Have you ever wondered why some people seem to be really good at problem-solving, while others struggle to make decisions? Did you know that when you strengthen your problem-solving skills, it can actually help you learn how to make better decisions? That’s because you’ll gain the confidence, acquire the analytical skills, and develop the creativity you need to be able to make predictions about the results of different solutions. We’ve put together some of the best ways to strengthen your problem-solving skills and become a more confident decision-maker.
How to strengthen your problem-solving skills
First, train yourself to focus on solutions, not on the problem. When you focus on the obstacles you face, you can become distracted and lose focus on possible solutions. It’s similar to the concept at work in a brainstorming session. For brainstorming to be effective, it must have a sole focus on developing solutions. The moment the notion of “That will never work” enters the process, it tends to kill creativity, and creativity is essential to enable you to view solutions from different perspectives.
Try asking yourself “what if” type of questions. This will help stimulate your brain to think more creatively and consider solutions that might be very different — the complete opposite, perhaps — from the way you’re trying to approach the issue.
Stay positive. Think of problems as opportunities and view them as indicators of ways you can improve on your current process.
Break it down
Things are usually easier to manage when you break them down into smaller pieces.
Begin by defining the exact problem. To paraphrase former United States Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, if you don’t get the problem right, you can’t get the solution right. On the surface, it can appear, for example, that lack of revenue is the problem. Look beyond this, to what the underlying issue might be. Is there a productivity problem? Is the company failing to generate enough sales? Do you need to adjust your product mix?
Next, quantify the size of the problem. What is the effect of the problem on the company or organization? In addition to avoiding unpleasant ramifications, what can be gained by finding a solution?
Identify the cause or causes of the problem. Are there interpersonal issues? Is it a process issue? Is it more technical, or is it a combination of things? Develop a flowchart to help pinpoint the root cause.
Consider alternative solutions. Understand how much it will cost to resolve the problem and how much time is available to find and implement a solution. Will you need to consult with people outside of your organization?
Finally, analyze the cost, the benefit of solving the problem, the consequences of not solving the problem, consider whether it’s something your team can implement, and choose the optimal solution.
Becoming a better problem-solver can make you a better decision-maker
When you improve your ability to process information, you become more confident not only in your abilities as a decision-maker but also in terms of your interpersonal skills. These traits then become part of a continuum in the problem-solving and decision-making process. By boosting your self-confidence through improved problem-solving skills, you are more likely to clearly define the problem before you start searching for solutions and you are less likely to embrace a quick fix. Perhaps you’ll find value in playing devil’s advocate with your team to elicit additional ideas. Armed with a set of problem-solving skills, you will be able to resist the human tendency to become impatient and feel more confident in taking the time to find a balanced solution.
Even if you don’t feel you are natural-born problem-solver, it’s a skill you can learn. When you strengthen your problem solving skills to make better decisions, the confidence you gain will continue to grow over time.