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The importance of problem solving skills in the workplace
The importance of problem-solving skills in the workplace can’t be overstated. Every business and every job role has its problems. From entry-level hires to senior staffers, every one of your employees will face challenges that don’t can’t be answered by a quick Google search.
That’s why employers must hire people with problem-solving skills, especially for roles that require dealing with complex business challenges, tight deadlines, and changing variables. A good example is when you have to hire leaders in the workplace.
But what are problem-solving skills? And how do they come into play in the workplace? Most importantly, how can you evaluate candidates’ skills before you hire them.
What are problem solving skills?
To fully comprehend the importance of problem-solving skills in the workplace, it’s important first to understand the broad skillset they are comprised of. Generally, problem-solving refers to a person’s ability to successfully manage and find solutions for complex and unexpected situations.
Candidates with great problem-solving skills have a combination of both analytical and creative thinking. They’re comfortable with making decisions and confident enough to rise to challenges in the workplace.
These candidates possess a combination of analytical, creative, critical thinking skills and a high level of attention to detail. As a result, they will quickly identify problems when they arise and identify the most effective solutions. They’ll also identify the factors and forces that might have caused the problem and instigate changes to mitigate future challenges.
There are six key problem-solving skills that you should look for when assessing job candidates:
1. Listening skills
Active listeners are generally great problem solvers. They can listen to those around them to gather the information needed to solve the problem at hand. They recognize the importance of valuing others’ opinions and experiences to help understand why the problem occurred and the best course of action to remedy it.
2. Analytical thinking skills
Analytical thinkers can identify the logical reasons why a problem occurred, what the long-term effects of the issue could be, and identify how effective different solutions might be to select the most practical one.
3. Creative thinking skills
Creative thinkers can balance their analytical skills with creative solutions. Creative thinking skills allow individuals to uncover innovative and progressive solutions to problems. They’re able to provide new perspectives and provide imaginative and experimental solutions to all kinds of problems.
4. Communication skills
Problem solvers should also possess great communication skills . The ability to effectively relay complex information thoroughly yet succinctly is a huge benefit for employers working in fast-paced environments.
5. Decision-making skills
Those with problem-solving skills will also possess the ability to make decisions and be confident in them. This is important, as most problem-solving steps involve making firm decisions to provide a successful outcome.
Although problem-solvers need to be independent thinkers, it’s also vital for them to work well as part of a team. Determining the best solution often requires collaboration, so it’s important that candidates can demonstrate how they can motivate others to come up with the best solutions and work with them to help develop and implement solutions.
Why are problem solving skills important?
Problem-solving skills allow you to find candidates who are cognitively equipped to handle anything their jobs throw at them.
Problem solvers can observe, judge, and act quickly when difficulties arise when they inevitably do. Moreover, they are not afraid of the unknown, which is invaluable to employers who rely on their employees to identify and solve problems.
There are several important benefits of problem-solving skills in the workplace. Below, we’ll go through five of the most significant traits that all problem solvers can bring to their roles and workplaces.
1. Ability to organize their time intelligently
Time management skills can often be underlooked as one of the benefits of problem-solving skills in the workplace. However, those with problem-solving abilities also typically possess stellar time-management skills. The ability to manage their time wisely and laser-focus on what’s important to the business will lead to better decision-making and business impact.
2. Ability to prioritize, plan, and execute strategies
Problem solvers have no issue with carefully assessing customer and client needs and how to prioritize, plan, and execute strategies for how to meet them. They can manage all moving parts since they can strategize how best to meet multiple unique demands.
3. Ability to think outside the box
Problem solvers can often identify opportunities in problems. Thinking outside of the box is an important problem-solving skill in the workplace since it can often lead to better outcomes than had been expected originally.
4. Ability to work under pressure
This is often one of the most important benefits of problem-solving skills in the workplace. Problem solvers often have personalities that respond well under pressure, including accelerated deadlines and changing project parameters.
Depending on your workplace culture, you might prefer someone who can deliver quick solutions or someone who takes their time to identify the next steps — both are valid problem-solving qualities.
5. Ability to address risk
Planning is an important problem-solving skill. Problem solvers are not just equipped to deal with the problem at hand but are also able to anticipate problems that will arise in the future based on trends, patterns, experience, and current events.
How to assess problem solving skills
Many organizations use problem-solving interview questions to identify the right candidates for their job openings. However, the most effective way to assess problem-solving skills is with pre-employment skills tests .
That’s because skills tests provide an objective way to quantify a candidate’s problem-solving skills in a way that isn’t possible during an interview.
How problem solving skills tests work
Tests like TestGorilla’s problem-solving skills test . assist organizations in finding candidates who quickly identify the key elements of the problem and work through the problem at speed without making mistakes. By presenting candidates with a wide range of questions related to typical problem-solving scenarios, hiring teams can rank their candidates based on an intensive assessment of each candidate’s skill level.
The test specifically evaluates whether a candidate can perform problem-solving tasks like:
- creating and adjust schedules
- prioritizing items based on a given set of rules
- interpreting data and applying logic to make decisions
- analyzing textual and numerical information to draw conclusions
As you can see, even the best interviewer would have trouble assessing each of these skill areas while still covering other questions that need to be asked in an interview.
Hire candidates who can think for themselves
If you’re convinced of the importance of problem-solving skills in the workplace and want to build a team of employees that can think independently and solve their own problems without needing constant supervision, assess problem-solving skills during the hiring process. Using a problem-solving assessment is an easy way to evaluate your candidates’ overall analytical skills so that you can benefit from this essential skillset.
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What is problem solving and why is it important
By Wayne Stottler , Kepner-Tregoe
- Problem Solving & Decision Making Over time, developing and refining problem solving skills provides the ability to solve increasingly complex problems Learn More
For over 60 years, Kepner-Tregoe has been helping companies across industries and geographies to develop and mature their problem-solving capabilities through KT’s industry leading approach to training and the implementation of best practice processes. Considering that problem solving is a part of almost every person’s daily life (both at home and in the workplace), it is surprising how often we are asked to explain what problem solving is and why it is important.
Problem solving is at the core of human evolution. It is the methods we use to understand what is happening in our environment, identify things we want to change and then figure out the things that need to be done to create the desired outcome. Problem solving is the source of all new inventions, social and cultural evolution, and the basis for market based economies. It is the basis for continuous improvement, communication and learning.
If this problem-solving thing is so important to daily life, what is it?
Problem-solving is the process of observing what is going on in your environment; identifying things that could be changed or improved; diagnosing why the current state is the way it is and the factors and forces that influence it; developing approaches and alternatives to influence change; making decisions about which alternative to select; taking action to implement the changes; and observing impact of those actions in the environment.
Each step in the problem-solving process employs skills and methods that contribute to the overall effectiveness of influencing change and determine the level of problem complexity that can be addressed. Humans learn how to solve simple problems from a very early age (learning to eat, make coordinated movements and communicate) – and as a person goes through life problem-solving skills are refined, matured and become more sophisticated (enabling them to solve more difficult problems).
Problem-solving is important both to individuals and organizations because it enables us to exert control over our environment.
Fixing things that are broken
Some things wear out and break over time, others are flawed from day-1. Personal and business environments are full of things, activities, interactions and processes that are broken or not operating in the way they are desired to work. Problem-solving gives us a mechanism for identifying these things, figuring out why they are broken and determining a course of action to fix them.
Humans have learned to identify trends and developed an awareness of cause-and-effect relationships in their environment. These skills not only enable us to fix things when they break but also anticipate what may happen in the future (based on past-experience and current events). Problem-solving can be applied to the anticipated future events and used to enable action in the present to influence the likelihood of the event occurring and/or alter the impact if the event does occur.
Individuals and organizations do not exist in isolation in the environment. There is a complex and ever-changing web of relationships that exist and as a result, the actions of one person will often have either a direct impact on others or an indirect impact by changing the environment dynamics. These interdependencies enable humans to work together to solve more complex problems but they also create a force that requires everyone to continuously improve performance to adapt to improvements by others. Problem-solving helps us understand relationships and implement the changes and improvements needed to compete and survive in a continually changing environment.
Problem solving isn’t just about responding to (and fixing) the environment that exists today. It is also about innovating, creating new things and changing the environment to be more desirable. Problem-solving enables us to identify and exploit opportunities in the environment and exert (some level of) control over the future.
Problem solving skills and the problem-solving process are a critical part of daily life both as individuals and organizations. Developing and refining these skills through training, practice and learning can provide the ability to solve problems more effectively and over time address problems with a greater degree of complexity and difficulty. View KT’s Problem Solving workshop known to be the gold standard for over 60 years.
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- Job-essential skills
- Develop your employability skills
The Collins English dictionary defines it as: the act or process of finding solutions to problems, especially by using a scientific or analytical approach. It is a vital everyday skill that you will need to have for your personal and professional life.
- Why is it important
How can I get better?
How can i demonstrate this when applying for jobs, why is it important.
- Employers like to see good problem solving skills because it also helps to show them you have a range of other competencies such as logic, creativity, resilience, imagination, lateral thinking and determination.
- It is a vital skills for your professional and personal life.
- It is a key skill that is assessed at job interviews..
- It is an essential skill for managers and all senior level roles.
- Those with good problem-solving skills are a valuable and trusted asset in any team – these are the people who think of new ideas, better ways of doing things, make it easier for people to understand things or help save customers time and money.
- They are proactive thinkers who like to get things done.
- Can help you progress more quickly and boost your career opportunities.
Problem-solving and critical thinking Employers look for individuals with strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In this free short three-week online course from RIT you’ll learn how to develop these key skills and how to develop a framework to help you assess and analyse a situation, design a solution, and ultimately win in a competitive scenario.
- Learn more
Problem-solving – it’s a process Problem-solving is a mental process that involves discovering, analysing and solving problems. The ultimate goal of problem-solving is to overcome obstacles and find a solution that best resolves the issue. This article from VeryWellMind identifies some key parts of the process.
- Discover more
Problem solving is vital at all levels
We often associate the skill of problem-solving with those in senior positions. After all, they have more responsibilities, as well as the authority to tackle any issues that may arise. While it’s not very likely that you will be asked to find a solution to a major business issue on your first day of a new job, the way you handle even the smallest of problems will demonstrate to an employer how well you can deal with larger ones. If your boss doubts your ability to overcome difficulties that come your way, they may not trust you with more responsibility, or consider you for a managerial role later on.
Knowing how to solve problems is therefore of paramount importance vital. Luckily, there are many ways you can develop the skill, and learning how to demonstrate it can prove invaluable at job interviews.
Acquiring a new skill doesn’t have to feel like work. You can easily build your problem-solving ability through gaming, either online or with classic board games. How many times have you played your favourite game and got stuck on the same level for hours, before you finally found a way around it? Putting yourself in a situation, even a fictional one, where you have to think creatively will help you develop the same mind-set in your everyday life. You can then apply these skills and behaviours to your professional life, too.
Don’t run away
When the going gets tough, we all have the tendency to want to hide away instead of facing the problem and coming up with a solution. Unfortunately, wishing a problem away will not make it disappear, so dealing with it promptly can be essential in keeping you sane! Even if there is no solution, the way you handle the consequences and minimise the negative impact will make you feel more powerful and able to handle any adversities.
Asking for help or advice is not a weakness! It is actually welcomed by many employers, especially while you are still learning the ropes. Listen to what people with more experience have to say, and then try to figure out if you can apply their advice to solve your problem. This will not only help you handle it with more confidence, but it will also show that you are proactive, and not afraid to consult your seniors.
History repeats itself
Perhaps the problem you are facing has happened before. In this case, if the solution was successful, you might want to follow it. If it wasn’t, you can eliminate all the ways you can’t solve the problem.
Do your research
Having all the facts can really help you understand a problem better and even identify where something went wrong. While trusting your instinct, and proposing a solution is fine, it’s wise to have some facts in your back pocket to help you convince your team, or your boss. That way, you will not only have presented them with a solution, but you will also have the facts to justify your way of thinking if you come up against any criticism.
Don’t look for problems
While spotting mistakes is a great skill, creating problems out of nowhere is not! Sometimes the simplest solution is the answer, and trying to prove yourself by tackling a problem you created will probably give you a reputation of being a trouble maker, rather than the hero you want to be seen as.
This article by topuniversities may also help when learning how to solve problems. It describes how you should handle the problem solving process.
Problem solving: the mark of an independent employee – this article from Targetjobs.com has some excellent guidance on how employers assess problem solving in your job applications and when you start work.
Demonstrating that you are a great problem solver is not always easy, as there is only so much you can include in your CV. However, one of the most common interview questions is designed to assess this skill. So, what do you say when an interviewer asks: ‘Give us an example of a situation where you faced a difficult problem?’
It can be very tempting to make up a situation, to try and make yourself sound like the master of problem-solving. However, it’s always best to be truthful, even if you feel like your example refers to a minor problem. Do try to think of a situation, perhaps in your student life, where you came across an obstacle and managed to tackle it effectively. It could be something like working as part of a project team, or writing your dissertation, for example.
If you simply can’t recall having faced any major issues at university, then use your personal life as an example. Maybe you like playing chess, which will also show your ability to think strategically. Or perhaps you travelled abroad and had problems with your booking, or finding your way around in a new country where you didn’t speak the language.
Remember, the important thing is to demonstrate your ability to think on your feet, remain calm in stressful situations and contribute to finding a solution.
Introduction to Problem Solving Skills
What is problem solving and why is it important.
