Problem-solving is about achieving satisfactory results through application of relevant skills to a questionable situation. It simply bothers on resolving a difficulty or worry using pertinent competencies and qualities.

Problem-solving skills

Problem-solving ability is a collection of a host of skills and qualities, one of which, more importantly, is critical thinking skills. This includes industry or job-specific skills. These skills put together will require problem definition, designing an appropriate solution, and putting it to efficient use. No single problem can ever be solved with just a skill no matter how minor it is. The more complex a problem is, the more the skills and competences needed to solve it.

Problems are integral part of human life, occurring inevitably in all spheres of human endeavour – at homes, schools, workplaces, sometimes in their numbers at the same time. But, skilfulness in handling them is highly recommendable and seriously sort-after. Many high-paying organizations wouldn’t hesitate to employ a skilled problem-solver once they confirm the ability in him and there is a vacancy for him to fill up.

How to apply problem-solving skills in a situation

I will illustrate how a teacher used problem-solving skills to solve a problem in a school accident:

The accident

It was play time. Miss Allen, the Grade 1 teacher in the school, led her class kids out of the classroom to use a slide in the playground. Her class assistant was not in school. She directed and assisted them unto the slide climbing through its ladder turn after turn. When it was Laura’s, she tried climbing the slide, she slipped, fell with her side on a sharp plastic part of the slide and suffered a major cut on her arm. She bled profusely. The experience was novel to her but she possessed the qualities of a successful person

Proffering solutions

Miss Allen took her away from the scene of the accident. She laid her gently in a comfortable position and consoled her without allaying any form of fear or hopelessness as she sobbed bitterly (controlled the situation). This made Laura to feel safer then (show of leadership qualities). She applied pressure on the wound but the bleeding didn’t stop (technical ability)

Thinking critically of the situation in her mind to figure out her next move in the shortest possible time, Miss Allen decided to stay back but sent for what she needed to give first aid (good decision made). Leaving the children behind seeing blood on Laura wouldn’t be a good idea (use of initiative)

In the next minute, Miss Campbell, the Grade 2 teacher, arrived at the scene with a first-aid box in her hand (resourcefulness and teamwork).

Miss Allen washed the wound with water and soap; dabbed an antibiotic ointment on it, put on a bandage and elevated the injured arm above the heart. She continuously applied pressure until bleeding stopped (thinking out of the box, creativity, job-specific skills and dynamism). Teachers are meant to be dynamic. Miss Allen took Laura away for further treatment. Laura became much stable after that.

She handed the rest of the kids over to another teacher (collaboration), went to head teacher’s office and updated her on the incident (show of responsibility) and they deliberated on it for the next possible action (collaboration and taking responsibility)

She honestly explained to Laura’s uncle who came to pick her up after dismissal about the accident tendering her apology to his satisfaction (good communication skills). You can say sorry for no wrong-doing.

Laura’s dad, furious about the incident, called the head teacher of the school much late in the evening and threatened a law suit against the school identifying the absence of the assistant teacher as the root cause of his daughter’s injury.

A visit by Miss Allen to his home the following day was enough to settle the matter (proactive, influential and problem-solving skills in play). Laura’s dad was full of smiles as he was seen dropping Miss Allen with his car at the school gate later that morning.

How to improve your problem-solving skills

1. Acquire and develop skills in your discipline

Developing strong knowledge and skills in field of study through coursework, training and practices will make one a better problem-solver.

2. Learn how to solve problems from others

You should observe your experienced colleagues solve problems as a way of learning to improve your own skills and asking relevant and career-helpful questions. You can as well read practical problem-solving book in your profession or industry to gather more knowledge.

3. Practice problem-solving

Get involved in problem-solving practices and roles and assess their viability even if it requires using problem-solving scenarios online as practical tools.

Ekene Ifechukwu

Ekene Ifechukwu is education writer. He has over 7 years experience in teaching and tutoring. He has taught in primary and secondary schools. He has affection for training children and young people. He aims at improving other people's lives through education.