Everyday in our lives we face challenges and problems as they are some of the things that give purpose and meaning to our lives, they give us reason to wake up everyday and solve them so as to attain the things we want in life like being rich, having a successful business or a happy life which makes problem solving skills come hand in everyday life
Problem solving skills are also one of the most sought after job skills in the job world today because every business has problems and challenges to which critical thinkers and problem solvers are needed fix them.
As a matter of fact during a job interview you are very likely to be asked to give a work related situation in which you where able solve a problem or over came a challenge showcasing your ability to handle difficult or un expected situations.
Table of Contents
What is problem solving ?
Problem solving is the process of identifying a problem or a challenge then coming up with solutions to resolve the problem or challenge
Examples of problem solving skills include;
- Decision making
Below are the 7 steps of problem solving process that you can use to solve problems in everyday life situations and all points are generalized and not customized to a particular problem.
1. Identifying What the problem is
This is the first step in problem solving process
This is where you identify a challenge, setback or problem to fix or find solutions for, for example the problem could be losses in a business, lack of friends as a person, or failure to get job as a person or any thing you feel needs to be resolved in your life.
2. Identify the cause of the problem
This is the core aspect of problem solving, failure to find the actual cause of a problem will result into the problem being persistent and never getting solved because you would be solving the wrong cause well as the actual cause is not touched, for example;
Let’s use a business that is not making profits, one of the causes of losses would be low demand of a product, or poor quality products or services, or lack of skilled labor or bad location for the business. So even if you improve the product and services, get the best employees when the cause of the problem is your location the problem will remain because it was never solved instead you solved something that wasn’t necessarily broken.
Improvement in all other aspects other than the core problem will show little to no growth as they aren’t the real problems in the first place.
Another real life example of problem solving was at a supermarket that was not making substantial profits. The owner, who was the actual problem, thought the cause of the problem was unskilled workers, so he increased the number of workers with specialized skills in different departments.
He also thought maybe the items were being sold cheaply so he increased the prices, set up promotional offers so as to attract clients, acquired some items on credit so that he can increase the variety of stock.
The results were mixed in that, increased prices chased away some clients who are price sensitive, especially considering the fact that the same location had other 5 supermarkets he was competing with
Increasing the labor force meant an increase in expenses that the company failed to handle in the long run since there weren’t enough profits made from the products and services they offered.
But amidst all those challenges, the core problem that was never touched and that was the owner of the business who took all the profits from the supermarket for his personal use and that’s the biggest problem with sole proprietor businesses.
So the money that would have been reinvested in the business was all taken for personal use to the extent that paying electricity and water bills plus salaries was hard and neither could the company restock finished goods which led to low sales so the company could not break even.
So the solution was that the owner of the business had to separate personal income and finances from business finances and since everyone feared him, no one could stand up to him and tell him the ugly truth that stop taking out your business money for personal use and at least get a salary that should be paid to him and also set profits that should be paid out to him every month as a return on investment
More on business problem solving examples
Another always ignored perspective on business failing to find a solution is confusing signs and symptoms of a problem as a core problem for example, workers failing to perform to the expected standard may appear as the reason as to why a business is failing so you decide to get new workers when in reality the core problem is not the workers but delayed salaries
Most employers will ignore the fact that most employees work so that they can earn something for themselves and a livelihood not as volunteers. So failure to fix the actual problem of delayed salaries so as to motivate employees will result into fixing a wrong problem and the problem will persist well as you keep on insisting that workers these days are not good enough because even the new employees will be affected by the same problem
Another problem solving example would be treating a disease, for instance, HIV, typhoid and malaria have some similar signs and symptoms but unless you go for a blood test you might end up treating a wrong disease while the actual disease is killing you, so you might take malaria medicine whilst you are actually suffering typhoid and it will kill you because that’s the actual disease you suffering from and you are not treating it
In the same way failure to get the actual core cause of any problem or challenge will result into the problem never going away and always recurring
How to find the actual cause of a problem
This is another important part of problem solving and below are 4 ways you can use to identify the actual cause of a problem;
- Seeking advice from other successful people would be a great idea but one thing you should know is that something working out for you might not work out for another person because there could be lots of unforeseen factors that could have favored one person at that moment and might not favor you.
- Reach out to staff if it is a business or other people for personal help, like said before just because something works for one doesn’t mean it will work for you but it’s a good place to start, in a business, your workers have a hands on experience and perspective as to why they are not giving you desired results than an outsider and for personal reasons, friends or family could offer better options
- As human beings we tend to see things from different perspective, seeking people’s different perspectives will give you different options to start with and this is like being open to criticism as people tend to see where others are wrong and how they can fix the problem
- Take feedback from people as way of identifying a problem, in case of a business, when people are unsatisfied they always offer feedback and that’s a great place to start and on a personal level when people are unhappy with you they could let you know
- Put yourself in another person’s shoes, what would you do if you was them, this is not a fool proof solution as people act differently in different situations but it’s a good place to start for example would like going to a restaurant during day or later on at night after work thus you plan accordingly
3 . Generate solutions for the problem
After identifying what the cause of the problem is, for example staying indoors more often could be the cause of having no friends, then you might what to change a few things in your life style like maybe moving out more or if its a business failing then you need to come up with the right solutions to fix it.
4. Evaluate the solutions of the problem
Well this is like having multiple solutions a problem from which you will pick the most suitable one and if one doesn’t work then maybe another one could but also considering the capability of working on it for example sometimes you’re going to be busy with work and honestly won’t be able to go out regularly to meet new people certainly you will need an alternative solution as means of making friends
5. Select on the best option
Well since you’re having a couple of options to from choose after considering all possible circumstances then it’s time to pick the best solution that would work to attain the best results and not just good results, choose an option that is measurable and in line with your goals
6. Implement the solution
After picking the best solution that will work for you and is in line with your goals and objectives. its now time to put it into practice whilst you should be able to monitor progress all through out the implementation process
7. Evaluate the results
This is the last step of the problem solving process
After the solution has been implemented, you will need a reasonable time frame in which a solution should work and with in this period you should get different indicators that show your solution worked let alone being sustainable and consistent
Most actions have a time frame in which they are supposed to work, if something is not working with in a given time frame or you still get the same results even after a few changes then you either fixing the wrong problem or you’re fixing the problem wrongly.
This can further be sorted with key performance indicators (KPIs) that can help track the performance of a given action in solving a problem
Be realistic, it’s one thing to set goals it’s another to set achievable goals. Setting unrealistic goals will make you think a certain solution is not working
The failure to get step one of problem solving right which is identifying the actual problem and step two which is the cause of the problem will give results accordingly but the problem intended to be solved will not be solved if the initial stage is got wrong as it’s the main determinant part in the art of getting a problem solved
Sometimes nothing is wrong and you just have unrealistic goals and expectations and you think something is wrong when in reality everything is okay and is going as it should hence you end up trying to fix something that is not broken due lack of adequate knowledge or misinformation.
Thus you need make realistic and attainable solutions to actual problems and challenges not assumptions after collecting all possible data about a problem and analyzing it