Quiz: what is your problem-solving style?


Our individual approaches to problem-solving can be as varied as the problems we’re tasked with solving.

In our recent webinar ‘Overview Of Problem Solving’, everywomanNetwork associate Sara Parsons asked participants to share their approaches to problem solving. Responses ranged from ‘getting input from co-workers’ (41%) to ‘focusing on fixing the problem as quickly as possible’ (24%) and being part of the idea-generation but letting a senior colleague make the final call’ (16%).

Despite this varied approach to problem solving, there’s usually a process we go through as individuals that allows us to come up with the best solution available. Choose from the multiple choice scenarios below to discover your personal problem-solving style and how you can incorporate elements of other styles to ensure you’re as rounded and effective as possible from beginning to end. If the scenarios in questions are new to you, take time to think through what your preference would be should it arise in future.

Remember, there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ responses or outcomes – this is intended to be a guide to understanding your personal style and how you can adapt it to include elements of others.

Q1. Your regular journey to work is scuppered by a cancelled train or broken-down bus. What do you do?

You reach out to other stranded commuters and organise a taxi-share. Come to think of it, there could be a business idea born of this

o other stranded commuters and organise a taxi-share. Come to think of it, there could be a business idea born of this

You already have your backup plan perfected from the last time this problem arose

You call your boss, explain the situation and suggest you work from home for the day, checking into the office regularly

Q2. A project you’re leading has swerved off track. How do you turn things around?

Spend time alone thinking through the problem, then delegate implementation of your solutions to members of the team

Go back to the drawing board. If something’s gone wrong, the plan wasn’t right to begin with

Go back to the drawing board. If something’s gone wrong, the plan wasn’t right to begin with

Go back to the drawing board. If something’s gone wrong, the plan wasn’t right to begin with

Q3. You’re part of a brainstorm group tasked with coming up with a theme for the next office social. Which brainstorming technique appeals most to you?

Random word game: five random words are chosen and group members shout out theme ideas inspired by each word

Reverse brainstorming: get the group thinking about the theme they definitely shouldn’t have

Starbursting: taking each point of a star you set out asking the ‘why’, ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘how’ and ‘where’ of the party

What would Beyoncé do? A role-playing technique whereby you ask what various individuals (anyone from your CEO to your favourite pop star) would choose as their theme

Q4. Which of these individual versus group work styles sits best with you?

You prefer to work alone, finding ideas wherever and whenever they spark up

Alone or group, whatever works best for the problem at hand

Alone or group, whatever works best for the problem at hand

You enjoy brainstorming alone, but need stimulus like the opinions and stories of others to find your best ideas

Q5. Your brainstorm group has come up with a handful of great solutions. How would you prefer to select the one to take forward?

Revisit the proposed solutions and ask how each could be tweaked to become the standout strategy – a completely different one may even emerge from the discussion

Examine the strengths and weaknesses of each proposition until a clear winner emerges

A straightforward vote whereby majority rules works best for you

Proportional representation: each group member has a number of votes they can weight towards one solution or divide among however many they like

Your results

Count up the letter or letters you selected most often. If your approach is spread you’re already well positioned as a rounded and effective problem solver. If you lean heavily towards one or two ‘types’, take time to also read the results for those letters completely absent from your choices, helping you to understand which areas you might be able to incorporate into your approach.

Mostly As: The Innovator

Your entrepreneurial spirit means you tackle problems head-on, often thriving on the challenge. You aspire to a solution based on fresh thinking and a point of difference from the crowd. Like 40% of everywomanNetwork members, you tend to prefer to solve problems alone, though you’re also a great person to have in brainstorms thanks to your love of generating ideas. Where you might trip up is in the implementation of the problem. Work on focusing on the detail and incorporating methodology to your design. The ‘cause and effect’ approach to problem solving could serve you well – not to dampen your creative thinking but to ensure its implementation is successful. In other words, really break down the problem. What caused it and what is the outcome? Your innovative approach is a winner when implemented with just enough process to ensure you’re still engaged.

Mostly Bs: The Lateral Thinker

Like The Innovator (see ‘Mostly As’) you take an indirect approach to problem solving, favouring ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking over a tried and tested methodology. Your thinking ‘around’ issues serves you well and along the way you often find yourself discovering solutions and ideas for other problems. To ensure your approach is rounded and effective, try incorporating elements of linear thinking. Using techniques like ‘starbursting’ and ‘A-Z’ (explained in our article ‘7 ways to unleash your creative side’) can ensure there’s process and planning behind your idea-generation. In group brainstorms, ensure support by the rest of the team by taking time to explain your thought process – not everyone thinks ‘outside the box’ and some may need convincing of your roundabout approach. You may even end up giving them the tools of lateral thinking in the process.

Mostly Cs: The Vertical Thinker

When a problem rears its head, you go into organisational mode, quickly getting to grips with the issue and looking for the obvious, easily and speedily-implementable solutions. You favour rational thought and logical planning. You stand by the words of US General George Patton: ‘A good plan implemented today is better than a perfect plan implemented tomorrow.’ To grow your approach, bear in mind Carl Jung’s opposing statement: ‘You cannot solve a problem with the same level of consciousness that created it.’ In other words, problems born of panic are not necessarily solved by haste. Stop and consider if you’ve overlooked a better leftfield solution in favour of the most obvious. Explore the problem before you rush to a solution that only fixes the symptom (as Sara says, replacing a damp carpet with new carpet isn’t going to solve the damp problem).

Mostly Ds: The Creative ‘Feeler’

Your approach to problem-solving is much like your approach to relationships and networking. You enjoy making connections and solving problems like they’re puzzles – by linking things up and making associations to other problems in other places. You’re a ‘sensory’ person and tend to ‘feel’ problems; part of solving a problem for you is really understanding and knowing it from your own and others’ points of view. This approach may mean you’re highly collaborative and therefore less likely to be seen as a decision maker or leader (like 16% of everywomanNetwork members you may be more comfortable letting a senior figure decide on the best route forward). Our popular workbooks ‘ Executive Presence’ and ‘Developing Leadership Behaviours’ are good starting points for harnessing your creativity and elevating yourself to the next level.

You may also like

Workbook: Running Brainstorms. This popular addition to the everywomanNetwork will give you more practical tools for ensuring your idea-sessions go off with a bang.


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