Finding the best possible solutions

Creating a startup business or managing a new idea that you believe has some potential is about problem-solving and strategic planning. Some people are good at it, and some are just rubbish – independent of academic credentials or time, I’m convinced that problem-solving is a learnable trait rather than just a birthright and that we are all capable enough to start managing new ideas and projects.

To solve customers’ needs and respond to their necessities, entrepreneurs must be great problem solvers. Every business is about solutions to customer problems – no problems equals no business. Problems are an everyday part of every business and personal environment, and here are nine simple steps to get you started. 

  1. Define the problem – clearly. Never jump into a solution immediately. Most of us go into the solution-mood without analysing and even before understanding the issue as a whole. In some cases, a very small problem can become a huge trauma with inappropriate actions to take, and in all cases, absolute clarity will make you think better in finding the solution ahead. 
  2. Pursue “facts of life” & opportunities. Remember, there are some things that we can’t do anything about. Remember that problems are nothing else but facts of life, and very often, what appears to be a problem is actually an opportunity to act upon.
  3. Challenge the definition from every single angle. Many problems have only one explanation. The more you define a problem, the more likely you will find the best solution – If, say, “sales are low” may mean strong competitors, ineffective advertising, or a flawed sales process. Therefore more opportunities for us to increase marketing strategies, revise sales processes and review our competitors. 
  4. Iteratively question the cause of the problem. I always say it is all about finding the root cause rather than treating a symptom. Always get to the root first so the problem doesn’t recur. Perhaps with different outcomes. Don’t waste time re-solving the same thing (problem) over and over again. 
  5. Identify diverse mix of solutions. The more possible solutions you develop, the more likely you will come up with the right one. The answer quality is nearly always proportional to the number of solutions considered in problem-solving. 
  6. Your potential solutions are your priority. An acceptable solution that can be done now will be consistently superior to the ‘perfect’ solution with higher complexity, a longer timeframe, and possibly a higher cost. Remember that every significant problem was once a minor that could have been solved easily. Do not procrastinate. 
  7. Make a decision. Select a solution (any solution) and then decide the course of action. The longer you put off deciding on what to do, the higher the cost and the more significant the impact for you and your business. Again, do not procrastinate. Your objective should be to deal with a majority of all problems immediately. At the very least, set a specific deadline for making a decision and stick to it. 
  8. Assign responsibility. Who exactly is going to carry out the solution? If you don’t delegate the possible answers within the problem scope, nothing will happen, and you have no recourse but to implement all solutions yourself.
  9. Set a measure for the solution. Otherwise, you will not know when and whether the problem was solved. Problem solutions in a complex system often have unintended side effects which can be worse than the original problem.

Good problem solvers are precious and respected individuals. In fact, success is often defined as “the ability to solve problems.” In many cultures, this is called “street smarts,” and it’s valued even more than “book smarts.” The most reliable entrepreneurs have both. Do you?

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