Hello, weary business owner, go-getter, high-performing professional or student. You are here looking for a solution to solve any problem effectively?
The key to being able to answer questions flawlessly is structuring.
In this blog post, I will show you what I learned from my mentors about the process from problem to solution and will share the skills you need to make any new task an easy challenge for you in the future.
Read on, and let’s find out the technical skills required to make you a champion problem solver.
TL;DR – Aaron’s Summary
The Shift to Problem-Solving: In recent years, the focus has shifted from having quick answers to solving problems effectively. Companies now value problem-solving skills during job interviews, seeking individuals who can break down challenges, showcasing the importance of structuring in problem-solving.
Key Problem-Solving Skills: Successful business owners share six crucial problem-solving skills. These include identifying root causes, data-driven decision-making, analyzing trends, thinking innovatively, anticipating risks, and involving relevant parties early in the process.
Top 3 Problem-Solving Abilities: Building problem-solving abilities starts with understanding the core issue, learning how to structure problems, and determining and prioritizing solutions based on various factors.
Practical Examples: Structuring and problem-solving are applicable in various situations, from web development to business plans and even personal decisions, illustrating their versatility and effectiveness.
Different Structuring Techniques: Your blog covers various structuring techniques, including question-answer, mind mapping, cause-effect, tree diagram, timeline, and problem-solution structuring, offering readers a comprehensive toolbox.
Improving Problem-Solving Skills: The post emphasizes practice, creative thinking, considering different perspectives, problem-solving analytics, trusting your instincts, and communication skills as key elements in enhancing problem-solving abilities.
Even if you have a big problem, once you structure it into appropriate smaller pieces, all of them become doable (Image created with Midjourney)
Why Structuring Matters
In the past few years, the focus has increasingly shifted from being able to answer a question quickly with existing knowledge to solving problems.
Good problem-solving skills are now being tested by many companies during job interviews. Instead of just the answer, the recruiters want to know how you got there, because the ability to break down any goal, task, or problem, (the structuring!) is a great predictor of a future employee’s skills to deal with any challenge appropriately even without prior experience of that same situation.
This is why problem-solving skills go hand in hand with good structuring skills: even if you have a big problem, once you structure it into appropriate smaller pieces, all of them become doable.
The Problem-Solving Skills Top Business Owners Have
There are six key skills that top business owners have in common when it comes to problem-solving. Being able to apply them at work and in everyday life will make it effortless for you to always find the best solution to any task or problem.
1. They identify the root cause of a problem instead of simply treating the symptoms.
2. They use data-driven decision-making instead of relying on intuition and gut feeling alone.
3. They gain insights by analyzing trends and patterns in data.
4. They are able to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions.
5. They anticipate potential risks before it’s too late.
6. They make sure their problem-solving process involves all relevant parties early on.
Understand the core of the issue question (Image created with Midjourney)
Top 3 Problem-Solving Abilities You Should Build First
Top 1: Understand the core of the issue question
What is it really that you are trying to solve? On the surface, you might want to hire a good writer or personal assistant.
Are you short on time or believe you do not have the skills it takes?
Maybe the solution is entirely different from hiring someone. But unless you understand the real underlying core of the issue, your solution might not solve anything.
Top 2: Learn how to structure anything – even the biggest problem
Structuring makes it easier for you to understand the complexity of any problem. Every time you work on a task, break it down into smaller steps or chunks and create a workflow. This will make the overall solution much more manageable and eventually even enjoyable.
Top 3: Determine possible solutions then prioritize them
Once you know what the core issue is, think about different ways to solve it. Brainstorm with your team, ask for help from an expert, and consult online resources about existing solutions; there are many ways to determine the best solution for your problem.
It is important to be very open at this point and not disregard potential solutions too quickly. Only once you have listed every possible idea, you should prioritize them based on the short-term and long-term impact, cost to you or your business, or society/environment at large.
Structuring and problem-solving can be applied to any situation (Image created with Midjourney)
Top Structuring and Problem-Solving Examples
Structuring and problem-solving can be applied to any situation. Here are a few examples to show you the power of these skills:
When faced with the task of creating a new website, break it down into smaller steps such as researching competitors, designing wireframes, developing content or coding the site.
If you need to write a business plan, split it into sections such as executive summary, company overview and financials.
When tasked with a complex project at work, create an actionable list of tasks that need to be completed and assign them to the relevant team members.
If you want to launch a new marketing campaign, start by understanding your audience and setting clear, achievable goals.
If you’re dealing with a customer complaint, analyse the root cause and implement a solution that will prevent similar issues from happening in the future.
If you’re trying to launch a new product, look for opportunities to innovate or collaborate with other companies in your industry.
In your private life, when planning a holiday, break the task down into smaller steps such as researching destinations, choosing accommodation, and booking flights.
When trying to help your best friend with a difficult decision (breaking up with their partner, wondering whether to adopt a child, switching jobs), you can make sure to help them structure their thoughts and understand why they are asking themselves the questions before jumping to hasty conclusions and giving them well-meaning but ultimately poor advice.
By applying these structuring and problem-solving skills to every situation, you’ll be able to come up with unique solutions that fit your needs perfectly.
Common types of structuring you should know:
This is a popular structuring technique used to facilitate discussions and reach solutions. Question-Answer structuring involves breaking down the problem into smaller questions, then providing answers to these questions in order to obtain insights.
Mind map structuring
A mind map is a graphical representation of ideas and concepts that helps organize information visually. It’s an incredibly useful tool in problem-solving as it helps you structure information, discover connections between concepts and generate creative ideas.
