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Problem Solving and Decision Making - Two Essential Skills of a Good Leader

Darren Matthews

Problem solving and decision making are two fascinating skillsets. We call them out as two separate skills – and they are – but they also make use of the same core attributes.

They feed on a need to communicate well, both through questioning and listening, and be patient and not rushing both processes through. Thus, the greatest challenge any leader faces when it comes to solving problems and decision making is when the pressure of time comes into play. But as Robert Schuller highlights in his quote, allowing problem-solving to become the decision means you’ll never break free from the problem.

“Never bring the problem-solving stage into the decision-making stage. Otherwise, you surrender yourself to the problem rather than the solution.”—Robert H. Schuller

So how does a leader avoid this trap? How do they ensure the problem solving doesn’t become the be-all and end-all?

The 7 steps of Effective Problem Solving and Decision Making

A vital hurdle every leader must overcome is to avoid the impulsive urge to make quick decisions . Often when confronted with a problem, leaders or managers fall back in past behaviours. Urgency creates pressure to act quickly as a result, the problem still exists, just side-lined until it rears its ugly head again.

Good problem solving opens opportunity. A notable example of this is the first principles thinking executed by the likes of Elon Musk and others. Understanding the fundamentals blocks of a process and the problem it’s creating can lead to not just the problem but accelerate beyond it.

So, to avoid the trap, and use problem solving and decision making effectively , you should embody yourself with the following seven steps.

1.      What is the problem?

Often, especially in time-critical situations, people don’t define the problem. Some label themselves as fire-fighters, just content with dowsing out the flames. It is a reactionary behaviour and one commonplace with under-trained leaders. As great as some fire-fighters are, they can only put out so many fires at one time, often becoming a little industry.

The better approach is to define the problem, and this means asking the following questions:

  • What is happening? ( What makes you think there is a problem?)
  • Where is it taking place?
  • How is it happening?
  • When is it happening?
  • Why is it happening?
  • With whom is it happening? (This isn’t a blame game…all you want to do is isolate the problem to a granular level.)
  • Define what you understand to be the problem in writing by using as few sentences as possible. (Look at the answers to your what, where, why, when, and how questions.)

2.      What are the potential causes?

Having defined the problem it is now time to find out what might be causing the problem. Your leadership skills: your communication skills need to be strong, as you look to gather input from your team and those involved in the problem.

Key points:

  • Talk to those involved individually. Groupthink is a common cause of blindness to the problem, especially if there is blame culture within the business.
  • Document what you’ve heard and what you think is the root cause is.
  • Be inquisitive. You don’t know what you don’t know, so get the input of others and open yourself up to the feedback you’ll need to solve this problem.

3.      What other ways can you overcome the problem?

 Sometimes, getting to the root cause can take time. Of course, you can’t ignore it, but it is important to produce a plan to temporarily fix the problem. In business, a problem will be costing the business money, whether it be sales or profit. So, a temporary fix allows the business to move forward, providing it neutralises the downside of the original problem.

4.      How will you resolve the problem?

At this stage, you still don’t know what the actual problem is. All you have is a definition of the problem which is a diagnosis of the issue. You will have the team’s input, as well as your opinions as to what the next steps should be.

If you don’t, then at this stage you should think about reassessing the problem. One way forward could be to become more granular and adopt a first-principles approach.

  • Break the problem down into its core parts
  • What forms the foundational blocks of the system in operation?
  • Ask powerful questions to get to the truth of the problem
  • How do the parts fit together?
  • What was the original purpose of the system working in this way?
  • Name and separate your assumptions from the facts
  • Remind yourself of the goal and create a new solution

Solve hard problems with inversion

Another way is to invert the problem using the following technique:

1. Understand the problem

Every solution starts with developing a clear understanding of what the problem is. In this instance, some clarity of the issue is vital.

2. Ask the opposite question

Convention wisdom means we see the world logically. But what if you turned the logical outcome on its head. Asking the opposite questions brings an unfamiliar perspective.

