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Top 3 Reasons you need problem solving in your organization

Who sees the benefits of problem solving?  Everyone – organizational performance and reliability will improve, a culture of prevention and ownership will result, and employees will be better equipped to deal with challenges.  In this article, we will explore just how organizational problem solving affects the bottom line AND the employees.

1. Problem solving drives positive results

An organization demonstrates the effectiveness of problem solving with the results that are achieved. When a problem happens, an organization must understand the cost of the problem and demonstrate the ability to improve how work is performed. This will give the organization confidence that the problem will not happen again.

People often think that in order to effectively solve problems, they need software or a complex methodology. In order to drive results, an organization needs problem solving based in the foundation of the scientific method. By using evidence-based cause-and-effect, problem solving allows the knowledge of each employee to drive the investigation, thereby improving your work processes, and driving results for how work is performed.

2. Problem solving is a career skill 

On a personal level, for each of your employees, problem solving is a career skill. It is something that aids an individual’s performance because that employee gains a deeper knowledge of the company’s processes and procedures.

Let’s say your organization is considering two candidates for a promotion. Both candidates have worked for the company for approximately 5 years. Both candidates have supervisory experience working with frontline employees and have technical expertise in your field. Now you ask each employee – what kinds of problems did you face and how did you handle them? Do you hire the employee who says – “I’ve never really had to deal with any problems?” Or do you go with the employee who shares an example of a time they faced a challenge and how they addressed it. Is it better to go with the employee who has avoided the problems or the one who takes them head on.

I’d assume that the majority of you will hire the problem solving employee. By having a problem solving method, you are not only improving how work is performed, but also giving employees the skills to advance within their field. Further, being able to change your work environment for the better is an empowering skill. If employees are given the opportunity to improve the processes around them, then they likely will.

 3. Problem solving creates a prevention-focused culture

Focusing on problem solving in your organization will demonstrate to employees that the organization is motivated to prevent future problems from occurring. Work process documentation is an asset to every organization and who knows the work process the best? If you answered “the people doing the work,” you are absolutely correct. So if they know the process the best, then who do you think is most likely to be able to fix the weak links in the process? Right again – “the people closest to the work.”

When someone doesn’t follow the procedure and an organization responds by firing that person, what does that indicate to the rest of the organization? It indicates that if an employee tells their manager about a problem, they are likely to get fired. This behavior results in people hiding or ignoring problems. This is the culture shift and people have to see this through problem solving. It is very easy to say “we have a prevention culture ,” but only through practice, can an organization actually have a prevention culture. By acknowledging problems, involving employees close to the problem in the investigation, and implementing best practices to avoid similar problems from occurring again in the future, you can achieve a robust prevention-focused culture.

The benefits of problem solving

If problem solving is implemented effectively, all three criteria above can be achieved. If you prove that solving problems can improve the work environment then people will want to do it. When many people within your organization start problem solving then you start moving toward preventing problems instead of reacting to them.

There are two ways to deal with problems. You can avoid them or try to solve them. Ultimately, solving them is better for your business and your employees.

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Why Problem Solving is Important in the Workplace

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What is Problem Solving?

Those with good problem solving ability will move the business forward more effectively.

Those lacking problem solving ability will inevitably recommend ineffective solutions to key business issues, solutions which will either fail to resolve the underlying issue or indeed exasperate it. For example, they may misinterpret the information presented to them, fail to identify effective solutions to problems, or provide solutions which are unsuitable or indeed counterproductive. Employees with poor problem solving ability cannot be relied upon when the unexpected happens, shifting the burden on other staff. As a result, problem solving ability is a common core competency when hiring professional, managerial, or technical roles, and highly prized by HR professionals and hiring managers.

what is problem solving

What is an example of Problem Solving?

Problem-solving refers to the ability to identify and resolve problems in an effective and efficient manner. An example of problem-solving can be seen in the role of a customer service representative. A customer service representative is responsible for handling customer complaints and issues, and finding a solution that will satisfy the customer.

