IQ Doodle

How to Solve a Problem Using Six Steps

What does it take to become a great problem solver, and why is it so important? More specifically, what does it actually take to solve a problem? Problem solving is of course something that we do every single day. Life is full of problems, and in order to live life in optimal ways we must successfully overcome these problems. The level of happiness and fulfilment we experience is essentially tied to our ability to solve problems effectively. But is there a method or a process of steps we could take that would help us solve a problem? Well there actually is, and it requires working through six key phases.


How to Solve a Problem Using Six Steps

The preparation phase requires getting to know your problem at an intimate level. Begin by defining your problem in writing and then highlighting possible causes and desired outcomes. In order to solve your problem you need to be very clear about the nature of your problem. You must understand the What, When, Where, Why, Who and the How of your problem. For instance, ask yourself, what happened? When did it happen? Where did it happen? Why did it happen? How did it happen? And, who was involved? When you’re done, turn your problem into a question before launching into the next phase of this process.


solve a problem

Now that you have clearly defined your problem, it’s time to move onto the generation phase. This phase of the problem solving process involves brainstorming ideas that can potentially help you to successfully solve your problem. Your first objective is of course to list down as many ideas as possible, without judgment or criticism. Just list whatever ideas come to mind. Having completed this list, your next task is to take into consideration the benefits of each solution and the possible drawbacks that may arise. However, don’t allow drawbacks to dishearten you at this early stage of the problem solving process.


solve a problem

To solve a problem successfully often requires a lot of time and patience. Within the previous phase you spent a great deal of mental energy coming up with ideas and solutions. Your brain now needs time to process this information. This is where the incubation phase comes into play. Here within this phase of the process, you need to completely step away from your problem and indulge in a brainstorming nap. A brainstorming nap simply involves lying down with your eyes closed and just allowing your thoughts to drift. This allows your brain to go to work making new connections and associations.


The Six Step Problem Solving Model

Having completed your brainstorming nap, you should now feel mentally refreshed and maybe even quite inspired. It’s time to put this energy to good use within the evolution phase. This phase of the problem solving process involves the evaluation of potential solutions. Here you would spend time reviewing all your ideas, combining ideas, prioritizing ideas, and then eventually deciding upon a single idea for implementation. It’s important to also take into account potential scenarios that might result from moving forward with one idea over another, and the opportunity costs that might arise.


solve a problem

Having reached the implementation phase, you should now have one single idea in mind that will hopefully get you your desired outcome. It’s important though that you are very clear about what it is you want to accomplish, and how this idea will help bring that vision to life. Consider also the resources, tools and the support you might need to put this idea into action. How can all these elements be used to solve your problem most effectively? Also take into consideration possible obstacles you might face and how you could potentially overcome them. Only then should you settle on outlining a plan of action.


The Six Step Problem Solving Model

The final phase for solving a problem typically comes after the problem. This is of course the learning phase where we learn from our experience and use it as a platform that helps us work through future problems far more effectively. But the real learning phase actually begins while we are still working through the problem. We learn from our actions when we take the time to actually monitor our progress. Understanding what works and what doesn’t work can help us make more effective choices. We learn from these experiences and then adjust our course of action while still working on the actual problem.


Solving a problem can very quickly become a time consuming experience. However, it’s something that we can certainly get more proficient at with practice. Understanding each phase of this process is of course a great start, however problem solving also requires patience, self-discipline, determination and creativity.

Great problem solvers are also flexible and willing to adapt to changing conditions and circumstances. Moreover, they understand that what worked in the past may very well not work in the present moment, or apply to this particular problem. As such, it’s important that we are always vigilant of our unhelpful assumptions. Never allow these assumptions to lead you astray.

The six step problem solving method

Imagine for a moment you could develop new habits and methods of thinking where you naturally and effortlessly adopt these ideas into your life. How would that make you feel? Would you feel more fulfilled, empowered and in control?

Yes, there is such simplicity within this IQ Doodle, but of course there is a reason for that. Making positive change doesn’t need to be a complicated process. It just needs to be a consistent process where we progressively develop new habits-of-mind through repeated exposure and implementation. And that’s what these IQ Doodles are for.

We have prepared for you an IQ Doodle pack that includes several variations of this IQ Doodle that you can use for guidance and inspiration throughout the day . Use it consistently and you will begin making positive changes in the way you live, work and interact with others.

Visit the IQ Doodle Store to learn more about how to use this IQ Doodle and begin optimizing the way you live your life today.

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Design Responsibly



How to solve a problem in 3 steps: define it, redefine it, repeat.

by Mike Stringer

steps how to solve a problem

Businesses often follow a define-plan-execute method of problem solving: spend time up front rigorously defining a problem, develop a solution plan, and execute.

