Developing Problem Solving Skills in Today’s Workplace 今時今日職場的必備技能 — 解決問題能力

In a metropolitan city such as Hong Kong, we need to use our problem solving skills in interpersonal relationships, our studies and the workplace. Also, prospective employees need to demonstrate their problem solving and analytical skills to win job offers. An organization’s success depends heavily on the willingness of managers to help employees develop their problem solving abilities. Team building activities targeting these areas include communication and collaboration, adaptability, and strengthening decision-making skills.

Research clearly indicates that problem solving and using initiative are among the top 10 skills in the recruitment of graduates. Employers expect to hire graduates who: 1) take personal responsibility to make sure goals are achieved; 2) can see that there may be a better way to doing things; 3) are prepared to research and implement change; and 4) can find ways to solve unexpected problems and be persistent. Research into employers’ expectations shows that the ability to use initiative, think critically and be creative and proactive are essential qualities in a
successful job seeker.

Since analytical and problem solving skills are vital in candidate selection, it is likely that you will need to answer these questions in your job application that provide evidence of your competencies in the following areas:

  • Describe a situation when you have demonstrated effective use of your skills to solve a complex problem;
  • Describe a complex problem you have faced and the actions you used to solve it; and
  • What methods did you use and what was the result or conclusion you have reached?

The best approach to address the above questions is to cover the detailed process of your problem solving instead of just outlining the problem. Illustrate your examples of how you use creativity, initiative, and effective deployment of resources in your problem solving exercise. Self-reflection on lessons learnt from this process also adds value to your answer.

Problem solving involves analytical and critical thinking, creativity, logical and methodical reasoning, as well as team working skills. The IDEAL model is a simple model of problem-solving which involves identifying the problem, defining the problem, examining the options, acting on a plan and finally looking at the consequences. The process starts with identifying the problem, then goes on to evaluate potential courses of action and select the best option to handle the problem. In a teamwork situation, it also requires a detailed understanding of the group and their core strengths. Problem solving activities help to identify strengths and develop problem solving capabilities and tactics in an interesting and cooperative way.
解決問題需要分析力、批判性思維、創造力,邏輯性和有條理的推理與團隊合作的技巧。IDEAL模式是其中一個解決問題的模式。它識別問題、定義問題、探索其他的可能性、推行計劃並作出最後檢視的結果。這個模式從識別問題開始,然後我們需要評估採取了甚麼措施才合適, 並選擇最佳的方法去解決問題。在團隊合作的情况下,還需要對團隊有透徹的認識及了解到各人的長處。從中可以找出隊友的長處,並以有趣和共同合作的方式解決問題。

It is important to bear in mind that when engaging in problem solving games and activities, there are no winners or losers. Although some games end up with a winning party, the ultimate goal of these exercises is to develop team cohesion and team working skills. The winning team should learn from the exercise by sharing and reviewing their strategies and thought process at the end of the activities.

Author – Dr. Teresa Li
作者 – 李淑芬博士

Currently the Programme Manager (postgraduate) at University of Sunderland in Hong Kong. Also an experienced administrator/professional practitioner with over 20 years’ of practical experience in strategic management.

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