Wednesday, 23 December 2015

5 Ways to Boost Your Problem Solving Abilities

In the game of business and in the game of life, you are going to encounter problems - all the time.  The degree of success you have in either game is largely dependent upon your ability to solve problems effectively and efficiently.
Today, I want to share the Top 5 ways that I have found work best to continue solving problems at high levels and to keep sailing in smooth waters:
 1.  Get a fresh perspective
All to often, when you are wrapped up in trying to solve a problem you become too attached to the issue at hand and you cannot objectively look at what you need to do. In this case, give yourself a fresh perspective. This can mean something as simple as taking a break for a few minutes to soliciting outside help to look at the issue (either paid or unpaid).
You might be calling me “Captain Obvious” right about now, but hear me out. What I am advocating is for developing the discipline to recognize when the situations are arising and frustration is creeping up that will keep you from accomplishing your goals. It is one thing to know that you should get a fresh perspective - putting this into action is quite another.
2. Start at the end and work backward
I find that when I am spinning my wheels on a project, that I have lost focus on the end result. As one of my favorite expressions goes, I: “cannot see the forest through the trees.”
To get back to where you need to be, stop everything you are doing (turn away from the computer, step away from the phone) and speak, out loud, what your desired end result of what you are doing is. Saying something out loud carries A LOT more power than simply having a thought or jotting the thought down on paper. Trust me on this one. .
3. Practice thinking
I know that I have you really confused now. But, ask yourself this: why do people practice everything from sports to speaking in public but do not practice thinking?”This might seem like a crazy question, but if you really think about it (full pun intended) you might realize that your cerebrum could use some exercise just like the rest of your body. This begs the question: “what are some brain exercises?” You only need to work on a few things for a few minutes a day and you will be amazed at the improvement in your critical thinking and analytic skills.
Some examples:
  • Sodoku
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Cryptograms
  • Lateral thinking games
  • Word/vocabulary games
  • Trivia games
  • Matching/pattern games
  • Riddles
  • …there are many more
You will note that most of these things are a hobby or fun for somebody out there. Super nerdy, no doubt and some of them were the probably highlight of people’s Saturday nights before there were nightclubs. I think a few of them are fun, others I prefer not to do.
However, I find that if I spend a few minutes each morning on a lateral thinking game or sudoku puzzle, that I just feel a little better equipped to handle some of the things thrown my way during the day. Stimulate your brain cells and they might just stimulate you right back!
4. Ask better questions
A great college professor once told a class: “if you want to be brilliant, focus on asking better and better questions…solutions will then reveal themselves.” I can tell you that this has rung true in my personal and business life. All to often, we get caught up on “fixing what is wrong” that we lose sight of what is wrong in the first place. Asking better questions will keep you true to the old KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).
Just think of the 5 W’s you learned when you were in grade school:
  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why
  • *How* (this was always thrown in)
This also reminds me of the expert technicians obsessing over what is wrong with a highly complex computer that appears broken when the janitor walks by, finds the machine unplugged, plugs it in and the machine works to the amazement of the ‘experts.’
5. Laugh
Yes, indeed. Laughter is the best medicine for solving problems. Aside from all of the research that has been done showing that laughter can lengthen your life, cure illnesses and increase productivity, it is just common sense that to laugh is to relieve stress and to If you are ever perplexed, take a cruise over to Youtube and watch a stand-up comic, go to and have a laugh or just take a look at your favorite Dilbert tear-away poster to boost your mood and your output. relieve stress benefits you in myriad ways.

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