Becoming a Better Problem Solver

Problem Solving

Buy Map  Using Map  Free Maps

How you think about a problem is more important than the problem itself.
— Norman Vincent Peale


Three Methods of Thinking

Problem solving, creative and critical thinking go hand-in-hand helping us to see the world from a number of different vantage points. Each of these ways of thinking strengthen our capacity to think flexibly and intelligently when faced with the unending problems that life throws our way.

This post will specifically focus on the process of problem solving and how you can use it to break through life’s most difficult challenges. We will specifically explore the attitude, beliefs, habits and qualities that are indispensable for effective problem solving. We will also outline a primary problem solving method that will help you to break down any obstacles that stand in your way. And to finish off we will look at some ongoing problem solving tactics you can use to keep your mind focused and proactive when dealing with life’s daily challenges.

This article post is part of the Effective Thinking series of IQ Matrix maps that are designed to help you successfully deal with the problems and challenges confronting your reality. Topics within this series include:

• Part 1: Strategic Questions
• Part 2: Creative Thinking
• Part 3: Problem Solving
• Part 4: Critical Thinking
• Part 5: Six Thinking Hats


Indispensable Problem Solver Attributes

To become a great problem solver requires a little more then a set of effective problem solving strategies. In fact, your ability to solve problem starts in your head at a psychological level.

If you do not take the time to fully condition your mind and prepare it for the act of problem solving, then you will struggle to consistently adopt the daily behaviors and rituals that are required for effective problem solving.

Within this section we will identify the indispensable attributes required for problem solving that you must learn to cultivate on a daily basis. If you fail to incorporate these qualities into your psyche, then you will struggle to apply the relevant problem solving techniques and strategies discussed within this post.

A Problem Solver’s Attitude

A problem solver’s attitude determines how they consistently tackle problems on a daily basis. This attitude is evident in their thoughts, behaviors and actions, and it is this attitude that helps build their resolve and shapes their character.

Let’s delve into the mind of an effective problem solver and identify some of the attitudes that are absolutely indispensable for their ongoing success:

“I will make sure to do things carefully.

An effective problem solver always strives to work through their problems in a patient, meticulous and careful way. They fully understand that the care they give to a problem at the beginning, will help them to realize better results in the future.

“This problem can be solved.”

An effective problem solver intuitively understands that any problem can and will be solved, given enough time, patience and meticulous careful attention.

“I must persist until a solution is reached.”

An effective problem solver knows that not all problems will be solved within the time frame they may have expected. However, they also understand that if they are persistent and resolute, that eventually a solution will be found.

“If I don’t solve it now, I will next time.”

An effective problem solver realizes that whatever cannot be solved now, will eventually be solved another time.

They fully understand that due to their current level of skill, knowledge, or simply due to circumstances out of their control, that a solution simply cannot be reached.

An effective problem solver will bide their time to acquire new information and knowledge, to develop and enhance their skill levels, and to gain insights from a variety of perspectives. They completely understand that eventually the right solution will indeed come their way as long as they never give up.

“I am going to enjoy this process.”

An effective problem solver knows that unless they adopt a playful, curious and inquisitive attitude, that they will struggle to find appropriate solutions. They therefore always strive to find new and unique ways to enjoy the process of working their way through a problem.

A Problem Solver’s Beliefs

An effective problem solver has a set of indispensable beliefs and convictions that direct and propel their thoughts, actions and daily behaviors. These beliefs are so deeply ingrained into their psyche that it would take the force and willpower of the entire world to shake these feeling of certainty.

Beliefs are opinions that we have about things, ourselves, others and the world around us that are injected with an undeniable sense of certainty.

Let’s now take a look at a handful of beliefs that are critical for effective problem solving:

“There is no failure, only feedback.”

An effective problem solver believes that outcomes bring with them no failure, but rather only feedback. This feedback must be used as a source of knowledge, insight and inspiration to help enhance the decision-making process.

“There is a way to make this work.”

An effective problem solver believes that there is always a way to make things work. They may not see the solution at this very moment, however with a little persistence they wholeheartedly believe that they will eventually reach a satisfactory outcome.

“Choice is better than no choice.”

An effective problem solver believes that it is better to have more choices than to be limited by the choices that one has. As such, they always strive to expand the possibilities, to expand the opportunities and avenues for answers — allowing for as many choices as possible to further their understanding of the problem.

“Success can be modeled.”

An effective problem solver believes that successful problem solving can be modeled. As such, they consistently seek out other people who have successfully overcome similar problems and they attempt to model their thinking, decisions and actions in a meticulous way. This helps them to overcome the obstacles and challenges in their own life.

“Curiosity expands opportunities and possibilities.”

An effective problem solver believes that one must be curious at all times if one desires to spot the opportunities and possibilities that lie along one’s path.

Curiosity is an endearing characteristic that helps expand creativity, intelligence and one’s ability to think under pressure.

A Problem Solver’s Habits

An effective problem solver has a set of daily habits and rituals. These habits assist them to think more effectively and proactively about the problems and challenges they are confronted with.