Why Problem Solving is Important

Problem solving ability is essential to performance in any role where issues need to be dealt with quickly, or where the issues that employees face are particularly complex. For example, management consultants are expected to solve particularly complex issues that their clients may be facing, and within very specific time-frames. Should a consultant fail to provide a solution within the specified timeframe, this will inevitably look bad in the eyes of the client, sullying the relationship and potentially negatively impacting the consultancy’s reputation. However, a consultant with exceptional problem solving ability will most likely provide effective solutions to the client’s problems and provide them within the requisite time period.

"As a competency, problem solving is a common performance criterion for roles that require staff to solve urgent or complex problems." - Ben Schwencke

As a competency, problem solving is a common performance criterion for roles that require staff to solve urgent or complex problems. These include, but are not limited to: management consultants, IT professionals, finance professionals, legal professionals, data scientists, managers, and executives. As a general rule, the more the role involves employees providing solutions to complex or urgent problems, the more important problem solving ability will be, and the more damage employees could potential cause if they lack those essential problem solving abilities in the workplace.

why problem solving is important in the workplace

How to Improve Problem Soliving

When a customer contacts a company with a problem, the customer service representative must first listen carefully to the customer's complaint and understand the issue. They then need to gather information and assess the situation to determine the cause of the problem.

They must evaluate different options and choose the best course of action to resolve the problem.

Next, they must evaluate different options and choose the best course of action to resolve the problem. Finally, they must implement the chosen solution and follow up to ensure that the problem has been fully resolved.

How to Assess Candidates on their Problem Solving

Problem solving as a psychological construct is underpinned predominantly by specific cognitive abilities. The ability to solve quantitative problems for example, is underpinned by a person’s level of numerical reasoning , and their ability to solve qualitative problems is underpinned by their verbal reasoning . Indeed, the academic research in this field suggests that the predictive validity of ability tests is largely attributable to problem solving abilities. Aptitude test questions are essentially just cognitive problems, and a candidate’s ability to solve them serves as a very useful proxy for their overall problem solving ability.

Other assessments may also measure problem solving to some degree, particularly certain assessment centre exercises, such as case study exercises. Here, candidates will be presented with a particular workplace relevant problem and told to generate solutions to that problem. Although this can be an effective method of assessing problem solving ability, assessment centre exercises are quite resource intensive, and are thus only suitable for the later stages of the recruitment process. Ability tests, however, can be used early in the recruitment process, ensuring that all subsequent candidate hold the requisite level of problem solving ability.

Our recommended Test Partnership assessments for measuring problem solving:

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Ben Schwencke

Ben is responsible for client delivery work at Test Partnership and usually serves as the main client of contact. He holds an MSc in Occupational Psychology and is a registered test user of ability and personality testing.


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What is problem solving and why is it important

why is problem solving important in organizational settings

By Wayne Stottler , Kepner-Tregoe

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.

Addressing risk

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.

Improving performance

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.

Seizing opportunity

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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The importance of problem solving skills in the workplace

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. 

6. Teamwork

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.

problem solving skills test

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.

screenshot of a sample question in TestGorilla’s pre-employment problem-solving test

The test specifically evaluates whether a candidate can perform problem-solving tasks like:

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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Problem Solving is a Must Have In The Workplace, Here is Why

Summary: Problem Solving at Work

Problem-solving importance in the workplace.

When it comes to efficient problem solving in the workplace there can be a lot of different methods used. Some people may prefer to take a more analytical approach, while others may be more creative in their thinking. No matter what your personal preference is, it’s important to be able to adapt and change as needed when faced with a complex problems and any business problems. 

By being versatile and flexible, you’ll be better equipped to find solutions that work for everyone involved. So whether you’re looking for a new way to tackle an old issue or just starting out on your career path, here are a few tips on how to solve problems effectively in the workplace.

Workplace issues must always be overcome. We’ll look at why problem solving is so important, as well as what you can do to improve your problem-solving skills.effo

One of the essential skills in any business or workplace is the problem of problem-solving and critical thinking.

At its most effective, problem-solving allows employees to seamlessly engage in the psychological process of realizing, evaluating, and resolving daily challenges. At the core of business development, the ability to problem solve allows employees to learn to use accessible resources to work out issues in a productive manner that does not betray your company’s integrity.

Additionally, they can reach an agreeable consensus using professional perspectives afforded to them by applying problem-solving skills. In the long run, companies who utilize problem-solving training will allow their employees to efficiently and productively manage any internal or external interactions with a professionalism that will only benefit the business as a whole.


