How to Use Critical Thinking for Problem Solving

It doesn’t matter what type of business you are in; you are bound to run into problems. Some days it might seem like you are dealing with an endless stream of problems. When it’s an urgent issue, your only option might be to drop everything and respond quickly. That approach, however, might not result in the best long-term solution.

Take a moment and think of how you typically handle a problem. All too often we tend to do what comes naturally to us:

1. Run to a supervisor to fix

2. Say nothing and try to solve it on our own, eventually

3. Complain about it, but do nothing

4. Find a technology that could maybe help, but not solve

Other than number three, these all have a place in fixing the problem; however, before you do anything, we suggest that you first pause and think critically about the best way to solve the real problem.

Questions to Ask to Think Critically 

Getting to the root of the problem should prevent the problem from happening again and again or perhaps escalating.  Obviously, sometimes a problem needs a quick fix. But, often, spending some time on reflection can bring the best long-term solution. 

Take the time to ask these questions:

  •  What is the problem for which we are solving? 
  •  In what ways is the problem revealing itself? 
  • Which of the ways that the problem is revealing itself do we believe is the biggest problem to solve for and that will have the greatest impact if fixed?
  •  What are the potential root causes of this problem?
  •  Which of these do we believe is the true root cause?
  •  [Leaders] Have we asked the team for their solution?
  •  What have we done to address these problems to this point?
  •  Why did those not work?
  •  What solution are we suggesting?
  •  Why do we believe [solution] will work?
  •  How will we measure if [solution] is successful?
  •  What is involved in implementing [solution]?
  •  How long will it take to implement this change?
  •  How much is the total implementation costs?
  •  How will we get buy-in from the team?
  •  What is my go/no-go criteria?
  •  Is there a more simplified solution?
  •  What is my recommendation?

Slow Down for Better Decision

Because of the speed at which we move through the day and because of the never-satisfied cry of goal attainment, we often don’t slow down to think critically. We hate this saying, but it seems to be true in solving more challenging problems: fast is slow & slow is fast.

 Do the hard work of thinking critically. Solve the real problem with the simplest solution that will get the job done! This is a team effort, so getting the buy-in from the team will lead to the best results. Implement completely, 80% won’t solve the problem. Finally, once fixed, find the next biggest problem to solve. Rinse & repeat. 

 This approach will eliminate recurring problems and help your team operate at its highest level.

Advice to Accelerate Your Game

Helping your company grow involves endless decisions. Scroll through our list of podcasts to find advice from experts.  Then, listen and learn.

More Like This