The ability to solve problems is a basic life skill and is essential to our day-to-day lives, at home, at school, and at work. We solve problems every day without really thinking about how we solve them. For example: it’s raining and you need to go to the store. What do you do? There are lots of possible solutions. Take your umbrella and walk. If you don't want to get wet, you can drive, or take the bus. You might decide to call a friend for a ride, or you might decide to go to the store another day. There is no right way to solve this problem and different people will solve it differently.
Problem solving is the process of identifying a problem, developing possible solution paths, and taking the appropriate course of action.
Why is problem solving important? Good problem solving skills empower you not only in your personal life but are critical in your professional life. In the current fast-changing global economy, employers often identify everyday problem solving as crucial to the success of their organizations. For employees, problem solving can be used to develop practical and creative solutions, and to show independence and initiative to employers.
Throughout this case study you will be asked to jot down your thoughts in idea logs. These idea logs are used for reflection on concepts and for answering short questions. When you click on the "Next" button, your responses will be saved for that page. If you happen to close the webpage, you will lose your work on the page you were on, but previous pages will be saved. At the end of the case study, click on the "Finish and Export to PDF" button to acknowledge completion of the case study and receive a PDF document of your idea logs.
What Does Problem Solving Look Like?
The ability to solve problems is a skill, and just like any other skill, the more you practice, the better you get. So how exactly do you practice problem solving? Learning about different problem solving strategies and when to use them will give you a good start. Problem solving is a process. Most strategies provide steps that help you identify the problem and choose the best solution. There are two basic types of strategies: algorithmic and heuristic.
Algorithmic strategies are traditional step-by-step guides to solving problems. They are great for solving math problems (in algebra: multiply and divide, then add or subtract) or for helping us remember the correct order of things (a mnemonic such as “Spring Forward, Fall Back” to remember which way the clock changes for daylight saving time, or “Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey” to remember what direction to turn bolts and screws). Algorithms are best when there is a single path to the correct solution.
But what do you do when there is no single solution for your problem? Heuristic methods are general guides used to identify possible solutions. A popular one that is easy to remember is IDEAL [ Bransford & Stein, 1993 ] :
- I dentify the problem
- D efine the context of the problem
- E xplore possible strategies
- A ct on best solution
IDEAL is just one problem solving strategy. Building a toolbox of problem solving strategies will improve your problem solving skills. With practice, you will be able to recognize and use multiple strategies to solve complex problems.
Watch the video
What is the best way to get a peanut out of a tube that cannot be moved? Watch a chimpanzee solve this problem in the video below [ Geert Stienissen, 2010 ].
Describe the series of steps you think the chimpanzee used to solve this problem.
- [Page 2: What does Problem Solving Look Like?] Describe the series of steps you think the chimpanzee used to solve this problem.
Think of an everyday problem you've encountered recently and describe your steps for solving it.
- [Page 2: What does Problem Solving Look Like?] Think of an everyday problem you've encountered recently and describe your steps for solving it.
Developing Problem Solving Processes
Problem solving is a process that uses steps to solve problems. But what does that really mean? Let's break it down and start building our toolbox of problem solving strategies.
What is the first step of solving any problem? The first step is to recognize that there is a problem and identify the right cause of the problem. This may sound obvious, but similar problems can arise from different events, and the real issue may not always be apparent. To really solve the problem, it's important to find out what started it all. This is called identifying the root cause .
Example: You and your classmates have been working long hours on a project in the school's workshop. The next afternoon, you try to use your student ID card to access the workshop, but discover that your magnetic strip has been demagnetized. Since the card was a couple of years old, you chalk it up to wear and tear and get a new ID card. Later that same week you learn that several of your classmates had the same problem! After a little investigation, you discover that a strong magnet was stored underneath a workbench in the workshop. The magnet was the root cause of the demagnetized student ID cards.
The best way to identify the root cause of the problem is to ask questions and gather information. If you have a vague problem, investigating facts is more productive than guessing a solution. Ask yourself questions about the problem. What do you know about the problem? What do you not know? When was the last time it worked correctly? What has changed since then? Can you diagram the process into separate steps? Where in the process is the problem occurring? Be curious, ask questions, gather facts, and make logical deductions rather than assumptions.
Watch Adam Savage from Mythbusters, describe his problem solving process [ ForaTv, 2010 ]. As you watch this section of the video, try to identify the questions he asks and the different strategies he uses.
Adam Savage shared many of his problem solving processes. List the ones you think are the five most important. Your list may be different from other people in your class—that's ok!
- [Page 3: Developing Problem Solving Processes] Adam Savage shared many of his problem solving processes. List the ones you think are the five most important.
“The ability to ask the right question is more than half the battle of finding the answer.” — Thomas J. Watson , founder of IBM
Voices From the Field: Solving Problems
In manufacturing facilities and machine shops, everyone on the floor is expected to know how to identify problems and find solutions. Today's employers look for the following skills in new employees: to analyze a problem logically, formulate a solution, and effectively communicate with others.
In this video, industry professionals share their own problem solving processes, the problem solving expectations of their employees, and an example of how a problem was solved.
Meet the Partners:
- Taconic High School in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is a comprehensive, fully accredited high school with special programs in Health Technology, Manufacturing Technology, and Work-Based Learning.
- Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, prepares its students with applied manufacturing technical skills, providing hands-on experience at industrial laboratories and manufacturing facilities, and instructing them in current technologies.
- H.C. Starck in Newton, Massachusetts, specializes in processing and manufacturing technology metals, such as tungsten, niobium, and tantalum. In almost 100 years of experience, they hold over 900 patents, and continue to innovate and develop new products.
- Nypro Healthcare in Devens, Massachusetts, specializes in precision injection-molded healthcare products. They are committed to good manufacturing processes including lean manufacturing and process validation.
Now that you have a couple problem solving strategies in your toolbox, let's practice. In this exercise, you are given a scenario and you will be asked to decide what steps you would take to identify and solve the problem.
Scenario: You are a new employee and have just finished your training. As your first project, you have been assigned the milling of several additional components for a regular customer. Together, you and your trainer, Bill, set up for the first run. Checking your paperwork, you gather the tools and materials on the list. As you are mounting the materials on the table, you notice that you didn't grab everything and hurriedly grab a few more items from one of the bins. Once the material is secured on the CNC table, you load tools into the tool carousel in the order listed on the tool list and set the fixture offsets.
Bill tells you that since this is a rerun of a job several weeks ago, the CAD/CAM model has already been converted to CNC G-code. Bill helps you download the code to the CNC machine. He gives you the go-ahead and leaves to check on another employee. You decide to start your first run.
What problems did you observe in the video?
- [Page 5: Making Decisions] What problems did you observe in the video?
- What do you do next?
- Try to fix it yourself.
- Ask your trainer for help.
As you are cleaning up, you think about what happened and wonder why it happened. You try to create a mental picture of what happened. You are not exactly sure what the end mill hit, but it looked like it might have hit the dowel pin. You wonder if you grabbed the correct dowel pins from the bins earlier.
You can think of two possible next steps. You can recheck the dowel pin length to make sure it is the correct length, or do a dry run using the CNC single step or single block function with the spindle empty to determine what actually happened.
- Check the dowel pins.
- Use the single step/single block function to determine what happened.
You notice that your trainer, Bill, is still on the floor and decide to ask him for help. You describe the problem to him. Bill asks if you know what the end mill ran into. You explain that you are not sure but you think it was the dowel pin. Bill reminds you that it is important to understand what happened so you can fix the correct problem. He suggests that you start all over again and begin with a dry run using the single step/single block function, with the spindle empty, to determine what it hit. Or, since it happened at the end, he mentions that you can also check the G-code to make sure the Z-axis is raised before returning to the home position.
- Run the single step/single block function.
- Edit the G-code to raise the Z-axis.
You finish cleaning up and check the CNC for any damage. Luckily, everything looks good. You check your paperwork and gather the components and materials again. You look at the dowel pins you used earlier, and discover that they are not the right length. As you go to grab the correct dowel pins, you have to search though several bins. For the first time, you are aware of the mess - it looks like the dowel pins and other items have not been put into the correctly labeled bins. You spend 30 minutes straightening up the bins and looking for the correct dowel pins.
Finally finding them, you finish setting up. You load tools into the tool carousel in the order listed on the tool list and set the fixture offsets. Just to make sure, you use the CNC single step/single block function, to do a dry run of the part. Everything looks good! You are ready to create your first part. The first component is done, and, as you admire your success, you notice that the part feels hotter than it should.
You wonder why? You go over the steps of the process to mentally figure out what could be causing the residual heat. You wonder if there is a problem with the CNC's coolant system or if the problem is in the G-code.
- Look at the G-code.
After thinking about the problem, you decide that maybe there's something wrong with the setup. First, you clean up the damaged materials and remove the broken tool. You check the CNC machine carefully for any damage. Luckily, everything looks good. It is time to start over again from the beginning.
You again check your paperwork and gather the tools and materials on the setup sheet. After securing the new materials, you use the CNC single step/single block function with the spindle empty, to do a dry run of the part. You watch carefully to see if you can figure out what happened. It looks to you like the spindle barely misses hitting the dowel pin. You determine that the end mill was broken when it hit the dowel pin while returning to the start position.
After conducting a dry run using the single step/single block function, you determine that the end mill was damaged when it hit the dowel pin on its return to the home position. You discuss your options with Bill. Together, you decide the best thing to do would be to edit the G-code and raise the Z-axis before returning to home. You open the CNC control program and edit the G-code. Just to make sure, you use the CNC single step/single block function, to do another dry run of the part. You are ready to create your first part. It works. You first part is completed. Only four more to go.
As you are cleaning up, you notice that the components are hotter than you expect and the end mill looks more worn than it should be. It dawns on you that while you were milling the component, the coolant didn't turn on. You wonder if it is a software problem in the G-code or hardware problem with the CNC machine.
It's the end of the day and you decide to finish the rest of the components in the morning.
- You decide to look at the G-code in the morning.
- You leave a note on the machine, just in case.
You decide that the best thing to do would be to edit the G-code and raise the Z-axis of the spindle before it returns to home. You open the CNC control program and edit the G-code.
While editing the G-code to raise the Z-axis, you notice that the coolant is turned off at the beginning of the code and at the end of the code. The coolant command error caught your attention because your coworker, Mark, mentioned having a similar issue during lunch. You change the coolant command to turn the mist on.
- You decide to talk with your supervisor.
- You discuss what happened with a coworker over lunch.
As you reflect on the residual heat problem, you think about the machining process and the factors that could have caused the issue. You try to think of anything and everything that could be causing the issue. Are you using the correct tool for the specified material? Are you using the specified material? Is it running at the correct speed? Is there enough coolant? Are there chips getting in the way?
Wait, was the coolant turned on? As you replay what happened in your mind, you wonder why the coolant wasn't turned on. You decide to look at the G-code to find out what is going on.
From the milling machine computer, you open the CNC G-code. You notice that there are no coolant commands. You add them in and on the next run, the coolant mist turns on and the residual heat issues is gone. Now, its on to creating the rest of the parts.
Have you ever used brainstorming to solve a problem? Chances are, you've probably have, even if you didn't realize it.
You notice that your trainer, Bill, is on the floor and decide to ask him for help. You describe the problem with the end mill breaking, and how you discovered that items are not being returned to the correctly labeled bins. You think this caused you to grab the incorrect length dowel pins on your first run. You have sorted the bins and hope that the mess problem is fixed. You then go on to tell Bill about the residual heat issue with the completed part.
Together, you go to the milling machine. Bill shows you how to check the oil and coolant levels. Everything looks good at the machine level. Next, on the CNC computer, you open the CNC G-code. While looking at the code, Bill points out that there are no coolant commands. Bill adds them in and when you rerun the program, it works.
Bill is glad you mentioned the problem to him. You are the third worker to mention G-code issues over the last week. You noticed the coolant problems in your G-code, John noticed a Z-axis issue in his G-code, and Sam had issues with both the Z-axis and the coolant. Chances are, there is a bigger problem and Bill will need to investigate the root cause .
Talking with Bill, you discuss the best way to fix the problem. Bill suggests editing the G-code to raise the Z-axis of the spindle before it returns to its home position. You open the CNC control program and edit the G-code. Following the setup sheet, you re-setup the job and use the CNC single step/single block function, to do another dry run of the part. Everything looks good, so you run the job again and create the first part. It works. Since you need four of each component, you move on to creating the rest of them before cleaning up and leaving for the day.
It's a new day and you have new components to create. As you are setting up, you go in search of some short dowel pins. You discover that the bins are a mess and components have not been put away in the correctly labeled bins. You wonder if this was the cause of yesterday's problem. As you reorganize the bins and straighten up the mess, you decide to mention the mess issue to Bill in your afternoon meeting.
You describe the bin mess and using the incorrect length dowels to Bill. He is glad you mentioned the problem to him. You are not the first person to mention similar issues with tools and parts not being put away correctly. Chances are there is a bigger safety issue here that needs to be addressed in the next staff meeting.
In any workplace, following proper safety and cleanup procedures is always important. This is especially crucial in manufacturing where people are constantly working with heavy, costly and sometimes dangerous equipment. When issues and problems arise, it is important that they are addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Effective communication is an important tool because it can prevent problems from recurring, avoid injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost, and save money.
You now know that the end mill was damaged when it hit the dowel pin. It seems to you that the easiest thing to do would be to edit the G-code and raise the Z-axis position of the spindle before it returns to the home position. You open the CNC control program and edit the G-code, raising the Z-axis. Starting over, you follow the setup sheet and re-setup the job. This time, you use the CNC single step/single block function, to do another dry run of the part. Everything looks good, so you run the job again and create the first part.
At the end of the day, you are reviewing your progress with your trainer, Bill. After you describe the day's events, he reminds you to always think about safety and the importance of following work procedures. He decides to bring the issue up in the next morning meeting as a reminder to everyone.
In any workplace, following proper procedures (especially those that involve safety) is always important. This is especially crucial in manufacturing where people are constantly working with heavy, costly, and sometimes dangerous equipment. When issues and problems arise, it is important that they are addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Effective communication is an important tool because it can prevent problems from recurring, avoid injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost, and save money. One tool to improve communication is the morning meeting or huddle.
The next morning, you check the G-code to determine what is wrong with the coolant. You notice that the coolant is turned off at the beginning of the code and also at the end of the code. This is strange. You change the G-code to turn the coolant on at the beginning of the run and off at the end. This works and you create the rest of the parts.
Throughout the day, you keep wondering what caused the G-code error. At lunch, you mention the G-code error to your coworker, John. John is not surprised. He said that he encountered a similar problem earlier this week. You decide to talk with your supervisor the next time you see him.
You are in luck. You see your supervisor by the door getting ready to leave. You hurry over to talk with him. You start off by telling him about how you asked Bill for help. Then you tell him there was a problem and the end mill was damaged. You describe the coolant problem in the G-code. Oh, and by the way, John has seen a similar problem before.
Your supervisor doesn't seem overly concerned, errors happen. He tells you "Good job, I am glad you were able to fix the issue." You are not sure whether your supervisor understood your explanation of what happened or that it had happened before.
The challenge of communicating in the workplace is learning how to share your ideas and concerns. If you need to tell your supervisor that something is not going well, it is important to remember that timing, preparation, and attitude are extremely important.
It is the end of your shift, but you want to let the next shift know that the coolant didn't turn on. You do not see your trainer or supervisor around. You decide to leave a note for the next shift so they are aware of the possible coolant problem. You write a sticky note and leave it on the monitor of the CNC control system.
How effective do you think this solution was? Did it address the problem?
In this scenario, you discovered several problems with the G-code that need to be addressed. When issues and problems arise, it is important that they are addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Effective communication is an important tool because it can prevent problems from recurring and avoid injury to personnel. The challenge of communicating in the workplace is learning how and when to share your ideas and concerns. If you need to tell your co-workers or supervisor that there is a problem, it is important to remember that timing and the method of communication are extremely important.
You are able to fix the coolant problem in the G-code. While you are glad that the problem is fixed, you are worried about why it happened in the first place. It is important to remember that if a problem keeps reappearing, you may not be fixing the right problem. You may only be addressing the symptoms.
You decide to talk to your trainer. Bill is glad you mentioned the problem to him. You are the third worker to mention G-code issues over the last week. You noticed the coolant problems in your G-code, John noticed a Z-axis issue in his G-code, and Sam had issues with both the Z-axis and the coolant. Chances are, there is a bigger problem and Bill will need to investigate the root cause .
Over lunch, you ask your coworkers about the G-code problem and what may be causing the error. Several people mention having similar problems but do not know the cause.
You have now talked to three coworkers who have all experienced similar coolant G-code problems. You make a list of who had the problem, when they had the problem, and what each person told you.
When you see your supervisor later that afternoon, you are ready to talk with him. You describe the problem you had with your component and the damaged bit. You then go on to tell him about talking with Bill and discovering the G-code issue. You show him your notes on your coworkers' coolant issues, and explain that you think there might be a bigger problem.
You supervisor thanks you for your initiative in identifying this problem. It sounds like there is a bigger problem and he will need to investigate the root cause. He decides to call a team huddle to discuss the issue, gather more information, and talk with the team about the importance of communication.
Root Cause Analysis
Root cause analysis ( RCA ) is a method of problem solving that identifies the underlying causes of an issue. Root cause analysis helps people answer the question of why the problem occurred in the first place. RCA uses clear cut steps in its associated tools, like the "5 Whys Analysis" and the "Cause and Effect Diagram," to identify the origin of the problem, so that you can:
- Determine what happened.
- Determine why it happened.
- Fix the problem so it won’t happen again.
RCA works under the idea that systems and events are connected. An action in one area triggers an action in another, and another, and so on. By tracing back these actions, you can discover where the problem started and how it developed into the problem you're now facing. Root cause analysis can prevent problems from recurring, reduce injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost and save money. There are many different RCA techniques available to determine the root cause of a problem. These are just a few:
- Root Cause Analysis Tools
- 5 Whys Analysis
- Fishbone or Cause and Effect Diagram
- Pareto Analysis
How Huddles Work
Communication is a vital part of any setting where people work together. Effective communication helps employees and managers form efficient teams. It builds trusts between employees and management, and reduces unnecessary competition because each employee knows how their part fits in the larger goal.
One tool that management can use to promote communication in the workplace is the huddle . Just like football players on the field, a huddle is a short meeting where everyone is standing in a circle. A daily team huddle ensures that team members are aware of changes to the schedule, reiterated problems and safety issues, and how their work impacts one another. When done right, huddles create collaboration, communication, and accountability to results. Impromptu huddles can be used to gather information on a specific issue and get each team member's input.
The most important thing to remember about huddles is that they are short, lasting no more than 10 minutes, and their purpose is to communicate and identify. In essence, a huddle’s purpose is to identify priorities, communicate essential information, and discover roadblocks to productivity.
Who uses huddles? Many industries and companies use daily huddles. At first thought, most people probably think of hospitals and their daily patient update meetings, but lots of managers use daily meetings to engage their employees. Here are a few examples:
- Brian Scudamore, CEO of 1-800-Got-Junk? , uses the daily huddle as an operational tool to take the pulse of his employees and as a motivational tool. Watch a morning huddle meeting .
- Fusion OEM, an outsourced manufacturing and production company. What do employees take away from the daily huddle meeting .
- Biz-Group, a performance consulting group. Tips for a successful huddle .
One tool that can be useful in problem solving is brainstorming . Brainstorming is a creativity technique designed to generate a large number of ideas for the solution to a problem. The method was first popularized in 1953 by Alex Faickney Osborn in the book Applied Imagination . The goal is to come up with as many ideas as you can in a fixed amount of time. Although brainstorming is best done in a group, it can be done individually. Like most problem solving techniques, brainstorming is a process.
- Define a clear objective.
- Have an agreed a time limit.
- During the brainstorming session, write down everything that comes to mind, even if the idea sounds crazy.
- If one idea leads to another, write down that idea too.
- Combine and refine ideas into categories of solutions.
- Assess and analyze each idea as a potential solution.
When used during problem solving, brainstorming can offer companies new ways of encouraging staff to think creatively and improve production. Brainstorming relies on team members' diverse experiences, adding to the richness of ideas explored. This means that you often find better solutions to the problems. Team members often welcome the opportunity to contribute ideas and can provide buy-in for the solution chosen—after all, they are more likely to be committed to an approach if they were involved in its development. What's more, because brainstorming is fun, it helps team members bond.
- Watch Peggy Morgan Collins, a marketing executive at Power Curve Communications discuss How to Stimulate Effective Brainstorming .
- Watch Kim Obbink, CEO of Filter Digital, a digital content company, and her team share their top five rules for How to Effectively Generate Ideas .
Importance of Good Communication and Problem Description
Communication is one of the most frequent activities we engage in on a day-to-day basis. At some point, we have all felt that we did not effectively communicate an idea as we would have liked. The key to effective communication is preparation. Rather than attempting to haphazardly improvise something, take a few minutes and think about what you want say and how you will say it. If necessary, write yourself a note with the key points or ideas in the order you want to discuss them. The notes can act as a reminder or guide when you talk to your supervisor.
Tips for clear communication of an issue:
- Provide a clear summary of your problem. Start at the beginning, give relevant facts, timelines, and examples.
- Avoid including your opinion or personal attacks in your explanation.
- Avoid using words like "always" or "never," which can give the impression that you are exaggerating the problem.
- If this is an ongoing problem and you have collected documentation, give it to your supervisor once you have finished describing the problem.
- Remember to listen to what's said in return; communication is a two-way process.
Not all communication is spoken. Body language is nonverbal communication that includes your posture, your hands and whether you make eye contact. These gestures can be subtle or overt, but most importantly they communicate meaning beyond what is said. When having a conversation, pay attention to how you stand. A stiff position with arms crossed over your chest may imply that you are being defensive even if your words state otherwise. Shoving your hands in your pockets when speaking could imply that you have something to hide. Be wary of using too many hand gestures because this could distract listeners from your message.
The challenge of communicating in the workplace is learning how and when to share your ideas or concerns. If you need to tell your supervisor or co-worker about something that is not going well, keep in mind that good timing and good attitude will go a long way toward helping your case.
Like all skills, effective communication needs to be practiced. Toastmasters International is perhaps the best known public speaking organization in the world. Toastmasters is open to anyone who wish to improve their speaking skills and is willing to put in the time and effort to do so. To learn more, visit Toastmasters International .
Methods of Communication
Communication of problems and issues in any workplace is important, particularly when safety is involved. It is therefore crucial in manufacturing where people are constantly working with heavy, costly, and sometimes dangerous equipment. As issues and problems arise, they need to be addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Effective communication is an important skill because it can prevent problems from recurring, avoid injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost and save money.
There are many different ways to communicate: in person, by phone, via email, or written. There is no single method that fits all communication needs, each one has its time and place.
In person: In the workplace, face-to-face meetings should be utilized whenever possible. Being able to see the person you need to speak to face-to-face gives you instant feedback and helps you gauge their response through their body language. Be careful of getting sidetracked in conversation when you need to communicate a problem.
Email: Email has become the communication standard for most businesses. It can be accessed from almost anywhere and is great for things that don’t require an immediate response. Email is a great way to communicate non-urgent items to large amounts of people or just your team members. One thing to remember is that most people's inboxes are flooded with emails every day and unless they are hyper vigilant about checking everything, important items could be missed. For issues that are urgent, especially those around safety, email is not always be the best solution.
Phone: Phone calls are more personal and direct than email. They allow us to communicate in real time with another person, no matter where they are. Not only can talking prevent miscommunication, it promotes a two-way dialogue. You don’t have to worry about your words being altered or the message arriving on time. However, mobile phone use and the workplace don't always mix. In particular, using mobile phones in a manufacturing setting can lead to a variety of problems, cause distractions, and lead to serious injury.
Written: Written communication is appropriate when detailed instructions are required, when something needs to be documented, or when the person is too far away to easily speak with over the phone or in person.
There is no "right" way to communicate, but you should be aware of how and when to use the appropriate form of communication for your situation. When deciding the best way to communicate with a co-worker or manager, put yourself in their shoes, and think about how you would want to learn about the issue. Also, consider what information you would need to know to better understand the issue. Use your good judgment of the situation and be considerate of your listener's viewpoint.
Did you notice any other potential problems in the previous exercise?
- [Page 6:] Did you notice any other potential problems in the previous exercise?
Summary of Strategies
In this exercise, you were given a scenario in which there was a problem with a component you were creating on a CNC machine. You were then asked how you wanted to proceed. Depending on your path through this exercise, you might have found an easy solution and fixed it yourself, asked for help and worked with your trainer, or discovered an ongoing G-code problem that was bigger than you initially thought.
When issues and problems arise, it is important that they are addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Communication is an important tool because it can prevent problems from recurring, avoid injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost, and save money. Although, each path in this exercise ended with a description of a problem solving tool for your toolbox, the first step is always to identify the problem and define the context in which it happened.
There are several strategies that can be used to identify the root cause of a problem. Root cause analysis (RCA) is a method of problem solving that helps people answer the question of why the problem occurred. RCA uses a specific set of steps, with associated tools like the “5 Why Analysis" or the “Cause and Effect Diagram,” to identify the origin of the problem, so that you can:
Once the underlying cause is identified and the scope of the issue defined, the next step is to explore possible strategies to fix the problem.
If you are not sure how to fix the problem, it is okay to ask for help. Problem solving is a process and a skill that is learned with practice. It is important to remember that everyone makes mistakes and that no one knows everything. Life is about learning. It is okay to ask for help when you don’t have the answer. When you collaborate to solve problems you improve workplace communication and accelerates finding solutions as similar problems arise.
One tool that can be useful for generating possible solutions is brainstorming . Brainstorming is a technique designed to generate a large number of ideas for the solution to a problem. The method was first popularized in 1953 by Alex Faickney Osborn in the book Applied Imagination. The goal is to come up with as many ideas as you can, in a fixed amount of time. Although brainstorming is best done in a group, it can be done individually.
Depending on your path through the exercise, you may have discovered that a couple of your coworkers had experienced similar problems. This should have been an indicator that there was a larger problem that needed to be addressed.
In any workplace, communication of problems and issues (especially those that involve safety) is always important. This is especially crucial in manufacturing where people are constantly working with heavy, costly, and sometimes dangerous equipment. When issues and problems arise, it is important that they be addressed in an efficient and timely manner. Effective communication is an important tool because it can prevent problems from recurring, avoid injury to personnel, reduce rework and scrap, and ultimately, reduce cost and save money.
One strategy for improving communication is the huddle . Just like football players on the field, a huddle is a short meeting with everyone standing in a circle. A daily team huddle is a great way to ensure that team members are aware of changes to the schedule, any problems or safety issues are identified and that team members are aware of how their work impacts one another. When done right, huddles create collaboration, communication, and accountability to results. Impromptu huddles can be used to gather information on a specific issue and get each team member's input.