3. Answer the opposite question

It seems a simple logic, but you can’t just ask the opposite question and not answer it. You must think through the dynamics that come from asking the question. You're looking for alternative viewpoints and thoughts you've not had before.

4. Join your answers up with your original problem

This is where solutions are born. You’re taking your conventional wisdom and aligning it with the opposite perspective. So often the blockers seen in the original problem become part of the solution.

5.      Define a plan to either fix the problem permanently or temporarily

You now know the problem. You understand the fix, and you are a position to assess the risks involved.

Assessing the risks means considering the worst-case scenarios and ensuring you avoid them. Your plan should take into the following points:

  • Is there any downtime to implementing the solution? If so, how long, and how much will it cost? Do you have backup systems in place to minimise the impact?
  • If the risk is too great, consider a temporary fix which keeps current operations in place and gives you time to further prepare for a permanent fix.
  • Document the plan and share it with all the relevant stakeholders. Communication is key.

Here we see the two skills of problem solving and decision making coming together. The two skills are vital to managing business risks as well as solving the problem.

6.      Monitor and measure the plan

Having evolved through the five steps to this stage, you mustn’t take your eye off the ball as it were.

  • Define timelines and assess progress
  • Report to the stakeholders, ensuring everyone is aware of progress or any delays.
  • If the plan doesn’t deliver, ask why? Learn from failure.

7.      Have you fixed the problem?

Don’t forget the problem you started with. Have you fixed it? You might find it wasn’t a problem at all. You will have learnt a lot about the part of the business where the problem occurred, and improvements will have taken place.

Use the opportunity to assess what worked, what didn’t, and what would have helped. These are three good questions to give you some perspective on the process you’ve undertaken.

Problem solving and decision making in unison

Throughout the process of problem solving, you’re making decisions. Right from the beginning when the problem first becomes clear, you have a choice to either react – firefight or to investigate. This progresses as move onto risk assessing the problem and then defining the solutions to overcome the issue.

Throughout the process, the critical element is to make decisions with the correct information to hand. Finding out the facts, as well as defeating your assumptions are all part of the process of making the right decision.

Problem solving and decision making – a process 

Problem solving isn’t easy. It becomes even more challenging when you have decisions to make. The seven steps I’ve outlined will give you the ability to investigate and diagnose the problem correctly.

  • What is the problem?
  • What are the potential causes?
  • What other ways can you overcome the problem?
  • How will you resolve the problem?
  • Define a plan to either fix the problem permanently or temporarily.
  • Monitor and measure the plan.
  • Have you fixed the problem?

Of course, this logical step by step process might not enable you to diagnose the issue at hand. Some problems can be extremely hard, and an alternative approach might help. In this instance, first principles thinking or using the power of inversion are excellent ways to dig into hard problems. Problem solving and decision making are two skills every good leader needs. Using them together is an effective way to work.

making a decision in problem solving

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Making decisions and solving problems are two key areas in life, whether you are at home or at work. Whatever you’re doing, and wherever you are, you are faced with countless decisions and problems, both small and large, every day.

Many decisions and problems are so small that we may not even notice them. Even small decisions, however, can be overwhelming to some people. They may come to a halt as they consider their dilemma and try to decide what to do.

Small and Large Decisions

In your day-to-day life you're likely to encounter numerous 'small decisions', including, for example:

Tea or coffee?

What shall I have in my sandwich? Or should I have a salad instead today?

What shall I wear today?

Larger decisions may occur less frequently but may include:

Should we repaint the kitchen? If so, what colour?

Should we relocate?

Should I propose to my partner? Do I really want to spend the rest of my life with him/her?

These decisions, and others like them, may take considerable time and effort to make.

The relationship between decision-making and problem-solving is complex. Decision-making is perhaps best thought of as a key part of problem-solving: one part of the overall process.

