Problem Solving Skills

Apr 6, 2017
Here is an article on problem solving skills. Problem solving skills are required everywhere - from your house to your university. You are solving hundreds of problems on a daily basis, and the better you are resolving them, the more successful you are.

Problem solving is considered to be the process of finding solutions to difficult issues. The term "problem solving skills" refers not only to one’s ability to solve math problems but also to a number of academic and real life situations that require the ability to dissect problems and effectively resolve them.

Problem solving skills are also of extreme importance in the academic setting because they are an inalienable part of one’s studies, effective work and life. Your teachers, tutors, professors, instructors will often give you problem-solving assignments as means of building up your life and academic competencies. Globally speaking, your entire education is built on problem solving, and here is why: when you are given a problem that ranges 1 out 3 on the complexity scale, you might not be able to deal with it at first.

PROBLEM SOLVING STRATEGIES

However, with a little bit of help and knowledge, you are able to break it up into a set of smaller problems and solve them one by one. Eventually, you will be able to solve problems level 1 easily. Once you have reached this level, you will be ready to move on to Level 2 and the cycle will repeat. Education works exactly the same way: once you complete one problem-solving assignment, your skills grow and you are ready to move onto a more difficult one. The higher you are in this hierarchy, the better your problem-solving skills are and the more complex problems you can resolve.

Types of Problem Solving Skills

As a matter of fact, solving different types of problems requires a considerable number of skills, but they all may be divided into two main types: analytical and creative. Let us find out the role of these two skill groups.

Analytical skills, which are also collectively called ‘logical thinking’, is a kind of thinking responsible for selecting the best solution out of all possible solutions. Analytical thinking involves the following skills: ordering, comparing, contrasting, evaluating and selecting.

Creative skills or creative thinking can be characterized as a thinking process, which creates a solution that is both new and valuable. The search for such solution is based on imagination, intelligence and cognition. Creative thinking helps to see beyond the obvious and plays an important role in solving the problem. Creative thinking helps to see beyond the obvious and plays an important role in problem solving.

Very often ideas obtained in the process of creative thinking seem illogical at first. However, subsequent ideas may alter and modify the initial ‘illogical’ solution to the extent where it seems perfectly suitable. Such skills include some basic elements such as fluency­, flexibility, and originality as well as ­producing uncommon ideas.

Problem Solving Pattern

Effective problem solving usually involves a number of specific steps. Depending on the situation and the type of problem, you will use one or the other problem-solving pattern. Nevertheless, we would like to offer a list of specific problem-solving steps.

Problem identification

Ability to identify a problem means that a person can adequately detect and recognize the problem, identify its source and nature. It may sound obvious, but this step requires more thought and analysis than it may seem at first.

Problem structure

This skill requires the ability to observe, carefully inspect and develop a clear picture of the problem. When working on a problem, you need to find as much information about the problem as possible; as a result, you will build a more comprehensive picture of goals and barriers. This may not be needed for simple problems but is necessary for complicated ones.

Identifying possible solutions

When trying to solve a problem you will need to identify all possible solutions and select the most viable of them. It works like brainstorming, where you name and write down whatever solution comes into your mind. The only difference is that your solutions are limited to whatever ideas come to your head, and that narrows down your choices. Nevertheless, you are still getting a list of viable solutions and are able to select the ones that you think are most effective.

Decision-making skills

Once you have generated all solutions it is essential that you select the best one. This is perhaps the most complex part of the problem-solving process. Some solutions may not be possible due to circumstance like time constraints, budget, complexity etc. Evaluate all pros and cons and make a decision – which course of action do you want to take?

Implementation

This step involves accepting and carrying out the chosen course of action. Implementation implies that you need to act based on the chosen solution. Implementation stage may bring some unexpected surprises; in most cases, they are a result of inadequate analysis of the problem.

Feedback

The last step of effective problem solving is reviewing outcomes of problem solving. This step means that you need to make sure your decision was successful and effective. This can be achieved by monitoring and gaining feedback from people affected by the changes that occurred.

THE ART OF EFFECTIVE PROBLEM SOLVING