Action Wheel Leadership

Teaching Problem
Solving Skills

Action Wheel Leadership Site Map

Teaching problem solving skills can be rewarding. When you share some creative problem solving techniques you have given a lifelong gift. Problem solving is the focus of our own Action Wheel Leadership model as developed by Dr. Robert Terry in his book Authentic Leadership: Courage In Action

Teaching Problem Solving Skills

The problem solving methodology used by The AWL Group begins with the Action Wheel Leadership Assessment.

Those who find problem solving intuitive often have difficulty articulating just how they approach a problem.

Even highly analytical individuals often struggle to describe the steps they take reach a solution.

There are, however, reliable methods that can be used to successfully train others in creative problem solving techniques.

Identify the Problem

Before tackling any problem, the problem solver must have a clear understanding of the exact nature of the problem. This can often be one of the biggest roadblocks when it comes to teaching problem solving skills. It's tempting to jump right to possible solutions. However, unless you're completely clear on the details of the problem, solving it becomes difficult, if not impossible. When teaching problem solving, always stress how important it is to first identify the problem. Here are some suggested questions a problem solver can ask when trying to identify the problem:

  1. What should happen or not happen if this problem is solved?
  2. When did the problem start?
  3. How often does the problem occur?
  4. When does the problem not occur?

As you can see, identifying when a problem is not happening can be just as enlightening as identifying when it is happening.

Look For Possible Causes

Although this may appear to be a jump to the solution phase, resist the temptation to point to an answer. Another step in teaching problem solving skills is pointing out the resources available to the problem solver. If a problem involves or affects several people, it is important to get their input about how it affects them. Problem solving is often a team effort so ask for other's opinions on the problem. It may be just one person's unique view of a problem that can lead to a solution. Brainstorming can be an effective way to generate ideas.

Evaluate All Possible Solutions

When teaching problem solving skills to someone who is trying to solve a particular problem, be sure they learn how to step back and look at the big picture.

  • Have the problem solver consider all the data and information he or she has gathered. 
  • Making a list of like items can help with seeing a pattern. Even unlikely ideas should be included, but placed in a separate column. 

As possible solutions emerge, spend some time listing the advantages and disadvantages of each. Questions such as "If this solution is implemented, what will the outcome be?" are helpful.

How and When to Implement the Solution

Teaching problem solving means more than just teaching how to find the solution. It means helping the problem solver determine the most effective and realistic way put the solution in place. Some solutions might be so complex and have so many unplanned side effects that they turn have problems of their own. By determining the most efficient and least disruptive way to implement a solution, the possible side effects are lessened or eliminated.

There are many challenges to teaching problem solving skills but the outcome is very rewarding. Problem solving is a skill that anyone can master with practice and patience.

Related Pages:

Problem Solving Exercises

Problem Solving Steps

Types of Decision Making

Action Wheel Assessment

Leadership Assessment Tools

Action Wheel Leadership Programs and Workshops

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