Any successful business or life activity demands the ability to problem solve. Is it not then logical that employees who boldly face daily problems and challenges are worth more to an organization than those who passively rely on their supervisors? In fact, complex problem solving is among the 10 key skills needed for future jobs, as reported by World Economic Forum. What kind of problem solver are you? Do you even know?
If problem solving is not one of your best skills, the good news is that it’s teachable, and there are several links in this post to articles that will help you to become a better problem solver. But today, I am more interested in the way in which you approach the problems that you encounter. Have you ever thought about the kind of problem solver you are?
Initial Thoughts on What Type of Problem Solver Are You
During the research required for my book Tales of People Who Get It, I asked thirty-four highly accomplished individuals from Canada, the United States, Switzerland, Sweden, Jamaica and South Africa to “Describe a business challenge that you’ve had and how you resolved it.”
Analyzing over 60 responses – including responses from other interviews I conducted – I distilled the following core competencies that characterized great problem solvers. They all had the distinct ability to:
- Listen and hear
- Get along with others
- Secure reliable information
- Look at what’s been done before
- Pay attention to detail
- Take a break
- Reflect on options
- Trust their instincts
- Take decisive actions
These skills set them apart from people who are less gifted at problem solving. Though the challenges described in the interviews varied from leading people to introducing new products and services to managing corporate downsizings to surviving an economic downturn, these basic skills were instrumental in helping these individuals to successfully resolve the challenges they were facing.
Four types of problem solvers emerged from the research: Inspirers, Reflectors, Innovators and Influencers.
UPDATE: First published in April 2010
Four Types of Problem Solvers, Which One Are You?
They nurture people and relationships and have the ability to inspire confidence. Whenever they face a challenge or problem, people rally around them offering their assistance. They have easy access to the information that they require to solve their problems.
These problem solvers do not rush when making decisions, instead they take their time, mull things over for a while, step back from the situation to get a new perspective and then act. After they have collected the information they need to problem solve, they mull it over for a while.
These individuals have the unique ability to come up with creative solutions to any challenge or problem that they might encounter. It could be an entirely new solution or the blending of two known solutions into something fresh and exciting.
These problem solvers are expert at getting others to support their cause, and they excel at finding solutions to “people” problems that involve change. Influencers are great at getting people to “buy in.”
Final Thoughts of What Kind of Problem Solver Solver Are You
I wanted to say that there was a problem solving process that I particularly liked, but after my binge reading, I am rethinking the model. Life’s like that, it’s about personal and professional evolution. You evolve as you learn new information.
Now, think back to the last few problems that you solved, what technique did you use? Do you fit into one of the four groups? Or is there another group that I missed?
Recommended Books for Career Development – Complex Problem Solving
Complex Problem Solving Books Avil Recently Read
Please note that the books cover several skills and not just problem solving – they are all related skills. I am studying complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and judgment and decision making together.
The MacGyver Secret: Connect to Your Inner MacGyver and Solve AnythingSprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five DaysThe Idea Hunter: How to Find the Best Ideas and Make them HappenBe creative (Brilliant Little Ideas)The Bright Idea BoxA Technique for Producing Ideas
The Importance of Problem-Solving by Ken Watanabe (The Huffington Post Online, April 23, 2009)
- Solving Problems vs Fixing Problems (newcommbiz.com)