Problem Solving Approach



A methodical approach to problem solving is the best approach. Effective problem solving comprises seven steps:

  1. Define the problem clearly, and in writing. Writing something down incorporates many senses, embedding it into the brain more deeply. Putting the problem in writing not only clarifies the issue, it immediately brings more brainpower toward its solution.
  2. Read, research, and gather information. Data gathering is extremely important. The more information that is available, the more likely it is that a solution will emerge.
  3. Do not reinvent the wheel. Many problems are similar to other problems or have actually been solved previously. Consult experts and do the research to avoid duplication of effort.
  4. Let the subconscious work.After spending time on a problem, shifting attention away from it can inspire a new idea or solution.
  5. Use sleep. The brain continues to work during sleep, processing, analyzing, and categorizing information. Thinking about the problem right before bedtime can reveal a solution in the morning.
  6. Write it down. Breakthrough ideas can happen anytime. It is important to record ideas and insights — whether on paper or electronically — for future evaluation.
  7. Take action. Hesitation can make the difference between a good idea being implemented or wasted. Act on a solution as soon as it is selected.


Information without practical application is of little use. However, most people hold on to a lot of knowledge. Individuals can use the following techniques to stimulate their minds and make the most of the knowledge they have acquired by putting it to good use in solving problems:

*The quick list method: Take 30 seconds to quickly write down three important life goals, assign a grade to each one in terms of current level of satisfaction and fulfillment, and then select the one with the lowest grade to work on.

*The brutal questions: Ask, “What are today’s three most pressing problems,” then commit to focusing efforts on those areas.

*The 20/80 rule: This principle states that the source of 80 percent of problems is internal. Therefore, identify which problems are internally based, then focus attention on internal factors to solve them.

*Identify favorite excuses: Articulate the excuses for any particular problem to better target a solution. The excuses provide an opportunity for focus.

*Practice idealization: Creating a clear vision for the future and then taking deliberate steps toward achieving that vision is the path to success. Keep the vision in sight.

*The magic question: Imagine success without the option of failure and create a step-by-step plan to achieve that success. Even small steps make a difference.


All people have “three minds.” Each is different from the other and each plays an important role in creative thinking.

*The conscious mind: The conscious mind thinks both quickly (reacting to immediate situations) and slowly (giving careful, deliberate thought to information as it is presented). While fast thinking is necessary for decision making in a crisis (such as a medical emergency), slow thinking is important for more in-depth problem solving. Writing things down can help the brain transition from fast to slow thinking.

*The subconscious mind: The subconscious mind stores huge amounts of information and helps the brain make sense of the world. Instinct comes from the subconscious mind and can help tip the balance in decision making. The subconscious mind is also the storehouse for positive thoughts.

*The superconscious mind: The superconscious mind represents a deeper level of the subconscious mind. This is where insight, intuition, and breakthrough thinking dwell.

The best thinking happens when people learn to use all three of their minds, taking time to gather and absorb information, process it in a thoughtful way, then relegate it to the subconscious, trusting that the superconscious will help reveal a solution.


People’s thinking styles impact their levels of creativity. While every person’s thinking style is molded through experience, each individual also has the power to alter the direction of his or her thinking toward more creative thinking.

Mechanical thinking, which is narrow, rigid, and inflexible, lies at one end of the thinking style spectrum, while adaptive thinking, which is flexible and open, lies at the other. The goal is to move from mechanical thinking to adaptive thinking. By deliberately suspending judgment, asking probing questions, and working toward an optimistic and positive attitude, individuals can become more adaptive, and thus more creative, thinkers.


People tend to think in a linear fashion, with one thought logically following another. However, to think creatively, people need to learn to thinklaterally — to consider totally different and unusual solutions from what is typical or logical.

Lateral thinking can be developed by:

*Reversing keywords: Word play (like labeling a problem as an opportunity) can change a person’s mind-set.