Let’s take a look at three habitual thinking patterns that are indispensable for effective problem solving:

Deep Probing

An effective problem solver cultivates the habit of deep-probing. This involves the process of meticulous thinking, which takes into account all angles and perspectives about a problem — making sure that nothing is left to chance.

They fully realize that through a process of simple deduction that they will be better able to work their way through the problem in a more effective and efficient way.

The habit of deep probing can be compared to the simple act of peeling layers off an onion. Each layer that the problem solver peels allows them to dig deeper into the heart of the problem, and thusly closer to the inevitable solution.

Associating with the Past

An effective problem solver realizes that any new piece of information can effectively be associated with past memories, experiences and learnings, to further their problem solving ability.

Recognizing Patterns

An effective problem solver effortlessly recognizes patterns within every problem or circumstance.

Everything within our Universe is built upon patterns and rhythmic dances that create the events and circumstances of our lives. In fact, these same patterns cause and create our life’s problems and circumstances.

By identifying and learning to understanding these patterns, effective problem solvers are able to decipher clues that will lead them to reliable solutions and answers.

When attempting to identify patterns look for similarities, differences, rhythms, errors, future scenarios and trends that the problem is bringing to light.

A Problem Solver’s Characteristics

An effective problem solver can easily be distinguished from others by the key personality characteristics that naturally help them to break down boundaries and attain the heights of logical and constructive thought.

The characteristics presented below are the primary traits we must cultivate within our own personalities if we seek to successfully overcome the problems and challenges that are confronting our daily lives.

Risk Taker

An effective problem solver understands that many problems will never fully be solved if risk isn’t involved.

Risk may mean overcoming a fear, thinking outside-the-box, or simply making the tough decisions that at the moment may seem uncertain and unclear.

Problem solvers are risk takers who believe that intelligent risk taking will enable them to reach effective solutions to the challenges confronting their daily reality.

Persistent

An effective problem solver is persistent in thought, decision and action. They clearly understand that there is a means and way around any problem, fully believing that as long as they persist and persevere that they will always find an angle that will help them obtain a desired outcome.

Enthusiastic

An effective problem solver displays passion and enthusiasm at all times. These two qualities provide them with the energy and motivation they need to help them overcome the toughest of challenges.

Meticulous

An effective problem solver is meticulous with every step they take moving towards their desired outcomes.

This thoroughness allows them to work through their problems step-by-step — taking into account all angles and perspectives.

Adaptable and Flexible

An effective problem solver is constantly vigilant and aware of constantly changing circumstances. They clearly understand that problems can shift and change in a moments notice, and as a result they must adapt their approach accordingly.

It is only through flexibility-of-thought that they are able to work through their problems in an efficient and effective way.

Open Minded

An effective problem solver is always humbly open minded to other people’s opinions and perspectives. They clearly understand that they do have all the answers, and that others may indeed have alternative views that will help them to see things from new and unique perspectives. This likewise helps open the doors to new understandings that would not otherwise have been available to them.

Light-Hearted

An effective problem solver approaches their daily challenges in a light-hearted and playful manner. They fully realize the overwhelming power that problems can have on their psyche. To counteract this, they approach each problem in a playful and light-hearted way — helping them to find solutions and answers where others only see overwhelm and distress.

Proactive

An effective problem solver is proactive. They understand, they just have to keep moving forward and continue to take proactive action no matter how uncertain events or circumstances may seem at any specific moment in time.

The opposite of being proactive is being reactive. When we are reactive we become easily overwhelmed by the events and circumstances of our lives because we fail to take control of our emotional responses.

Curious

An effective problem solver is a curious thinker.

Curiosity naturally leads to a plethora of questions that need to be answered. Once answered, they can evolve into a myriad of solutions that will help you to attain your desired goals and objectives far more quickly.

Non-Conforming

An effective problem solver does not conform to the standards and norms of mainstream society. Instead, they think out of the box, and break the rules in order to attain their desired outcomes.


The Primary Problem Solving Method

There are many problem solving techniques and strategies that we could present here. However there is essentially only one primary problem solving method that will help you to structure and break down a problem step-by-step from the beginning to the very end. To view an advanced version of this problem solving method, please check out the Visual Thinking Path.

Within this section we will work our way through a six step primary problem solving method.

By consciously learning to apply each of these steps/phases into your problem solving regime, you will proactively take control of your daily decision making process.

Preparation Phase

This phase helps you to identify, define and decipher an overall picture and understanding of the problem that is currently confronting your reality.

As you progress through this phase, it is important to gain as much clarity about your problem as possible from absolutely every angle and perspective. Any assumptions or misunderstandings here, could very well sabotage your ability to reach an effective solution. Therefore be very careful to clarify everything clearly and meticulously.

Identify the Problem

Your first step is to always clearly identify the problem that is confronting your reality. Many people fail to do this correctly, and as a result they discover that what they thought was a problem is in fact a mistaken assumption that now requires a dramatically different approach.

