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What is a Problem-Solving Process for a Small Business?

problem solving for a small business
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Have you ever been on an Escape Room experience? They have turned problem-solving into a popular trend in entertainment today. They involve groups gathering in a themed room where players are given a clue to start solving puzzles. The puzzles usually take less than an hour to complete this complex challenge. In addition, players describe the experience of being in a live video game. Escape rooms are one of the fastest-growing forms of entertainment today and highlight our passion for problem-solving, from learning to walk and solving our first maths problem at primary school.

What Is a Problem Solving Process?

What is a Problem-Solving Process Problem-solving is a process that helps you identify the cause or causes for an event, situation, issue, or challenge to find potential solutions to address it. It can be utilised in many areas of life, including business, education, health care, personal development, relationships, parenting, sports, technology, travel, and more.

The goal of problem-solving is not only to resolve issues but also to learn from them. Moreover, we can make better decisions when solving problems because we have learned new things about ourselves.

A common mistake people make when trying to solve a problem is to assume that they know what needs to happen or why it happens. They also believe that they already have the answer to the question. Unfortunately, these assumptions lead to incorrect conclusions about the cause of the problem.

Entrepreneurs are problem solvers by nature. You may be struggling to decide on how to grow your business, or you might need help with customer retention, but either way, there’s much thinking and creating strategies that go into running a successful small business. But the skills necessary for success in entrepreneurship can also apply to other areas outside of starting your own company.

If you’re having trouble figuring out how to best market your product, think about who would be interested in it and cater your marketing efforts accordingly

-If you’re trying to get more people on board as employees at work (or vice versa), consider what their strengths are and assign them tasks accordingly based on that knowledge.

We recognise that these decisions are essential, but they are unlikely to need a careful or detailed analysis of the options. Instead, we are concerned with decision-making as a process that begins with recognising the need to make a decision, establish what outcome is required, and identify the possible choices and the likely consequences of each option. It is part of the long problem-solving process, including implementing the actions that followed and monitoring progress to solve the problem.

Decisions are not made in a vacuum. Previous decisions determine available options, and it may be necessary to build on these to achieve strategic plans and Team objectives. It may sometimes be required to revisit previous decision’s if they hinder the effective achievement of the new goals. Decision-making is complex because it has to accommodate previous decision’s and because any decision will affect the context of future ones.

Problem-solving techniques

We will look at some of the problem-solving techniques you can use in your business environment and the benefits to your business team development and improving finding a solution to increase the efficiency and profitability of your business.

Brainstorming

A valuable technique for productive thinking amongst a group involved with the issue and is the technique that allows generating ideas to deal with the current situation. It’s used in many different fields, including business and marketing. Brainstorming can be done with or without the use of technology.

Within a short period, the goal is to generate as many creative solutions as possible provide corrective action to resolve the issue.

This process helps people look at the current situation and think outside their usual way of thinking about problems.

Brainstorming techniques are often used by teams who want to develop new ways to solve an existing problem and provide improved solutions to resolve real-life issues. In addition, it may also help individuals get out of the ruts they’ve been stuck in by working in and create a collaborative process in which the team can be involved in a learning process which ultimately should enhance team development.

Brainstorming has become increasingly popular over recent years due to its effectiveness at coming up with innovative ideas that would otherwise not have occurred to you. However, there are several methods available when using this method.

Free Association

A problem-solving technique where participants write down any thoughts that occur during the production process and record these on paper during the session.

Free association is a problem-solving method of developing new ideas through a chain or a cycle of word association. Creating a semantic relationship between every word from the obtained list of associations and the problem might help find a helpful analogy containing creative ideas and could lead to a conclusion to solutions.

1.Write down a word or symbol that seems directly related to the problem or some aspect.

2. Write down whatever is suggested by the first step, ignoring all concerns for its relevance to the problem. Then, develop a series of associated words of at least 20 in total.

3. Review the list of words and select those that seem to have particular implications for the problem.

4. Using the above-selected associations, develop ideas that seem capable of solving the problem. If none of the ideas seems useful, go back to step 1 and repeat the process, using a new symbol or word.

Visualisation

In this technique, participants draw pictures or diagrams to illustrate the problem. This process helps us understand if we see the problem in the same way and clearly understand the problem. By drawing pictures of the process, you may now understand the reasons for the situation and develop a response to resolve the issue.

Lateral Thinking

In 1967, Dr de Bono wrote “Lateral Thinking”, which described his approach to creativity. Lateral thinking involves breaking down large tasks into small steps. Each step should focus on one aspect of the task. In addition, each step must be broken down further until all elements of the original task have been addressed.

Lateral thinking is a method of problem-solving that involves looking at a problem from a different angle. It is often described as “thinking sideways” or “looking at things from another perspective.”

There are two main benefits of using lateral thinking. Firstly, it allows us to look at situations differently. In addition, it encourages us to consider alternative options before making decisions.

