At the slightest setback in the day’s plans, Ms. K threw up her hands and backed away. “I can’t do this!” she exclaimed, her arms crossing defiantly over her chest as her head shook in firm agreement.
Cooler, calmer demeanors stepped in immediately – it was obvious this was not a first-time occurrence. The relatively minor issue was handled efficiently and effectively, with a minimum of raised eyebrows and widened eyes at their co-worker’s behavior, and the day proceeded.
This employee did not possess even the most basic of problem-solving skills. How long will she last in this position? Probably not long.
Problem solving combines logic and the knowledge of past experiences with an imaginative sense of “what if?” to dissect a situation and determine an intelligent solution. A number of important skills factor into successful problem-solving including resilience, analytical thinking and creativity, as well as a bent toward asking the kind of questions that dig below the surface and peel away the layers to get to the core issue.
Consider the IDEAL model, described by Bransford and Stein in their book Ideal Problem Solver. It breaks problem-solving into the following stages:
- Identify the issue
- Define the obstacles
- Examine your options
- Act on an agreed course of action
- Look at how it turns out, whether any changes need to be made.
While the process sounds simple, it takes time – which is completely different, of course, from thumb twiddling to pass the time, so it looks as if you’ve invested deep thought into resolving the issue.
The best resolutions result from a purposeful, strategic process.
- Identifying the problem must involve a thorough understanding of the situation. Minor glitches can be resolved with a brief run through of the above steps. But major issues often involve many contributing components that must be defined before they are addressed.
- Define the obstacles – with pen and paper or a whiteboard, get a visual of every facet of the problem, listing even the most minute aspect. Make an effort to approach the situation from every angle.
- Examine every possible option to ensure a great idea won’t be pushed aside because it appeared less than feasible. The first thought that enters your mind or comes up in the group setting discussion may not be the best solution. That’s okay. It’s this kind of thinking, reaching, and grasping that will ultimately lead to the best resolution.
- Act – when it’s time to move, go for it. Forge ahead with confidence and resolve.
- Look at the outcome – utilize the acronym ART that stands for Assess, Review, Tweak. Objectively assess the results, thoroughly review every part of the resolution, determine what tweaks will better the outcome.
Typically, problem solvers like to learn, can reason well, think creatively, aren’t fearful of decision making, and possess planning and organizational skills. A purposeful approach to dilemmas will make you a valued employee. So, if you lack in any of these crucial areas, choose one skill to work on and resolve to become a better problem solver.
At B. Loehr Staffing we value employees whose problem-solving skills set them apart from the crowd. It is the outstanding performance of our employees that has helped to build our reputation as a premier provider of quality staffing. Contact us today for assistance in finding a position that will utilize your unique skill set.