Define Problem in Writing

Once you have identified the problem, you next step is to clearly define it on paper. It is only through the process of writing our thoughts down on paper that we attain the clarity we need to effectively deal with the challenges that stand in our way.

Question the Problem

To further clarity and expand your understanding about this problem, it is recommended that you ask yourself a set of open-ended questions that will help you to define the problem from a variety of angles and perspectives.

The questions you should be asking yourself must be focused on the What? When? Where? Why? Who? and How? of the problem under question.

Undertaking this process with meticulous attention will open new insights and understandings that will help you as you move through this problem solving strategy.

It is important to understand that you are not seeking solutions or answers here, but rather gathering insights about the problem from as many different angles and perspectives you can identify.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

What is the actual problem that is impeding my progress?

When did this problem occur?

Where did this problem first appear?

Why is this problem impeding my progress?

Who is involved in this problem?

How is this problem influencing other areas of my life?

Determine Possible Causes

Once you have clarified the problem, your next step is to identify the possible causes that may have triggered these outcomes.

Again during this stage you must continue asking What? When? Where? Why? Who? and How? questions.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

What could be the potential causes of this problem?

When did these causes originate?

Where did these causes originate?

Why did these causes originate?

Who could have triggered this problem?

How does all this help me with identifying the causes of this problem?

Reframe the Problem

Once you have identified and defined the causes of the problem, it is important to open your mind to alternative perspectives.

At this stage you are not yet seeking answers or solutions but rather opening your mind to different perspectives that will help you to understand the problem from a variety of angles.

Here are a few reframing questions to get you started:

How might other people perceive this problem?

How would I perceive this problem if I was to look back on it 12 months from this day?

What if I was completely detached from this problem and its outcomes. How would I now perceive it?

What has to be true for this to be a problem?

Define Desired Outcomes

Finally, you must gain clarity by defining the desired outcomes you would like to attain from successfully working your way through this problem.

These outcomes will help direct your mind towards solutions as you progressively move through the remaining phases.

The strategy you use to achieve this outcome isn’t important at this stage. The only thing that matters is that you clarify on paper the end objective or goal you would like to achieve.

Generation Phase

This phase allows for free association and exploration of wild and crazy ideas that must not be judged, criticized or condemned for any reason.

The greater flexibility of thought you incorporate into this phase, the more effective the later phases will become.

It is important throughout this phase that you literally overwhelm your brain with as many solutions as possible. The greater the variety of solutions and strategies you come up with, the more insightful and effective the Incubation Phase will become.

Recall Past Learnings, Experiences and Mistakes

Recalling your past life experiences will help you to gain a better perspective about your current predicament.

Many people constantly need to deal with the same ongoing problems because they simply fail to learn from their past experience and mistakes.

It is only through a process of self-reflection and understanding that we will gain the necessary insights to move through our current problems efficiently and effectively.

Keep in mind that any past experience — even if not directly related to your current problems — could potentially help you find the solutions you are after.

Explore Strategies and Solutions

Having brought your past learnings and mistakes into the present, you are now ready to brainstorm solutions and strategies that will help you to successfully overcome the challenge confronting your current reality.

While brainstorming it’s important not judge or criticize your solutions. Your thinking must flow effectively and efficiently from one idea to the next like water gently trickling off a leaf. All you are doing is generating possible and potential solutions that will help to expand your thinking and awareness about the problem you are currently experiencing.

You can lightly consider the drawbacks and obstacles that may be attached to each of your solutions, however primarily spend your time on the benefits of each strategy and how it could potentially lead you to the outcome you outlined within the Preparation Phase.

As a final thought, keep in mind that the how isn’t important here. Instead it is the what that matters.

Incubation Phase

This could very well be called the Resting Phase.

Your goal here is to simply allow the solutions and ideas you came up with during the Generation Phase to harvest and grow within the recesses of your mind without ridicule or judgment.

The key here is to separate your mind from the problem so completely that it simply becomes irrelevant and insignificant.

Flowers cannot sprout and grow if weeds are dominating your thought process.

Indulge in Brainstorming Naps

Brainstorming naps are short 15 to 30 minute breaks you take throughout your day where you close your eyes and open yourself up to potential solutions.

Before you take these brainstorming naps, it is important that you partake in a good 30 to 45 minutes of intense thought and self-reflection about possible solutions to your problem.

As you lie back in a comfortable position and close your eyes, ask yourself the following questions:

How can I solve this problem in the most effective and efficient way?

What must I do to attain my desired outcome?

Once your questions have been asked, simply settle down and observe your thoughts as though you are watching clouds drifting across the sky. Within these visual images you may very well find the answers you are after.

Sleep on Problem

Simply put your problem to rest and go to sleep.

As you are nodding off, pose yourself insightful questions that will stimulate the thought process and encourage your brain to search for answers.

When you awaken the next morning, immediately reflect on your thoughts and dreams — they may hold the answers you have been searching for.

