Problem Solving Skills: Definition, Steps and Examples

In this article, we hope to show you some problem-solving skills: definition, steps, and examples. Design thinking is an accepted method for problem-solving among software designers, but it’s also an excellent process when us ordinary mortals need to solve complex problems. Design thinking is an iterative process and encourages:

  • Education through failure
  • Constant iteration
  • Adaptation

Put simply, it’s solving complex problems with the end-user in mind. The link between Competitive Intelligence and problem solving may not be immediately apparent. But, we believe Competitive Intelligence is only about problem solving.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a tremendous problem-solving process within UX software designers world. Originating from a former client of ours IDEO broke down into six steps by:

  • Empathise
  • Define
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Test
  • Implement

This form of problem-solving doesn’t need to be used as a step by step process.

Helping you with problems

Here is an example. You could be looking to take a new product to market. You know your target segment but no idea how to attract users to your new product. The start of solving problems with design thinking is getting into the minds of your targets. Ask yourself what makes them tick? What problems they have and how would they use your product?

The design thinking problem process


Understand the problem and the people involved by trying to get inside their mind. How do they think and act and do? You also need to understand what the problem is. To get an understanding of the problem, you have to speak to the people involved. Understand why they think there is a problem. 


To get inside in their mind, you need to conduct a great deal of research. Research to understand what they think, feel, say, and do. The best research is based on speaking to them and observing what they are naturally doing. Ask yourself if you have any preconceived ideas about them and the problem. Empathy mapping, speak out load task analysis, and user interviews are excellent ways to do it. Ask where, when, how, who and most importantly, why?


Use sticky notes, whiteboards etc. So you have gained a picture and map from your research. And try and match, finding similarities, parallel actions and patterns.  These actions will help you define your problem and begin to solve it. You may, of course, end up with more questions or different problems to what you started with. 


Once you’ve defined your problem(s), you can start the exploration of potential solutions. 


The ideate phase, you see you come up with as many solutions as possible. You must be open-minded and ensure and no idea, no matter how stupid or bizarre is off the table. 


After you have thought of as many ideas as possible, it is now time to focus on taking the best solution and building out a prototype solution to enable testing. Build your prototype and to figure out if you have found a viable solution. 


Testing will reveal more failures than successes, and all are just as valuable. And it is always best to fail often and fail fast. Test the small changes as well as the significant changes. 


A test success is excellent. But there will always be a solution out there, and new problems will still raise their head. When testing, you will often go back to the research. You may need more research to move forward during the testing phases. 


In this article, we showed you some problem-solving skills: definition, steps, and examples. And we were using design thinking. We discussed what it is, how it helps problem solving and introduced the basic process.

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