How to find a solution to a problem

If I knew that, I’d be a millionaire! Ok, seriously, here are 8 top tips to finding a solution to a problem:

1) Braindump

Dump as many ideas as you can onto a piece of paper. Once you’ve filled a page (I personally like an A3 with felt tips), go back around and circle the ones which are the most viable. Do a final round, boil it down to 3 possible options.

2) Listen to your gut

Tune into that little voice inside you that instinctively pushes you in a direction, or tells you something is right (or not right!). Use meditation or zen techniques such as mindfulness to tune out the everyday noise and get back to your ancient compass system.

3) Collaboratively problem solve

Find sounding boards — people who you trust who are good listeners and are creative with their approach. Bounce ideas, ask them to play devil’s advocate, tease out the potential issues with the solution and pivot from there until you find a potential option to test. Scenario plan — people will have diverse perceptions and ideas — use that to your advantage. People are your greatest resource — also remember to be that same sounding board for others! Reciprocation is key.

4) Understand the difference between symptoms and cause

This is a classic. So many people feel they are trying to solve a problem but really they are attempting to treat a symptom of a deep-rooted problem. Understand the difference. There’s a really cool worksheet here that might help:

5) Trial and error

You remember when we narrowed down to 3 viable options? Give them a go! See what happens, you’ve got to start somewhere. Pick the one which feels like it might give you the best solution — even if it isn’t solved, you might get half way there…

6) Find somewhere who’s been there and done it

A mentor, a blog, a failure story, a family member, a local hero or a local clown. Someone, somewhere, has been through what you have in some shape or form. Shortcut the learning.

7) Understand the cycle

Problems go in cycles — socially, politically, economically. Understand where the problem originates from systematically, or at least understand the patterns that are replicated time and time again.

8) Think positively and be open minded

Start by believing you CAN find a solution. Don’t be a ‘can’t’ person — you’ll waste time and energy. Equally, be ok with not finding the ‘perfect’ solution — there is no such thing as there’s no perfect problem. Problems are complex — expect complex solutions.


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