If you can effectively solve problems at work, managers and colleagues will see you as a great resource. Problem-solving can bring teams together, streamline operations, create a more effective workplace and increase the company's productivity. It can also help reduce costs and increase revenue -- two key areas in which your employer will be thrilled to see improvement.
Brainstorming brings people together from all departments with different points of view to simultaneously concepts related to solving a particular problem. Ideas thrown out during a brainstorming session may be silly, valid or somewhere in between. The idea is to create a free-flow thinking pattern in which staffers play off and build on one another's contributions. During the process, you'll begin to eliminate ineffective ideas while fleshing out valid concepts and approaches.
Decision trees are a more formatted problem-solving approach than brainstorming, but the concept shares many of the same elements. A decision tree is a visual aid that starts out with staffers identifying a particular problem and then branching out with potential solutions. Different ideas each have different branches that include pros, cons and action steps. The decision tree format helps you visualize and narrow down viable problem-solving approaches.
Surveys provide a way to problem solve both inside and outside the workplace. For example, if you're seeing a dwindling stream of repeat business, and need to solve the problem of why customers are not returning to your business, a customer survey can pose the question to current and past consumers. This type of anonymous format allows people to provide honest feedback. The survey might ask about price points, customer service, ease of access and products. A survey can also be used internally. For example, if morale is low and turnover is high, an internal survey can help a manager identify potential issues that negatively affect staffers. Once the information is in hand, solutions can be devised.
Committees are effective for problem-solving, particularly when there is a specific, ongoing issue to be addressed. For example, a “green committee” might initially form to develop a company-wide recycling program, addressing the initial problem of reducing waste in the workplace. The committee may go on to evaluate other environmentally-related issues in the workplace, like the introduction of green cleaning supplies, replacing old equipment with energy-efficient models and other related tasks.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.