Article by YEC
Strong problem-solving skills are crucial in business. If you don’t have the ability to step back, assess the various causes and outcomes of a situation, and identify the right path forward, you and your team will be in a regular state of crisis.
To help you better handle the inevitable roadblocks every leader and entrepreneur faces, we asked a panel of Young Entrepreneur Council members to share their best advice on honing your problem-solving skills. Here’s what they said:
1. Reflect on Your Worst Times
Problem-solving is something we all deal with on a daily basis. However, we all handle our problems differently. In order to solve your own problems and teach others to do the same, you must reflect on your worst times and the processes you followed to get out of them. Take notes so you can reverse-engineer your actions and apply them to other situations.
2. Always Be a Student
As we reach certain accomplishments and gain credibility, our egos might get the best of us. One piece of advice for all thought leaders is to continuously learn from others. We have to be open-minded. Just because we are successful doesn’t mean we have no room for improvement. We don’t and won’t ever know it all. To hone our skills, we must be forever students.
3. Exercise Creativity Like a Muscle
You can exercise your creativity regularly to get better at problem-solving. It’s like a muscle — the more you work it, the stronger it gets.
Some helpful, free ways to train your creativity are writing, doodling, and brainstorming. It’s important to allow yourself to express any idea no matter how absurd it seems. Once you’ve come up with more answers than you need, you can whittle the list down to the most useful one.
4. Don’t Take Things Personally
When we can’t solve a problem as quickly or efficiently as we hope, we often blame ourselves. Ironically, blaming yourself makes it harder to solve new problems when they arise. I suggest that you always step back from a situation that requires a solution and look at it from an objective point of view.
5. Define the Problem Before Trying to Solve It
You need to know exactly what problem you’re facing before you can solve it. Lay it all out — the circumstances and your options — and decide what is best for you based on what you know.
6. Change Your Perspective
If you change the way you see a problem — perhaps by adopting another person’s perspective — you can make a more balanced and informed decision.
7. Bounce Ideas Off Other People
There’s a lot of power in sharing your problems and thoughts with other people; you get feedback and fresh ideas. Other people can often point out things you might have missed because you were too close to the problem. You don’t have to be alone when it comes to problem-solving.
8. Keep Your Higher Purpose in Mind
The best advice I have for leaders to hone their problem-solving skills is to keep a higher purpose in mind.
What drives you? Why are your putting effort and time into your business? Knowing the answers to these questions allows you to solve problems with more creativity, confidence, and power. Those around you will also see your passion, prompting them to develop leadership skills, too.
9. Look for Unusual Connections
The most extraordinary solutions to problems are not necessarily complex, but they are always creative. Creativity is not only about making something new. It’s also the ability to find unusual connections between familiar things. My advice is to exercise your creativity by soaking in as many ideas as you can. The more ideas you learn, the more creative solutions you prepare for.
10. Don’t Neglect Your Body
The body and the mind are connected. That means if you want to improve your mental health and problem-solving skills, you can’t neglect your physical health. Remember to exercise regularly, get a good night’s sleep, and take breaks if you spend a long time behind a desk looking at the computer.
11. Simplify the Problem
Simplify the problem down to its most basic core. Then simplify the solution. Identify two or three concrete steps that, when taken, will solve the problem. For the most part, it’s that simple.
12. Look at the Problem as an Opportunity
I would say one of the best ways to hone your problem-solving skills is to be aware of your mindset. If you allow yourself to be burdened or frustrated by the problem, then you are less likely to come up with the best solution. See problems as opportunities to learn. Get creative and be resourceful.
The best way to practice problem-solving is to expose yourself to new challenges and new industries. A great way to do that is by volunteering for a nonprofit or even a political campaign. You’ll interact with new people and learn new tools and approaches that can help you solve problems in your own business.
14. Read Case Studies
Wherever possible, read case studies of current and past leaders you admire. Their memoirs, internal reports, and analysts’ reports all help paint a vivid picture of how more established leaders have handled difficult decisions in wise ways. Even better, turn this activity into a group exercise by asking fellow executives to review the same cases and discuss their conclusions with you.
15. Change Up Your Routine
One of the biggest challenges to problem-solving is habitual thinking. To solve problems, you need to think in creative ways, and to think creatively, you need to get outside your routine. One of the best ways to get your brain in a creative space is to schedule a time to get away from your desk, go for a walk, and let your mind wander. You’ll find new ideas emerging in no time.
16. Face Your Problems Authentically
With every problem you attempt to solve, remind yourself of who you are and why you are doing what you’re doing. Face all your problems bravely and solve them based on your inner voice, gut feeling, and authenticity to yourself. Take pride in knowing you are being true to yourself and your mission and vision are intact.
A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.