Do you think of a PC when someone mentions troubleshooting?
When the computer leaves you hanging, you analyze and troubleshoot the problem and work your way down a list of possible causes until you find the right one.
As you test possible solutions, you will eventually find a fix that gets you back to a normal workday.
Troubleshooting works well for computer issues, but everyday life and work issues can be solved using the same methods as well.
Using Troubleshooting in Everyday Life
Tech and software problems require rigorous critical thinking and good problem-solving abilities to fix the issue that led to them.
When you get a notification that Windows 10 updates failed to install, or you realize your disk usage is 100%, or your internet connection suddenly lags and drops, you will immediately try to define the issue, analyze it, and apply possible solutions.
These same methods work well in contexts totally unrelated to computer issues. The very same careful testing and research can be applied to financial, social, political, or business problems.
We usually see the symptoms of a problem before we determine its cause, which means we need to conduct a rigorous investigation and analysis to solve it.
A proactive approach to recurring problems helps businesses too! Employees will be much more effective and productive if you train yourself and everyone around you to problem-solve. This will help tweak operations and eliminate bottlenecks and overlapping of tasks.
In this article, we’ll cover ways to develop a problem-solving mindset. An important part of this mindset is how you view a problem – it’s not really a problem, but a challenge.
So how can you tackle the challenge?
For example, when dealing with an IT issue, engineers first need to discover the root problem and know how things work and then consider what resources to use.
They are questioning the who, the what, and the when of the problem. Who is affected by this problem? What device did they use? When exactly did it happen?
The benefit of developing an “engineer’s mindset” is to minimize the perceived difficulty, and come faster to find a way around the problem.
You can replicate that in other areas of your life by asking the same questions.
Do you want to get a job you’ve been dreaming of? Outline the steps to reach the goal using the who, what, and when questions, then review your resources.
The first step could be researching the company and the people who work there to discover their mission and core values. Or it could be sending a personalized message via social media to connect with someone who already works there and start the conversation.
Thinking about resources available gives you confidence and makes the tasks less stressful. Here, learning how to stand out from other candidates and create connections will help with the know-how.
Begin by Discerning the Problem
A problem that’s missing definition or description is hard to solve.
Think of it in terms of Googling: If you don’t know what to search for, how can you find answers?
A lack of clarity about a problem can lead to confusion as we try to apply solutions that just aren’t working. We might start thinking we can’t even solve it because we think the solution is just too difficult or time consuming to grasp or find.
Or we unconsciously avoid recognizing a problem. People do this most commonly when they are the ones responsible for the problem appearing in the first place. It’s called deflection when everything else is at fault, but you.
When you’re too close to a problem, you might not see a solution that’s right in front of your nose. Often times, emotions will cloud your problem-solving skills.
Solution? Get another set of eyes. Have coworkers help discern it from their own perspectives.
Analyze the Problem Thoroughly
Before jumping straight to possible solutions, be sure that you have analyzed the problem and found the real cause behind it.
Problem analysis involves asking questions like these:
- What is the root cause of the problem?
- What are all the symptoms of the problem?
- What will happen if the problem isn’t resolved?
These questions will help you understand all the details of a problem and key factors that led to it, and then you can begin formulating informed and effective solutions for it.
Without conducting analysis first, you might apply solutions that will lead to further complications down the line and make it nearly impossible to get to the actual cause.
Seek Different Perspectives
It’s hard to get to the bottom of the business process dysfunctions or other issues in the workplace without getting everyone involved in a dialogue.
After all, everyone affected has their own input that can help.
Actively gather other perspectives about the issue, because everyone’s expertise can contribute to a long-lasting solution. Their point of view might help shed light on an aspect you have overlooked.
As software developers often attest, simply asking a question about a problem can cause a sudden epiphany.
Even when others lack the answer to the question themselves, the act of talking about it can trigger fresh ideas.
Pursuing coworkers’ perspectives is a crucial part of problem-solving as well.
Set Aside Solid Blocks of Time Devoted to Problem-Solving
Once the problem is well-defined and you’ve covered different angles of looking at it, it’s time to come up with solutions.
When it’s time to plan and execute those solutions, scheduling unstructured or solitary time can be a good idea.
Undistracted time helps us stay rational and objective about how to solve a problem, especially if it’s a social or political issue that inspires emotion or bias.
The best way to achieve effective solutions can be to clear your calendar and avoid anything that could interrupt or upset you during brainstorming and planning solutions.
There will be less opportunity for oversights or errors when you give yourself that quiet time.
Test Solutions to Make Sure the Problem Was Solved
When it appears that a solution works, it’s important to take time to test that it really is solved before moving on.
Why not just test solutions until you find the right one?
Because a thorough analysis provides optimized solutions that address all the factors that caused the issue in the first place.
Using the hit and miss strategy might lead to a solution, but often it won’t cover everything that led to the problem, which means the problem will simply reappear after a while.
Sometimes the initial fix creates a new problem that needs its own solution.
In other cases, the solution only partially solves a larger problem. If symptoms persist, then a new analysis may be needed to arrive at a complete solution.
Problems that are intermittent can be the most difficult to confirm as solved. They reoccur under specific conditions that could be rare.
The result is that a solution might not have fixed it, but the issue doesn’t happen again long enough to appear solved.
Only by monitoring the situation after applying a solution can you be sure of the results.
A problem-solving mindset means more than attempting to resolve problems as they happen. It entails a careful and objective analysis of a problem as well as the results of any solutions devised for it.
When you learn the basic process and apply it to different contexts like workplace politics or financial strategies, your overall productivity will increase.
That’s because someone with a problem-solving mindset won’t settle for intermittent or unaddressed issues that create inefficiencies and limit a company’s potential.
Instead, problem-solvers proactively notice issues and advocate solutions.
They are equipped with the skills to deal with any problem and serve as an example to their coworkers.
Ashley Wilson is a digital nomad and writer. She writes about business and technology. Her love of digital productivity resulted in a monster guide on Windows 10 Errors so everyone can make troubleshooting a habit. Fun fact: She has been known to reference Harry Potter quotes in casual conversation. Connect with Ashley on Twitter.