The Most Wanted Skill of 2020 – Problem Solving Sustainably

In recent times, ‘problem-solving skills’ has been one of the most used phrases of 2020, and rightfully so too – we’ve all encountered and experienced many bizarre problems in the last 5 months that we had neither experienced before nor could have predicted earlier. While most of us have focused or are still focusing on the solving part, it’s highly important to also focus on the problem part, especially to ensure that the solution is sustainable and is implemented keeping in mind who we are trying to solve the problem for. 

As we are adapting to what we are accepting as the New Normal, it’s very important that we solve problems and implement solutions in a way that they work for a long time and do not further create problems. Seems easy enough, that’s how we solve problems anyways, right? Surprisingly, in most cases, it isn’t. 

In reality, when we say problem-solving, it often means tackling challenges along the way, finding quick fixes, and focussing on damage control – well, that approach can help for a while, but when we’re dealing with bigger issues, it all comes collapsing down if we don’t fix the root of the problem. That’s why problem-solving as a skill is still most wanted and most sought after. And with nearly half of the systems and processes we have built almost becoming irrelevant to the way we work now, this is also the best time to talk about it. 

Enough said! let’s get to the point, shall we?

Learn First, Act Later:

Of course, some problems require quick fixes to control damages, However, that approach shouldn’t be applied to problems all over. Any problem you encounter will challenge your assumptions. In this case, we need to dig a little deeper, gather as much information about the problem as possible. Try and understand the variables and dynamics. Learn more about how the problem impacts different stakeholders, and gather information about external factors. You should also map out various scenarios before arriving at a solution, think about risks and further problems. Once you think you’ve done enough, then only work towards the next steps of problem-solving. 

But what if you don’t have enough past data about the problem you have? What will you do then? Such problems are called messy problems and often require a different structure to try and solve them. Check out this unique way of problem-solving for such problems here

Think From The Perspective Of The User:

Sometimes, it’s not just enough to understand the root cause of the problem, it’s also important to understand how the problem looks from the user’s perspective. Who is facing the problem? What is their biggest pain point? A problem might impact multiple groups of stakeholders and it looks different from different viewpoints. It’s important that if you’re trying to solve it, you should solve it based on the user’s viewpoint you’re trying to solve it for. So, exploring your user’s perspective is also a key bullet in problem-solving. In fact, it is one of the first things that is taught in Design Thinking – a structured way of solving complex problems. Complex or not, it always helps to understand the people’s impact of your problems before proceeding to solve. 

The 5 Whys Technique:

Get to the basics. Before you think about the ‘how’ of solving a problem, start caring about the ‘why’ questions. There’s a popular technique called the 5 whys, the process is exactly what it looks like, asking 5 why questions until you get to the root cause of the problem. 

Consider the following example:

Source: https://kanbanize.com/

We can go up to more iterations, but usually, 5 why questions should let you get to the root cause. 

Solve For Long Term:

It might feel tempting to choose the most feasible and quickest solution and get on with it, and maybe your circumstances might even call for it. Before you make that jump, know that the point of solving a problem is to ensure that the problem doesn’t come back creeping to your desk wearing a slightly different face than before. Make it sustainable. Make it long-term.

Use Specialized Approach:

While you think deeply and analyse solving a problem, there are scenarios, where you might feel that despite these steps, you aren’t fully able to solve the challenges. That’s where it gets tricky – maybe the problem you thought was the problem isn’t really the problem, or you simply could solve only one aspect of the problem. In such times, you need to evaluate whether you have a ‘wicked’ problem. A wicked problem is defined as a problem which is tough to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, or changing requirements that are often difficult to understand. These problems usually involve multiple stakeholders and usually have no obvious solutions. In case, what you face seems something similar, you might have to use a specialized approach such as Design Thinking.

If you’re interested in knowing more about Design Thinking and how your organization can benefit from it, check out our Design Thinking Resource Page

So, the next time you think of problem-solving, we hope you look at it comprehensively, stressing on both the problem and the solving parts. Happy solving!