5 Tips to Jumpstart Problem-Solving

Ever feel like you have the hit the idea wall? You are working through a problem and at some point you just feel blocked? This happens to me all the time. I used to step away from it and do something else. Sometimes I would be in the shower or gardening in the yard and a new idea would come to me. These days, I don’t have the luxury to wait. If I am in a time crunch, I have learned to lean on a few tricks to get me out of the rut.

  1. Envision the end goal – Identify what “finished product or state” should be. Make a detailed description of what completion means and how it looks. Then look at where you are now and do the same detailed description. Look at the differences between now state and end state. Seeing it like this can help you make a solid plan to achieve the end state.
  2. Talk it out – Ask a colleague or trusted friend to listen. Sometimes talking out why you are stuck helps you come up with a good solution forward. I am not sure how many times I just said out loud what was blocking my progress and before I could even finish explaining it to someone else, I had figured out a new plan. I am not sure what your brain is doing differently when you actually talk verses just think but try it.
  3. Ask different questions – If you are stuck, you might not be answering the right questions to get there. You need to reflect on that and evaluate what questions you are asking. Maybe you are not solving the right problem and that is why you are stuck. Sometimes changing a “What?” question into a “Why?” question works. e.g. What is the best product?  verses Why do consumers buy your competitors products?
  4. Identify Assumptions – Write down all the assumptions you are making while trying to problem solve. Assumptions are always part of the thinking process but sometimes they can lead you astray. Once you write down the assumptions you have made, vet them with a colleague or friend. You might find through collaboration that one or some of them are getting in your way.
  5. Identify Relevant Vs Extraneous – There are many elements in complex problem solving to consider. Some are just noise while others are critical to finding the right path. Make a list with two columns. Mark one Relevant and the other Extraneous and fill them in with the issues you are juggling. Once you explicitly recognize what is extraneous, it can help you think about things differently.

I hope these help you make a break through!
Need some problem-solving breakthroughs for your company?  Contact us to arrange a custom workshop.

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Cynthia MorneweckPrincipal Design Strategist+
I'm drawn to the challenge and impact of computer-human system complexity. Whether in healthcare, education, or community service, I'm passiRead more
Lori Westphal PhDPrincipal Research Strategist+
I work with clients to identify their business needs and determine the appropriate analytical approach to solving their problems. Through myRead more

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