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Creative Problem Solving: Four Steps to Finding the Right Solution


Tags:  Difficult co-worker

Developing good problem-solving abilities is an essential soft skill for anyone who is seeking career advancement. The problem with problems is that they are time consuming, they create stress and they just never seem to go away.

 

That's why going through this four-step creative problem-solving process is a great way to resolve workplace issues and free up valuable time that can then be spent doing other things.

 

Step #1: Problem Definition

 

The first step in problem solving is to actually define the problem. While this seems simple enough, often times we define what we believe to be the problem only to realize that it is actually a symptom of the real issue.

 
To define a problem properly, consider these questions:
 
  • What are the facts (not assumptions)?
  • What are the factors contributing to the problem?
  • What expectation is not being met?
  • Whose problem is it?
 

It is important to involve everyone affected in this brainstorming process. Once these questions have been answered then the problem can be stated specifically.

 

Step #2: Solution Generation

 

The next step in the process is to actually come up with viable alternative solutions. This means not passing judgment on any suggestions until after all options – good or bad -- have been proposed.

 
When generating solutions make sure that:
 
  • Everyone affected participates
  • Alternatives are consistent with organizational policies
  • Consideration is given to both short- and long-term consequences
  • No alternative is disregarded
 

Step #3: Alternative Identification

 

Once a list of possible solutions has been generated, the team can evaluate and select the optimal solution. To determine which alternative is optimal consider the following about each option:

 
  • What are the good/bad points of this alternative?
  • Will it cause other unanticipated problems?
  • Will everyone involved accept this alternative?
  • How likely is it to be implemented?
 

Avoid selecting what seems to be the first adequate solution by taking time to evaluate each alternative equally and then selecting the one that best meets the needs of the entire team.

 

Step #4: Solution Implementation

 

The final step is to actually implement the chosen solution. This might be one of the most difficult steps because it requires buy-in and follow through by all those involved.

 
When implementing a solution make sure to:
 
  • Establish and adhere to a time line
  • Provide opportunity for feedback
  • Continually monitor the implementation plan
  • Determine what factors indicate success
 

While most people don't put this much thought and effort into solving small everyday problems, larger workplace issues require more thought. By organizing the problem solving into logical steps it makes it easier to take a course of action that is more likely to result in finding the right solution.

 
 


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