Problem-solving is a critical skill for anyone who wants to run a business. No matter what your current skill level is, you can learn to be better at it. These eight tips will help you improve your business problem-solving skills.
1. Use Technology
While it can be useful to have a basic understanding of how to solve complex problems, you don't have to keep reinventing the wheel. Utilize the tools you have to assist with the process. Whether it's an advanced tool, such as a graph neural network or a simple software program, such as a budgeting tool, technology can help you simplify the process of solving complex problems.
2. Define the Problem Clearly
Jumping straight to trying to solve the problem, without first defining the problem clearly is a mistake many people make. Not only does this potentially waste time if you end up solving the wrong problem, but it can make the actual problem worse or create a new problem. Take the time to make sure you fully understand the problem before you try to solve it.
3. Challenge Your Definition
Once you have your problem defined, challenge your definition. For example, if you have defined your problem as "not enough sales." Look at the problem from different angles. Is the problem that you aren't selling enough or is it that there isn't enough demand, there is too much competition, your marketing isn't effective or something else.
4. Separate What You Can Solve From What You Can't
When attempting to solve a problem it is important to focus on the aspects that you can change and learn to work around the ones that you can not. For example, if your issue is that it has become too expensive to ship a product because of rising fuel prices, you should focus on aspects you can change, such as investigating alternative shipping options, no longer shipping to certain locations or ramping up local sales and learn to work around aspects you can not, such as the global price of crude oil.
5. Make Sure You Identify the Root Cause
If you end up fixing the symptoms of your problem, rather than the cause of it, your solution is likely to only be temporary. Keep working your way through the problem until you are sure you have reached the root cause of it. When identifying a problem it is often best to start with the possible causes that are the easiest and least expensive to rule out. For example, if your problem is "my internet is slow," a good place to start is by power cycling your modem and router. It's fast and it doesn't cost you anything. If that doesn't fix the problem, move on trying the next troubleshooting step.
6. Come Up With Multiple Potential Solutions
There is more than one way to solve most problems. Start by brainstorming potential solutions. Once you have your list of solutions, evaluate them on how likely they are to be successful, how much it will cost to implement them, what the possible consequences are and other factors to come up with the best potential solutions.
7. Rank Your Solutions
Once you have your shortlist of potential solutions, rank them in order of which you should try first. In general, you should give preference to a good solution that you can implement now over an excellent solution that will take a long time and cost more to implement. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
8. Don't Procrastinate
The longer you wait to put a plan in action, the worse your problem is likely to get. Choose a solution and create a plan to implement it.
Whether you consider yourself a problem-solving wizard or this is an area you have always struggled in, you can learn to be better. These eight tips will help you on your way to becoming an effective problem-solver.