Change Your Environment to Improve Incubation

Stepping out into nature or simply into an inspiring and energetic environment will separate you from your problem and help you to think more effectively about potential solutions. However, since we are in the Incubation Phase, it is important to simply let-go of the process of intense meticulous thinking. Instead, enjoy your surroundings and the answers you are after will eventually reveal themselves to you. And just in case, have a piece of paper and pen ready to write down inspiring solutions as they come your way.

Evolution Phase

Now that your ideas have had a chance to incubate within the recesses of your mind, you are now ready to take your thinking to the next level — becoming your worst and best critic.

Your goal throughout the Evolution Phase is to break down and clarify all your potential solutions progressively and meticulously allowing for deep insights and all round perspectives.

The more thorough you are while undertaking this process, the less problems you will face throughout the Implementation Phase that follows.

Prioritize and Evaluate Solutions

Collate all the solutions you brought forward throughout the Generation and Incubation Phases and evaluate them accordingly.

Evaluate the viability of these solutions by looking at them from a variety of different angles and perspectives. Also take into account the time and energy you have available that will allow you to bring these solutions into the real world.

Once completed, prioritize your solutions to help you better decipher which ones could best assist you with overcoming your problems most effectively.

Speculate Potential Future Outcomes and Negative Consequences

Future-pace each solution and see it clearly helping you overcome your problem.

Identify the possible drawbacks, weaknesses, strengths and potential opportunities that may result.

The greater clarity you gain here, the easier it will be to settle on an ideal and clearcut solution to your problem.

Settle on Solutions

Having accumulated a thorough and comprehensive list of solutions throughout the Generation and Incubation Phases, and having outlined the possible consequences of each of these outcomes, you are now ready to select one primary desirable solution that will help you overcome your problem in the most effective and efficient manner.

Take everything into consideration and decide which solution will best help you to achieve your desired outcome.

Implementation Phase

Your goal throughout the Implementation Phase is to progressively and meticulously work through the solution to your problem in a step-by-step manner using a process of logical decision making and action. You are basically bringing everything you have thought about and outlined on paper into reality.

Many people will struggle to get through this stage successfully because of the dreaded procrastination bug. Be sure that you don’t fall into this dirty trap. :(

Clarify Your Personal Vision of Outcome on Paper

Having settled on your ideal solution to this problem, take some time now to clarify this vision on paper.

Clarify the Personal Resources at Your Disposal

Identify the support, skills, knowledge and tools you currently have at your disposal that will help you to successfully overcome this problem. If you find that you are lacking in some of these areas, then you may need to regroup and update your skills or knowledge to help you deal with this problem more effectively. Or you may simply need to obtain the help and support of a new group of people who can guide you through this problem in a more proactive and efficient way.

Create Three Alternative Plans of Action

Now that you have the necessary skills, knowledge, support and tools you need to overcome this problem successfully, your next step is to draw up your plan of action.

As previously discussed, it is important to be flexible with your actions and to take into consideration all the drawbacks and potential pitfalls of these steps.

In order to minimize the possibilities of getting stuck, it is critical that you outline three alternative plans of action. If Plan A works out, than that’s great. However, if it fails miserably, than you still have Plan B and C at your disposal.

Set Clear Defined Deadlines for these Actions

Clear and defined deadlines will motivate you into action, while providing you with a time sensitive objective to work towards.

Take Action Committing Yourself to the Result

Commit yourself wholeheartedly and take proactive action while focusing on the process of your actions and not on the problem or your end objective. Only through process orientation are you able to cultivate the flexible mentality you need to alter your course if unexpected events and circumstances come your way.

Learning Phase

This is an important phase that is very often overlooked. It will help you to clarify your thoughts, including the methods and strategies you used throughout the problem solving process.

The learnings you gather from self-reflection will provide you with indispensable insights that will put your problem solving methods in perspectives — improving the effectiveness and efficiency of your approach as you tackle similar challenges in the future.

Monitor Your Outcomes

As you progress along your journey towards implementing your solution, pay attention to the outcomes that result from every thought you make and every decision and action you take. This awareness will help you to better understand your personal traits and tendencies, which will likewise assist you with improving your problem solving methods in the future.

Reflect on the Problem Solving Process

Once you have successfully overcome your problem, spend some time thinking and reflecting about the problem solving process.

Here are some questions to get you started:

What did I do well, and what am I proud of about the way I conducted myself throughout this process?

What problem solving traits did I cultivate and bring to the forefront throughout this process?

What problem solving traits did I neglect?

What mistakes did I make as I worked my way through this problem?

What have I learned from these experiences?

What could I have done better… more effectively and efficiently?

How can I use these learnings and experiences to further my problem solving abilities in the future?

For a more advanced look at this problem solving method, please check out the Visual Thinking Path.


Ongoing Problem Solving Tactics

Becoming an effective problem solver requires an ongoing process of conscious thought and action that opens new doors of opportunity to the solutions and answers you are after.

The solutions and answers you are after will be difficult to attain if you only apply the primary problem solving method sporadically. Instead you must consciously instill into your psyche habitual patterns of behavior that are consistent and aligned with a problem solver’s mentality.

