Four steps to solve complex problems

Choosing your career path, finding the right university course or even figuring out which pizza to have - think of the last time you had to solve a difficult problem. Was there a lot of information to consider? Did you approach it logically? How did you know whether it was the right decision? 

Complex problem solving is the ability to examine information in a difficult situation and choose an accurate response. Often there's no one correct answer – it all depends on what you're trying to do and what factors you need to take into account.

As artificial intelligence (AI) takes care of more basic tasks, the ability to solve complex problems will become more in demand than ever. It's a key skill in today’s world of work, and will be increasingly important in the workplace of the future.

Understanding the issue, knowing any limits and going through a logical process can help you tackle complex problems – it’s all about asking the right questions. Try applying these four tips to your next big problem.

What is the problem?

Who set you the task?

Are they the only person involved in defining that problem, or are there other people’s perspectives to consider?

Have they correctly identified the issue?

What steps will you need to take to break this down to get to the solution?

Can it be more specific?


Are there any limits to be aware of? Is there a deadline? What budget do you have to work with? Are there any other things that might affect the process?


Is there already a preferred approach or choice of solution? Are you being completely objective or do you need to look at your own bias?

What don't you know?

What other sources of data do you have access to that will help breakdown the problem?

Are there still questions that need to be answered before you can come to a solution?

Are there any wider issues you need to be aware of?

Take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

What does that all mean?

What have you learned from the data?

What is most important?

What conclusions can be drawn?

Which is the best course of action?

Sound interesting?

Asking the right questions, digging for data and interpreting those results helps us solve complex problems every day at EY Financial Services. Want to join us? Head over to our opportunities page to see what role you could play.