This sounds simple enough, but businesses large and small inevitably spend excessive resources following this method only to realize that, in hindsight, they should have solved a different problem. To lead an innovative company, learning to find the right problems is at least as important as solving them well.

The danger of setting a problem in stone

The right problems are often concealed by deceptively unambiguous problem statements. For example, in 2006, Netflix offered a $1 million award to anyone who could figure out a way to improve their viewing recommendations algorithm by 10 percent. Hitting the benchmark took competing teams from top companies and universities almost three years. While the amount of work procured for $1 million was impressive, the effort failed to solve the right problem and was never fully implemented .

If Netflix had framed the problem ambiguously, i.e., "we want to improve recommendations" rather than "we want to improve our recommendation algorithm," the answer might have been easier to come by. As Netflix’s business evolved to accommodate the preferences of each family member and provide more personal recommendations, they found this problem could be solved by simply splitting family accounts.

Most businesses set goals in terms of "we need to improve X by Y percent." On closer inspection, improving X by Y percent is often just a partial solution to a bigger, more ambiguous problem. Improving X by Y percent may incrementally improve your business, and using the define-plan-execute method will get the job done on a number of projects. However, if you don't revisit and redefine the problem, you run the risk of misusing valuable time and resources.

To this end, businesses should also look to set concrete goals while defining problems ambiguously. Problem solving methods for ambiguous problems aim to continuously redefine the problem. They start with a big, ambiguous problem and take an iterative approach to testing out solutions and changing course. At each step it's not worth figuring out details, because the problem statement will change at the next iteration.

Many names, one concept

People across many fields use these methods, but call them by different names. Designers and engineers who practice human-centered design "research, prototype, test, and iterate" to develop solutions. Entrepreneurs practicing the lean startup method use the "build, measure, learn" loop to build their businesses. Programmers practicing agile development use "minimal planning, short feedback loops, and iterative testing and improvement," to deliver software. Project managers talk of the Deming wheel : "plan, do, check, act."

Each community emphasizes slightly different aspects, but all of them have a common pattern: planning (just a little), building, testing, and doing it all over again better as quickly as possible. They all recognize that when we begin, we don't know exactly what problem to solve, and that in the process of solving it the problem will change. Without a willingness to periodically consider ourselves ignorant, reflect on the problem and adapt by building something new, it's easy to struggle with deciding what to solve, or worse, blindly sink time and resources into things that don't matter.

Ambiguous problems call for fast and cheap iterations

The more ambiguous the problem, the less important the planning step. Why invest in a plan that will be obsolete? This is why, for example, the design community opts to make the cycle faster and less expensive by starting with quick, low fidelity sketches and "duct-tape-and-popsicle-stick" mockups when the design goal is still ambiguous. They only transition to slower, higher fidelity prototypes as the design goal crystallizes.

Problems in data science (where our company Datascope operates) or in areas requiring large upfront investments are areas where an iterative design process can be especially valuable. Big Data has been in the news for a few years, but it's a classic ambiguous problem. Most companies are still grappling with if and how to use it. On top of that, Big Data projects can require large infrastructure costs, so the penalty is high for picking the wrong problem to solve or paying for tools that aren't flexible enough to adapt to future problems.

This is why we start with the biggest problems and the smallest pieces of work we can do. We "plan by doing", using these tiny pieces to clarify the most useful problems to solve. It's a technique that's been used in many different types of work, to great effect. And in our experience, it's the only way to produce truly transformative questions and answers.

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steps how to solve a problem

4 Steps To Solving Problems

Problem solving, problem, solution, solving problems

I used to work with a rapidly expanding start-up.

Rapidly expanding businesses are like bubbles. The only thing that keeps them together is a very thin skin.

As the headcount grew, so did the number of people running into problems and needing answers. They looked to their leaders to answer their questions and solve their problems. Their leaders were overwhelmed with more questions and problems than they could possibly handle.

The answer was to devolve problem-solving and decision-making lower down the chain of command. The staff needed training to think about and solve problems independently. Problem-solving is rarely taught as a skill in itself.

The 4-Step Coaching/Thinking Approach

The basic principle of coaching is helping people solve their own problems by asking questions. I revisited my coaching training and identified four basic questions that could be a simple problem-solving framework.

I trained the lowest level of team leaders to ask their staff these questions when they encountered problems so that later, team members would ask themselves the same questions and work independently and effectively. Here are the questions.

1. What are you trying to do?

This is better than “What’s the problem?” because it focuses on the goal. When asking someone, “What’s the problem?” you often find that you have to ask more questions to get the full picture. This tells you where they want to go. You can follow up with other questions:

2. What’s stopping you?

This is what most people think is the “problem.” Sometimes it helps to be like Columbo, the TV detective, and play “dumb.” This gets the other person to explain the challenge in more detail, and as she explains it, she starts to understand it better by thinking aloud.