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The Process of Problem-Solving in the Workplace

In professional problem-solving training workshops, the process is usually demonstrated using a simple four-step method that involves. This is a very standard approach for problem-solving in business. But we do challenge this with DMAIC, a Lean Six Sigma method which provides a more robust overall problem-solving approach.

1. Identification:

In this aspect of the program, employees are usually exposed to the ideal way to locate an issue within the workplace. Try as you may, no organization is without flaws that affect a business’ operability. These can manifest as processes that have worn out and broken down over time or those that were flawed from inception. Using root cause analysis techniques and practicing isolating the facts, employees can undergo a method to effectively and professionally identify these issues within their setting to improve the business.

By taking the first step in establishing the origins of the problem, your employees engage in the first step in a mechanism that allows them to determine what happened, why it took place, and how to employ preventative measures to ensure it does not occur in the future. This overall approach to continuous improvement problem solving is called Kaizen (learn more) .

2. Proposition:

Once your employees have developed the capability to identify cause and effect relationships in their environments that affect productivity, they move on to being able to transfer this knowledge into offering possible solutions to address whatever problem arises . This learned ability helps less experienced employees and seasoned ones as it targets their innovative thought.

Employees can use creative strategies to tackle traditional problems using their past experiences and current lives. In addition to asking for effective strategies, this step also requires that employees conduct a risk analysis of their proposed plans. The proposition must solve the problem more effectively than the risk it poses to the company.

3. Evaluation:

Employees do not exist in isolation. Within any business, there is a multifaceted and symbiotic set of relationships that occurs. Therefore, one employee’s actions can have a direct or indirect impact on another, thus affecting the overall dynamics of the environment. On the one hand, the interdependency that is created in the work environment enables your employees to work together on more complicated issues, but it also demands cohesion in not only collaborative efforts but also performance.

It is through employee engagement with problem-solving skills that they learn to make effective decisions as a team. Problem-solving helps them understand their interdependency and allows them to implement adjustments needed to create a team that survives a constantly changing environment. They evaluate options and their effects on their co-workers to minimize negative impacts in the system.


In the final step of the process, employees are exposed to impact. Before the performance of a solution, they need to understand how the solution would work within their professional context. To do this, they rely on the efforts they used to solve previous problems. Employees learn to improve the clarity of their recall through mnemonic devices to trigger recollection and the visualization of their environments to remember and organize data.

The innovative disparity that results from their old ways and their new and improved methods in problem-solving results in an efficiency that improves their workspace. Your employees can now understand the value of evaluating the success of the options chosen and, in the future, can apply the process again. In their implementation, they will realize that problem solving is not solely issue response and conflict resolution but a multifaceted approach that impacts their entire professional experience for the best.

If you check out the ASQ website , they describe problem-solving in these 4 steps.

1. Define the problem

Differentiate fact from opinion Specify underlying causes Consult each faction involved for information State the problem specifically Identify what standard or expectation is violated Determine in which process the problem lies Avoid trying to solve the problem without data

2. Generate alternative solutions

Postpone evaluating alternatives initially Include all involved individuals in the generating of alternatives Specify alternatives consistent with organizational goals Specify short- and long-term alternatives Brainstorm on others’ ideas Seek alternatives that may solve the problem

3. Evaluate and select an alternative

Evaluate alternatives relative to a target standard Evaluate all alternatives without bias Evaluate alternatives relative to established goals Evaluate both proven and possible outcomes State the selected alternative explicitly

4. Implement and follow up on the solution

Developing problem-solving skills in the workplace

So how do you develop your problem-solving skills or that of your team? And lets share a couple of problem solving in the workplace examples.

The best way to build problem-solving skills is through teaching and then practising some of the most highly regarded problem-solving approaches. The foundation of solving any problem is the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) cycle, to avoid jumping to solutions and build a methodology that can drive continuous improvement. 

And depending on the complexity of the problem, you can use 3C’s (Concern, Cause, Countermeasure), A3 Problem-Solving (originally from Toyota), 8D’s (originally from Ford) or DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control) . If it’s a new product development, then understanding the Build-Measure-Learn approach from Lean Startup is essential.

