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Developing Problem Solving Skills

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Want a new career in the Boston area? Developing good problem solving skills typically helps you to get to a resolution more quickly and these skills are in high demand.

As a training professional for almost 30 years, I've observed that one of the most necessary skills is problem solving. This starts by recognizing your own primary problem solving skill and adjust to the style of others as well to get things done. Problem-solving styles have advantages and disadvantages. People with a rational style prefer to use a structured approach, dealing with the facts. Others prefer a more creative, nonlinear approach. Some like to take a pragmatic approach to find quick, efficient solutions. Still others may want to solve problems collaboratively using their interpersonal skills.

To develop critical thinking skills, follow a simple process. First, define the problem. Make sure that you're looking that the problem itself, not just a symptom of the issue. You need to isolate the root cause. Next, specify your objectives for solving the problem. You need to identify alternatives, evaluate them and figure out how to choose the best option. Finally, implement the solution and adjust it as needed. You should verify that the problem has been resolved. You may also want to make sure it won't recur.

Your ability to expand your thinking tends to be limited by your past experiences. These include considering the degree to which you view problems as your responsibility, feeling that a problem is a permanent irritant and feeling the problem will impact other areas of your personal and professional life. Be being more conscious of this, you can acknowledge that your first impression may not be accurate and allow for more expansive thinking.

To establish the need for a solution, identify the basic need, desired outcome and who stands to benefit and why. To justify the need, make sure your effort is aligned with your overall training or business strategy, identify the benefits, examine relevant operational metrics and ensure you can implement the solution. To contextualize the problem, consider previous approaches you tried and those that others have attempted. Consider using an internal or external consultant as well. To articulate the problem, write a statement. This statement should quantify how many problems are included, list the requirements for a solution, identify who should be engaged, describe what incentives are required and define how solutions should be measured.

Ensure you're taking the best approach when solving problems as a team. Identify your own style strengths and weaknesses and consider alternatives to meet the needs of your team members. Failure to consider these alternatives may result in flawed analysis.

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