3 Techniques to Boost your Problem Solving Skills


We are each faced with problems every day. 

Some will be major and some will be mere irritations, but it will be your problem solving skills and how you deal with the problem at hand that sets you apart from colleagues.

Whatever the problem you are faced with, you need to begin with ideas on how to solve it.  It is important to remember that the first stage is about getting as many ideas as possible without being concerned with quality, risk or downside.


This is a well-known and very useful technique to generate multiple ideas in a short period of time.

  1. Try to use a mix of people with various experiences
  2. Either have one person contribute the first idea on how to solve the problem and then continue round to everyone in turn until all ideas are exhausted, or ask people to shout out ideas, as long as no-one is talked over.
  3. Do not allow anyone to criticise, evaluate or judge
  4. Do not put pressure on people to give an idea
  5. Allow people to piggy-back on someone else’s idea
  6. All ideas are valid – no idea is too crazy or outlandish

The alphabet

This technique works like random word association where you give a small trigger to spark creativity.  On a whiteboard or flipchart, write the alphabet down the side and ask people to come up with ideas related to the problem that begin with the letter of the alphabet.  You could either do this in one large group or break out into smaller ones and come together at the end.

Role play

This technique will help people see ideas from different perspectives, by trying to put themselves into someone else’s shoes.  Ask the group to name famous people or stakeholders in the organisation.  Display these for everyone to see.  Now go through the list and for each name ask the group: “What would X think of …?”  As soon as the ideas are exhausted, move onto the next person on the list.  For example:

Problem to solve: How do we increase our client base?

  • Superman – find some way you can rescue him
  • Madonna – give to a charity they support, hold a huge event, get noticed
  • Dame Kelly Holmes – practice the approach, do something every day towards the goal, once you have reached the goal … make another

Whichever technique you use, when all ideas are exhausted, discuss and evaluate them to select the single idea, or combination of ideas, that represents the most viable solution.

To get the creative juices flowing amongst your team, you could start the process with a light-hearted scenario before diving into the real problem.  Try something like … uses for a pen pot, a flipchart stand, scissors or a ball of string.

Have you used any of the above techniques to good effect before, or been involved in the process?  Have you used any other techniques and did they work or not work, and why?  Drop a comment below and let other readers learn from your successes.  everywoman is about learning and supporting women in business, so please do share anything that could benefit others.


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