How to learn more about these problem-solving approaches? Check out our Free Lean Six Sigma Certification course – The Fundamentals of Lean to begin to explore

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MindManager Blog

What is problem solving? And why is it important at work?

June 30, 2020 by leannearmstrong

By: Leanne Armstrong

If there’s one thing you can count on as a business professional, it’s that you’ll never run short of new problems to solve! Thankfully, whether it includes handling difficult or unexpected situations in the workplace, or resolving complex organizational challenges, we all have the capacity to develop our business problem solving skills.

The best way to get better at tackling problems productively is to begin at the beginning. After all, the better you understand what problem solving is – and the significant role it plays in every organization – the easier you’ll find it to improve on problem solving skills in the workplace.

Let’s dive in!

Problem-solving, in general, refers to the act of find solutions to difficult or complex issues. In the workplace, problem-solving includes a variety of tools, resources, and techniques to:

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What is problem solving?

Whether you know them as obstacles, glitches, or setbacks, problems are a part of our everyday lives. The good news is that our brains excel at reasoning out intricate scenarios and making calculations in situations we’ve never experienced before. And that means every one of us is hard-wired to be an adept problem-solver.

The trick is to learn how to take that innate ability and apply it in a deliberate and practiced way.

A good problem-solving definition might be finding solutions to difficult or complex issues . In practice, however, solving problems in the workplace is a little more immersive than that.

It may, for example, include using a variety of tools , techniques, and resources to:

One thing, however, is certain: successfully resolving business and workplace issues is essential. Not only does effective problem solving create value that encourages growth, it goes hand-in-hand with impactful decision making.

What are the benefits of problem solving in business?

Practically speaking, problem solving provides a golden opportunity to improve your processes, products, and systems – especially when you work through those challenges with others.

Learning to face difficulties calmly, and deal with them intentionally, can also:

Applying problem solving skills in the face of an obstacle that seems insurmountable trains you to shift your perspective and look at potential hurdles in a different way.

It also gets you used to examining multiple options for dealing with a problem, which can help you feel more confident in the direction you take.

Solving problems as a team

Business problem solving as a team offers an even wider range of benefits since active collaboration tends to make good things happen at both the individual and group level.

For example:

Not only is there less chance of arriving at an unreasonable or biased solution when you problem solve as a group, team members assigned to carry that solution out will feel more invested in its success.

Examples of problem solving skills in the workplace

Improving on your problem-solving skills helps you make the most of your brain’s natural capacity to analyze and reason things out.

There are dozens of problem-solving skills that play out in the average workplace – all of which can contribute to your ability to correct oversights, resolve conflict , and work around unexpected obstructions.

Here are a few common examples of problem solving skills in the workplace, and tips on how to improve them.

1. Data Gathering

Figuring out the cause of a problem hinges on collecting relevant data. Consulting efficiently with colleagues, conducting online research, and brainstorming with your team are all valuable data gathering skills.

2. Active Listening

As opposed to listening in a purely supportive or empathetic way, active listening involves concentrating fully on what the other person is saying so you can understand the content, respond accordingly, and remember what was said later.

3. Troubleshooting

The ability to analyze and troubleshoot a situation with the help of any data and human input you’ve gathered is essential for drilling down into the core of a problem, and scrutinizing potential solutions.

4. Brainstorming

Brainstorming has become synonymous with creative thinking, innovative idea generation, and problem solving . The more productive your brainstorming sessions, the more likely you and your group are to put together a list of quality, workable solutions.

It’s interesting to note that effective decision making is both a contributor to, and a by-product of, effective problem solving.

For example, honing your analytical abilities and other problem-solving skills will inevitably help you make better decisions. The more efficient your decision-making process becomes, meanwhile, the better you’ll get at uncovering and acting on the most promising solution to any dilemma.

A simple problem-solving scenario

It’s clear that we can all benefit from getting more comfortable with problem solving in the workplace. Examples of situations where your problem-solving skills will come in handy aren’t difficult to find, and might include:

But here’s the interesting thing. While it’s evident in each of these situations that there’s a problem to be solved, the exact nature of that problem isn’t so obvious.

