What are problem solving skills?

Problem-solving skills are essential to identify the root cause of a problem and provide a solution. While problem-solving is often seen as a separate skill, many related skills can help you achieve this ability.

These are some of the key skills for problem-solving:

  • Dependability
  • Analyze
  • Making decisions
  • Team building
  • Creativity
  • Communication
  • Active listening
  • Research

Every career level requires problem-solving skills. Effective problem-solving skills may also be required by specific industry or job-specific technical abilities. A registered nurse, for example, will need to be able to communicate effectively with patients and will need to have active listening skills. A nurse must be able to determine when to consult a physician regarding a patient’s medical issues.

Problem solving process, examples for problem solving skills

A problem solving process

IDENTIFY the problem

Many can become overwhelmed by emotions in demanding situations and only see the big problems, obstacles, or difficulties. Great problem solvers attempt to find the root cause of any problem. This is how the problem can be identified, dealt with, and finally solved. It’s not enough to state that the situation is out of control. This is too abstract and ineffective. It is important to identify the source of these problems and challenges. Albert Einstein once stated that “The formulation of a problem is often more important than its solution.” This may not be true if the solution is purely mathematical or experimental. The first step to problem-solving is learning to see every situation as a problem. 

DEFINE the key elements of the problem

Next, and the most crucial step in problem-solving and learning problem-solving skills is the ability to break down the problem or make it smaller and easier to solve by defining the key elements.

This is a crucial step, and it is a skill that you need to acquire both managerially and psychologically. Instead of confronting a terrifying, difficult-to-climb monster mountain, you need to learn how to create smaller roads between the rocks and hills. If you can break down a large problem into smaller pieces, you will no longer be faced with an impossible task and can take concrete steps toward solving your problem.

EXAMINE (and Evaluate) Possible Solutions

It can be difficult to find solutions in problem-solving. Although it may seem like most of the work has been done, the final goal is still nearby. We should not look for simple solutions to the problem. We should seek out the most efficient ways to solve problems and make them a success story. Steve Jobs often liked to say that whenever his team faced a problem, they needed to find “an elegant, really beautiful and practical solution that works.”

We must also remember that it is not always possible to predict all the risks and other factors. We need to be able to use techniques like a problem-solving tree to find creative solutions to problems. This will help them become more efficient. We must develop multiple leaves for each problem element (a branch). This step is crucial in problem-solving. We must create logical connections between workable solutions.

ACT to resolve the problem

The final step in problem-solving is to create a step-by, executable plan. This skill is important because it doesn’t matter how well we can identify the problem, determine its elements, and analyze viable solutions. It all boils down to being able to implement the plan. We should learn skills to monitor and evaluate the entire process of action implementation and, if the problem is group-based, how to delegate specific parts to other people or external stakeholders.

SEE the lessons and learn from them

When the problem has been solved, I recommend that we gather all their problem-solving tools and action plans. They can do this either individually or collectively if they are working on a group project. Now is the time to review the work and determine if it needs to be improved. It is important to take the time to assess the whole process and learn from it so that the next problem-solving endeavor will be more efficient and produce more elegant solutions.

How to improve your problem-solving skills

There are many ways to improve your problem-solving skills. You can improve your problem-solving abilities and make yourself a better candidate or employee, regardless of whether you are looking for work or just starting.

Practice problems

Role-playing and practice can help you improve your problem-solving skills. Online, you can find problem-solving scenarios and professional practice books in your industry. You can practice how you might solve these problems to determine if they are feasible.

You might be asked, for example, how would you deal with an angry customer? Or “How do I respond when a customer requests a refund?” This practice can help you quickly find solutions to problems that arise in your industry.

Watch how other people solve problems

There may be colleagues who are problem solvers. You can learn from your colleagues how they solve problems and improve your skills. Ask your colleagues who are more experienced to show you their methods. It can help you to apply the techniques in your career by asking relevant questions.

Learn more about technical aspects of your field

It may be easier to solve problems depending on the industry you work in. Additional coursework, training, and practice can help you gain more technical knowledge.

Find solutions to problems

You are more likely than not to solve problems by putting yourself in new situations. There may be opportunities to volunteer in your current job, or on another team.

Examples of problem solving skills

Examples of problem solving skills. You will need a variety of skills to solve a problem efficiently. These are some examples of skills that you might use to solve a problem.


You will need to decide how to resolve any problems. Sometimes, and with industry experience, you may be able to decide quickly. Even those with less experience in the field can benefit from solid research skills and analytical skills. Sometimes it’s an innovative idea to either take your time and create a solution, or to escalate the problem to someone who is more qualified.


Problem-solving requires the ability to research. You must be able to identify the root cause and fully understand the problem to solve it. Begin to learn more about a problem by working with your team, consulting experienced colleagues, or learning through online research and courses.


You will need to be able to communicate your problem to others when you are trying to find solutions. It is also important to understand the best channels for requesting assistance. Communicating clearly once you have found a solution will reduce confusion and help make it easier to implement.


For problem-solvers, dependability is a key skill. It is crucial to solve problems quickly. Employers value people who can quickly identify and implement solutions.


Analyzing the problem is the first step in solving any problem. Analytical skills are essential to understanding and developing solutions. Analytical skills are also required for research to distinguish between effective solutions and ineffective ones.

How to emphasize problem solving abilities

Employers will quickly notice your problem-solving abilities in your cover letter and resume. If your problem-solving abilities are relevant to the job you’re applying for, it might be worth limiting your resume to only that. Problem-solving skills are a clever idea for positions in customer service, engineering, and management.