09 Jul Positive Problem-Solving in 7 Steps
What would you do if you were stranded, alone on a planet 225 million kilometers away from earth, with meager supplies and a broken communication system?
According to Mark Watney in The Martian, “You can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”
Although finding yourself in such a problematic situation is highly unlikely (at least for now), and The Martian may not be entirely scientifically correct, there is much to learn about positive problem-solving skills from Watney’s advice.
What is Positive Problem-Solving?
Positive problem solving involves dealing with problems while remaining composed and optimistic. And, if you are in a leadership role, you recognize the value of problem-solving skills. Acquiring positive problem-solving skills is possible when you start by shifting your focus from the actual problem to the possible solution that will help you achieve desired results.
Positive problem-solving may sound like an oxymoron, especially because, by definition, a problem is a matter that causes trouble. Despite all that has been written and said about problems as opportunities, the truth remains that they are unpleasant to deal with, particularly in the workplace. For instance, how many times have you seen teams celebrate failures and employers rejoice for not meeting business goals?
While this is unusual, positive problem-solving is quite possible — by shifting the focus from the problem to the solution, following these 7 practical steps for positive problem-solving:
- Expect the Unexpected
The difference between good problem-solving and great problem-solving may come down to the ability to deal with unexpected situations. This may include taking time in advance to think about the “what if’s” and prepare for the “just in case”, or even simply remaining composed under the pressure of the unfamiliar.
- Accept the Unexpected
Despite all the preparation, something unexpected will still happen, because life is so full of surprises – negative ones included. So, how do you react when an unexpected problem occurs?
There is nothing wrong with feeling frustrated at first, but instead of dwelling on the thought of “This shouldn’t have happened”, shift your mindset to “Now that this has happened, how do I deal with it?”
- Stay Optimistic
This may be one of the most challenging steps as it relates to your feelings and thoughts – you know, those that you do not openly express to others while talking about a certain problem.
Do you truly believe that something good will come out of this problem, even if the good is just a learning experience? If you do, you are on the right path of developing a positive mental attitude.
- Consult Others
Surely someone around you has been through similar experiences that might inform your search for solutions. Involve your team, and check with the experts to see what they have to offer. Asking for advice and considering multiple viewpoints widens your perspective on options that you may have overlooked.
- Use Creative and Critical Thinking Skills
Problems come in all shapes and sizes, and some are more complex than others. Therefore, engaging both your critical and creative thinking skills is of paramount importance. For instance, use your critical thinking to analyze the problem, and shift to creative thinking to generate options, then again to critical while evaluating options, keeping in mind that the best solution may be in combining multiple options – creative again.
- Plan for Results
Determine what a successful solution looks like, then work backwards to find the best way to implement it. This will help you deal with the actual problem instead of its symptoms. For instance, if you are trying to build a productive team while facing the challenge of employee turnover, you may think that the solution could be hiring new employees, whereas the successful solution may be training the existing team.
- Don’t Give Up
Nothing is more annoying than recurring problems, or problems that do not seem to ever get solved. This may sound like a cliché, but don’t give up; keep trying and try again. Look at the same problematic situation with fresh eyes and think of innovative ways to address it. Finally, do not hesitate to contact the experts in providing solutions if you feel you need assistance.