Secondly, it makes our brains more flexible because we tend to fall back on habitual responses when facing a difficult situation. By changing our perspective, however, we allow ourselves to explore new possibilities.

In his book on Lateral Thinking Edward de Bono proposed four techniques for lateral thinking: awareness, random stimulation, alternatives, and alteration.

Awareness:- De Bono believes that we must first understand how our minds work before we can change them and we must resist established patterns.

Random Stimulation:- Exposure of random noise can be an important part of lateral thought. We normally try to block out all distractions and focus on the task at hand. But de Bono argues that allowing in a variety of information by taking a walk, listening to a podcast, talking to a stranger, taking a new route to work, etc., can positively impact our problem-solving process.

Alternatives:- The third technique is to deliberately consider alternatives. You may have already settled on what you think is the perfect solution to your problem, but this technique encourages considering other options. De Bono believes that it is the most effective way to truly understand the issue from all angles, and so, to find the best solution

Alteration:- A reversal of the relationship between parts of the problem, going in the reverse direction of what’s implied, breaking patterns down to smaller pieces, and translating the relationships into analogies and translating them back are all ways to cultivate an ‘alteration mindset’ while problem-solving.

When working through a problem, it’s essential to keep your mind open. If you try too hard to figure everything out, you’ll end up getting frustrated. So instead, just let yourself go wherever your thoughts take you.

Problem-Solving Strategy

It is vital when you are looking for practical solutions for a problem encountered within your business that everyone fully understands and commits to following an agreed strategy. A structured approach to decision making involves a logical sequence of five stages. The first three are the decision-making process, and the final two are the actions following the decision, which lead to a solution to a problem.

Step 1: Identify and define the problem

The first step in the problem-solving activity is to identify what you want to solve. Identifying the problem may sound obvious, but often we don’t know what our goal should be. For example, we might think, “I’m having trouble getting my work finished”, without knowing why this is happening. Or we might say, “My boss doesn’t like me.” Without identifying the specific reason behind these statements, there’s no point finding ways to change things.

  • Clarify the Problem

The second step is to clarify the problem if we are to find a realistic solution to the problem. This can be difficult because we are often so close to our thoughts about the situation that we don’t realise they represent reality. You can start this process by asking questions of yourself or others who know the issue at hand. In addition, it is helpful to write down everything that comes to mind during the clarification phase. You will use this information later on in the problem-solving process.

Once you’ve identified the problem, you’ll next need to decide upon its purpose. What does the problem mean to you personally? To other people involved with the situation? How would you describe the problem to someone else? Once you understand the meaning of the problem, you’re ready to move forward.

  • Identify Possible Causes of the Issue

This may involve a lot of brainstorming or simply listing out all possible causes that could cause the problem. This should include any potential issues with hardware, software or configuration issues. Furthermore, if you suspect that something external such as another person or company, is responsible for the problem, list them here too.

Step 2: Define the Goals

Define what needs to be done to solve the problem and which of these is essential. This may include defining the scope of work for the project. It is important to set SMART objectives for the project and define which of the outcomes are essential and which are desirable If no goals are specified, then the problem will continue to grow until someone determines them.

Step 3: List Potential Solutions

This involves coming up with different alternative solutions to fixing the problem. For example, if you have computer issues, one option might be changing some settings within the system while keeping the same operating environment. Another possibility might be to reinstall the software onto the computer completely. A third option might be to contact technical support directly.

The goal should be something that can be measured by an objective metric such as cost savings, revenue increase, etc.

Prioritise Problems Based On Impact & Severity

Which problems should receive immediate attention? Which ones need more investigation first?

Rank each problem based on its impact and severity.

Step 4: Develop Action Plan

Develop an action plan that addresses each potential root cause of the problem.

If necessary, develop a workable solution based on the identified root cause and other factors.

  • Communicate the decisions which have been made to all those who will be affected by the decision
  • Once you have confidence in the solutions, the time is right to execute the proposed solutions.
  • Monitor progress towards achieving the goals.
  • Review results periodically until completion.

Step 5: Monitor and Control

  • Evaluate the results of the solution.
  • Was the problem solved? How was the issue resolved? What are the benefits of fixing the problem?
  • Did the problem solve itself without intervention? Why/why not?
  • Were any unexpected consequences discovered during the resolution?

The steps above illustrate one way to solve problems. There may be others ways to approach the same problem. Therefore, it’s essential to find out what is the best solution for your business.

Every aspect of life, including the business challenges, will uncover numerous problems for the small business owner. Therefore, problem-solving skills using collaborative & proactive solutions to will enable you to make better, more effective decisions that will help you grow your business.

If problem-solving is a skill you would like to explore further, I recommend you explore the free courses on problem-solving from the following universities; no qualifications are required, just a desire to improve your problem-solving skills.

Further Information

Each of these courses will help you develop your Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Skills

1.Creative Problem Solving and Decision Making

2.Creative Thinking: Techniques and Tools for Success

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