In the student’s case, for example, you’d need additional input to help you figure out why they’re performing poorly. Only then would you be able to take steps to find the best-fit solution and achieve the desired learning outcome.

Here’s a simple scenario to help demonstrate that idea:

Bringing new customers onboard in a timely manner is an important part of your client relations strategy. Since hiring Alex a few weeks ago, however, your onboarding process has been taking longer than it should and team members are beginning to complain.

While you can see that the problem in this scenario is the fact that your team isn’t meeting their client onboarding goals, the key is to get clear on exactly what’s causing the hold-up.

You could jump to the conclusion that Alex has time management issues and that it’s time to start looking for a replacement. But since one of the most common mistakes in business problem solving is attempting to seize on a solution right away, that might cause you to waste time and resources on a remedy that ultimately proves unnecessary, or that doesn’t provide a viable fix.

Instead, it’s time to put your problem-solving skills to work.

Using data gathering and troubleshooting to pinpoint and clarify the bottleneck in your onboarding process – and active listening to interpret the situation from Alex’s perspective – you soon determine that the real cause of the problem is not what you thought.

In truth, an administrative oversight during the hiring process (yet another problem to be solved!) left Alex unaware of, and without access to, the business process map that’s so vital to efficiently onboarding new customers. Once you provide the necessary resources, it doesn’t take Alex long to get up to speed – and your client onboarding process to revert back to the well-oiled machine that it was.

Even with a team of eager problem-solvers by your side, the truth is that it’s often necessary to have the right problem solving tools in place to achieve your desired results. That’s where versatile mind mapping software can help.

Not only does MindManager provide a visual framework that fully supports the problem solving process, it improves comprehension, inspires more creative solutions, and boosts your ability to make the best possible decisions as you and your team expand your problem solving skills.

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Lean Six Sigma is a powerful problem solving technique that helps find, and solve, even the most complex issues in project, workflows, and systems. Watch this webinar to learn the basics of Lean Six Sigma, examples of where and how to use it, and a primer on how to get started.

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Management 3.0

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?

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:

Problem-Solving in Six Easy Steps

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

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:

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. 

Improving Employee Experience with Problem-Solving

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:

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:

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:

Skills of good problem-solvers

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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Problem solving

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.

How can I get better?

How can i demonstrate this when applying for jobs, why is it important.

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.

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.

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.

Welcome advice

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 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. 

why is problem solving important in organizational settings

How to Nail your next Technical Interview

You may be missing out on a 66.5% salary hike*, nick camilleri, how many years of coding experience do you have, free course on 'sorting algorithms' by omkar deshpande (stanford phd, head of curriculum, ik).

why is problem solving important in organizational settings

How to Use Problem-Solving Skills in the Workplace

" We've been stuck at it for a week now, " thought Frank to himself. His team came across a simple bin-packing problem surrounding consecutive character strings that were seemingly impossible to solve, and had been running into the same error message every time someone hit the  ‘Compile’  button.

The new guy on his team ( his first day ), who had been quiet the whole day, walked to the whiteboard and started jotting down something. When he was done, five minutes later, a solution pattern popped right out the whiteboard.

" Gosh! How did he do that? "

Well, we'll find out. Here's what we'll be covering in this article:

- What exactly is problem-solving?

- What will be the employer or manager looking for in you?

- How to approach a workplace problem?

- Problem-solving techniques in the workplace

Step 2: Define the problem

Step 3: Strategize a solution

Step 4: Find alternate solutions

Step 5: Evaluate solutions and document everything

Step 6: Choose a solution

Step 7: Implement

Step 8: Monitor progress and make modifications accordingly

- What essential problem-solving skills do employers search for during the interview?

- How to highlight problem-solving skills in your resume?

What exactly is problem-solving?

Problems are a massive part of what we do in our day-to-day lives, be it at your home or workplace. 

Problem-solving is the complete process of understanding and defining the problem, brainstorming a solution, finding alternatives, implementing the best solution, and making adjustments based on the outcome.

What do hiring managers look for?

One's problem-solving ability is a harmonious accord between instinct and immense practice. As your  technical skills  age with experience, so does your ability to identify patterns and solve problems effectively.

Almost each and every employer looks for  effective problem-solving  skills in a candidate when making a hiring decision. They look for an aspirant's natural talent to dig up patterns, look at the problem with a fresh perspective, and be realistic while providing solutions. 

