Sunday, 29 April 2012

Improving Your Problem Solving Skills

Unfortunately, facing and overcoming problems is a large part of everyday life. Whenever we are faced with problems, we can opt to do one of two things - ignore the problem with the hope that the issue will take care of itself or we can treat it as a challenge from which we can learn and grow.

Why don't I Possess Problem Solving Skills?

Most people have a negative "What if" attitude that inhibits them from developing expert problem solving skills. In many cases, a person is too hesitant to attempt problem solving due to feelings of inadequacy or incompetence. Negative self-image causes a person to think that his techniques will surely fail or will not be accepted by others.

Additionally, someone that lacks creativity, ingenuity and an inability to think out of the box will have difficulty in problem solving. Many times we take ourselves too seriously and forget the child within us all that can devise ingenious ways out of a particularly difficult issue.

Stress, performance pressure and fatigue are also contributors to a person's inability to get past problems successfully. Emotions like anger, bitterness, depression, guilt, anxiety and self-pity hinder effective problem solving. A person attempting any type of problem solving should be flexible, have his mind open to all possibilities and be in a generally positive mindset about his ability to solve the problem.

Basic Steps in Problem Solving

Problem solving is a dynamic, repetitive process. First, define the problem clearly and concisely. Every problem has positive and negative factors. Describing these enabling or disabling factors allows us to make educated decisions about the best methods to solve the problem at hand.
If the problem posed is huge, attempt to solve it in pieces. Smaller steps are not so intimidating and when you have successfully solved one step, it can be a huge motivator to solve the next step. For example, starting up a business from scratch is a huge challenge that is best attempted in parts.

Make a list of possible solutions and rank them according to their efficacy and chances of success. Brainstorm and encourage all ideas and options, no matter how wild they seem. If possible, gather help from others to assist in problem solving - two heads are still better than one! Remove any doubts, feelings of denial or anxiety that you might have - this is very important to the problem solving process.

If possible, test and analyze the results of a smaller test case prior to undertaking the larger problem. Performing preliminary testing can help improve efficiency and simplify the final process by helping you refine your problem solving method.

  Don't be afraid to change or refine your solution
 if you find that 
you are not getting the desired result. 
   Remember, if you do what you have always done,
 then you will get 
what you have always gotten.

Finally, pursue your goal single-mindedly until it is achieved. Don't be discouraged because you didn't achieve success immediately. Take your time, enjoy the process and reap the rewards of your patience and determination.

Using these concepts the process would look something like:
  1. Define the problem.
  2. Create a plan of action incorporating ALL ideas.
  3. Test and Analyze the effectiveness of the action plan using test cases.
  4. Refine your action plan and repeat steps 1-4 until the problems are solved and your goal is achieved.
  5. Starting to Give Up!!! -> Refer to Step 1
Simply put the progression is Define, Plan, Test, Analyze, Refine and Succeed. The process is repeated like a rotating wheel until intermediate problems are solved and the final goal is achieved.

How Can I Improve My Problem Solving Skills

Problem solving skills can only be improved through practice. Encourage yourself to take on more complex issues in both your personal and professional life. Focus on improving your critical thinking skills and the overall decision making process. The more comfortable you feel handling difficult issues, the more self-confidence you will have when the next monumental problem comes along.

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