Becoming an effective problem solver is not a part-time career, it is rather a full-time process that eventually becomes second nature.

Within this section we will explore a number of effective ongoing problem solving tactics you can use consistently throughout your day to keep your mind primed and ready for any challenge that may come your way.

Mindset Oriented Tactics

The following is a list of mindset oriented problem solving tactics you can use on a consistent basis to keep your mind primed and ready for the challenges that come your way:

Visualize Your Desired Outcomes

It is said that we can only achieve our goals and objectives if we are able to clearly visualize them first in our mind’s-eye.

That which we are unable to visualize, we will likewise not be able to comprehend and realize within our physical reality.

When we were babies our motor skills developed over time through a process of observation and visualization. Only once we were able to successfully visualize in our mind’s-eye the process of picking-up physical objects, were we able to bring that same ability successfully into our physical reality. Given this, do you see how important it is to spend time visualizing your outcomes and the possible scenarios and strategies you will use to overcome your problems effectively?

Ask Questions Searching for Solutions

Questions are the keys that will unlock doors of opportunity and answers to even the most pressing of problems.

If you ask the ideal solution focused question, you will receive the right answers to help move you forward through your challenges in the most effective and efficient way.

Always See Opportunities for New Learnings

Problem solving is essentially built upon the concept of opportunity-spotting.

Effective problem solvers don’t actually see problems as others do. Instead they see only opportunities for new learnings, insights and understandings that will help them to keep moving forward towards the attainment of their goals and objectives.

You must train your mind to look at every event or circumstance as an opportunity for you to become and grow to your full potential.

The challenges you face in life are there for a reason to help you attain your highest potential as a human being. See these problems as opportunities and you will move through them more effectively and swiftly than ever before.

Think Critically

By thinking critically about every problem and circumstance in your life, you will break down the walls of assumption that tend to trap the mind within unhelpful thinking habits.

Think Creatively

Whereas problem solving is very structured and logical, creativity on the other hand is unstructured and imaginative.

These two forms of effective thinking are in many ways tied together and will work in conjunction to help you break through the obstacles standing in your way.

Think is Solitude

In order to think more effectively about the problems in our lives we must first clear the clutter from our heads.

This process begins when we remove ourselves from the physical distractions that could impede our thinking ability.

Within solitude you will find peace, harmony and a sense of connection with your body, spirit and mind. This will help release built-up tension while opening up the channels to intuitive, creative and logical thought — helping you to overcome your problems with far greater ease.

Let Go of Fears

Your fears will rob you of the ability to think effectively and problematically.

Effective problem solvers don’t allow their fears to control their thoughts, decisions and actions. Instead they usurp their fears and focus on the pleasures that will bring them the outcomes they desire to experience within their lives.

Let Go of Judgments and Criticisms

Effective problem solving requires us to let go of ill-fated judgments and criticisms.

The ideal solution can only be reached if we take time to harvest and cultivate it within the recesses of our minds for an extended period of time. This process thusly requires us to let go of the Devil’s Advocate role and milk our ideas for all their worth.

It is only towards the end of the problem solving process that the Devil’s Advocate card should be played.

Let Go of Biases and Assumptions

For the same reason as mentioned above, we must let go of all biases and assumptions that may hold us back from successfully finding a solution to the problem at hand. This is often easier said than done because in many instances our assumptions and biases naturally color our understanding of reality.

If we mistakenly assume something, then we may redirect our thoughts, decisions and actions down paths that we did not want to tread.

The solution is to ask insightful and carefully structured questions that will help us to break down the biases and assumptions we are holding onto at any one moment in time.

Allow for Fantasizing

Fantasizing can be an effective form of creative problem solving.

Take time each and every day to remove yourself from physical reality and fantasize about creating a perfect life where everything you imagine becomes your reality.

This process will help to loosen your mind, and may very well open the doors to a set of insightful ideas that will assist you with overcoming your problems more effectively.

Allow for Playfulness

Playfulness is another endearing quality that you must cultivate every single day.

Perceive each and every problem as an intriguing game that you must win at all costs. Play this game, have fun, and enjoy the experience to its fullest.

Allow for Idea Incubation

No idea will fully evolve and grow to its fullest potential if you fail to incubate it within the recesses of your mind for a period of time.

Sometimes brilliant ideas can come to us quite effortlessly. As a result our excitement takes over and we immediately take action in an attempt to bring the idea into physical reality. However, later we realize that the idea was incomplete or simply didn’t work as expected.

In instances such as these, it is easy to get disheartened. Our idea was great, but for some reason it just didn’t evolve because little did we realize at the time, that this iceberg-idea was only the tip of a much larger, complete and comprehensive thought-pattern that was never brought to the surface.

In such instances we must learn from this experience and take time to incubate our ideas as we move forward into the future.

Explore Funny and Foolish Ideas

No idea should ever be ruled out. Every idea is valid and useful no matter how foolish, crazy or funny it might seem on the surface. In fact some of the most foolish ideas have indeed earned people millions and others billions of dollars. For this very reason it’s critical that you never discount any idea until you have taken it through the entire problem solving cycle discussed within this post.

