How did you learn to solve problems

Problem-solving skills: definition and 4 essential tips

Problem-solving skills are becoming an increasingly important success factor: customers change their minds at short notice, the boss demands alternatives for the project process and colleagues are more part of the problem than the solution. In short: it doesn't run smoothly. One can complain about this long and broad and sink into self-pity. Or you roll up your sleeves and solve the problem. It is precisely this “hands-on” attitude that employers are looking for. But you also need the necessary ability to master challenges. What is important in problem-solving skills and how you can get better at getting to the root of problems and getting rid of them ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Definition: What does problem-solving skills mean?

There are some very dry definitions of problem-solving skills. In general, it means the thoughtful and systematic examination of problems and challenges in order to overcome them. Wikipedia speaks of the Conversion of an actual state against resistance to a target state.

In simple terms and applied to everyday work, Problem-solving skills mean the following: Identifying difficulties immediately, reacting to them quickly and finding a suitable solution before further damage occurs. Problem-solving skills are not a single act or decision. It manifests itself in a process that consists of several steps that build on each other:


First of all, problem-solving skills are always about identifying the problem. Where exactly did something go wrong? Why was a result not achieved or for what reasons were expectations not met? It is important that you do not skim this point too quickly.

Many make it very easy for themselves and quickly point a finger at a problem. However, in order to find a real solution further down the line, you need to precisely identify and define the problem. If you only scratch the surface here, you are probably aiming in the wrong direction with your problem solving.


The analysis of a problem should not only be clarified on the question of guilt. Of course, it's important to find out who was involved in creating the problem and who it affects. However, mere pointing of blame will in no way contribute to the solution. In the analysis, it is better to ask the classic W-questions, first and foremost the reason: Why did the problem arise? Why didn't we notice it earlier? Why is it that we haven't been able to fix the problem yet?


This is where it gets especially tricky for most. A problem is usually quickly identified as such. However, when it comes to suggesting suitable solutions, even those who have previously complained the loudest fall silent. Recognizing problems does not mean that you can do it better right away.

Above all, a creative approach is important here. Albert Einstein already said: Problems can never be solved with the same mindset that created them. You should therefore dare to come up with unconventional suggestions and think outside the box, which is often very limited.


Problem-solving skills are particularly evident in practice. After all, what good is the best theory if, in the end, nothing is done to actually remove obstacles from the world? Before doing this, those involved should select the most promising one from the various possible solutions. You can refer to previous experience or discuss it together in a team.

An important part of problem-solving skills is courage and the sense of responsibility to take the implementation in hand. Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of hiding from a problem and waiting for it to go away on its own.


Most problems cannot be completely solved immediately with the first implemented idea. That is why control is the last but essential step in problem-solving skills. Only when you understand the effects of your measure can you continue to react and, if necessary, introduce further changes.

Problem-solving skills in the application

Problem-solving skills are in demand and welcome in the job market among applicants and employees. Often this is even explicitly required in job advertisements. You can recognize this from formulations in which the employer wants a "hands-on mentality". To take advantage of this opportunity, you should address this in your application. As with other skills, however, problem-solving skills are not enough to just mention them to score points with HR professionals.

Instead, you should do your research beforehand give some thought to how to place and sell your problem solving skills in cover letter. In order to use your ability convincingly, it should be presented as concretely as possible. In other words: think of one or two specific examples that show how you have used your problem-solving skills and how they have helped you to get the most out of a situation.

In the best case scenario, your examples are directly related to the employer to whom you are applying. Because that is the second important point for problem-solving skills in the application: Show what the company gets out of it. Bring an idea of ​​how your future boss will benefit from your ability and how you can help make the company even more successful through your problem-solving skills.

4 tips on how to improve your problem-solving skills

Some people really thrive when faced with a problem. These people don't seem to be under pressure or frustration from a problem. Instead, they just spray with alternative suggestions and are convinced that they can straighten everything out again. They manage to cope with any problem, no matter how suddenly it comes up or how big it seems at the beginning.

Such problem-solving skills are not inherent in everyone. And sometimes it is more the expert syndrome than actual expertise and resounding success in problem solving. However, the ability can be learned and one's own problem-solving skills can be improved. You should pay attention to these four points:

Realize the real problem

For your problem-solving skills, it is essential that you get to the bottom of problems and not just work on symptoms. The real cause usually lies deeper, but only here can you really solve a problem in the long term.

For example, it is easy Presenting the wrong execution of a task as a problem, but in many cases that is just the tip of the iceberg. The real problem could be the communication behind it because goals and expectations are not clearly formulated.

Stay optimistic

You will only be able to develop and improve your problem-solving skills if you truly believe that you can overcome difficulties. When things get tough, many simply bury their heads in the sand and give up. However, if you see yourself solely as a helpless victim of circumstance, the problems get worse and you don't do anything about it. Develop the self-confidence you need to solve problems and face obstacles with optimism.

Do not point your finger at others

Problem-solving competence always means taking responsibility. Perhaps not everything has gone perfectly so far, or short-term changes pose a problem for you - refrain from blaming others or complaining that things are being made difficult for you. Especially in professional life, you make a good impression if you develop your own initiative and take things into your own hands instead of making it easy for yourself by always rejecting responsibility.

Take your time

One aspect that is forgotten again and again: problem-solving skills are not a race in which the fastest time wins. Certainly you are sometimes under pressure when the boss or customers expect a solution, but the basic rule is: Give yourself a little more time if you do it right.

In the end it doesn't help anyone if you react too quickly and carelessly. The problem just remains. The frustration increases and you have wasted time implementing a completely wrong strategy. Keep a cool head, take the time you need, and solve the problem in the long term.

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