How to approach a workplace problem?

During computer science classes, you will find two types of students.

The first batch has a mindset that algorithms and data structures are only useful for passing the finals and getting an edge over others in interviews.

The second batch loves programming and aspires to write codes from scratch for each new project that they come across.While both mindsets may be partially correct, they do not hold up much.

In real-life situations and as part of an organization, your job drastically changes to one objective only: ' write the right amount of good code. '

For most projects, you will need to write quick, efficient codes to overcome difficult roadblocks. And the only way to achieve that skill is by getting acquainted with as many problems as possible.

Solve as many problems as possible. Learn as many Data Structures and Algorithms as you can. Get acquainted with the basics of reusing a chunk of code.  Make StackOverflow your default homepage.

Does that seem too groundbreaking? Let us simplify it for you.

Problem-solving techniques in the workplace

See, a lot of people understand the problem at hand and the syntax or logic that might explain the issue. The primary thing you need to learn is how to convert your thoughts into code to all the creative geniuses out there.

If you need a comprehensive set of instructions, here are the  problem-solving steps  that you can adopt in your day-to-day lifestyle. This procedure applies not only to coding problems but also to other general hiccups.

While some have the mental affluence to solve problems on the go, keep practicing these daily, and you too will develop critical thinking skills.

Step 1: Thoroughly understand the problem

The first and most crucial step in solving a problem is to comprehend the standing concepts behind it. Believe us when we say this, a lot of employees jump to providing suggestions before actually understanding what the problem is.

A quick way to gauge your understanding is verifying if you can explain the problem to someone else. This also ties into your communication skills, and employers will gauge your ability to converse issues and solutions effectively. It is, thus, also one of the essential  interview preparation tips  for you.

Hiring managers have a behavioral question that they like asking, which revolves around the following:

" How will you be explaining a complex technical concept to a person who is not very sound technically? "

Ask yourself these questions and make a note of the solutions as you go.

The next step in this process is accumulating every bit of necessary information so that you can start assembling a solution. Now, this isn't as easy as it sounds, and you can effortlessly mess up things during proceedings.

Strangely, at this time, do not focus on the solution. Instead, focus on defining the question.

Therefore, instead of saying ' the sale numbers need to be consistent in the next quarter, ' say ' the sale numbers are inconsistent. '

Based on the information you collected in step 1, start separating the facts from estimations. Analyze the procedures that have been used previously and make precise adjustments based on the company policies.

Now that you have understood the problem and defined it, start strategizing a solution for it based on your findings. Workplace solutions can be majorly categorized into two different kinds, i.e.  tactical solutions and strategic solutions .

A tactical solution is a short-term fix for a standing obstacle, more like a workaround for an issue. Imagine reusing a piece of code from your last project to get around that pesky error message in your new one.

A strategic solution, on the other hand, is a long-term fix for an issue. Strategic solutions involve using a comprehensive series of steps to find the overall architecture of a problem. 

Usually, workplaces adopt the following problem-solving strategies into their policies.

Your goal as an employee should be to become as fluent in these strategies as possible. Once you can naturally zoom into the problem, you will be able to form a strategy within minutes, without having to write anything down.

Are you starting to understand how the new guy deduced a solution that quickly?

Keeping the goals and objectives in mind, understand that there's always  more than one way to skin a cat . Invite your team members and other experienced guys to brainstorm ideas alongside you.

For each problem, you should be able to find at least THREE different points of view or solutions, each with a unique USP.

Here's a neat little trick you may find useful someday in your career. Invite everyone associated with the project to this brainstorming session. Making sure that everybody gets equal participation is one of the ways you can exhibit your leadership skills while forging strong workplace relationships.

Now that you have found alternate solutions as well, it's time to evaluate these solutions. You will need to assess each solution based on various factors and list down all the pros and cons of each alternative you found in solution 4.

Create a document or spreadsheet listing down the USPs of each alternative and the positive and negative consequences thereby. You can go on adding other columns such as budget constraints, time allocation, resource requirements, workforce, and other relevant data.