Explore Alternative Perspectives Using Lenses

Lenses are a form of creative problem solving that will help you to expand your understanding and awareness about your circumstances from a variety of unique and interesting perspectives.

Each lens will help you to see the problem from a new point-of-view — assisting you with identifying creative solutions you may not have thought of before.

The following list presents you with just a few lenses you can use to help trigger creative solutions for your problems:

Childhood Lens

Look at your problem from the perspective of an inquisitive and curious child.

See your problem as an innocent circumstance that isn’t tinged with pre-conceived biases or assumptions.

Ask yourself seemingly foolish, funny and creative questions that open new ways of thinking about mundane circumstances and problems.

How would a child approach this problem?

What kinds of questions would they ask?

Athlete’s Lens

Look at your problem from the perspective of a motivated and determined athlete.

See your problem as a mountain that you will tame and conquer.

Ask yourself questions that will help you to persist and persevere — effectively expanding the possibilities of your solutions.

How would an athlete approach this problem?

What kinds of questions would they ask?

Artist’s Lens

Look at your problem from the perspective of a creative and imaginative thinker.

See your problem as a work of art that progressively takes shape.

Ask yourself questions built around metaphors, stories, visual concepts and ideas that will provide you with a unique perspective about your problem.

How would an artist approach this problem?

What kinds of questions would they ask?

Scientist or Inventor’s Lens

Look at your problem from the perspective of an analytical scientist or crazy inventor.

See your problem as an experiment that you must test and perfect.

Ask yourself questions that are built upon logical thought and experimentation.

How would a scientist or crazy inventor approach this problem?

What kinds of questions would they ask?

Politician’s Lens

Look at your problem from the perspective of a confident, confronting and ambitious politician.

See your problem as a political campaign that you must win at all costs.

Ask yourself questions that help you poke holes in your problem, thusly bringing its weaknesses to the forefront — much like what politicians do to their opponents during television debates.

How would a politician approach this problem?

What kinds of questions would they ask?

Action Oriented Tactics

The following is a list of action oriented problem solving tactics you can use on a consistent basis to keep your mind primed and ready for the challenges that come your way:

Persistently Write Out Questions

Questions are the keys that will bring forth the answers and solutions to your problems.

Sit down for 30 minutes per day with two sheets of paper and a pen. Now, write out your problem in a question format on top of both sheets. Next, take your 1st sheet of paper and spend 15 minutes writing out as many questions as you can think of that will help expand your understanding and awareness about this problem. Finally, when your 15 minutes is up, take out the 2nd sheet of paper and write out as many solutions as you can think of that will answer the questions you posed on the 1st sheet of paper.

By undertaking this process consistently each and every day, you will develop a problem solving knack that will help you breakthrough any obstacle standing in your way.

Read Broadly

Sometimes the answers to our problems can come from the most unexpected sources.

Keep your problem in mind as you read a book, magazine or newspaper and observe your brain in overdrive searching for new pieces of information that it can associate to old memories and experiences.

Within every piece of information you read, picture you see, and sound you listen to, lies the solution to your problem. This awareness will get you halfway to your answer. However, you must be fully committed to lifelong learning.

Update Your Skills and Knowledge

Our problems can only overwhelm us when we feel incapable of dealing with them in an effective and timely manner. The solution for this is to update specific skills and knowledge (pertaining to the problem) that will allow you to better handle and manage these types of challenges in the future.

Use Positive Language

A pessimist will naturally have a very difficult time finding solutions to even the simplest of problems. On the other hand, an optimistic realist who uses positive language will bring forth a great array of solutions that will further expand their thinking and creative potential.

Use Concept Maps and Mind Maps

Mind maps are extraordinary problem solving tools that will allow you to easily brainstorm effective and creative ideas.

Mind Maps mimic our brain’s natural capacity to think, manage and organize large chunks of information in an efficient way. They will help you to put your problem into perspective, while giving birth to new connections and associations that may not have been evident before.

Use Diagrams

Because our brains think in pictures and not words, it just makes sense that diagrams would help us conceptualize our ideas in a much more creative way.

You may be surprised with the insights you will gather from simply drawing up your problem and solutions in a diagrammatic picture format.

Create and Use a Problem Solving System

Finally, it is important to understand that our problems will never evaporate completely. Such is life, that it constantly and continuously tests our resolve in order to help us grow and achieve our most desired goals and objectives.

Those people who don’t seem to experience any problems in life, have simply mastered the illusion of hiding their problems from others. They have learned methods that help them manage their problems using a potentially unconscious systematization process.

Every time you successfully work through your problems, it is important to draw up a systematic management plan that will help you to deal with these types of problems in a more effective and efficient way in the future.


Final Thoughts

It has been said that…

It’s not what happens to us that determines our fate, it’s rather what we do with what happens that shapes our destiny.

The problems and challenges that confront our everyday reality are drawn to us for a reason and purpose — teaching us life lessons that help us grow and attain new levels of insight, awareness and understanding.

