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Resilience Skills : 5 steps to effective problem solving


It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer

Albert Einstein

Einstein may just have been modest or he may have truly believed that this was the explanation behind some of his great achievements. In retrospect, perhaps he was highly resilient and had the ability to look at the problems he was trying to solve comprehensively.

It is believed that it is the way you think about challenges and problems which can help you build resilience and wellbeing at work. And this is another factor of resilience which isn’t inbuilt in your genes or personality and which you do have the ability to change.

Problem solving can be broken down into five steps:

  1. Identifying the actual problem which is really a goal setting exercise. If you haven’t set the goal posts, it will be difficult to get the ball through them at the end of the process
  2. Breaking the problem down into smaller, more manageable parts if the whole problem seems overbearing
  3. Generating possible solutions which will involve thinking comprehensively through all the possible solutions and analysing each one in turn
  4. Evaluating the options in order to decide which of the approaches will be applied to the problem you are faced with
  5. Monitoring the result to ensure it has solved your problem, and if not, returning to step 2 and continuing with the process until the problem is eventually resolved

The most effective problem solvers step outside their usual thinking style and use all three types of their intelligence to produce solutions – analytical, creative and practical.

We all know that if something is enjoyable it becomes easier for us to get better at and it is for this reason that problem-solving in the workplace (or indeed in our personal lives) is often most effective when a team brainstorming approach is instigated to encourage comprehensive thinking (analytical, creative and practical) so that all possible solutions are considered. It should be added that if a mistake or setback happens (as they do) it is looked upon as another problem to be solved and something to be learnt from rather than a calamity.

So by applying a problem solving process, you are more likely to avoid ‘Maslow’s hammer’ occurring in your workplace,

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail”

Abraham Maslow


This is one of a series of articles on aspects of resilience. You can access them all from this post Resilience Skills: An A-Z of definitions of the terms used.

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