Successful people all do one thing: solve problems. They don’t just stare at a problem and wish it would go away. The magic key to solving your big, difficult, looming business problems is to break them down into smaller parts and then deal with these smaller parts. By viewing your issues through this prism, you can focus intently on solving a problem through the following series of steps instead of preparing to tackle it all at once.
1. Describe the problem.
Do this in writing. Often, you’ll find that simply explaining the whole problem to yourself will cause you to see the solution. But not always, so if that doesn’t make the situation clear, go on to Step 2.
2. Break the problem into smaller, more manageable parts.
Make a list of the parts of the problem, breaking it down into manageable parts that don’t seem intimidating. If one item on the list still seems too hard, break it down further still into even smaller parts. Then arrange your list in a logical order according to what to do first, second, third and so on.
3. Write down the obstacles.
This step may come as a surprise, but it’s important. Take a clear, hard look at what the obstacles are and then list them. Being optimistic is a good thing, but no matter how positively you think about a problem, you’ll improve your odds of success if you pay attention to and prepare for the likely obstacles.
4. Brainstorm possible solutions.
Write down as many solutions as you can. Be as creative as possible. At this point, your goal is quantity not quality. Don’t keep from writing down an idea just because it seems stupid or irrelevant. Often what seems like a bad idea can spark your imagination in ways that lead to good ideas. These new ideas can turn out to be highly creative ones that might never have occurred to you otherwise. You’d be surprised how often this happens.
5. Stretch to find one more solution.
Ideas that come when you’ve had to stretch for them often turn out to be the most useful of all. There’s a reason: In many cases, if the answer was easy or obvious, it would already have been done by now. It’s when you stretch to get a new idea that you come up with the most creative ideas — the ones that not everyone has already thought of. The most creative, least-obvious solutions may have the best chance of solving your problem. Something to keep in mind at this point: Thomas Edison was right when he said, “When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: You haven’t.”
It’s when you stretch to get a new idea that you come up with the most creative ideas.
6. Pick the best solution.
When you’ve gotten as far as you can with the brainstorming aspect of problem-solving, it’s time to put on your realist hat. Remember, it’s a different mindset at this point. Your job is to figure out, of all the ideas you’ve come up with, which is the best. Determine which solution or solutions best combine solving the problem and having the resources available for accomplishing it.
7. Act on it.
Surprisingly, people often come up with a good solution but don’t pull the trigger. They procrastinate when it comes to implementing the idea. Successful people, in contrast, have a penchant for action. They are not only good at thinking of solutions; they’re very good at plunging in and doing them. They know that the problem isn’t solved until the plan is put into action and completed.