Without problems we would never grow, we would never mature, we would never fully develop, and we would never experience the joy and satisfaction of attaining our most inspiring goals and objectives.

Yes, problems are indeed blessings in disguise for some, while for others they become steppingstones for misery, stress, mayhem and dissatisfaction. These people just don’t get it…

It’s not what happens to us that determines our fate, it’s rather what we do with what happens that shapes our destiny.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have utilized any of these problem solving strategies, or would like to share some of your own, than please feel free to comment below.


Time to Assimilate these Concepts

Problem Solving

Buy Map  Using Map  Free Maps

Did you gain value from this article? Would you like to keep these concepts at the forefront of your mind? If so, then you might like to download the accompanying mind map reference poster to your iPad, tablet or computer. The map presents you with a quick overview of this article. It’s designed specifically to help improve your memory and recall of this information so that you can better integrate these concepts into your daily thoughts, habits and actions. Your purchase will also go a long way towards supporting the further development of these maps.

If you enjoy using these maps, then I would like to encourage you to become a Lifetime Member where you will gain access to an ever growing number of 250+ self-growth mind maps that can help you excel in every area of life. It would be fantastic to have you join our community of existing lifetime members.


4 Problem Solving Steps

YouTube Preview Image

Visit Brian Tracy’s website to learn more about his personal development and business courses, books, and programs.


Gain More Knowledge…

Here are a number of highly recommended free articles and online resources that will further help expand your understanding about this topic:


Recommended Books


Share this post with your friends:

Tags: , , ,

34 Responses to “Becoming a Better Problem Solver”

  1. Kingsley Tagbo - IT Career Coach December 6, 2008 at 2:05 am #

    I’ve found this article to be useful and this blog to be a resource for students or IT professionals who wish to improve their problem solving skills … which is an essential to success in the Information Technology industry .. I will be commetning about your blog in my community in my next set of articles.

    IT Career Coach
    http://www.it-career-coach.net

    Kingsley Tagbo – IT Career Coachs last blog post..Knowledge Workers Accept The Challenge To Be The Best Or Why IT Professionals Feel UnderValued

  2. ikhwanuddin_Jogajkarta November 3, 2009 at 11:52 am #

    it is a greater tool in developing critical thinking and creative one. thanks a lot for papers and information

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Problem Solving Strategies Mind Map Poster « IQ Matrix Mind Maps - November 27, 2008

    [...] Read the detailed article post which breaks down each branch of this Mind Map at the IQ Matrix Blog. [...]

  2. The Mindset of a Visual Thinker | Visual Thinking Magic - August 24, 2011

    [...] Visual Thinking Magician looks at problems, questions problems, analyzes problems and breaks down problems, however she always remains firmly focused on finding [...]

  3. Mastering the Process of Visual Thinking | Visual Thinking Magic - September 14, 2011

    [...] and how it could potentially help you to improve your critical thinking, creative thinking, and problem solving abilities. To put it more simply: you simply do not know what you do not [...]

  4. The Visual Thinking Mental Model | Visual Thinking Magic - September 19, 2011

    [...] and critical component of our psychology because they help shape our behavior and define our approach to solving problems and carrying out [...]

  5. Managers, Do You Recognize When Coaching is Necessary? Here Are Eight Opportunities For Coaching | CallCenterBestPractices.com - September 25, 2011

    [...] Reduce Health Care Costs by 23 PercentNurturing Employee Commitment: Coaching School Board MembersProblem Solving Mind Map if (top!=self) { window.location = [...]

  6. Using Metaphors and Analogies to Think Visually | Visual Thinking Magic - October 11, 2011

    [...] way that it can be understood with ease. For this very reason analogies play a significant role in problem solving, decision making, perception, memory, creativity, emotion and communication. They are integrated [...]

  7. Visual Thinking Perspectives | Visual Thinking Magic - November 16, 2011

    [...] thinking is all about problem solving. And problem solving is all about finding the solutions you are after that will help you to resolve [...]

  8. Building Your Visual Thinking Environment | Visual Thinking Magic - December 7, 2011

    [...] techniques and strategies on this blog. These techniques will help you to think more creatively and solve problems more effectively. However, in order to become a highly productive visual thinker you will need to [...]

  9. Visual Thinking Content: What to Expect | Visual Thinking Magic - May 3, 2012

    [...] information in a way that will spark deep insights and ideas that will help you think creatively, solve problems more effectively and make decisions far more [...]

  10. Creativity: Understanding the Left and Right Brain | Visual Thinking Magic - May 4, 2012

    [...] Problem Solving [...]

  11. I'm Not a Visual Thinker? | Visual Thinking Magic - May 5, 2012

    [...] thinking can be used not only for remembering key concepts and ideas, but also to assist you with problem solving, creative thinking and [...]

  12. Evolution of Extraordinary Intelligence | Visual Thinking Magic - May 10, 2012

    [...] way to rapidly absorb information on a daily basis in a way that will help you think creatively and solve problems more effectively then ever [...]

