Keep Calm and Problem-Solve


—Bite-sized advice for better business writing—

March 25, 2020 

Keep Calm and Problem-Solve

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

— Albert Einstein

In these turbulent times, problem-solving skills are at a premium. Today’s eTip will spark the pistons of your problem-solving process.

What is problem solving? 

Problem solving is the process of identifying a problem and working toward a solution. This process requires you to switch back and forth between critical thinking and creative thinking.

Problem Solving

What does the process look like?

Follow these steps to find a solution to pressing problems.

Critical and Creative Thinking

Jump-Start Your Process 

Analyze a Problem

Much of our day-to-day thinking is mechanical—the prerecorded thoughts and ideas that pop into our heads without conscious effort. To think critically about problems, we must break through mechanical thinking and consciously focus on the causes. Start the process by answering these questions about a problem you face.

  1. Who is involved (those causing the problem, those affected, and those trying to solve it)?
  2. What exactly is the problem (define it)?
  3. Where does the problem take place?
  4. When does the problem occur?
  5. Why does the problem occur?
  6. How does the problem become apparent?
  7. List as many causes of the problem as you can.
  8. List as many effects of the problem as you can.

Brainstorm Solutions

Brainstorming quickly spins out ideas about a topic. In this case, the topic is a problem, and your ideas are solutions. The initial goal is volume—producing many possibilities, even absurd ones. After you finish brainstorming, you can decide which solutions have promise. Try it out!

  1. Get out a piece of paper or open a blank document.
  2. Write the problem you defined in the last activity.
  3. Set a timer for five minutes.
  4. Rapidly list as many ideas for solutions as you can. Write down every suggestion—even wild ideas. Don't pause to judge, which will only stifle your creativity.
  5. Choose a solution to explore further.

Complete the Process 

Learn more strategies for each step in the Write for Business Guide, and get advanced support by taking the Problem-Solving course.