How to Solve a Problem Using Six Steps

What does it take to become a great problem solver, and why is it so important? More specifically, what does it actually take to solve a problem? Problem solving is of course something that we do every single day. Life is full of problems, and in order to live life in optimal ways we must successfully overcome these problems. The level of happiness and fulfilment we experience is essentially tied to our ability to solve problems effectively. But is there a method or a process of steps we could take that would help us solve a problem? Well there actually is, and it requires working through six key phases.

 


1) THE PREPARATION PHASE

The preparation phase requires getting to know your problem at an intimate level. Begin by defining your problem in writing and then highlighting possible causes and desired outcomes. In order to solve your problem you need to be very clear about the nature of your problem. You must understand the What, When, Where, Why, Who and the How of your problem. For instance, ask yourself, what happened? When did it happen? Where did it happen? Why did it happen? How did it happen? And, who was involved? When you’re done, turn your problem into a question before launching into the next phase of this process.

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THE SIX STEP PROBLEM SOLVING METHOD

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2) THE GENERATION PHASE

Now that you have clearly defined your problem, it’s time to move onto the generation phase. This phase of the problem solving process involves brainstorming ideas that can potentially help you to successfully solve your problem. Your first objective is of course to list down as many ideas as possible, without judgment or criticism. Just list whatever ideas come to mind. Having completed this list, your next task is to take into consideration the benefits of each solution and the possible drawbacks that may arise. However, don’t allow drawbacks to dishearten you at this early stage of the problem solving process.

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3) THE INCUBATION PHASE

To solve a problem successfully often requires a lot of time and patience. Within the previous phase you spent a great deal of mental energy coming up with ideas and solutions. Your brain now needs time to process this information. This is where the incubation phase comes into play. Here within this phase of the process, you need to completely step away from your problem and indulge in a brainstorming nap. A brainstorming nap simply involves lying down with your eyes closed and just allowing your thoughts to drift. This allows your brain to go to work making new connections and associations.

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4) THE EVOLUTION PHASE

Having completed your brainstorming nap, you should now feel mentally refreshed and maybe even quite inspired. It’s time to put this energy to good use within the evolution phase. This phase of the problem solving process involves the evaluation of potential solutions. Here you would spend time reviewing all your ideas, combining ideas, prioritizing ideas, and then eventually deciding upon a single idea for implementation. It’s important to also take into account potential scenarios that might result from moving forward with one idea over another, and the opportunity costs that might arise.

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5) THE IMPLEMENTATION PHASE

Having reached the implementation phase, you should now have one single idea in mind that will hopefully get you your desired outcome. It’s important though that you are very clear about what it is you want to accomplish, and how this idea will help bring that vision to life. Consider also the resources, tools and the support you might need to put this idea into action. How can all these elements be used to solve your problem most effectively? Also take into consideration possible obstacles you might face and how you could potentially overcome them. Only then should you settle on outlining a plan of action.

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6) THE LEARNING PHASE

The final phase for solving a problem typically comes after the problem. This is of course the learning phase where we learn from our experience and use it as a platform that helps us work through future problems far more effectively. But the real learning phase actually begins while we are still working through the problem. We learn from our actions when we take the time to actually monitor our progress. Understanding what works and what doesn’t work can help us make more effective choices. We learn from these experiences and then adjust our course of action while still working on the actual problem.

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THE SIX STEP PROBLEM SOLVING METHOD

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CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Solving a problem can very quickly become a time consuming experience. However, it’s something that we can certainly get more proficient at with practice. Understanding each phase of this process is of course a great start, however problem solving also requires patience, self-discipline, determination and creativity.

Great problem solvers are also flexible and willing to adapt to changing conditions and circumstances. Moreover, they understand that what worked in the past may very well not work in the present moment, or apply to this particular problem. As such, it’s important that we are always vigilant of our unhelpful assumptions. Never allow these assumptions to lead you astray.


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