Problem Solving Systems

Definition: Being able to effectively resolve problems that involve people, things, and processes that require general logic and common sense. This may include gathering relevant information, considering alternatives, and drawing logical conclusions based on facts.


Consider these suggestions when honing your problem-solving technique:

  • Evaluate–gather information and clarify the nature of the problem

  • Analyze–brainstorm and formulate several possible solutions

  • Plan–create a step-by-step plan to resolve the issue

  • Delegate–assign specific tasks to those involved

  • Manage –schedule check-ins with yourself and those working with you to make sure everyone is on the right track

  • Review–monitor the outcome and review the problem to assess if it has been resolved

Solving problems increases your value and empowers those around you to think critically
— Debbie Allen - Fast Company Leadership

Self-Directed Learning Activities

Relevant Readings:


  • Kallet, M. (2014). Thin smarter: Critical thinking to improve problem-solving and decision-making skills. New Jersey: Wiley & Sons, Inc.

  • Kahneman, D. (2013). Thinking fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

  • Levitt, S.D., & Dubner, S.J. (2014). Think like a freak: The authors of freakonomics offer to retrain your brain. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

  • Roam, D. (2013). The back of the napkin: Solving problems and selling ideas with pictures. New York: Penguin Group.


Self-Guided Activities:

  • To hone your executive functioning and reasoning skills, visit: This website has several games that will help you improve your ability to concentrate, take in and implement information, and find creative solutions to difficult problems.

  • Create an analysis matrix, which should contain the details of the following: the overall issue, the cause(s) of the problem, and several solutions. Use the matrix to see if any of the offered solutions are practical and viable, and if they will resolve the issue and its respective cause(s). Use one of the Learning Journals to reflect after practicing the analysis matrix. Assess what went right and where you could improve, and analyze the overall outcome of your decision.

Guided Learning Activities


  • Work with your manager or team members to conduct a problem prevention analysis. Review potential problems; analyze their cause and the benefits of each potential course of action.

  • Lead a team meeting designed to solve a difficult problem and seek feedback on your contribution to the group’s problem-solving.

  • Before making an important decision, do a cost-benefit analysis and list out the pros and cons of each course of action. Be as objective as possible, and try to create a comprehensive list of options and their respective outcomes. Once you’ve listed everything out, get input from a supervisor to ensure that you have included all important factors, and then make the final decision. Use one of the Learning Journals to reflect after practicing the cost-benefit analysis. Assess what went right and where you could improve, and analyze the overall outcome of your decision.

Formal Training/Education

School and Course Module(s):

  • Northwest College:

CO/M 2015–Leadership Skills: This course is designed to educate specified groups in effective leadership skills. It includes discussion and practice in teamwork, communication, critical thinking and problem solving, planning, conflict management, and social responsibility. (0.5 hour lecture, 1 hour lab)

  • Western Wyoming Community College:

COMM 1050 –Conflict Management & Mediation: This course blends theory, research, and practical skills to help individuals better understand and manage conflicts. Additionally, this course offers guidance for those who sometimes find themselves playing the role of mediator, a neutral third party who assists disputants create their own solutions. Conflict is a natural, inevitable and potentially beneficial event in our personal and professional lives. Yet few of us take time to formally study and explore conflict. Managing conflict well requires skills, energy wisdom, and creativity