To learn more about different problem solving strategies, choose an option below. These strategies accompany the outcomes of different decision paths in the problem solving exercise.
- View Problem Solving Strategies Select a strategy below... Root Cause Analysis How Huddles Work Brainstorming Importance of Good Problem Description Methods of Communication
Communication is one of the most frequent activities we engage in on a day-to-day basis. At some point, we have all felt that we did not effectively communicate an idea as we would have liked. The key to effective communication is preparation. Rather than attempting to haphazardly improvise something, take a few minutes and think about what you want say and how you will say it. If necessary, write yourself a note with the key points or ideas in the order you want to discuss them. The notes can act as a reminder or guide during your meeting.
- Provide a clear summary of the problem. Start at the beginning, give relevant facts, timelines, and examples.
In person: In the workplace, face-to-face meetings should be utilized whenever possible. Being able to see the person you need to speak to face-to-face gives you instant feedback and helps you gauge their response in their body language. Be careful of getting sidetracked in conversation when you need to communicate a problem.
There is no "right" way to communicate, but you should be aware of how and when to use the appropriate form of communication for the situation. When deciding the best way to communicate with a co-worker or manager, put yourself in their shoes, and think about how you would want to learn about the issue. Also, consider what information you would need to know to better understand the issue. Use your good judgment of the situation and be considerate of your listener's viewpoint.
"Never try to solve all the problems at once — make them line up for you one-by-one.” — Richard Sloma
Problem Solving: An Important Job Skill
Problem solving improves efficiency and communication on the shop floor. It increases a company's efficiency and profitability, so it's one of the top skills employers look for when hiring new employees. Recent industry surveys show that employers consider soft skills, such as problem solving, as critical to their business’s success.
The 2011 survey, "Boiling Point? The skills gap in U.S. manufacturing ," polled over a thousand manufacturing executives who reported that the number one skill deficiency among their current employees is problem solving, which makes it difficult for their companies to adapt to the changing needs of the industry.
In this video, industry professionals discuss their expectations and present tips for new employees joining the manufacturing workforce.
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- Career Planning
- Skills Development
What Are Problem-Solving Skills?
Definition & examples of problem-solving skills.
Alison Doyle is one of the nation’s foremost career experts.
- Problem-solving skills help you determine why an issue is happening and how to resolve that issue.
Learn more about problem-solving skills and how they work.
Problem-solving skills help you solve issues quickly and effectively. It's one of the key skills that employers seek in job applicants, as employees with these skills tend to be self-reliant. Problem-solving skills require quickly identifying the underlying issue and implementing a solution.
Problem-solving is considered a soft skill (a personal strength) rather than a hard skill that's learned through education or training. You can improve your problem-solving skills by familiarizing yourself with common issues in your industry and learning from more experienced employees.
How Problem-Solving Skills Work
Problem-solving starts with identifying the issue. For example, a teacher might need to figure out how to improve student performance on a writing proficiency test. To do that, the teacher will review the writing tests looking for areas of improvement. They might see that students can construct simple sentences, but they're struggling with writing paragraphs and organizing those paragraphs into an essay.
To solve the problem, the teacher would work with students on how and when to write compound sentences, how to write paragraphs, and ways to organize an essay.
Theresa Chiechi / The Balance
There are five steps typically used in problem-solving.
1. Analyze Contributing Factors
To solve a problem, you must find out what caused it. This requires you to gather and evaluate data, isolate possible contributing circumstances, and pinpoint what needs to be addressed for a resolution.
To do this, you'll use skills like :
- Data gathering
- Data analysis
- Historical analysis
2. Generate Interventions
Once you’ve determined the cause, brainstorm possible solutions. Sometimes this involves teamwork since two (or more) minds are often better than one. A single strategy is rarely the obvious route to solving a complex problem; devising a set of alternatives helps you cover your bases and reduces your risk of exposure should the first strategy you implement fail.
This involves skills like :
- Creative thinking
- Project design
- Project planning
3. Evaluate Solutions
Depending on the nature of the problem and your chain of command, evaluating best solutions may be performed by assigned teams, team leads, or forwarded to corporate decision-makers. Whoever makes the decision must evaluate potential costs, required resources, and possible barriers to successful solution implementation.
This requires several skills, including:
- Test development
4. Implement a Plan
Once a course of action has been decided, it must be implemented along with benchmarks that can quickly and accurately determine whether it’s working. Plan implementation also involves letting personnel know about changes in standard operating procedures.
This requires skills like:
- Project management
- Project implementation
- Time management
- Benchmark development
5. Assess the Solution's Effectiveness
Once a solution is implemented, the best problem-solvers have systems in place to evaluate if and how quickly it's working. This way, they know as soon as possible whether the issue has been resolved or whether they’ll have to change their response to the problem mid-stream.
- Customer feedback
Here's an example of showing your problem-solving skills in a cover letter.
When I was first hired as a paralegal, I inherited a backlog of 25 sets of medical records that needed to be summarized, each of which was hundreds of pages long. At the same time, I had to help prepare for three major cases, and there weren’t enough hours in the day. After I explained the problem to my supervisor, she agreed to pay me to come in on Saturday mornings to focus on the backlog. I was able to eliminate the backlog in a month.
Here's another example of how to show your problem-solving skills in a cover letter:
When I joined the team at Great Graphics as Artistic Director, the designers had become uninspired because of a former director who attempted to micro-manage every step in the design process. I used weekly round-table discussions to solicit creative input and ensured that each designer was given full autonomy to do their best work. I also introduced monthly team-based competitions that helped build morale, spark new ideas, and improve collaboration.
Highlighting Problem-Solving Skills
- Since this is a skill that's important to most employers, put them front and center on your resume, cover letter, and in interviews.
If you're not sure what to include, look to previous roles—whether in academic, work, or volunteer settings—for examples of challenges you met and problems you solved. Highlight relevant examples in your cover letter and use bullet points in your resume to show how you solved a problem.
During interviews, be ready to describe situations you've encountered in previous roles, the processes you followed to address problems, the skills you applied, and the results of your actions. Potential employers are eager to hear a coherent narrative of the ways you've used problem-solving skills .
Interviewers may pose hypothetical problems for you to solve. Base your answers on the five steps and refer to similar problems you've resolved, if possible. Here are tips for answering problem-solving interview questions , with examples of the best answers.
- It's one of the key skills that employers seek in job applicants.
- Problem-solving starts with identifying the issue, coming up with solutions, implementing those solutions, and evaluating their effectiveness.
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Why problem-solving skills are so important for your career
The ability to solve problems is one of the first things a recruiter looks for, and will serve you well throughout your career. Here’s our guide to demonstrating, and improving, your problem-solving skills.
Posted on 2nd of December 2019
- Your first job
The problem solver sees a problem as having two essential features. A solution, or resolution, and an obstacle which prevents them from getting there.
Solving the problem, simply put, is moving from the latter to the former.
Those who are not problem solvers, let the obstacle simply block their path.
What are problem solving skills?
Problem solving is valued highly in our economy, and is something evaluated for in school, university and the workplace. Employers hope that every new recruit brings a fresh perspective to old ‘problems’, or challenges, that their business faces.
Working out a candidate’s ability to solve problems is therefore a big part of the recruitment process.
As a result, demonstrating strong problem solving skills can be the secret to success when applying for a job, and throughout your subsequent career.
Here we explore why problem solving is so important, what you can do to best demonstrate your abilities, and how you can go about improving your skills.
Why is problem solving so important?
Employers rate problem solving skills so highly because the core ingredients are relevant to virtually any job role.
Problem solving is a test of your aptitude for assessing situations and analysing information .
No manager wants to hire someone who can’t think for themselves and comes running every time something goes wrong. Workplace challenges always require resolution and employers are on the lookout for candidates who can come up with, and execute, effective solutions.
Some jobs involve high levels of formal problem solving – anything technical involving IT or engineering will require you to be an expert problem solver, probably using mathematics. That said, any service-based role will require you to solve problems of a different kind on a daily basis.
No matter the sector, industry, or job function, challenges and problems that you need to solve will occur regularly, and will often be the measure of your success in the role.
What are employers looking for?
Problem solving requires a combination of both analytical and creative thinking. Employers will want to see that you can use both of these to take the initiative and create positive results.
Workplace problems range from small job-specific tasks to broader, more complex challenges such as finding out why a company’s sales have fallen in the last quarter.
Recruiters are on the lookout for the following skills and qualities:
- Research and fact-finding
- Data analysis
- Creativity and innovative thinking
- Ideation and imagination
- Collaboration, teamwork, and leadership
- Communication and reporting
- Time management
Problem solvers are people who can come up with creative and effective solutions to identified problems, recognising what needs to be done before taking action . Employers are looking for people who are comfortable with making decisions and are confident enough in their own abilities to take responsibility for how they rise to challenges in the workplace.
They want people who can gather relevant information to inform their decisions and analyse situations to find out the best way to come through the situation. They also want people who persevere despite difficulties and keep working hard to secure a positive result.
The problem solver will always:
- Define the problem
- Generate various ideas to solve it
- Evaluate these ideas and select the most efficient and effective option
- Implement the solution in a timely manner
- Assess the solution and learn for the future
Employers expect you to demonstrate that you have solved problems in the past, so if you’re applying for a job which specifies you need problem-solving skills it’s a good idea to highlight your previous experience in your CV and cover letter, and to arrive at the interview prepared to present yourself as a problem solver.
How to demonstrate that you’re a problem solver
One of the most common ways that employers expect you to evidence problem-solving skills is through behavioural interview questions on how you have solved problems in the past.
They will ask questions such as “tell me about a difficult situation you have faced in the past”, “describe a time when you came up with new ideas to tackle a workplace challenge”, or “tell me about a time when you identified a need at work and fulfilled it”.
In order to prepare for questions such as these, you will need to spend some time thinking about when you have solved problems in your previous work or education . Try to come up with one or two scenarios where you have really excelled and take notes about your memories of this time.
Employers assume that how you have handled problems in the past is a good indicator of how you will solve them in the future as their employee.
The most important point to focus on is how you solved the problem, and in order to do this it can be a good idea to consider the STAR method :
S – Situation
T – Task
A – Action
R – Result
Using this sequence will give enough context so that your interviewer can understand the situation, while not overloading them with irrelevant information .
If problem-solving is an integral part of the position, employers may even ask you to take psychometric tests to measure your skills. These tests focus on your ability to logically and rationally think through numerical, spatial, or linguistic problems. They may be used in combination with personality tests to measure both your critical and creative thinking skills.
There are a number of websites such as Psychometric Success that offer sample tests so you can use for practice ahead of time.
How to improve your problem-solving skills
There are many different methods and tools which elaborate the process of problem-solving, helping us learn from past successes (and failures).
For a start, try to be more aware of what problem-solving entails, and when you’re doing it.
When a problem or challenge is proving difficult, re-phrasing can be a good way to open things up. Re-phrasing the question helps you to focus on generating solutions rather than feeling blocked by the obstacle in your way .
For example, if your problem is that you lack funds to start a new project, thinking “I can’t start this project because I don’t have the money” is a bit of a creative dead end. Turn this into a different, but potentially easier, problem like “how can I start the project without money?”.
Re-phrasing can help you to see the bigger picture and rule out unworkable angles from which to tackle it.
A more formal option is the Simplex Process . This is an elaborate method for sourcing and analysing the information you need, and can be very helpful if you are faced with a complex workplace problem.
Breaking the problem down into different stages usually helps you to focus in on the essentials, and stops you being overwhelmed by too much information.
Whichever method or tool you choose to employ, remember to record your problem-solving wins for the future, and to learn as much as you can from your losses.
Lewis is a freelance writer with a background in communications. Having worked in a bunch of countries and across several industries, he aims to advise seasoned professionals and new graduates alike on how to navigate the labour market.
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- Each member on Graduateland must be respected and it is imperative that you treat other members the way you wish to be treated yourself.
- The user shall be responsible for filling in correct and truthful information.
- The user shall be responsible for any activity that takes place within his or her profile and for any potential third party involvement solicited or accepted by the user.
- Graduateland shall have the exclusive right to expel existing members if it is found that; members behave unlawfully or unethically, if Graduateland services are misused and/or if general behaviour not accepted by Graduateland occurs.
- The user shall be responsible for any actual or potential economic or legal lawsuit against Graduateland as a consequence of the user's wrongdoing or mismanagement of the profile.
- The user shall be responsible for suitable software and technological solutions needed to run Graduateland, e.g. web browsers supporting the Graduateland software.
- The user shall not be entitled to use Graduateland as a platform for marketing and promoting of own personal goods and services.
- The user shall not be entitled to expose any material, which relates to religious, political, sexual or racial aspects on Graduateland.
Intellectual property rights
Responsibilities of graduateland.
- Not develop their website artificially based on falsely established profiles or moderators.
- Answer as quickly as possible when users have requests to the support function.
- Permanently delete email addresses if requested upon by a member.
- The behaviour of other users. It is possible for users to report on negative media material and text.
- Contracts, which are developed and signed through the network on Graduateland.
- Any direct or indirect financial or emotional loss that exceeds the one paid to Graduateland.
- Loss of data. Graduateland is not a database for the individual user as such. It is up to the individual user to create back up of the necessary information. Graduateland shall not be held liable for the actual or potential loss of data and information on the site regardless of the reason.
Our social responsibilities
- To operate a system that caters for fast reporting to us in relation to inappropriate or unethical behaviour on the website.
- To operate a system that in general allows us to be in close contact with our users.