*Restating the dominant idea: It is helpful to consider an issue from a different context or a different perspective. This is similar to the concept of “standing in someone else’s shoes.”

*Focusing on the customer: Too often companies are focused on product development rather than customer development. Knowing and identifying with customers, then developing solutions from their perspectives, is a more lateral approach. Businesses should focus on how they can develop (in other words, improve) their customers’ lives.

*Fantasizing: People can visualize a world in which all obstacles to achieving their goals are gone, then imagine how those goals would be achieved. Solutions are often leveraged from those imaginings.


The mind is an incredible information processor, taking in information from all five senses. The mind processes information for creative thinking through three main methods:

  1. Visual (seeing).
  2. Auditory (hearing).
  3. Kinesthetic (doing and “feeling”).

Each person’s thinking and learning style is dominated by one of these three methods. Even though one will naturally dominate, to boost creating thinking it is good practice to pay attention to and use all three — especially when sharing information with others. People should know their own dominant methods, and leverage those in self-learning, as well as adapt teaching and information sharing to others’ dominant methods and styles.


One of the goals in problem solving is to keep emotions out of the process so as to arrive at the best solution. Below is an expansion on the step-by-step process to problem solving that helps ensure objectivity and the best results:

  1. Assume a logical solution. Maintain a sense of calm and the belief that every problem can be solved logically.
  2. Use positive language. Reframing a problem in positive terms (i.e., as an opportunity) encourages creative thinking.
  3. Define it clearly. Getting clarity on the situation ensures that efforts are targeted in the right direction.
  4. Diagnose the situation. It is important to know if the issue is a one-time situation or something more systemic that requires broader change.
  5. Expand the possibilities. Look for all possible resolutions to make sure nothing is missed. A thorough investigation is an objective investigation.
  6. Make a decision. Typically a solution will emerge if the previous steps have been performed properly.
  7. Assign responsibility for action. Without accountability, the best solution can go by the wayside.
  8. Set deadlines. Establishing a time frame for execution ensures the solution is more than simply a topic for conversation.
  9. Take action. Solutions without action are wishful thinking.

About anubhawalia

Anubha Walia, Executive Coach, Trainer, Facilitator & OD&L Professional is a prolific Human Process Interventionist, also specialises in Wellness coach carries 22+ years of rich experience, and has worked with top of the line blue-chip​ organization like Honeywell, ICICI Bank, Moody ICL Certification were she was heading ODL, Trainings & Quality verticals. Her areas of expertise include human process intervention, Organisation Development, Change engagement Learning, Team building & Recreation, Wellness & Yoga and Quality implementation.

8 responses »

  1. This is a very insightful and practical learning approach based article. Very interactive and initiative based. It talks in-depth about various ways one can approach problem solving thorough the practice of various thinking skills
    It is structured in a way to start from scratch, from the very basics of what to think and how to think
    And how to not limit your thoughts by thinking laterally
    The article also covers how essential it is to know how the mind works and comes to a solution or conclusion so one can tweak the methods.
    And lastly theres a revisit to a systematic method of problem solving which is made very objective so that helps it in solving it giving best results.
    So it’s a very helpful article for all the problem solvers and thinkers.


  2. Having studied psychology for 2 years,I think this blog gave me a deeper insight to problem solving methods and also briefed me regarding various ways to understand our mind and use it more efficiently.
    I feel that the best way to solve a problem is to dig into its roots and look at its positive aspect(lateral thinking)which was even mentioned in the article. And I think a problem could be as basic as anxiety for an exam, which could be just dealt by sleeping it off, along with using mind stimulating exercises. It is also very Important to use all 3 minds for a better understanding of the problem.
    Thus,we can conclude that problem solving are mind stimulating exercises are interdependent.


  3. Great article!!! The information is concise and to the point. The whole blog is very well structured with info categorized under appropriate headings. I love how you have also added thinking approaches and mind-stimulating exercises. Thank you for sharing this.


