Improving your complex problem solving skills

What is complex problem solving?

Do you enjoy understanding data and basing your solutions on facts? It means you’re a natural at complex problem solving – a skill that involves the objective and systematic analysis of problems.

Why is it important to the future of business?

Companies are facing complex problems every day. To manage these issues, large sets of information, known as ‘big data’, are used to define the right solutions. Artificial intelligence (AI) can gather huge amounts of data and analyse it, but businesses still need employees to question this information and use complex problem solving skills to define the right plan of action.

Why will this skills benefit you?

Our lives are only getting busier and more complex, so If you’re comfortable doing this, you’re also likely to be more confident and focused in your approach, and you’ll bring a fresh perspective and provide real value when working in teams.

This will help you to:

Focus on details and think analytically

You will be able to analyze large volumes of data without losing sight of the details. By showing the ability to ask the right questions at the right time, consider the wider context and ensure that you have all the relevant data sources, you will be a valuable asset to any team or business.

Show that you are solutions-focused

Rather than getting side-tracked by the negatives, you’ll have the ability to reframe a problem to come up with fresh solutions – and you’ll do it more quickly than others who may be stuck trying the same approach over and over again.

Offer realistic solutions

Problems are rarely solved alone and having complex problem solving skills is useful when collaborating with other people. This helps keep the team focused on practical solutions so they don’t get carried away with potentially unworkable ideas.

Exercises to try to deepen this skill:

Adopt a variety of complex problem solving behaviours

Surround yourself with people who are strong in this skill and identify the ways of working you could learn from and embody.

Ask “what is the problem we’re trying to solve?”

It’s easy to lose focus if there isn’t a common goal. Instead of being weighed down by past and potential problems, be solutions-orientated and positive. One simple way to help you identify your end goal is to visualise your ideal outcome.

Spot bias elsewhere

Now that you’ve identified your personal bias, you can expand this skill to try spot bias in a wider context. Pay attention to debates taking place in the public domain and talk to people who have differing opinions. Constantly questioning what you see and hear will help you develop your analytical skills.

Question data you see in the news

Start analysing the data you see in your day-to-day life. For example, if you come across an interesting statistic or a fascinating news article, investigate the source material and learn about the wider context. Is anything missing from the full picture? Asking the right questions ensures that all data gaps are filled so you can respond appropriately.

Recognize personal bias

Take care not to fall into the trap of only looking at problems from your own perspective and learn to have objective opinions. Think about an experience in your personal life and look at the facts without bias, then think about how you might apply this process to your day-to-day work.