Five key problem solving skills for professionals

Problem solving is a key success skill for professionals. 

It is a skill that is invaluable to protect your future career, whether in the public or private sector, and your personal life.

What are the five key skills that are needed to be a good problem solver?

Analytical Ability – knowing how to gather data, articulate, analyse, and visualise information, solve complex problems and make decisions.

Lateral Thinking – involves looking beyond the obvious and the usual modes of thought and throwing away preconceptions and using your inspiration and imagination to solve problems by looking at them from unexpected perspectives.

Logical Reasoning – asking the important questions, gathering and assessing relevant information, arriving at well-reasoned conclusions while staying open-minded and then communicating effectively to arrive at solutions

Initiative – seizing upon opportunities and taking the lead to solve problems, rather than to pass them on to other people. It can also involves anticipating potential problems and taking pre-emptive steps to resolve them.

Persistence – This is the ”stick to it” factor. Perseverance and persistence are highly related to the ability to not only solve the problem, but to also enact a solution.

One way to look at problem solving is using the IDEAL method:

The “I” stands for identifying the problem – What is it? Why is it a problem and not something less?

The “D” stands for defining the context of the problem – How is this problem impacting other people or other parts of the business? What are the consequences if we don’t solve it?

“E” is for exploring possible strategies – This is brainstorming solutions in a non-judgmental way and then and only then cutting down the list to a few possibilities.

“A” is for acting on the best solution – This is where you pick the best solution and implement it.

While “L” is for look back and learn – this is the post-delivery phase… where you critically examine how things went and what could be improved for the next time.

Problem solving relies on analytical ability, lateral or creative thinking, logical reasoning or critical thinking, initiative and persistence. 

Our brains are required to switch from critical to creative thinking at different stages of problem solving.

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