CPD tips: How to improve problem-solving skills

CPD tips: How to improve problem-solving skills

10 Feb 2023

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Throughout your personal and professional life you’re regularly going to encounter problem situations that require you to think on your feet and find the best solution. As such, problem solving is a hugely important soft skill, one that potential employers are always looking for when recruiting for new roles. When planning your own personal development, this is an area that should be considered, but you may not know where to start.

Here are two of our favourite problem-solving techniques, and a break down on how you can apply them to boost your effectiveness in the workplace.

The Six Hats

Meetings are one of the workplace situations where problem solving is needed the most but with multiple people involved it can often be more difficult than you’d expect. Edward be Bono created the “Six Hats Methodology” to guide attendees through creative problem solving. Each person is given a ‘hat’ to wear, with the aim of everybody offering a different viewpoint on the same subject matter. They are:

1. Blue Hat

This is for the meeting facilitator, who is tasked with following the agenda and keeping the discussion on track. If you need any tips for how to facilitate meetings, our recent article on How to make meetings more effective may be useful.

2. Green Hat

This person is empowered to be as creative as possible - generating ideas and keeping things interesting.

3. Red Hat

Feelings are hugely important in any decision, so this role is focused on keeping them at the forefront and highlighting ways that someone’s feelings may be affected.

4. Yellow Hat

The optimist, actively looking for benefits and values in each of the statements presented.

5. Black Hat

Think of this as a devil’s advocate - the role of giving critical feedback and offering alternatives to possible solutions. It may be the most uncomfortable role, but it’s arguably the most important.

6. White Hat

Not knowing all the facts can lead to poor decisions, and ineffective problem solving. Wearing the white hat means you need to provide insight, helping to back up or disprove any of the theories being proposed. With these six roles, any problem can be approached from a number of different angles that complement each other. This, in theory, should make the quality of the decision even better!

Methods to improve problem-solving skills

The Five Whys

The best problem-solving methods involve getting to the root of the issue. When running through the task at hand, or chatting to a colleague, try asking yourself “Why?” five times. At first glance, it may seem childish, but this means you can break down a complex problem into manageable stages, ending at the root cause. It’s important to identify the cause as this may actually differ to the problem initially identified! From there, you have the actual problem, and can find the correct solution.

Five Whys Technique Example

An e-commerce brand sees a 25% decrease in its website traffic. The company's Head of Digital Marketing plans a meeting with the web team, marketing managers and customer team to find the root cause of the problem. They use the following five whys approach:

Problem: 25% reduction in website traffic

Why is there a 25% reduction in web traffic? Fewer people are being visiting the site.

Why are fewer people visiting the site? The digital ads are driving fewer people to click through to the site.

Why are the digital ads driving fewer people to click through to the site? The highest proportion of budget has been allocated to a platform that is underperforming.

Why has the highest proportion of budget been allocated to a platform that is underperforming? The performance of digital ads hadn’t been monitored closely throughout the campaign.

Why hasn’t the performance of digital ads been monitored closely throughout the campaign? Resource wasn’t allocated to have a member of the team regularly monitoring and reporting on the campaigns performance. The cost of monitoring and reporting was given to the ad campaign budget. Digital advertising budgets had been reduced.

With this information the team makes a plan that ensures there is always enough resource for proper monitoring of digital ad campaigns within budgets as well as laying out plans for regular reports to be made within the department to ensure that performance of these ads are always understood and can be optimised.

Find problem solving CPD courses

One of the best ways to drastically improve your problem solving and decision-making skills is to take a dedicated CPD course. Established in 1996, The CPD Certification Service is the world’s leading and largest CPD accreditation organisation working across all industry sectors. We host a number of certified courses on behalf of our members within the CPD Courses Catalogue aimed at helping you learn problem solving techniques, models and processes.

We hope this was helpful. To learn some simple ways to improve your problem solving skills, you can read our last article. If you are looking to become a CPD Provider, please contact our team to discuss your requirements in more detail. Alternatively, if you would like to record your CPD, visit the myCPD Portal page where you can manage, track and log your learning in one simple place.

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