Complex Problem Solving

Having good, strong problem solving skills can make a huge difference to your career.

Companies are facing complex problems every day. To manage these issues, large sets of information, known as ‘big data’, are used to define the right solutions. Artificial intelligence (AI) can gather huge amounts of data and analyse it, but businesses still need employees to question this information and use complex problem solving skills to define the right plan of action.

Why will this skills benefit you?

Our lives are only getting busier and more complex, so If you’re comfortable doing this, you’re also likely to be more confident and focused in your approach, and you’ll bring a fresh perspective and provide real value when working in teams.

Four Steps to CPS

A simple step-by-step procedure to solving professional problems has four stages that are outlined below.

What is the goal you are trying to achieve? What’s preventing you from getting the result you want?

Branch out and visualize several possible scenarios of how to tackle a problem. What are the possible outcomes?

Evaluate your ideas against your resources and abilities and eliminate the steps that are least likely to bring you forward. Which option will solve your problem? Which option is the easiest? What should you prioritize?

Apply the chosen solution and see whether intermediate results align with your final goal. If not, seek an alternative scenario.

In order to better identify solutions and find the root causes of the problems, there are techniques to help you guide your thinking process in the right direction. And one of them is the Hurson’s Productive Thinking Model.

Creative Problem Solving Techniques

Time to get creative! You might think this will just be a list of out-of-the-box ways to brainstorm ideas. Not exactly.

Creative problem solving (CPS) is actually a formal process formulated by Sidney Parnes and Alex Faickney Osborn, who is thought of as the father of traditional brainstorming (and the “O” in famous advertising agency BBDO).

Their creative problem solving process emphasizes several things, namely:

  • Separate ideation from evaluation. When you brainstorm creative ideas, have a separate time for listing it all down. Focus on generating lots of ideas. Don’t prioritize or evaluate them until everything is captured.
  • Judging will shut it down. Nothing stops the flow of creative ideas faster than judging them on the spot. Wait until the brainstorming is over before you evaluate.
  • Restate problems as questions. It’s easier to entice a group into thinking of creative ideas when challenges are stated as open-ended questions.
  • Use “Yes and” to expand ideas. Here’s one of the basic tenets of improv comedy. It’s way too easy to shut down and negate ideas by using the word “but.” (i.e. “But I think this is better…”) Avoid this at all costs. Instead, expand on what was previously introduced by saying “Yes, and…” to keep ideas flowing and evolving.

Takeaway: when brainstorming solutions, generate ideas first by using questions and building off of existing ideas. Do all evaluating and judging later.