  13. The Visual Thinking Advantage | Visual Thinking Magic - May 11, 2012

    [...] our true meaning, purpose and intentions. This leads to confusion, misunderstanding and ultimately problems that could’ve easily been [...]

  14. Visual Thinking Simplifies Ideas | Visual Thinking Magic - May 12, 2012

    [...] and belief in the power of visual thinking. Not only is it an effective tool that will help you solve problems and clarify your own thinking, but it can also be used seamlessly to simplify and explain complex [...]

  15. Visual Thinking and Pattern Recognition | Visual Thinking Magic - May 14, 2012

    [...] discover how to recognize patterns within your environment, within information clusters and within problems. Secondly, you must proactively combine the data you have acquired into visual patterns that help [...]

  16. 19 Critical Beliefs of a Visual Thinker | Visual Thinking Magic - May 15, 2012

    [...] I believe that there is always a simpler and much easier way to solve a problem. [...]

  17. Visual Thinking Questions | Visual Thinking Magic - May 15, 2012

    [...] students from the rest was their ability to ask the right kinds of questions — enabling them to solve the problems they were [...]

  18. Visual Thinking Question Categories: 1 to 8 | Visual Thinking Magic - May 15, 2012

    [...] thinking question categories, I will highlight eight question categories you can use to help you solve problems more effectively as you move through the visual thinking [...]

  19. Visual Thinking Question Categories: 9 to 16 | Visual Thinking Magic - May 15, 2012

    [...] questions help you to identify pitfalls and additional problems that could potentially result from solving the problem under question. As you work through these questions, keep in mind that whatever can go wrong, will [...]

  20. Putting Your Visuals into Context | Visual Thinking Magic - May 18, 2012

    [...] within this mode of communication that could utterly ruin your ability to communicate your ideas, solve problems and create [...]

  21. Visualizing Values, Beliefs and Memories | Visual Thinking Magic - May 21, 2012

    [...] for your own purposes. You initially might not believe that something is true (that you are able to solve a problem or generate a worthwhile idea), however, if you visualize the information, evidence and facts in [...]

  22. Visual Metaphor: Bridging the Gap | Visual Thinking Magic - May 22, 2012

    [...] seeing all my options, all my thoughts, all my problems, all my emotions, all my obstacles, all my desires, and all the relevant aspects of my life [...]

  23. The Benefits of Visual Thinking | Visual Thinking Magic - March 20, 2013

    [...] Solve problems quickly and easily? [...]

  24. Organizing Your Visual Thinking Space | Visual Thinking Magic - March 20, 2013

    [...] You should strive to keep your thinking space organized, however when you’re in the midst of a creative breakthrough, it’s perfectly okay to completely mess up your thinking space and simply allow your creativity to flow. In such instances, use all the visual thinking tools you have at your disposal to express yourself in as many ways as required to help solve your problem. [...]

  25. Developing Your Visual Awareness | Visual Thinking Magic - March 20, 2013

    [...] take some time. However, the effort you put in will allow you to expand your understanding of your problems and circumstances to such an extent that you will be better able to spot critical patterns that [...]

  26. Problem Solving Skills Mind Map by Adam Sicinski | Mind Map Art - March 20, 2013

    [...] Read Detailed Blog Post [...]

  27. Questions de pensée visuelle : introduction - VisGraf - February 9, 2014

    […] étudiants du reste était leur capacité à poser les bonnes questions – leur permettant de résoudre les problèmes auxquels ils étaient confrontés.Qui aurait pu penser que, simplement en posant une question, vous […]

  28. Catégories de questions de pensée visuelle 1 - VisGraf - February 9, 2014

    […] vais mettre en évidence huit catégories de questions que vous pouvez utiliser pour vous aider à résoudre les problèmes plus efficacement quand vous vous déplacez à travers le processus de pensée visuelle.S’il […]

  29. Construire votre environnement de pensée visuelle - VisGraf - February 10, 2014

    […] pensée visuelle sur ce blog. Ces techniques vous aideront à penser de façon plus créative et à résoudre les problèmes plus efficacement. Toutefois, afin de devenir un penseur visuel très productif, vous aurez besoin […]

  30. Organiser votre espace de pensée visuelle - VisGraf - February 10, 2014

    […] avez à votre disposition pour vous exprimer en autant de façons que nécessaire pour aider à résoudre votre problème.Il est donc parfaitement normal d’être en désordre, à condition qu’à la fin de […]

  31. Vaincre la résistance à la pensée visuelle - VisGraf - February 19, 2014

    […] secondaire, on ne m’a jamais appris à penser de façon critique, créative ou comment résoudre les problèmes de la vie. En outre, on ne m’a jamais appris à dessiner des images ou comment représenter […]

  32. Évolution de l’intelligence extraordinaire - VisGraf - April 4, 2014

    […] quotidiennement d’une manière qui va nous aider à penser de façon créative et à résoudre les problèmes plus efficacement que jamais […]

Rapidly achieve any goal you desire in as little as 15 minutes per weekFind Out More
  • RSS
  • Pillars of Success
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest