more homelike environment, which many parents who work overnight shifts prefer, Glasgow says

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  30. She's turning her home into a child care site. It may solve a big

    It's an especially pressing issue in Alabama, a state with one of the country's lowest labor force participation rates. To get her program going, Glasgow got creative, "blending and braiding" funding from a number of sources, including the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which aims to help job seekers move into high-quality careers.