Skills for Success: Problem Solving

The Government of Canada recognizes that to gather the right information, identify and solve problems and make better decisions you need strong problem-solving skills. The Skills for Success framework (previously called Essential Skills) consists of nine skills. The skill of problem solving helps people address issues, monitor success and learn from experience. Problem solving means, “Your ability to identify, analyze, propose solutions, and make decisions.” With the right resources, we can learn how to apply these skills in our everyday lives. We can communicate effectively, think analytically and come up with innovative solutions. To help support this essential skill, we have gathered resources on problem solving.

“The ability to think, make decisions, and solve problems effectively improves the way you carry out activities, and meet goals and deadlines at work or in other daily life situations.” – Skills for Success

The video below offers an introduction to problem solving.

Problem-solving tips

The following tips were adapted from the article The 8 Problem-Solving Skills to Master in the Workplace.

  • Remain open-minded. A great problem solver will look everywhere for an effective solution. Often times, a problem can be traced back to human error. However, it is more important to identify the why of the problem rather than the who.
  • Practice active listening. Spend more time listening and less time waiting to speak. Write things down. When you actively listen, you can understand more of what works and why. While you listen, organize your thoughts and paraphrase the core of the discussion.
  • Make analysis-based decisions. Analytical skills can involve detecting patterns, analyzing raw data, listening, creating theories and making hypotheses based on multiple factors. Investigate the problem and find a solution in a timely manner.
  • Be creative. Creativity can be a crucial aspect of good problem solving. Bring your unique perspective, alternative solutions and productive new directions to the job.
  • Research. Research allows you to identify what works, what could work better and what doesn’t work at all. Research diagnoses the actual problem, not just the symptoms.
  • Communicate. Once you have a plan of action, you need to effectively communicate it to the team.
  • Be dependable. A dependable problem-solver will see the solution through to the very end. Take the time to seek long-term solutions and follow through on them.
  • Be a team player. It takes a team to fix a large problem in the workplace. To work as a part of a team, you must be able to communicate effectively and follow directions. A great team member will motivate others without being overbearing, be adept at both giving and receiving feedback, and know when to praise and to point out forward areas of progress.

For more about teaching problem solving, check out the resources below.

Resources

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