- To operate a system that includes the fighting of scamming, spamming and phishing on the web-site. We have installed a security filter that limits the number of spammers and false members on the site but it is always advised that the users stay alert towards messages and information that might be "too good to be true" or any suspicious behaviour.
- When you sign up you agree to receive emails from Graduateland.
- The amount of and the frequency at which you receive emails depend on the activity of the employers from which you wish to "follow".
- Graduateland shall be entitled to use the email system for questionnaires about Graduateland's own services and product development, and for the content of Graduateland's paying employers and universities using the services provided by Graduateland.
- The user shall at any time be entitled to choose to adjust the delivery by altering this function under "Account" – "Account Settings" – "Notifications".
- When the user establishes a profile on Graduateland the user also accepts that personal information will be stored on Graduateland's servers and that parts hereof can be shared with the universities and the employers using the services provided by Graduateland.
- When the user establishes a profile on Graduateland the user also chooses to expose personal data to employers and universities. Therefore evaluate inputs, including pictures, carefully.
- Graduateland is using cookies within its operating system. This technicality ensures that the system remembers the user's email address and access to the site. The user can disable this setting in the Internet browser.
- Each time the user visits Graduateland the IP-address will be registered. The IP address is the address of the computer that the user is using to access Graduateland. The IP address is registered to ensure that Graduateland always will be able to locate the computer used to access the site. This has been established to counteract on-site illegal activities.
Use of personal data
- Name and email: This is used to identify the user as a user on Graduateland so that Graduateland and employers and universities will be able to contact the user. The user's email address is also used to send emails to the user based on the information requested on the user's Dashboard. - The user can choose to adjust the delivery by altering this function under "Account" – "Account Settings" – "Notifications" at any time.
- Postal and zip code are used to locate the user geographically and for Graduateland to understand how their users are placed around the world. This will give Graduateland the opportunity to create networks and events in locations where there is a high number of Graduateland members.
- Birth date and gender are used to further identify the user and make the profile more visible on Graduateland.
- Graduateland can also use the information provided by the user at the signup process to improve services and functionalities by analysing the way the user use the portal. As an example we can use the cookies and IP-addresses to see which parts of the webpage are most frequently used and thereby improve and optimise the services and functionalities mostly used.
- Graduateland uses the user's information in Graduateland's backoffice recruitment system designed for Employers and Universities. This enables Employers and Universities to contact the user, based on the information provided by the user.
- With your consent we share your profile information with employers that are online. Graduateland enables employers to see your profile information (the parts that you have set as ‘visible’) and may also use the information for business purposes. Based on the relevancy of your profile and skills employers can reach out to you via chat messages.
- Any comment sent to Graduateland about this website can be used without limitations.
- Received information will not be treated as confidential.
Distribution of personal data
- As previously mentioned the user must be aware that his/her profile and activities will be visible to employers and universities. In addition, parts of the profile will be visible to non-members visiting the site.
- The user accepts that in case Graduateland's services are misused, the information at Graduateland's disposal such as IP address will be distributed to the relevant authorities in case this is required.
- Graduateland shall be entitled to distribute all information about the user on the web site to a third party if it happens anonymously or if third party is included in an agreement about confidentiality. Such distribution can take place in connection with statistical analysis about the web site, market research and as preparation for commercials, general branding and recruitment activity on Graduateland. This information may also be used as input variables in Graduateland's backend solution designed for employers and universities.
Right to admission and correction
Use of data/third party use of data.
- Graduateland shall be entitled to use of an external company to perform technical maintenance of the website. In such case the company will handle Graduateland's data responsibility.
- Any company handling data on Graduateland will operate under the same regulations and law as Graduateland with regard to confidentiality.
- In case the whole company Graduateland ApS or parts thereof is handed over to a third party the user accepts that personal data on Graduateland can be transferred to third party. This requires that the third party respects and follows the conditions for data handling as mentioned in this document.
Change in business principles
Conditions for uploading photos and pictures.
- The photos and pictures must be free from copyrights and/or other restricted or limited use. The user must possess the complete rights to the photos and pictures that the user uploads. No third party must have the copyright or other rights to the photos or pictures that the user uploads. The people visible on the photos and pictures must have given their acceptance of public display.
- The photos and pictures must be clear. Unclear and modified photos and pictures will be deleted.
- The photos and pictures must not contain logos, links and references to other web pages or companies and/or their products.
- The photos and pictures must not include violent, threatening, un-sober or sexual elements. The photos and pictures must not display weapons, money or illegal drugs.
Profile photos and pictures
Pornographic material, protected material, illegal activities.
- Photos and pictures showing pornographic situations, illegal drugs, cash and weapons.
- Vira and other computer codes with the aim of harming or destroy IT equipment belonging to us or our members.
- Any activity that motivates illegal activities or distributes knowledge about it such as trade with illegal drugs and weapons.
- This legal notice shall be governed by Danish Law. Any dispute arising out of or in relation to this legal notice which can not be solved amicably shall be decided by the Danish Courts.
- For the purpose of advancing your career, exposing you to job opportunities and employer branding (the “Purposes”), Graduateland ApS, Fruebjergvej 3, 2100 Copenhagen Ø will collect and process personal data about you.
- Below you will find a description of the personal data, which Graduateland will process about you as well as the purpose and on which legal ground Graduateland is processing the personal data.
2. Legitimate interest and contractual relationship
- to promote your professional profile to potential employers and thereby exposing you to job opportunities and advancements in your career;
- to provide you with information on job opportunities relevant to you to advance your career;
- to conduct statistics and reports and historical overviews to understand career trends;
- to make a profile of you based on your preferences and competencies to match your profile with business partners in section 3.3 and potential employers under section 3.4; and
- to administer your profile at Graduateland.
- Contact information, including name, e-mail, phone number etc.;
- Information about your education, working experience, CV, job preferences, language skills, competencies, references; and
- Your Graduateland profile information, including gender, nationality, age, date of birth etc.
3. Confidentiality and information about Graduateland’s processing of your personal data
- All data will be treated as confidential information and will only be used for the purpose as set out in clause 1.
- Your personal data will be stored by Graduateland, Graduateland’s IT hosting provider, Graduateland’s IT services providers (incl. tracking software suppliers) and may be accessed by Graduateland group entities worldwide on a need to know basis.
- If you have signed up to Graduateland through one of the following business partner’s websites, the applicable business partner will also have access to your personal data: universities, business schools, public and private educational organisations, or other organisations.
- When you sign up and disclose your personal data to Graduateland, Graduateland will disclose your data to companies, universities, organisations, public authorities and institutions that match your preferences for the purpose set out in section 2.1. (a) and (b). You can at any moment hide your profile so the above-mentioned cannot access your profile data.
- Please be informed that the level of data protection as currently applied and enforced in countries outside the European Union does not conform to the level of data protection for personal data currently applied and enforced within the European Union.
- Graduateland may engage third party service providers that will have access to and process your personal data. If such third party services providers process your personal data outside of the EU/EEA, such transfer of personal data will either be subject to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield or the European Commission’s standard contractual clauses.
- Graduateland will keep your personal data for 5 years or as long as needed in order to conduct statistics and historical overviews and to administer your profile at Graduateland, unless Graduateland is required under applicable law or applicable agreements to delete it or keep your personal data for a longer period. If your profile is located in an event portal (this is a portal that hosts events only and does not work as a job portal outside of events) and if no specific agreement was concluded with the event organiser and if your portal is passive (this means that there has not been any new event(s) created on the portal in 12 months), your personal data will be deleted 12 months after the last event.
- Graduateland will analyse your behaviour and personal data, including registering your competencies and educational background, in order to match your profile with the most relevant career opportunities.
4. Your rights
- You can obtain further information on the personal data which Graduateland stores and processes about you by contacting [email protected] . Further, you may object to your personal data being processed, request that your personal data is rectified or restrict the processing of your personal data. If you wish to object to your personal data being processed, have your data rectified or restrict the processing of your personal data, please contact [email protected] with this message. Further, if you have any complaints about Graduateland’s processing of your personal data, you may contact the Danish Data Protection Agency.
- You can obtain a copy of your personal data in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format via your account settings. If technically feasible, you may request that the personal data is transmitted directly to another company or person acting as a data controller.
- If you are no longer interested in being exposed to employers and receiving information on relevant job opportunities, please notify Graduateland at [email protected] and the DPO will delete your profile and data. You can also delete your profile and data at the bottom of your Settings page, typing "delete" and then clicking the Delete button.
Understanding your responsibilities as a Graduateland user
These Terms constitute a binding agreement between You and Graduateland ApS or the Graduateland company operating the Web site for the country in which You live or in which business is headquartered (“Graduateland”), and are deemed accepted by You each time that You use or access any Graduateland Site or Graduateland Services. If You do not accept the Terms stated here, do not use the Graduateland Sites and the Graduateland Services.
2. Use of the Graduateland Services.
The job posting, resume database (“Graduateland User Database”) and other features of the Graduateland Sites may be used only by individuals seeking employment and/or information relating to career and education and by employers and/or organisations seeking to recruit or perform employer branding. Your use of the Graduateland Services is also subject to any other contracts You may have with Graduateland. In the case of any conflict between these Terms and any contract you have with Graduateland, the terms of your contract will prevail. The term “post” as used herein shall mean information that You submit, publish or display on a Graduateland Site.
3. Terms Applicable to Employers.
You are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of Your employer account, Profile and passwords, as applicable. You may not share Your password or other account access information with any other party, temporarily or permanently, and You shall be responsible for all uses of Your Graduateland Site registrations and passwords, whether or not authorized by You. You agree to immediately notify Graduateland of any unauthorized use of Your employer account, Profile, or passwords.
Employers are solely responsible for their postings on Graduateland Sites. Graduateland is not to be considered to be an employer with respect to Your use of any Graduateland Site and Graduateland shall not be responsible for any employment decisions, for whatever reason, made by any entity posting jobs on any Graduateland Site.
You understand and acknowledge that if You cancel Your employer account or Your employer account is terminated, all Your account information from Graduateland, including saved resumes, network contacts, and email mailing lists, will be marked as deleted in and may be deleted from Graduateland's databases. Information may continue to be available for some period of time because of delays in propagating such deletion through Graduateland’s web servers.
In order to protect our Graduateland Community Users from commercial advertising or solicitation, Graduateland reserves the right to restrict the number of e-mails, which an employer may send to Users to a number which Graduateland deems appropriate in its sole discretion.
Candidate profiles derived from User Content may also be made available through the Sites. Graduateland does not make any representations regarding the accuracy or validity of such derived works or their appropriateness for evaluation by employers. Derived profiles may vary significantly from User Content.
A job posting must contain:.
- information about Your organization and its business;
- implicit or explicit information describing how and/or why the job posting is relevant to students and/or recent graduates from a higher education;
- what tasks the job comprises and/or what is expected from the employee;
- necessary practical information such as working hours, start date.
A Job posting may not contain:
- any hyperlinks, other than those specifically authorized by Graduateland;
- misleading, unreadable, or "hidden" keywords, repeated keywords or keywords that are irrelevant to the job opportunity being presented, as determined in Graduateland’s reasonable discretion;
- the names, logos or trademarks of unaffiliated companies other than those of your customer save where expressly agreed by Graduateland;
- the names of colleges, cities, states, towns or countries that are unrelated to the posting;
- more than one job or job description, more than one location, or more than one job category, unless the product so allows;
- inaccurate, false, or misleading information; and
- material or links to material that exploits people in a sexual, violent or other manner, or solicits personal information from anyone under 18.
You may not use Your Graduateland job posting to:
- post jobs in a manner that does not comply with applicable local, national and international laws, including but not limited to laws relating to labor and employment, equal employment opportunity and employment eligibility requirements, data privacy, data access and use, and intellectual property;
- post jobs that require citizenship of any particular country or lawful permanent residence in a country as a condition of employment, unless otherwise required in order to comply with law, regulations, executive order, or federal, state or local government contract;
- post jobs that include any screening requirement or criterion in connection with a job posting where such requirement or criterion is not an actual and legal requirement of the posted job;
- post jobs or other advertisements for competitors of Graduateland or post jobs or other content that contains links to any site competitive with Graduateland;
- sell, promote or advertise products or services;
- post any franchise, pyramid scheme, "club membership", distributorship, multi-level marketing opportunity, or sales representative agency arrangement;
- post any business opportunity that requires an up front or periodic payment or requires recruitment of other members, sub-distributors or sub-agents;
- post any business opportunity that pays commission only unless the posting clearly states that the available job pays commission only and clearly describes the product or service that the job seeker would be selling;
- post jobs on any Graduateland Site for modeling, acting, talent or entertainment agencies or talent scouting positions;
- advertise sexual services or seek employees for jobs of a sexual nature;
- request the use of human body parts or the donation of human parts, including, without limitation, reproductive services such as egg donation and surrogacy;
- endorse a particular political party, political agenda, political position or issue;
- promote a particular religion;
- except where allowed by applicable law, post jobs which require the applicant to provide information relating to his/her (i) racial or ethnic origin (ii) political beliefs (iii) philosophical or religious beliefs (iv) membership of a trade union (v) physical or mental health (vi) sexual life (vii) the commission of criminal offences or proceedings or (vii) age.
Graduateland reserves the right to remove any job posting or content from any Graduateland Site, which in the reasonable exercise of Graduateland’s discretion, does not comply with the above Terms, or if any content is posted that Graduateland believes is not in the best interest of Graduateland.