  4. My personal learning from today’s session would be that Critical Thinking involves solving problems effectively while analyzing and evaluating arguments. We need to uncover and overcome our own biases and prejudices in order to make right decisions. It is not just about how we think or how aware we are of our thought processes rather it is about how we work on those decisions and thoughts to overcome any particular problem.
    While trying to effectively analyze any problem we must not fall trap to the principle of identity and must have a clear stream of logical reasoning which is backed by evidence that supports our argument or decisions.
    The first step to this is reasoning. Reasoning revolves around logic of what follows what and how we use our present knowledge to determine the outcome or support our decision. Within reasoning itself we have six terms which are Inductive, Deductive, Syllogism, If Then and Linear Ordering. Inductive involves sample based searches where absolute logic is used. It involves observing a sample size and then making an analysis based on that particular sample and then making a conclusion, on the other hand deductive involves deducing analysis from pre existing information. In case of deductive we have a pre existing theory based on which we observe a particular sample and then find meaningful conclusions. Syllogism works more on the deductive approach where we use venn diagrams to reach a particular conclusion. Linear ordering requires placing objects one after the other to reach a particular conclusion. At last, If and Then statements require a hypothesis followed by a conclusion. Foe example if there is an earthquake, then the building might fall.

    Next we have evaluation which involves making interpretation of any work or situation by judging and assessing it. An example of this would be a teacher evaluating a students answer sheet in an exam.

    Evaluation is followed by quick thinking. Quick thinking involves responding to any situation or problem instantly. This distinguishes between people who practice thinking on their feet and people who do not. I was one of the few students who were able to fulfill the activity done in the session which involved counting squares, which made me realize that I have quick thinking abilities.

    Then we understood analytical thinking in depth, which involves solving problems step by step. Analytical thinking involves observing a particular issue to gather information about it and then analysing it in order to understand it and then interpret it better. Then we draw conclusion as to what the possible solutions could be. Lastly we share the solutions and come up with the best one. For understanding analytical thinking we were asked to play a survival game where we had to rank survival items in order. My team performed the best in the lot as we listed our priorities first.
    In the end we learned the 80-20 rule where 80% of any particular problem is solved because of 20% things. Here we also understood the paetro analysis to which involves charting down this 80-20 division of issues that are arising and then plotting them using their cumulative frequenies to reach to the root of which 20% problem is causing the most harm so that it can be corrected eventually.

    Thank you,
    Saloni Dhillon


  5. Sometimes, I wonder how to solve a particular problem. I usually crush my brains and come up with a solution which ultimately goes in vain. But after reading this article, I realised problem solving becomes very easy if you follow those 7 steps sincerely. The mind stimulating exercises gave me an in-depth knowledge about the various techniques that a person has to follow to use his knowledge to his fullest.
    I was quite fascinated while reading the article under the heading “How the mind works”.
    After going through the whole article I feel that human beings complicate simple things in life which apparently isn’t. It’s just that we need to know the systematic approach to problem solving.
    I would like to take this as an opportunity to thank Anubha Ma’am for giving me an in-depth knowledge about problem solving.


  6. Dividing the work in small steps surely makes it easier but never thought this could be applied to problem solving as well. We tend to go for quick thinking or quick decision making when it comes to solving a problem as we want to get rid of it as soon as possible. But this article helped me understand that different problems need different approaches, and I’m sure that this is going to help me a lot in long run. It was very insightful, thank you.


  7. Thank you so much mam for sharing this vital information.
    These 5 days were incredible with you.
    Thank you for providing us different approaches to achieve solutions to a problem.
    What the most important part that I have learned is whenever we find a solution we should work upon it rather than just being wishful.


  8. Thank you so much mam for sharing this vital information.
    These 5 days were incredible with you.
    Thank you for providing us different approaches to achieve solutions to a problem.
    What the most important part that I have learned is whenever we find a solution we should work upon it rather than just being wishful.


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