Problem Solving 101

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I’ve worked a variety of jobs in my life: From starting as a sales associate at surf shop, to working as a SCUBA Instructor in Hawaii, to managing a $1-million a year guest immersion program, to a Project Manager for a video marketing company, and now an Office Manager at a social media management company. While all of these roles were vastly different as far as job-description goes, one skill was absolutely vital to be successful in all of them: problem solving.

Problem solving is a broad topic that many applicants might put on their resume as a buzzword, but what does it actually mean? A problem solver will find a solution, it’s as simple as that.

Becoming a problem solver happens over time with a great deal of practice. Each time you’re presented with a challenge or obstacle that you find a way to overcome, you’ve gained experience in problem solving. This process often happens accidentally, so how can you get experience in problem solving in a more intentional way? We’ve rounded up some tips for how to identify problems and find solutions.

View Problems As Opportunities

A problem may seem daunting from the beginning, but if you change your mindset it will help turn a negative situation into a positive one. If you look at a problem or challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow, instead of an inconvenience, it will make the process of solving the problem feel a lot less intimidating. A simple shift in mindset can clear the way for a logical approach to the problem at hand.

Identify the Difficulties

Staying organized and making lists is a great way to break down a problem. If you methodically identify what the small roadblocks are within the greater challenge, you’ll be able to break down tackling your problem into smaller, more manageable pieces. You can then approach each smaller step with confidence and build upon ultimately solving the larger obstacle.

Get Creative

Creativity is actually a huge factor in successful problem-solving. The reason a problem may still be a problem is that others are not successfully thinking outside the box. Sometimes the answer may come from your past experiences, doing research online or a trial and error of potential solutions. As with all creative endeavors, don’t be afraid to fail along the way.

Don’t Procrastinate

The worst thing you can do when faced with a problem is to put it off. Waiting to face your problems will only make them seem more intimidating with time. It’s often that the tasks we are dreading the most are the ones we should aim to tackle first to clear your path for more desirable projects.

Ask For Help

If you’re really stuck and a problem is weighing you down, enlisting the help of others may be an excellent resource. Often we are too stubborn to ask for help, especially if it’s a problem that we’ve been delegated, but there is no shame in creating a brain trust with a respected source.

Write a List of Solutions

Once the problem has been identified and you’ve done your research, you’ll want to write a list of possible solutions and outcomes. Perhaps arrange them in an order of most-realistic or easy to execute, and go from there. Staying organized will give you the confidence to continue to tackle the problem head-on.

Execute

Coming up with a solution is one thing, but actually carrying out the solution can be a whole different ball game. Once you’ve identified your problem and a possible solution, put it into practice to see if it’s going to work. In the event your first solution is unsuccessful, resort back to your list and reevaluate your process to see what you can try next. In order to be a successful problem solver, you have to leave your pride at the door and be willing to take chances.

No matter what career path you choose, problem-solving is a skill that you will inevitably need and use daily. Feeling confident about facing a challenge requires self-coaching and determination, and the best way to build that confidence is in practice. Take a look at your company, your role or even a problem in your personal life and take these steps to tackle it head-on.

Story By: Sophie Duncan