Here are some follow-up questions:

3. What are your options?

This gets us into brainstorming mode. Brainstorming comes in two stages: idea generation, where there is no such thing as a stupid idea, and idea filtration where we filter the ideas to find what is practical.

4. What’s your plan?

Ideas are worth nothing unless they are translated into a concrete plan. Good plans have a start and end date, a concrete objective, and some sort of contingency in case things go wrong. Follow-up questions here include:

Ask these, and you will get your plan.

How Can You Use These Questions?

​ Here are three ways to use these questions. I recommend using them in the order presented to introduce these questions as a framework for thinking.

1. Coaching-based leadership

Ask your team members these questions to lead them through the thought process. At first, you may need to tell them answers in the “options” and “plan” phases. Later, they will answer themselves.

2. Peer coaching

When your team gets comfortable with these questions, get them to ask each other. At first, you should make it a structured activity. Later, they will start doing it with your prompting them.

3. Self-coaching

Encourage your staff to ask themselves these questions when they hit a problem. You can put the questions on the wall as a reminder. When they come to you with a problem, ask them, “Have you asked yourself these questions?”

If you have the budget, why not put these four questions on posters, mouse pads, coffee mugs, or T-shirts?

Does this work for you?

Are you trying to empower your team to work more independently? Try using this method! Let me know how you get on! I’d love to hear about it!


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How to Solve a Problem in Seven Easy Steps

By Dovid Spinka , LMSW

Unwanted situations are an inevitable part of life. Fully embracing and radically accepting that fact is a firm basis to managing difficult emotions. Acceptance is especially important when there is nothing we can do, such as when the weather is too cold, hot, or rainy, or when roommates continue to be loud after repeated requests to keep the noise down.

But in many situations, we can solve or at least minimize the problems at hand. Here are seven steps to problem solving, taken from the principles and practices of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) .

Step 1 – Describe the problem

Take the time to describe the situation you’re facing. Be specific and detailed, and include the consequences that you’re concerned about. For example, “I keep failing my exams despite the fact that I study a lot before taking them, which leaves me feeling anxious and fearful that I may not graduate.”

Step 2 – Check the facts ( all the facts)

Be mindful of extreme thinking and make sure that your description is correct. For example, did you really fail the exam? Or did you not get as high a grade as you had hoped for? How many exams have you failed? How much study and prep time did you actually put in beforehand? Is this a general exam issue or limited to a particular subject? Sometimes after checking the facts we realize that our description of the problem needs to be revised. If the facts are incorrect, go back to Step 1. If they’re correct, move on to Step 3.

Step 3 – Identify your primary goal

Take the time to clarify what needs to happen or change for you to feel ok. Keep it simple and be realistic – choose something that can actually happen. For example, “I want to improve the effectiveness of my studying, so I don’t fail any more exams”.

Step 4 – Brainstorm

Take the time to identify lots of solutions to achieve your goal. Think about as many solutions as possible, and don’t throw anything out because it seems strange or unrealistic. It is crucial not to judge brainstorming or evaluate ideas for feasibility at this stage. Have fun being a creative thinker. For example, could you… Study with your classmate Daniel who does well in exams? Ask to meet with your professor to get feedback and advice about the exams? Learn mindfulness and relaxation techniques to help improve your concentration during study time? Drop a few courses and take online classes for beginners, then try again next semester? Quit school and become a professional ballet dancer??

Step 5 – Choose a solution

Pick one of your brainstormed ideas that fits the goal and is most likely to work. Don’t aim for perfection – just pick the best answer. If necessary, do a pros and cons to decide between two or more good options.

Step 6 – Put the solution into Action

The entire enterprise of problem solving is aimed at this step: Putting effective solutions into action. However, people often get stuck with anxiety at this point. If thoughts such as “this is too hard” or “this isn’t going to work” arise in your mind, accept them and mindfully refocus on action. Stay focused and stay the course! For example if you selected studying with Daniel, call him up, explain the situation, and book a time to get together to study.

Step 7 – Evaluate the outcome

Take the time to think about how things went. Did your solution help you to achieve the goal? If the answer is yes, take even more time out to congratulate yourself and celebrate! And if not, don’t be disheartened – sometimes the best solutions come after several tries. Just go back to brainstorming (step 4) and try again until you succeed. Additionally, when solutions are carried out as planned, there are often secondary benefits that we can enjoy, so reap the benefit of those even if your planned outcome did not work out.

In sum, effective problem solving is a skill that needs to be learned, practiced, and honed over time. Therefore, we can be methodical, planned and deliberate about the process.

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How to Solve Any Physics Problem

Last Updated: December 20, 2022

wikiHow is a “wiki,” similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. To create this article, 23 people, some anonymous, worked to edit and improve it over time. This article has been viewed 304,792 times. Learn more...

Baffled as to where to begin with a physics problem? There is a very simply and logical flow process to solving any physics problem.

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