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3 Ways to Approach Problem Solving in the Workplace

In today’s companies, we often counsel top–level managers to be ‘problem solvers.’ But we don’t always define what this means. How do you solve problems and move ahead in any company?

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1. Solve for People

The majority of workplace problems have to do with the people that are involved in the company. In fact, there are different categories of people-based problems that managers have to deal with. In some cases, one or more people actually hold back a clearly beneficial change. In others, no stakeholder can adequately identify and fix a problem. Some other types of problems have to do with poor communications and hostility between multiple stakeholders.

A lot of times, someone new has to step in and solve these problems. Doing so means understanding the personal motivations of the people involved, and tackling the problem from that end. An interpersonal problem can be just as complex and tricky as a high-level math equation. It can take a lot of work to decipher, but for nearly any kind of professional manager, it’s well worth it, both in the results and experience.

2. Solve for Processes

In other cases, problem solving in the workplace might be as easy as scrutinizing a business process and fixing what’s broken.

In these days of complex technology and complex business planning, problem solvers often have to isolate one business process and its components, to look at how positive change might happen. Doing this may involve running models or simulations to see whether you can get better results than the baseline, which is the existing process. Overall, though, process-oriented problem-solving can be one of the more transparent jobs that a problem solver may have.

3. Long-Term Collaborative Problem Solving

Another type of problem-solving could be called ‘predictive problem solving.’ It involves gathering a lot of information to address obstacles to growth and expansion far down the road.

This is really the type of problem-solving that much of today’s high-level IT aims to address. The whole idea of big data in business intelligence, of aggregating huge amounts of information through the cloud and running it through reports, is aimed at developing solutions for problems that haven’t arisen yet. It’s the idea that businesses can keep re-crafting themselves to succeed in competitive industries. And this type of problem-solving is unique. It often relies on technology, so it helps to have tech-savvy people in your corner. There’s high-level planning involved, requiring analytical skills. In general that long-term, complex problem solving can be best tackled by a combination of professional experience, analytical thinking and tech tools.

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