Infographic - Problem solving process

Here five basic steps to get started:

STEP 1- IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM. This step may not be as straightforward as you might imagine. Sometimes simply thinking through what you perceive to be a problem might lead you to conclude it isn’t really a problem. It could for example be a misunderstanding or even a minor disagreement between two people. Sometimes you realize that a solution already exists: better communication. If indeed you are facing a problem then you need to determine exactly what it is. To do this you need to be able to clearly define the problem. Try to state it in a single declarative sentence. Then go through the pros and cons of the problem. Perhaps weighing the likely cost of not resolving it. This will give you the necessary impetus to stick with it until it is resolved.

STEP 2- ANALISE THE PROBLEM by looking at it from a variety of perspectives. Is it real or perceived? Is it solvable? Can you solve it alone or do you need help? Sometimes by looking at it from many angles you can come up with a quick solution.

But be aware: You are just as likely to reveal a bias or narrow point of view that needs to be broadened.

STEP 3- BRAINSTORM and come up with a several possible solutions. Brainstorm a list of several possible solutions being very careful to not reject any outright. You never know when part of a solution that first seemed unlikely turns out to help the thinking go in a new direction.

Write down anything that comes to mind and then review the list before narrowing it down to the best options. By having several viable possibilities, you are more likely to get the best results.

STEP 4- PICK THE BEST SOLUTION. Take some time to decide what will work best for the problem at hand. It is important to remember: What works in one situation, may not work in a similar one… in other words beware of always falling back on what’s worked in the past.

STEP 5- IMPLEMENT THE SOLUTION. It’s important to understand that sometimes the solution may be to simply accept the situation. All problems that have been critically examined lead to personal growth opportunities.

At the very least they are opportunities to hone our critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Like any skill, learning to think critically and problem-solve is something that gets better with practice.  It is a cyclical process, as critical thinkers we should return to our solutions and evaluate them. This allows us to verify that the solutions are effective and adjust them if they are not.

Just know that every problem you are able to find a solution for, increases self-confidence and self-worth. So, CRITICAL THINKING not only helps us handle future challenges more skillfully, but it also broadens our life experience and helps us gain perspective.

Daniela R. Murphy