How to Find Positive Solutions to Problems


 by Michael Corthell

Problems are at the center of our lives every single day, whether you're solving a problem of what to have for breakfast, or helping those in need to solve their problems.

The problems that you face can be large or small, simple or complex, easy or difficult, but they are ever-present. Your task is making them manageable. The most effective way to do this is through organized, step-by-step thinking.

''Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.''
—Henry Kaiser

Problem-solving includes prevention and is at the core of a leader's job description. As a leader, your primary goal is to lower the occurrence of problems. That means planning for them, and handling them head-on before circumstances make us take action.

As Karl Popper, simply stated, ''All life is problem-solving.'' Meaning that, not only do the best leaders need to be the best problem solvers but also that the rest of us should be great problem solvers as well. The most effective leaders approach problems by viewing every problem as an opportunity.

The four basic steps in effective problem solving:

What is the problem: define the problem. Brainstorm and use a 'Master Mind' group. Then diagnose what is going on so that your focus is on the problem, not only its symptoms. Use flowcharts to identify the expected steps of a process and use cause-and-effect diagrams to define and analyze the cause of the problem.

Create alternative solutions. The goal is to create a list of possible solutions to choose from. The harder the problem, the more solutions you may need. Do not select any one of the solutions until several probable alternatives have been found. Analyze and test them.

Decide on a solution. What are you going to do? Is the ideal solution effective? Will meet the goal? Is it efficient and affordable? Does this solution have the fewest side effects or the most limited consequences?

Implement your solution. The implementation of a solution always requires planning for its execution. You may have to be tentative and experiment a bit.

Review the results. What happened when you tried your solution? To know, absolutely, that you succeeded in solving the problem, it’s important to review what worked, and what didn’t. What was it's the impact? It will also help you to improve your long-term problem-solving skills and keeps you from re-inventing the wheel (use Google, save time).

When you understand these problem-solving steps fully, you can then build your skill level through practice. You may be skilled at one or two of the steps and not good at others. Some folks are great at generating ideas but have trouble implementing them. Others have great execution skills but can’t make decisions on which solutions to use.

Knowing these problem-solving steps will allow you to work on your weak points in problem-solving, or better yet you can decide to team up with people whose strengths complement yours. This is the very reason that 'two heads are better than one'. Try using the mastermind group alliance.

''Opportunity is missed by most people because
it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.''

 —Thomas A. Edison

From Bread to Toast

by Tom Wujec

Making toast doesn’t sound very complicated — until someone asks you to draw the process, step by step. Tom Wujec loves asking people and teams to draw how they make toast, because the process reveals unexpected truths about how we can solve our biggest, most complicated problems at work. Learn how to run this exercise yourself, and hear Wujec’s surprising insights from watching thousands of people draw toast.