Core questions to ask yourself when structuring (Image created with Canva)
You start out with a keyword in the center bubble and then add lines to the bubble you associate with it. It is excellent for a bit more “unstructured” and creative structuring. When using this mind mapping approach for the structuring of an article or similar, make sure to add a visual representation because this more organic structuring way is more difficult to follow for the reader.
Cause-effect structuring is a powerful problem-solving method that involves analyzing the root causes of an issue. By identifying the root causes and their effects, you can develop more meaningful solutions for complex problems. Being able to apply this technique is one of the essential problem-solving skills you should learn.
Tree diagram structuring
A tree diagram is a great tool for breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable parts. It works by showing the hierarchical relationship between each task and how they are related to one another. This type of structuring helps you to better understand the complexity of a problem in order to develop an effective solution.
Narrating the narrative in chronological sequence is an excellent way to present the history of a business or agreement. This technique allows the audience to gain insight into how events unfolded as they happened, providing them with a unique perspective on the past.
Here the starting problem or question is explained, and then how it can be/was resolved. This is great when explaining how to address a challenge, like low revenue in the business report, or a failed experiment during scientific research
Numbered structuring is used when the content you’re creating is meant to be followed in order for a certain outcome, like a recipe or instructions on how to fix something. This approach helps readers understand what steps they need to take and easily know where they left off.
How to Structure and Solve Problems Quickly
The more you practice this skill, the faster will you become over time. As a beginner, the best course to start out with is to write the problem down on the top of your page, and start to break it down into it’s smaller problems.
Breaking it down
For example, the big problem may be to save 1000 USD every month for your retirement. Depending on your financial situation, this can seem like an insurmountable problem. Certainly, I myself also struggled with it for many years. But when we break this down into smaller problems, we can get to perhaps 2 problems:
How can I earn more money?
How can I spend less money?
Now we have a much clearer task ahead, and it is best to go with each problem separately. And of course, as needed, break them down further. This is an iterative process.
Now comes the time many problem solvers love: generating new ideas to find the best solutions. Mind mapping is certainly a great way to do that, I have explained the skills above and you should be somewhat familiar with them. When answering questions, it is great to start with your own thoughts, your experiences, and what you think would solve the question. However, you should not stop there but rather involve your friends, other team members, or your boss to find solutions that make sense holistically. Not only does that prove you are a team player, but also helps you come up with alternative solutions you would never have thought about.
Creative solutions by others
At this point, it is important to take multiple perspectives so that you can get a deeper understanding of how the problem would be solved by different people.
How would your mother or best friend answer this question?
How would Jeff Bezos or Jonny Depp answer it?
The best answers often come only in the second or third round of thinking through a potential solution, so it is important that you “put on the hat” of different people, and really embrace this process as a learning opportunity.
See this illustration of a problem-solving table you could simply create to think through a few very different people and how they would tackle your problem. Take my example answer for each person with a grain of salt, it is to illustrate the point that this form of creative problem-solving will help you think outside the box and come up with new ideas easily.
A problem-solving table you could simply create (Image created with Canva)
One of the key problem-solving skills is to analyze the various solutions you have found, to come up with the best solution (which will be very relative to your situation. Perhaps, this is even the most critical problem-solving ability.
Very often you need to solve a problem with limited resources, and especially then will your analytical skills and critical thinking skills be key. If you don’t have hard facts and data to evaluate which path makes sense, think about creative solutions of what you could do to get more security around your choice. Strong problem-solving skills ultimately mean being adaptable, judging neutrally the data and information you have, but also being able to make assumptions about the areas you don’t have information about.
By the way, also here breaking the unknown down into smaller pieces will be helpful – you might be bad at estimating how much you can make in a year from selling candles online. But you can estimate the price of a candle, the cost of the raw material, estimate how many would be sold, and the shipping cost. Through a combination of guessing and researching information, you will be able to come to an answer. Perhaps not absolutely correct, but certainly much closer to the truth s if you’d wildly guessed.
Sense for the solution
If you want to solve problems effectively, you will need to also build up some more soft skills, especially trusting your gut, and honing your judgment ability. This “business sense” or “street smarts” is one of the core skills you should build up – and employers highly value by the way. The reason is that nothing is certain, and no matter how great your analytical skills are, there will always be room for ambiguity. Learn to take a leap of faith at the right time or you’ll be forced to be stuck in indecision.
These soft skills are the final problem-solving tools you need to develop. They can make the difference between your problem-solving being a huge success or a failure. Have you noticed that in a job description, there is often a requirement for good technical skills and communication and team player skills? Ultimately, if you cannot communicate clearly what you are thinking or the potential solutions you found, all the hard work is for nothing, and the decision-making will be without implementation.
Other posts you might enjoy reading:
How To Structure Anything – Problem Solving Examples for 2023 (Image created with Midjourney)
Get Started Today
If you want to test your skills on real-life problem-solving examples, I suggest you read this post on 67 Ways How to Make Money Fast and choose which business idea would fit you (if you ever had to go that way). And then as the second step, think about how you would do it. What would be the key steps you would need to take?
If you find it easy to come up with the solution options but struggle to make the judgment call, I recommend you read this blog post on How to Make Better Decisions.
I hope you enjoyed these examples of problem-solving and why it matters.
Your problem-solving Guru
(because I was forced to learn it through my up-hill battle into business without a favorable background – read more about me here)