Problem solving is an essential skill for anyone, regardless of occupation or field. But it is even more important for business owners and managers to be able to hone and develop this essential skill. Problem solving in business is necessary to develop innovative and profitable solutions to address customers’ pain points.
Thankfully, this critical skill can be learned and developed over time. This article will explore practical tips to help you overcome complex problems in business and become an effective problem solver. But first, why is problem solving so important in business?
Why is problem solving important in business?
So much premium is placed on this skill that about 85.5% of employers look for problem-solving skills in the skillsets of their potential employees. Problem solving in business is the process of closing the gap between your business outcomes and your business goals by establishing processes that mitigate risks and encourage innovation and profitability.
Problem solving in business helps you to achieve the following:
- Improve profitability.
- Cut costs and maximize available resources.
- Stay innovative and create new solutions for business processes and customers.
- Maintain a competitive edge above other businesses by observing market trends and adapting as required.
How to solve complex problems in business
Solving complex problems in business involves a step-by-step process to significantly reduce the risks to your business and provide opportunities for business growth. These are some of the steps needed for solving problems in business:
Identify the problem.
Any problem-solving process should start with identifying the specific problem. While this might sometimes seem obvious, unless you take a critical look at the issues, you may wrongly identify the problem, rendering the entire process useless.
Identifying the problem involves getting to the root of the issue and not just its symptoms. For example, if you notice a decline in your profit margins, it could be a sign of many different things, ranging from the external such as an economic recession, or the internal such as bad marketing or even an unmotivated workforce.
If your problem is that your employees are unmotivated, increasing your advertising budget and changing your market strategy might not do so much for your bottom line. Therefore, you must be as thorough and specific as possible in identifying the problem.
Analyze the problem in relation to your business.
Once you have identified the specific problem, then you should analyze it in relation to your business. You can do this by deploying a simple SWOT analysis. A strategic analysis of your strengths and weaknesses as a business will help you identify possible solutions that would not negatively impact your business.
This would also allow you to see the opportunities that may arise from solving the problem at hand, and the threats to look out for.
The aim is always to arrive at a solution to the problem. However, proffering solutions is not an entirely straightforward process, and you will likely have different approaches to solving the problem.
Examine your options and lay them out. Your solutions must address the specific problem and be sustainable and logical in the bigger picture. As a business, you must try to involve as many people as are relevant to the issue to come up with the best solutions from different perspectives.
Evaluate solutions through research.
The most obvious solutions are not always the best solutions to any problem, which is why this step is equally important. To offer your business insights into how viable your solution is for the customer, you must evaluate your options critically and conduct data analysis.
Market research allows you to get information that will help you decide if your proposed solutions are in tune with market trends and consumer needs. You should also examine the risks and benefits of each solution.
Test out your solutions.
Once you have data to back up your solutions, you can devise the best approach to deal with your problem. Sometimes, this might involve adopting a combination of your proposed solutions as opposed to going for one or the other.
Once this is settled, you want to test out your solutions on a small scale to mitigate risks. Adopt a lean planning approach to solving problems. This will allow you to change course if, and when, necessary. You must be able to refine and pivot your ideas.
Implement a solution.
If your solution succeeds on a small scale, then you can begin the process of full implementation. When you implement your solution ideas, you must ensure that you have covered every part of the solution proposed. The solution to a problem can be just as complex and multi-layered as the problem itself.
Explore your solution fully, as this is the only way to know for sure if it is working or not.
The process does not end with implementing the solutions to your problems. You must develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to show how well your solution works. You should develop metrics with which you will measure the success of your solution.
Have milestones to check if your goals are being reached and you are addressing the problem you set out to solve and not just the symptoms of the problem. Finally, depending on the outcomes of your implementation, you might want to reevaluate whether to keep working with the solution or chart a new course.
Becoming an effective problem solver
It is not enough to learn how to solve complex business problems — you must evolve into an effective problem solver. Problem solving is a skill you can learn by developing other soft and technical skills. By developing your skills, you can apply the processes learned more effectively.
First, to become a better problem solver, you must develop soft skills such as emotional intelligence, resilience and decisiveness. This will serve you well in situations when your team is not responding to workable solutions, or the attempted solutions create more business problems.
Another thing to pay attention to when becoming an effective problem solver is your analytical and research skills. Data-driven solutions are usually more viable and successful. You need to learn the art of in-depth research and data analysis. These are skills you can develop through Aston University’s Online DBA. Advanced doctoral programs help business leaders build the technical skills to solve complex business problems. The more skilled a business leader is, the higher their chances of achieving better outcomes.
In conclusion, you must realize that problem solving is a process, and becoming an effective problem solver takes practice.