The ability to quickly evaluate solutions ties into your management skills. A manager will be able to evaluate and implement solutions based on such factors quickly. Train yourself to find as many parameters as you can find to analyze solutions effectively. 

Basically, your main objective is to find one effective solution out of all the ones provided on the list. The solution you choose depends on various parameters, which can be one or all of the following:

You can promote strong work ethics by running the chosen solution by everyone in your team or involved in the project before implementing it. Also, select the employees who will be actively implementing it, and ask for their feedback.

Implementing a solution does not merely mean diving headfirst with anything that you do. After you have collected the feedback and communicated the solution to everybody involved, here's what you will need to do next.

First,  redefine the objectives , in brief, to help get a better idea of the end goal. Develop a simple action plan with  defined timelines  for the solution that you agreed upon in the step above.

Implement the chosen solution according to the action plan. Then, identify the measurable parameters to track success and failure rates.

Finally, set up communication channels for regular feedback and a contingency plan in case of a failure.

The last  problem-solving step  involves actively monitoring how the solution performs in real life and if it meets the end goal for which it was adopted in the first place.

Tally how the solution functions compared to how you expected it to perform and document all changes. Check the feedback channel for any discrepancy or issues that arise during the process.

If you feel that any modification will further optimize the process, implement it after running it with your team.

Improving problem-solving skills for programmers

What essential problem-solving skills do employers search for in interviews?

Problem-solving in the workplace  is one of the most sought-after skills in any organization. During the interview, if you can highlight your ability to find creative solutions quickly along with your  technical skills , you definitely have a better chance of making it to the next round.

Hiring managers tend to leave specific questions open-ended; the notion being that without a trail for the candidate to follow, they'll be able to understand better how the candidate thinks.

Some of the crucial problem-solving skills that employers look for in the candidate include the following:

" Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. " – Helen Keller

Effective problem-solving  encompasses teamwork. As a problem-solver ( and a leader ), you need to show empathy towards your teammates, develop effective feedback channels, and use their input to solve the problem at hand.

why is problem solving important in organizational settings

Listening skills

A good listener in the workplace will be able to gather more valuable information and then use them to find unique solutions in the least possible time. Additionally, an active listener encourages every team member to get involved in the  problem-solving steps , listens to their feedback, and comes up with a profitable solution.

However, ' saying ' that you have good listening skills outright defeats the purpose.

During the interview, maintain your composure and LISTEN quietly to the problem at hand. Understand the problem and its root cause; only then provide a solution.


Irrespective of the nature of a problem, you need to be able to communicate the issue and any possible solution effectively to everybody else involved in the project. You need to brush up your delivery skills and learn which points to communicate first and last.

Interviewers may either ask your proficiency with various communication channels such as e-mail, phone, and text or give you a behavioral task and test your ability to communicate with others in real-life situations.

Creativity and critical thinking

"You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have." - Maya Angelou

Employers in this day and age are always on the lookout for an innovative thinker, one who can see the problem with a new set of eyes and bring a unique perspective to the team. You need to be able to establish the balance between cause and effect quickly, anticipate long-term effects of a solution that you implement, and lead your team to a new direction when stuck.


More often than not, decision-making is closely tied to an employee's  problem-solving ability . Besides implementing solutions that your team comes up with, you should also be able to foresee the long-term effects and prevent catastrophes.

With quality  technical interview preparation courses , you can further understand the importance of this step.  

How to highlight problem-solving skills in your resume?

Your resume is the first document that a hiring manager sees. The experience and skills you mention in your resume can help you secure an interview if it catches the recruiter's attention.

The first approach you can adopt is highlighting your  analysis and problem-solving skills  right under the hard skills. This approach shows that you are confident in your technical skills and can find and implement work-based solutions efficiently.

For a full-stack web developer, the following  problem-solving skills  can be mentioned.

Critical and creative thinking and proficient in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, NPM, Database Storage, Ruby on Rails. Good at problem-solving and working in teams.

Secondly, you can list your  problem-solving ability  under the work experience section. This is an excellent way to highlight your job experience and emphasizes that you learn and implement these skills in your work.

Apart from using  problem-solving skills in your workplace , a quick way to develop your skills is to ask many questions. Only by asking questions and analyzing the information at hand can you build a workplace reputation as someone who handles challenging situations wisely. 

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