Problem Solving – questions to ask yourself

If you are serious about solving a problem then you will.take the time to make a written response to these questions. Writing helps to clarify thoughts and it also gives you a permanent record of your ideas and solutions to which you can return from time to time for reassurance and clarification.

1. What is the real problem to be solved?

It is very important that the problem should be fully and adequately defined. The underlying hidden issues should also be explored so that they can be sensitively dealt with in the context of the more obvious problem features. If the problem is not carefully identified then it is extremely difficult to find satisfactory solutions. (Sometimes actually identifying the problem is the key to its solution.) Therefore define the stressor or stress reactions within a full context. Ask are there any underlying issues that also need to be addressed?

2. What is the ideal solution?

Try to define what you would consider to be the ideal solution. Many alternative solutions may emerge in the process. In fact it is helpful to have as many alternatives as possible. This process may be time consuming and sometime exhausting but it is absolutely necessary.

3. What options do I have?

Apply action possibilities to the goals set in Step 2. Some goals may have to be eliminated because they are unrealistic. Others may have to be modified. Some can be achieved. Be specific in defining the possible solutions. Try to be creative when considering options. Develop some really crazy ones just to get your mind stimulated. Mix and match various ideas just to see where they lead. All the historic problem solvers from Archimedes to Einstein have been noted for their feats of bringing to bear, on difficult problems, concepts and principles from apparently disparate fields of knowledge.

4. What might happen if I put these options into practice?

Consider the consequences of taking certain steps. Imagine and consider how others might respond if they faced a similar situation. Make realistic assessments and do not avoid painful answers. Write down the consequences and face them no matter how difficult that might be in the first instance. It is possible to make considerable progress once reality is confronted. Strength can be drawn from reality. Evaluate the pros and cons. Rehearse strategies and behaviours by means of creative imagination.

5. What is my decision?

This is often the most difficult step of all. Consult with others; discuss the options facing you; draw on good advice. Having considered all the alternatives then make a decision. Don’t waffle or procrastinate. This will only aggravate the problem rather than solving it.

6. Now Do It!

Apply action to the problem. Set up an action timetable and take the first steps. Keep things moving. Try out the most acceptable and feasible solution. Apply the necessary resources.

7. Did It Work?

Re-examine the original problem in light of the attempt at problem solving. View any possible failures or disappointments as needed feedback to begin the problem-solving process once again.


Here is an example of how a businessman applied this technique to improve his business and to lower his stress. Sales were well below normal and with mounting debts pressure was on to mount a rescue operation. The businessman looked carefully at many aspects of his business and decided that an alarming drop in sales seemed to be the major problem to be sorted out. He applied the Problem Solving Technique in this manner:

What is the real problem to be solved?

My sales prospecting is disorganised, ad hoc and has no specific objectives. At the moment it is ‘hit and miss’ leaping from one area to another.

What is the ideal solution?

  1. I want to use my prospecting time productively.
  2. I want to get to speak to key people and to talk to qualified prospects.
  3. I want to identify prime prospect areas and work on these.
  4. I want to prospect in the most productive areas and not waste valuable time selling low-priced items.
  5. I want to generate new business from my prospecting’… ideally $ 7,000 a week.
  6. I want to reduce my stress levels.

What options do I have?

  1. I can do some reading and study to learn new skills in sales prospecting.
  2. I can create a priority area listing to determine those areas that should receive my prime attention.
  3. I can use the resources of Local Government, tourism and development bodies to identify the names of the companies that I should be contacting.
  4. I could maintain meticulous records of organisations that I have worked with and keep them informed of my products through regular Newsletters etc.
  5. I should cultivate good leads from existing clients and follow these up.
  6. I should offer myself as a guest speaker to service clubs.

What might happen if I put these options into practice?

  1. I will get a better return on my prospecting and develop more business.
  2. My use of resources will be much wiser.
  3. I will develop useful skills in sales prospecting that will ensure on-going success.
  4. I will develop new ideas and open up new opportunities by contacting more people on a regular basis.
  5. My stress with be reduced.

What is my decision?

  1. I will improve my presentation material.
  2. I will examine each geographical region and make a priority list.
  3. I will write to Local Government to obtain company listings.
  4. I will set specific weekly targets.
  5. I will contact my existing clients for referred leads.
  6. I will improve my record-keeping.

© Townsend International 2001 – All rights reserved
This article was printed out from


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