If at any time during Your use of the Graduateland Services, You made a misrepresentation of fact to Graduateland or otherwise misled Graduateland in regards to the nature of Your business activities, Graduateland will have grounds to terminate Your use of the Graduateland Services.
Use of the Graduateland User Database by Employers
You shall use the Graduateland User Database as provided in these Terms and in any contract You have with Graduateland. You shall use the Graduateland User Database in accordance with all applicable privacy and data protection laws, and You agree You shall not further disclose any of the data from Graduateland User Database to any third party, unless You are an authorized recruitment agency, staffing agency, advertising or other agency or using the resume explicitly for employment purposes.
You shall take appropriate physical, technical, and administrative measures to protect the data You have obtained from Graduateland User Database from loss, misuse, unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration or destruction. You shall not share Resume Database seat-based license login credentials with any other party, nor share Resume Database pay-per-view license login credentials with any party.
The Graduateland User Database shall not be used:
- for any purpose other than as an employer seeking employees or performing employer branding, including but not limited to advertising promotions, products, or services to any resume holders;
- to make unsolicited phone calls or faxes or send unsolicited mail, email, or newsletters to resume holders or to contact any individual unless they have agreed to be contacted (where consent is required or, if express consent is not required, who has not informed you that they do not want to be contacted); or
- to source candidates or to contact job seekers or resume holders in regards to career fairs and business opportunities prohibited by Section 3.
In order to ensure a safe and effective experience for all of our customers, Graduateland reserves the right to limit the amount of data (including resume views) that may be accessed by You in any given time period. These limits may be amended in Graduateland’s sole discretion from time to time.
4. Additional terms.
When You register with any Graduateland Site, You will be asked to create an account and provide Graduateland with certain information including, without limitation, a valid email address (Your "Information").
Any Profile You submit must be accurate and describe You, an individual person. The Profile requires standard fields to be completed and you may not include in these fields any telephone numbers, street addresses, email addresses or other means of contacting You, other than Your last name and URLs.
You acknowledge and agree that You are solely responsible for the form, content and accuracy of any resume or material contained therein placed by You on the Graduateland Sites.
Graduateland reserves the right to offer third party services and products to You based on the preferences that You identify in Your registration and at any time thereafter or you have agreed to receive, such offers may be made by Graduateland or by third parties.
Graduateland reserves the right to send out newsletters, which may include information concerning new business areas, new career portals in the Graduateland Network, new products, or special campaigns. It is possible to opt-out from future newsletter via a link in the first newsletter.
You understand and acknowledge that You have no ownership rights in Your account and that if You cancel Your Graduateland account or Your Graduateland account is terminated, all Your account information from Graduateland, including resumes, Profiles, cover letters, saved jobs, questionnaires will be marked as deleted in and may be deleted from Graduateland's databases and will be removed from any public area of the Graduateland Sites. Information may continue to be available for some period of time because of delays in propagating such deletion through Graduateland’s web servers. In addition, third parties may retain saved copies of Your Information.
Graduateland reserves the right to delete Your account and all of Your Information after a significant duration of inactivity.
Companies that post jobs on behalf of other companies e.g. companies within, but not limited to, recruitment, staffing, and employer branding, cannot post jobs for free.
Terms of payment are defined by the Graduateland payment terms. The payment terms include, but are not limited to, a time allowed for payment of a maximum of 30 days from the date of receiving the invoice.
5. Content and Submissions.
You understand that all information, data, text, software, music, sound, photographs, graphics, video, advertisements, messages or other materials submitted, posted or displayed by You on or through a Graduateland Site ("User Content") is the sole responsibility of the person from which such User Content originated. Graduateland claims no ownership or control over any User Content. You or a third party licensor, as appropriate, retain all patent, trademark and copyright to any User Content you submit, post or display on or through Graduateland and you are responsible for protecting those rights, as appropriate. By submitting, posting or displaying User Content on or through Graduateland, you grant Graduateland a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, distribute and publish such User Content through Graduateland. In addition, by submitting, posting or displaying User Content which is intended to be available to the general public, you grant Graduateland a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, distribute and publish such User Content for the purpose of promoting Graduateland and its services. Graduateland will discontinue this licensed use within a commercially reasonable period after such User Content is removed from Graduateland. Graduateland reserves the right to refuse to accept, post, display or transmit any User Content in its sole discretion. If You post User Content in any public area of any Graduateland Site, You also permit any User to access, display, view, store and reproduce such User Content for personal use. Subject to the foregoing, the owner of such User Content placed on any Graduateland Site retains any and all rights that may exist in such User Content. Graduateland may review and remove any User Content that, in its sole judgment, violates these Terms, violates applicable laws, rules or regulations, is abusive, disruptive, offensive or illegal, or violates the rights of, or harms or threatens the safety of, Users of any Graduateland Site. Graduateland reserves the right to expel Users and prevent their further access to the Graduateland Sites and/or use of Graduateland Services for violating the Terms or applicable laws, rules or regulations. Graduateland may take any action with respect to User Content that it deems necessary or appropriate in its sole discretion if it believes that such User Content could create liability for Graduateland, damage Graduateland’s brand or public image, or cause Graduateland to lose Users or (in whole or in part) the services of its ISPs or other suppliers. Graduateland does not represent or guarantee the truthfulness, accuracy, or reliability of User Content, derivative works from User Content, or any other communications posted by Users nor does Graduateland endorse any opinions expressed by Users. You acknowledge that any reliance on material posted by other Users will be at Your own risk. You may not include, in any User Content submitted to Graduateland Communities, information that may be interpreted as a direct solicitation, advertisement or recruitment for an available job position directed to individuals seeking employment on either a full-time or part-time basis. In order to protect our Graduateland Community Users from commercial advertising or solicitation, Graduateland reserves the right to restrict the number of e-mails or other messages which a User may send to other Users to a number which Graduateland deems appropriate in its sole discretion. Candidate profiles derived from User Content may also be made available through the Graduateland Sites. Graduateland does not make any representations regarding the accuracy or validity of such derived works or their appropriateness for evaluation by employers. Derived profiles may differ significantly from User Content.
6. Policy Regarding Termination Of Users Who Infringe The Copyright Or Other Intellectual Property Rights Of Others.
7. graduateland's liability..
Graduateland encourages You to keep a back-up copy of any of Your User Content. To the extent permitted by law, in no event shall Graduateland be liable for the deletion, loss, or unauthorized modification of any User Content. Graduateland does not provide or make any representation as to the quality or nature of any of the third party products or services purchased through any Graduateland Site, or any other representation, warranty or guaranty. Any such undertaking, representation, warranty or guaranty would be furnished solely by the provider of such third party products or services, under the terms agreed to by the provider.
If notified of any content or other materials which allegedly do not conform to these Terms, Graduateland may in its sole discretion investigate the allegation and determine whether to remove or request the removal of the content. Graduateland has no liability or responsibility to Users for performance or nonperformance of such activities.
8. Disclaimer of Warranty.
In the case that a job posting at some point is not online, when it was initially supposed to be, the duration of the job posting can be prolonged. Money will not be paid back to the customer.
9. Disclaimer of Consequential Damages.
TO THE FULLEST EXTENT POSSIBLE BY LAW, IN NO EVENT SHALL GRADUATELAND, ITS SUPPLIERS, OR ANY THIRD PARTIES MENTIONED ON ANY GRADUATELAND SITE BE LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES WHATSOEVER (INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, INCIDENTAL AND CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES, LOST PROFITS, OR DAMAGES RESULTING FROM LOST DATA, LOST EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) RESULTING FROM THE USE OR INABILITY TO USE ANY GRADUATELAND SITE AND THE GRADUATELAND CONTENT, WHETHER BASED ON WARRANTY, CONTRACT, TORT, OR ANY OTHER LEGAL THEORY, AND WHETHER OR NOT GRADUATELAND IS ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.
10. Limitation of Liability.
TO THE FULLEST EXTENT POSSIBLE BY LAW, GRADUATELAND'S MAXIMUM LIABILITY ARISING OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH ANY GRADUATELAND SITE OR YOUR USE OF THE GRADUATELAND CONTENT, REGARDLESS OF THE CAUSE OF ACTION (WHETHER IN CONTRACT, TORT, BREACH OF WARRANTY OR OTHERWISE), WILL NOT EXCEED €100.
11. Links to Other Sites.
The Graduateland Sites contain links to third party Web sites. These links are provided solely as a convenience to You and not as an endorsement by Graduateland of the contents on such third-party Web sites. Graduateland is not responsible for the content of linked third-party sites and does not make any representations regarding the content or accuracy of materials on such third party Web sites. If You decide to access linked third-party Web sites, You do so at Your own risk.
12. No Resale or Unauthorized Commercial Use.
13. indemnity., 14. term and termination..
What Are Problem-Solving Skills? Definition and Examples
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Why do employers hire employees? To help them solve problems. Whether you’re a financial analyst deciding where to invest your firm’s money, or a marketer trying to figure out which channel to direct your efforts, companies hire people to help them find solutions. Problem-solving is an essential and marketable soft skill in the workplace.
So, how can you improve your problem-solving and show employers you have this valuable skill? In this guide, we’ll cover:
Problem-Solving Skills Definition
Why are problem-solving skills important, problem-solving skills examples, how to include problem-solving skills in a job application, how to improve problem-solving skills, problem-solving: the bottom line.
Problem-solving skills are the ability to identify problems, brainstorm and analyze answers, and implement the best solutions. An employee with good problem-solving skills is both a self-starter and a collaborative teammate; they are proactive in understanding the root of a problem and work with others to consider a wide range of solutions before deciding how to move forward.
Examples of using problem-solving skills in the workplace include:
- Researching patterns to understand why revenue decreased last quarter
- Experimenting with a new marketing channel to increase website sign-ups
- Brainstorming content types to share with potential customers
- Testing calls to action to see which ones drive the most product sales
- Implementing a new workflow to automate a team process and increase productivity
Problem-solving skills are the most sought-after soft skill of 2022. In fact, 86% of employers look for problem-solving skills on student resumes, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2022 survey .
It’s unsurprising why employers are looking for this skill: companies will always need people to help them find solutions to their problems. Someone proactive and successful at problem-solving is valuable to any team.
“Employers are looking for employees who can make decisions independently, especially with the prevalence of remote/hybrid work and the need to communicate asynchronously,” Eric Mochnacz, senior HR consultant at Red Clover, says. “Employers want to see individuals who can make well-informed decisions that mitigate risk, and they can do so without suffering from analysis paralysis.”
Problem-solving includes three main parts: identifying the problem, analyzing possible solutions, and deciding on the best course of action.
Research is the first step of problem-solving because it helps you understand the context of a problem. Researching a problem enables you to learn why the problem is happening. For example, is revenue down because of a new sales tactic? Or because of seasonality? Is there a problem with who the sales team is reaching out to?
Research broadens your scope to all possible reasons why the problem could be happening. Then once you figure it out, it helps you narrow your scope to start solving it.
Analysis is the next step of problem-solving. Now that you’ve identified the problem, analytical skills help you look at what potential solutions there might be.
“The goal of analysis isn’t to solve a problem, actually — it’s to better understand it because that’s where the real solution will be found,” Gretchen Skalka, owner of Career Insights Consulting, says. “Looking at a problem through the lens of impartiality is the only way to get a true understanding of it from all angles.”
Once you’ve figured out where the problem is coming from and what solutions are, it’s time to decide on the best way to go forth. Decision-making skills help you determine what resources are available, what a feasible action plan entails, and what solution is likely to lead to success.
On a Resume
Employers looking for problem-solving skills might include the word “problem-solving” or other synonyms like “critical thinking” or “analytical skills” in the job description.
“I would add ‘buzzwords’ you can find from the job descriptions or LinkedIn endorsements section to filter into your resume to comply with the ATS,” Matthew Warzel, CPRW resume writer, advises. Warzel recommends including these skills on your resume but warns to “leave the soft skills as adjectives in the summary section. That is the only place soft skills should be mentioned.”
On the other hand, you can list hard skills separately in a skills section on your resume .
In a Cover Letter or an Interview
Explaining your problem-solving skills in an interview can seem daunting. You’re required to expand on your process — how you identified a problem, analyzed potential solutions, and made a choice. As long as you can explain your approach, it’s okay if that solution didn’t come from a professional work experience.
“Young professionals shortchange themselves by thinking only paid-for solutions matter to employers,” Skalka says. “People at the genesis of their careers don’t have a wealth of professional experience to pull from, but they do have relevant experience to share.”
Aaron Case, career counselor and CPRW at Resume Genius, agrees and encourages early professionals to share this skill. “If you don’t have any relevant work experience yet, you can still highlight your problem-solving skills in your cover letter,” he says. “Just showcase examples of problems you solved while completing your degree, working at internships, or volunteering. You can even pull examples from completely unrelated part-time jobs, as long as you make it clear how your problem-solving ability transfers to your new line of work.”
Learn How to Identify Problems
Problem-solving doesn’t just require finding solutions to problems that are already there. It’s also about being proactive when something isn’t working as you hoped it would. Practice questioning and getting curious about processes and activities in your everyday life. What could you improve? What would you do if you had more resources for this process? If you had fewer? Challenge yourself to challenge the world around you.
“Employers in the modern workplace value digital problem-solving skills, like being able to find a technology solution to a traditional issue,” Case says. “For example, when I first started working as a marketing writer, my department didn’t have the budget to hire a professional voice actor for marketing video voiceovers. But I found a perfect solution to the problem with an AI voiceover service that cost a fraction of the price of an actor.”
