When problems crop up in life or at work, it’s tempting to curse and wish for an easier ride. But the reality is that nobody’s life is free from drama or issues that need resolving, and from the moment we’re born to the day we die, we are always learning how to solve problems. As babies we need to learn how to let our parents know that we are hungry as we grow we get better at communicating and even moving around, to enable us to start to meet our own needs.
Once you’ve mastered speech and walking, it would be nice to think that the rest of our problems are straightforward, but whether it’s a tricky spreadsheet at work or leaking pipe at home, there are always fresh challenges waiting for us to solve them. How well we deal with problems has a direct impact on our successes or failures in life, particularly when it comes to our careers, but how do you know what kind of problem solver you are?
The Three Types of Problem Solver
When faced with a problem, you probably don’t take time to think about what type of approach you normally take, because it’ll be second nature. However, the likelihood is that you’ll fit into one of three types of problem solver. If you approach problems with a strategic philosophy, taking your time to evaluate it and each potential solution, you are probably a systematic problem solver.
At the other end of the scale, there are intuitive problem solvers. So, if you’d rather charge headfirst at a problem and get it solved quickly, going with your gut instincts, this is probably you. It’s quite possible you don’t think there’s an issue with your approach, because you generally get the results and don’t reflect too much on the times it doesn’t quite go to plan, but not everyone around you might feel the same way.
Finally, there’s the middle ground between these extremes, which is probably where most of us fit. An inconsistent problem solver is one who knows that they should be systematic and sometimes manages to take that more disciplined approach, but even when it gets the right results, they can still fall into bad habits and skip through some of the steps to get to the end more quickly.
Which of these feels most familiar to you?
How to Work Out Which Type You Are
If you’re still unsure, there are ways to work it out. Thinking about when a problem first arises, what is your immediate reaction? Do you focus entirely on finding a solution that you can quickly implement, or do you instead set aside time to really investigate and define the problem? Doing that gives you a much better chance of really understanding what the issue is and finding a better solution in the end, rather than making assumptions early on that will impact the process later on.
Once you’ve analysed the problem and come up with solutions – or, indeed, once you’ve decided to try the first solution that’s come to mind – what do you do next? Do you create a detailed implementation plan and put things in place to ensure that any unintended consequences are taken care of? Or, do you just get on with it? Do you want to hear ideas or criticisms from other people or do you tune them out and focus on your own plans?
And, when all is said and done, after the solution has been implemented and the problem has been solved, what happens next? Do you move on to the next thing or take the additional time to reflect on the process and what could be improved next time? Do you think about the potential causes of this problem and work to mitigate any chances of it happening again in the future? Or are you happy to just deal with the problem again if it comes back?
Your answers to these questions will go a long way to helping you work out what kind of problem solver you are. But once you’ve found out, what can be done? If you’re a systematic problem solver, you will probably still want to hone your skills even more, while someone who has found themselves to be inconsistent will know that they need to use this awareness to focus on being more consistently systematic.
And if you’ve realised that you’re an intuitive problem solver, it would probably be helpful to reflect on what impact this might have had on the results of your efforts. You may decide that your approach works, but if not, why not try taking that extra time when a problem next comes up, thinking about different ways of approaching it?
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