Business problem solving
We all know someone who always seems to have the answer. They’re prepared for any situation and solve problems quickly and decisively. These people are typically great leaders in business and in life. But is business problem solving a natural talent? Or is it a skill you can develop?
The truth is that business problem solving is a set of skills and strategies that anyone can learn – and it’s more important than ever.
With the economy in a winter phase and the nature of work transforming before our eyes, there’s no shortage of business problems to solve in today’s economy. Learning how to solve business problems effectively requires focus, decisiveness and self-awareness.
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Business problem solving: an essential skill
Whether you’re managing a new company or just starting as CEO at a global enterprise, you’re sure to encounter business problems to solve. Dealing with crises. Employee turnover and unhappiness. Inability to scale mindfully. Financial problems. Leadership gaps. Without creative thinking to solve business problems, these issues can quickly build up and lead to the one thing you certainly don’t want: the close of your business.
Strong leadership and decision-making have the opposite effect: one study even found that extraordinary leaders can double profits at their companies. Business problem solving is an essential skill not only for owners and CEOs, but anyone with entrepreneurial desires or career-climbing dreams.
How to solve business problems effectively
Business problems to solve are easy to come by – the skills needed to make tough choices and act decisively are less common. But with the right strategies, you can develop them and learn how to take your business to the next level.
1. Know where you want to be
Business problem solving always starts with having a plan. If you don’t have goals you’re working toward, you’ll never know when you miss them. The signs of business problems will pass you by.
A traditional business plan isn’t enough, because it only shows you how to get from point A to point B. You need to create a business map – a holistic view of your vision, your mission and all the possible business problems to solve. This map will keep you moving along the route to your ultimate goal: scaling your business and planning an exit strategy.
2. Know where you are
The next step is to get real: be honest about where your business is currently. Look at your financial statements. Survey your employees to get an idea of business problems to solve on the front lines. Ask your colleagues and others in your industry where they are so that you can compare.
It’s important to be realistic at this step. If you have a high risk tolerance, you may be tempted to be overly optimistic. If you’re a perfectionist or have low risk tolerance, you could be more negative than you need to be. Avoid falling in love with your product or your company and make sure you’re taking an objective look at where you are.
3. Identify the problem
In much the same way you ask “What business am I in?” and then “What business am I really in?” you can ask, “What’s the problem?” You’ll likely identify a surface-level answer, like “sales are dropping.” Then ask, “What’s really the problem?” Sales are affected by multiple other business problems to solve, from recruiting top salespeople to providing excellent customer service.
Business problem solving often goes back to the customer. You must provide them with more value than anyone else, through your product and your customer experience. If you’re having trouble identifying your business problem, start with these areas.
4. Understand the problem
It’s tempting to jump right to solutions once you’ve identified the problem. But pulling weeds out by the top is never effective. You need to get to the root of the issue. When was the last time you did a competitive analysis or surveyed your customers for feedback?
It isn’t enough to perform a typical SWOT analysis and leave it at that. Creative thinking to solve business problems starts with listening. When you listen, you’ll receive data – the opinions of customers, the strategies of competitors. That data will tell a story. Only when you uncover this story will you be able to pull the weed out by the root.
5. Focus on solutions
Tony tells us to “Identify your problems, but give your power and energy to solutions.” Now is the time for solutions – but you can’t do it alone. Get together with your team or your colleagues and brainstorm. Ask the right questions so that you get honest, productive answers. Model various scenarios and rank them based on their outcomes. Apply a framework like the Rapid Planning Method to help you.
Get a second opinion from your mentor or a group of trusted advisors outside of your company. Sign up for business coaching to run your questions by an expert. Narrow down your options until you’re confident you’ve come to the right solution. Then create a massive action plan and put your business problem-solving skills to use.
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