Being comfortable with new technology — even ones you haven’t used before — is a valuable skill in an increasingly hybrid and remote world. Don’t be afraid to research new and innovative technologies to help automate processes or find a more efficient technological solution.
Problem-solving isn’t done in a silo, and it shouldn’t be. Use your collaboration skills to gather multiple perspectives, help eliminate bias, and listen to alternative solutions. Ask others where they think the problem is coming from and what solutions would help them with your workflow. From there, try to compromise on a solution that can benefit everyone.
If we’ve learned anything from the past few years, it’s that the world of work is constantly changing — which means it’s crucial to know how to adapt . Be comfortable narrowing down a solution, then changing your direction when a colleague provides a new piece of information. Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone, whether with your personal routine or trying a new system at work.
Put Yourself in the Middle of Tough Moments
Just like adapting requires you to challenge your routine and tradition, good problem-solving requires you to put yourself in challenging situations — especially ones where you don’t have relevant experience or expertise to find a solution. Because you won’t know how to tackle the problem, you’ll learn new problem-solving skills and how to navigate new challenges. Ask your manager or a peer if you can help them work on a complicated problem, and be proactive about asking them questions along the way.
Companies always need people to help them find solutions — especially proactive employees who have practical analytical skills and can collaborate to decide the best way to move forward. Whether or not you have experience solving problems in a professional workplace, illustrate your problem-solving skills by describing your research, analysis, and decision-making process — and make it clear that you’re the solution to the employer’s current problems.
Looking to learn more workplace professional skills? Check out Two Sigma’s Professional Skills Development Virtual Experience Program .
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Everybody can benefit from having good problem solving skills as we all encounter problems on a daily basis. Some of these problems are obviously more severe or complex than others.
It would be wonderful to have the ability to solve all problems efficiently and in a timely fashion without difficulty, unfortunately though there is no one way in which all problems can be solved.
You will discover, as you read through our pages on problem solving, that the subject is complex.
However well prepared we are for problem solving, there is always an element of the unknown. Although planning and structuring will help make the problem solving process more likely to be successful, good judgement and an element of good luck will ultimately determine whether problem solving was a success.
Interpersonal relationships fail and businesses fail because of poor problem solving.
This is often due to either problems not being recognised or being recognised but not being dealt with appropriately.
Problem solving skills are highly sought after by employers as many companies rely on their employees to identify and solve problems.
A lot of the work in problem solving involves understanding what the underlying issues of the problem really are - not the symptoms. Dealing with a customer complaint may be seen as a problem that needs to be solved, and it's almost certainly a good idea to do so. The employee dealing with the complaint should be asking what has caused the customer to complain in the first place, if the cause of the complaint can be eliminated then the problem is solved.
In order to be effective at problem solving you are likely to need some other key skills, which include:
Creativity. Problems are usually solved either intuitively or systematically. Intuition is used when no new knowledge is needed - you know enough to be able to make a quick decision and solve the problem, or you use common sense or experience to solve the problem. More complex problems or problems that you have not experienced before will likely require a more systematic and logical approach to solve, and for these you will need to use creative thinking. See our page on Creative Thinking for more information.
Researching Skills. Defining and solving problems often requires you to do some research: this may be a simple Google search or a more rigorous research project. See our Research Methods section for ideas on how to conduct effective research.
Team Working. Many problems are best defined and solved with the input of other people. Team working may sound like a 'work thing' but it is just as important at home and school as well as in the workplace. See our Team-Working page for more.
Emotional Intelligence. It is worth considering the impact that a problem and/or its solution has on you and other people. Emotional intelligence, the ability to recognise the emotions of yourself and others, will help guide you to an appropriate solution. See our Emotional Intelligence pages for more.
Risk Management. Solving a problem involves a certain amount of risk - this risk needs to be weighed up against not solving the problem. You may find our Risk Management page useful.
Decision Making . Problem solving and decision making are closely related skills, and making a decision is an important part of the problem solving process as you will often be faced with various options and alternatives. See Decision Making for more.
The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.
John Foster Dulles, Former US Secretary of State.
What is a Problem?
The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1995) defines a problem as:
“ A doubtful or difficult matter requiring a solution ”
“ Something hard to understand or accomplish or deal with.”
It is worth also considering our own view of what a problem is.
We are constantly exposed to opportunities in life, at work, at school and at home. However many opportunities are missed or not taken full advantage of. Often we are unsure how to take advantage of an opportunity and create barriers - reasons why we can't take advantage. These barriers can turn a potentially positive situation into a negative one, a problem.
Are we missing the 'big problem'? It is human nature to notice and focus on small, easy to solve problems but much harder to work on the big problems that may be causing some of the smaller ones.
It's useful to consider the following questions when faced with a problem.
Is the problem real or perceived?
Is this problem really an opportunity?
Does the problem need solving?
All problems have two features in common: goals and barriers.
Problems involve setting out to achieve some objective or desired state of affairs and can include avoiding a situation or event.
Goals can be anything that you wish to achieve, or where you want to be. If you are hungry then your goal is probably to eat something. If you are the head of an organisation (CEO), then your main goal may be to maximise profits and this main goal may need to be split into numerous sub-goals in order to fulfil the ultimate aim of increasing profits.
If there were no barriers in the way of achieving a goal, then there would be no problem. Problem solving involves overcoming the barriers or obstacles that prevent the immediate achievement of goals.
Following our examples above, if you feel hungry then your goal is to eat. A barrier to this may be that you have no food available - so you take a trip to the supermarket and buy some food, removing the barrier and thus solving the problem. Of course for the CEO wanting to increase profits there may be many more barriers preventing the goal from being reached. The CEO needs to attempt to recognise these barriers and remove them or find other ways to achieve the goals of the organisation.
Our problem solving pages provide a simple and structured approach to problem solving.
The approach referred to is generally designed for problem solving in an organisation or group context, but can also be easily adapted to work at an individual level at home or in education.
Trying to solve a complex problem alone however can be a mistake. The old adage " A problem shared is a problem halved " is sound advice.
Talking to others about problems is not only therapeutic but can help you see things from a different point of view, opening up more potential solutions.
Stages of Problem Solving
Effective problem solving usually involves working through a number of steps or stages, such as those outlined below.
This stage involves: detecting and recognising that there is a problem; identifying the nature of the problem; defining the problem.
The first phase of problem solving may sound obvious but often requires more thought and analysis. Identifying a problem can be a difficult task in itself. Is there a problem at all? What is the nature of the problem, are there in fact numerous problems? How can the problem be best defined? By spending some time defining the problem you will not only understand it more clearly yourself but be able to communicate its nature to others, which leads to the second phase.
Structuring the Problem:
This stage involves: a period of observation, careful inspection, fact-finding and developing a clear picture of the problem.
Following on from problem identification, structuring the problem is all about gaining more information about the problem and increasing understanding. This phase is all about fact finding and analysis, building a more comprehensive picture of both the goal(s) and the barrier(s). This stage may not be necessary for very simple problems but is essential for problems of a more complex nature.
Looking for Possible Solutions:
During this stage you will generate a range of possible courses of action, but with little attempt to evaluate them at this stage.
From the information gathered in the first two phases of the problem solving framework it is now time to start thinking about possible solutions to the identified problem. In a group situation this stage is often carried out as a brain-storming session, letting each person in the group express their views on possible solutions (or part solutions). In organisations different people will have different expertise in different areas and it is useful, therefore, to hear the views of each concerned party.
Making a Decision:
This stage involves careful analysis of the different possible courses of action and then selecting the best solution for implementation.
This is perhaps the most complex part of the problem solving process. Following on from the previous step it is now time to look at each potential solution and carefully analyse it. Some solutions may not be possible, due to other problems like time constraints or budgets. It is important at this stage to also consider what might happen if nothing was done to solve the problem - sometimes trying to solve a problem that leads to many more problems requires some very creative thinking and innovative ideas.
Finally, make a decision on which course of action to take - decision making is an important skill in itself and we recommend that you see our pages on decision making .
This stage involves accepting and carrying out the chosen course of action.
Implementation means acting on the chosen solution. During implementation more problems may arise especially if identification or structuring of the original problem was not carried out fully.
The last stage is about reviewing the outcomes of problem solving over a period of time, including seeking feedback as to the success of the outcomes of the chosen solution.
The final stage of problem solving is concerned with checking that the process was successful. This can be achieved by monitoring and gaining feedback from people affected by any changes that occurred. It is good practice to keep a record of outcomes and any additional problems that occurred.
Continue to: Identifying and Structuring Problems Social Problem Solving
See also: Project Management Risk Management Effective Decision Making
Why is Problem Solving Important in Child Development?
- Skills Spotlight
All students can learn how to become adept problem solvers! Discover why problem solving is so important in child development.
Children develop problem-solving skills at different rates; nevertheless, it is imperative that children learn to tackle problems with grit and creativity, especially as they learn to cope with setbacks or resolve conflict. Moreover, problem solving is one of the most important skills children can develop, because it prepares them to face increasingly complex academic and interpersonal issues as they mature.
Experts agree that the ability to meet challenges confidently is “a critical skill for school readiness.” In many cases, children learn by watching parents or caregivers solve problems.
This article will explore three benefits of learning problem-solving skills at school:
Improved Academic Performance
The earlier children begin solving problems, the more ready they are to deal with bigger challenges as they mature.
By introducing problem solving skills in the classroom, children learn to think in terms of manageable steps as they:
1. Identify Problems
2. Brainstorm Possible Solutions
3. Test Appropriate Solutions
4. Analyze Results
By viewing problems as opportunities to grow, children broaden their understanding while building confidence.
The classroom is a safe, controlled environment, with experienced teachers who direct students as they hone problem-solving skills.
Good schools know that problem solving is important in child development. Therefore, we incorporate problem-solving exercises into a wide range of classes. Marlborough’s goal is to ignite intellectual inquiry by combining problem solving with creativity, collaboration, and communication, thereby empowering our students to become actively engaged global citizens .
We ask our middle school girls to solve various types of problems; thus, they develop flexibility. Since our students regularly practice problem solving, they dramatically improve their academic performance.
Problem-Solving Skills Improve Academic Performance
One reason that problem solving is important in child development is that it teaches discernment, helping young people distinguish what is a solvable problem.
Problem solving also develops grit, a trait that successful students routinely display.
Often, it takes an entire team to solve a problem. Since it can feel intimidating to collaborate or ask for help , the classroom is a perfect space to take risks. Together, students learn how to ask determining questions, such as:
Why is this situation so challenging?
Do I know how to address the problem?
Who can help me find a workable solution?
Students who learn how to solve problems have a deeper understanding of cause and effect. Teachers often urge students to look for patterns or make predictions. Problem-solving skills, then, boost reflective, critical thinking.
At Marlborough, we foster practical, analytical thinking through individual and collaborative school projects. Here are two middle school elective courses that show how problem-solving skills lead to academic success:
Middle School Debate teaches the art of research, deliberation, and argument. Students consider both sides of a question, discussing realistic solutions, and presenting their findings with clarity and eloquence.
Crime Scene Investigation: CSI Marlborough synthesizes biology and chemistry as students learn about forensic science. Students systematically solve problems by investigating a fictional crime, securing the crime scene, gathering detailed evidence, testing hypotheses, identifying potential suspects, then solving the case.
Problem-Solving Skills Build Confidence
Solving problems means making choices. Typically, effective problem-solving skills result in “happier, more confident, and more independent” individuals.
When children tackle problems on their own, or in a group, they become resilient. They learn to look at challenges from a fresh perspective. Therefore, they take more calculated risks.
Problem solving is important in child development because confident, capable children usually grow into confident, capable adults. <
If students practice problem solving consistently, they can develop greater situational and social awareness. Additionally, they learn to manage time and develop patience.
As students mature, problems they face become more complex:
How do I make lasting friendships?
How can I bring justice to my community?
Which career suits my abilities and interests best?
Marlborough recognizes the need for practice; no one masters problem solving overnight. Consequently, we offer a wide range of courses that teach middle school girls how to solve problems in the real world.
Here are a few middle school electives that focus on critical thinking, thus enhancing students’ confidence:
Makers’ Space 1.0 introduces middle school girls to original, school projects that they design, then create with hand and power tools.
Tinkering and Making with Technology invites girls to play with electronics + code. They learn the basics of electronics, ultimately completing an interactive and/or wearable technology project.
Drawing and Animating with Code uses text-based computer programming to teach girls to write code and create computer graphics drawings or animations.
As students develop their problem-solving skills, they learn to rely on independent, creative thinking, which enhances their sense of independence; these skills, then, prepare students for life and future careers.
Problem-Solving Skills Prepare Students for Future Careers
Children who learn how to solve problems when they are young tend to appreciate lifelong learning. They are curious, motivated, and innovative.
Employers want new hires to think imaginatively, especially since many problems that society faces today are new.
The push for school STEM programs in schools reflects this trend. For instance, coding requires students to envision a goal, then identify logical steps, and plan ahead. Coding also requires persistence, which means that students must be able to power through failure.
Notwithstanding the need for personal excellence, employers also really want team members. Taking classes that encourage group problem solving can be invaluable as students look ahead to college and careers.
As a result, our students participate in academic teams that build leadership through problem-solving activities, including these middle school elective courses:
VR and Animation is a project-based class that invites middle school girls to create a virtual reality (VR) theme park attraction with interactive artwork and digital designs.
Robotics classes allow middle school girls to design, build, program, and operate a robot. Our students also participate in the national FIRST Tech Challenge.
