Problem Solving at Work (Part I)

Published Tuesday, May 04, 2010 9:45 AM

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them" - Albert Einstein

Whatever we do for a living, we usually encounter problems in the course of our workday. Large and small, they are all around us. Yet, despite their strong presence, most of us go about the everyday business of problem solving rather unconsciously. In a rush to move through or around it, we do not give a lot of thought to how and why a problem arose, how we react to it or how we resolve it. We are on problem-solving autopilot. In this mode, we usually miss opportunities to become truly effective problem solvers.

Since effective problem solving is a valuable professional and personal skill, we are going to raise some consciousness in this post and future ones so we can be better problem solvers at work and beyond.

As this article on problem solving instructs, the first step is to examine the anatomy of a problem. Some primary root causes of problems in workplace are:


  • Co-worker conflict
  • Customer upset
  • Process dysfunction
  • Mechanical failure


According to this article on workplace problem solving, when we perceive a problem, we tend to respond to it in one of three ways. We:


  • Get afraid and uncomfortable and wish it would go away
  • Look for someone (else) to blame
  • Feel that we have to come up with the right solution right away

This last response is the biggest hurdle to effective problem solving "because it tries to put the solution at the beginning of the process, when what we need is a solution at the end of the process."

It is important to emphasize the term process here. Problem solving is a process that takes patience and time. Nicely capturing this point is an article that states, "You will need to do a bit of research internally - have discussions with the involved parties to really understand the heart of the matter before a solution should be identified."

We will outline the problem solving process in Part II of this post on problem solving at work. In the meantime, we invite you to share your problem solving stories and tips here and on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook and Twitter pages.

by Bradley Eggers


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