Marlborough is preparing girls to enter the workforce. Problem solving is important in child development because it trains young people to think independently and to collaborate. Marlborough’s graduates are ready to enter adulthood because they know how to solve problems.
Why Choose Marlborough?
Marlborough serves girls in grades 7 through 12. We are a private, college-preparatory secondary school, conveniently located in the heart of Los Angeles, California.
Our goal is to ignite intellectual inquiry and to build the problem-solving, creativity, collaboration, and communication skills that our students will need to innovate, invent, and lead in college and beyond.
If you want your daughter to become a curious, agile thinker, consider Marlborough. We will enhance your daughter’s problem-solving skills, helping her gain an academic edge as she builds confidence and prepares for the future.
Want to know more about the Marlborough experience?
Contact us today
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The Importance of Problem-Solving Skills in the Workplace
November 10, 2022 - job & career.
According to Management 3.0 Facilitator Ilija Popjanev , problem solving is essential for individuals and organizations as it enables us to control all aspects of our business environment. In this article, Ilija looks into problem-solving skills, how the problem-solving process works, and which tools help you to advance this skill set.
In this article you will learn about:
What is Problem Solving?
- Problem-Solving in Six Easy Steps
Why is Problem-Solving so Important for Leaders, Teams, and Organizations?
Problem-solving techniques in the workplace, better employee experience by using problem-solving tools from management 3.0, how do employees develop problem-solving skills, what skills make a good problem solver.
In the last few years, we have been living 100% in the VUCA world, with so many unpredictable and complex threats and challenges. As a result, organizations must create a sense of urgency to redesign their present business models and to rebuild the foundations for the future of work.
All companies now need effective problem-solving skills and tools at all levels, starting with individuals and teams, and finishing with their leaders and managers. This new reality enables growth and success only for those well-equipped and empowered by effective problem-solving skills and tools.
One of the behaviors of Management 1.0 style is to constantly look for ways to stop “fighting fires,”. Instead, the Management 3.0 style seeks to “find the root cause” of the problem, and then to refocus, improve, and plan a different way for fulfilling workplace tasks.
Management 3.0 provides effective tools and principles for building the system for effective problem solving. It provides us with techniques we can use to understand what is happening in our world, to identify things we want to change, and then apply everything that needs to be done to achieve the desired outcome. We live by the motto: fail fast, recover quickly, and learn from the failures.
The agile way of working does not mean being perfect, but instead it allows for failures and sees them as opportunities to learn, grow, and adapt . Perfection is useless if we do not provide value fast for our customers. That is why problem solving is the foundation for continuous improvement, learning, and collaboration, which leads to innovations and success in ever-changing economies and the new normal that we now live in.
The definition of problem solving according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is: “The process or act of finding a solution to a problem.” Similarly, the Oxford English Dictionary describes problem solving as: “The process of finding solutions to difficult or complex issues.”
For me, Problem-solving is a process of understanding and owning the problem, constant pursuit for solutions and improvements, and putting into action the best option for the desired outcome.
Understanding context and interacting with our teammates are the essence of effective problem-solving. We must clearly understand the complexity of our environment and the specifics of the context because things continuously change and evolve. Here, the Complexity Thinking Guidelines may help you to better understand what is happening and how to navigate complex environments more effectively.
We must have a lens through which to see problems as opportunities to improve, and regard our teams as sources of knowledge and experience. We have to connect people and opportunities in ways that can facilitate the best solutions for the problems that we are handling. Try using the Personal Maps , an excellent tool for bringing teams together and fostering diversity, respect, trust, and collaboration.
Today, all innovations and solved problems are team efforts because teams constantly improve their toolbox and competencies. Teams want to create something that was not there before, and which maximize their knowledge and resources.
To accomplish that, they need to build a process in a few easy steps:
- Be present, observe what is happening in your world, and define the problem.
- Review where you are now and what influences that state.
- Constantly improve and change things by using creative tools and tactics.
- Seek solutions and alternatives to make changes more effective.
- Make team decisions about which tools and solutions should be used.
- Implement improvements, monitor the process, and constantly adapt!
At this stage, by following the Management 3.0 principle of “Improving the system,” you can use the tools Celebration Grids , combined with Yay! Questions , to best engage the team in the problem-solving process, while keeping track of what is working well, what can be changed, and what new options exist.
Documenting everything is an integral part of the problem-solving process. By using Celebration Grids, you are gamifying the process and keeping the team flow and energy on a higher level.
Problem-solving is crucial for everyone: individuals, teams, leaders, organizations, and ultimately for all stakeholders because it empowers us to better control the environment and everything that is going on in our world. Try using Delegation Poker so that teams can become more empowered to solve problems both alongside leaders and within their organization.
Today, the speed of problem solving is important, and that is why organizations must give more power and authority on a team level , so employees can react quickly and even prevent problems. As a leading indicator, the Management 3.0 tool Problem Time can help you measure the time spent on uncompleted problem-solving tasks and activities; this is a valuable add-on to “lead and cycle time” lagging indicators, with which you measure the time taken on completed tasks.
Developing and refining problem-solving skills through constant practice and experimentation can refine the ability to solve problems and address issues with more complexities.
We may face various challenges in our daily work, and effective problem-solving can make a difference.
Make a Difference with Problem-Solving
- Problem-solving skills are important if you want to add more value . As an agilist, your objective is not to be perfect but to maximize the value you provide for all stakeholders. Start fast, deliver value early, manage failures and prioritize tasks by setting the urgency criteria.
- Problem-solving skills are important if you need to improve your results. You have to accept the complexity of success factors and better understand the need for changes and improvements in a continually uncertain environment. Results depend on your problem-solving skills!
- Problem-solving skills are important if you have to fix things that do not work. When your processes are not working as planned, problem solving will give you the structure and mechanisms to identify issues, figure out why things are broken, and take actions to fix them.
- Problem-solving skills are important when you have to address a risk. Sharpen your problem-solving skills to anticipate future events better and increase the awareness of cause-and-effect relationships. This enables you to take the right actions and influence the outcomes if issues do occur.
- Problem-solving skills are important if you work simultaneously on several projects. You should apply the same problem-solving techniques when you work on multiple projects, business functions, market segments, services, systems, processes, and teams. Standardize and scale!
- Problem-solving skills are important when you want to seize the day. Problem solving is all about innovation , building new things, and changing the system into a better one. This can help us to identify opportunities even in challenging times and prepare us for the future. You can visualize the process with the Meddles Game to better understand your ideas, solutions, and activities. It is a great way to engage your team as you can build the problem-solving concept and it is an effective tool for influencing all stakeholders affected by the problem.
Also read: Collaborative Leadership explained .
Solving complex problems may be difficult, but problems will be solved when we use the right tools. Besides the powerful Management 3.0 tools I already mentioned, as a big fan of Lean and Liberating structures, I think you can find lots of problem-solving techniques to use in your daily business.
Here is my short list of tools and techniques:
- 5 Whys – a great way to uncover the root cause is to understand the problem better.
- Fishbone analysis – for visual analysis of the root causes of a problem. Easy to combine with ‘5 Whys’ or ‘Mind mapping’ to brainstorm and determine the cause and effect of any problem.
- Silent brainstorming – gives everyone a chance to participate in idea generation as not only the loudest people, but also the quiet ones, will participate equally. Everyone’s opinion has the same weight.
- Mind maps – structured visual diagrams to share your ideas, concepts, and solutions the same way your brain does. You explain the problems quickly, then share fresh ideas, and finally come to a team consensus that can lead to an effective solution.
- Six thinking hats – enable your team to consider problems from different angles, focusing on facts, creative solutions, or why some solutions might not work.
- Agreement certainty matrix – another tremendous visual tool for brainstorming problems and challenges by sorting them into simple, complicated, complex, or chaotic domains to later agree on what approach should be used to solve the concrete problems affecting a team.
- Conversation café – enables the team to engage in productive conversations, with less arguing but more active listening, solving the problem in rounds of dialogues until reaching a consensus regarding the best problem-solving approach.
- Design thinking – when you are struggling for fresh ideas, the 5-step process will help you empathize with the problem, then begin defining and developing new ideas, before prototyping and testing them.
Edward Deming’s PDCA is the most known concept for continuous improvement and problem solving. You can gamify your events using the Change Management Game , a card game where PDCA will help you define the problem, take action, collect feedback, and adopt the new solution.
The “carrot and stick” approach, or in HR language, “pay for performance,” does not work anymore, especially for roles that require problem-solving, creativity, and innovative thinking. Creative people need a higher level of authority and empowerment to self-manage challenges and problem scenarios. When leaders and organizations create such systems, they foster intrinsic motivation and job satisfaction among these people. Creatives are seeking self-actualization through their careers.
This is one more case which calls for Management 3.0’s Delegation Poker to define the levels of authority in terms of problem-solving issues, as well as Moving Motivators to define key motivators for increasing productivity and employee satisfaction by changing behavior.
Improving Employee Experience with Problem-Solving
1. Use problem solving as a key motivator – have in mind Millennials and Gen Z creative workers ’ affinity towards tasks in which they feel challenged and have a sense of meaning. Provide them with big and tough problems to solve and use challenging tasks to keep them constantly engaged.
2. Continuous improvement can make a difference – creatives seek a sense of purpose and think outside of the box, so encouraging the ‘How can we execute this task better?’ mindset and problem solving become powerful tools for creating sustainable corporate culture.
3. Don’t connect solving problems with rewards – it can kill the perceived intrinsic value of the activity; it will disengage and dissatisfy employees. Autonomy, trust, respect, and gratitude will do the job.
4. Apply the seven rules for creative managers – unleash the power of diversity , and cooperation, rely on merits, optimize exploration, open boundaries, keep options open, and update your workplace.
We start solving problems from a very early age (the alphabet, learning to eat, driving a bicycle etc.). Then, everyday activities sharpen our problem-solving skills and enable us to solve more complex issues.
As an adult, you can still develop your problem-solving skills by:
- Daily practicing of logic games, such as chess, and puzzles like Sudoku.
- Video games can teach you how to deal with failure and persist in achieving your goals.
- Keep an idea journal or blog as a collection of all your ideas, thoughts, and patterns.
- Think outside of the box – take a different perspective to understand the problem better.
- Practice brainstorming combined with mind mapping, working with your team.
- Put yourself in new situations – take on a challenging project at work.
- Start using the “what if” mindset in daily circumstances and test new approaches.
- Read more books on creativity and articles which cover your areas of interest.
I also believe coaching can help build creativity and problem-solving skills, encouraging people to take greater ownership of their work and commit to corporate goals. A coach can provide clear guidance as to what is important at the moment; they help people better, focus, and move into action. By asking powerful questions and challenging others to think outside of the box, the coach removes their barriers and lets them see the situation from a new perspective.
Coaching can provide structure so people develop their own expertise and insights to contribute better when problems arise and the pressure to succeed is growing.
The interview is an excellent opportunity to research a candidate’s problem-solving skills, and STAR questions should be related to their previous experience dealing with problems. A candidate with good problem-solving skills can quickly embed in the team and become a valuable asset for the company.
In my Agility in HR workshops , we regularly discuss interview questions. Some popular STAR questions are:
- “If you cannot find a solution to a problem, how do you deal with the situation?”
- “How do you react when faced with unexpected problems or challenges?”
- “Describe an occasion when you had to adapt at the last minute. How did you handle this?”
Problem-solving requires the ability to identify a problem, find the root cause, create solutions, and execute them. All these steps are essential for achieving the desired results.
Some of the skills that problem solvers must constantly sharpen are:
- Collaborative communication . Clear communication is essential when you explain the problem and the solution to your teammates. During brainstorming sessions, asking the right questions to determine the root cause , as well as synergic collaboration are needed.
- Active listening is important to prevent mistakes as you can absorb the details your colleagues tell you about the problem. Use open-ended questions for clarification, and always be open to feedback and views that differ from yours.
- Coachability. The willingness to accept feedback and the ability to improve. Learning from more experienced people, being curious to ask many questions, constructively using your ego, skipping excuses and blaming others, and accepting Feedback Wraps from your coach.
- Decision making . Problems cannot be solved without risk-taking and bringing important decisions (including relevant data, levels of delegation, alternative solutions etc.) to the forefront.
- Critical thinking . Be 100% objective when you try to find the cause of the problem. Skip ego trips and personal biases. Identify your mistakes in the thinking process and show personal accountability .
- Research and data analysis . Proper research allows you to diagnose the actual problem, not just the symptoms. If the cause of the problem is not immediately apparent, you can use the power of data to discover the issue’s history, some patterns, future trends, etc.
- Persistence . Trust in the problem-solving process you have designed and follow every step with patience and persistence; even when you fail repeatedly, do not give up. Keep moving and remember Thomas Edison’s quote: “I have not failed. I have just found 9,999 ways that do not work.”
In the new VUCA world we now live in, problem solving is a crucial soft skill, and employers are actively seeking people with this skill set because they can prepare for problems before they arise. Problem solvers better identify opportunities, understand their environment, create a solution, and generate ideas that lead to great results and success.
According to a study made by LinkedIn Learning in August 2022 , future skills are rapidly changing, and problem solving is among the top soft skills employers search for from their candidates, as well as communication and leadership skills.
Using all aforementioned tools and practices from Management 3.0, following the guides, and sharpening your skills, will help you not only to be effective in resolving the problems that may arise, but also to solve them with enthusiasm and passion. They will create a higher level of engagement and collaboration in the team and help unleash people’s creativity and innovation. A win-win for everyone!
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Excellent . upgrade yourself for more useful career growth core skill
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