Our approach at Skills You Need is to set out a framework to help guide you through the decision-making process. You won’t always need to use the whole framework, or even use it at all, but you may find it useful if you are a bit ‘stuck’ and need something to help you make a difficult decision.

Decision Making

Effective Decision-Making

This page provides information about ways of making a decision, including basing it on logic or emotion (‘gut feeling’). It also explains what can stop you making an effective decision, including too much or too little information, and not really caring about the outcome.

A Decision-Making Framework

This page sets out one possible framework for decision-making.

The framework described is quite extensive, and may seem quite formal. But it is also a helpful process to run through in a briefer form, for smaller problems, as it will help you to make sure that you really do have all the information that you need.

Problem Solving

Introduction to Problem-Solving

This page provides a general introduction to the idea of problem-solving. It explores the idea of goals (things that you want to achieve) and barriers (things that may prevent you from achieving your goals), and explains the problem-solving process at a broad level.

The first stage in solving any problem is to identify it, and then break it down into its component parts. Even the biggest, most intractable-seeming problems, can become much more manageable if they are broken down into smaller parts. This page provides some advice about techniques you can use to do so.

Sometimes, the possible options to address your problem are obvious. At other times, you may need to involve others, or think more laterally to find alternatives. This page explains some principles, and some tools and techniques to help you do so.

Having generated solutions, you need to decide which one to take, which is where decision-making meets problem-solving. But once decided, there is another step: to deliver on your decision, and then see if your chosen solution works. This page helps you through this process.

‘Social’ problems are those that we encounter in everyday life, including money trouble, problems with other people, health problems and crime. These problems, like any others, are best solved using a framework to identify the problem, work out the options for addressing it, and then deciding which option to use.

This page provides more information about the key skills needed for practical problem-solving in real life.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills eBooks.

The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills

Develop your interpersonal skills with our series of eBooks. Learn about and improve your communication skills, tackle conflict resolution, mediate in difficult situations, and develop your emotional intelligence.

Guiding you through the key skills needed in life

As always at Skills You Need, our approach to these key skills is to provide practical ways to manage the process, and to develop your skills.

Neither problem-solving nor decision-making is an intrinsically difficult process and we hope you will find our pages useful in developing your skills.

Start with: Decision Making Problem Solving

See also: Improving Communication Interpersonal Communication Skills Building Confidence

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How to Make Great Decisions, Quickly

  • Martin G. Moore

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It’s a skill that will set you apart.

As a new leader, learning to make good decisions without hesitation and procrastination is a capability that can set you apart from your peers. While others vacillate on tricky choices, your team could be hitting deadlines and producing the type of results that deliver true value. That’s something that will get you — and them — noticed. Here are a few of a great decision:

  • Great decisions are shaped by consideration of many different viewpoints. This doesn’t mean you should seek out everyone’s opinion. The right people with the relevant expertise need to clearly articulate their views to help you broaden your perspective and make the best choice.
  • Great decisions are made as close as possible to the action. Remember that the most powerful people at your company are rarely on the ground doing the hands-on work. Seek input and guidance from team members who are closest to the action.
  • Great decisions address the root cause, not just the symptoms. Although you may need to urgently address the symptoms, once this is done you should always develop a plan to fix the root cause, or else the problem is likely to repeat itself.
  • Great decisions balance short-term and long-term value. Finding the right balance between short-term and long-term risks and considerations is key to unlocking true value.
  • Great decisions are timely. If you consider all of the elements listed above, then it’s simply a matter of addressing each one with a heightened sense of urgency.

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Like many young leaders, early in my career, I thought a great decision was one that attracted widespread approval. When my colleagues smiled and nodded their collective heads, it reinforced (in my mind, at least) that I was an excellent decision maker.

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  • MM Martin G. Moore is the founder of Your CEO Mentor and author of No Bullsh!t Leadership and host of the No Bullsh!t Leadership podcast. His purpose is to improve the quality of leaders globally through practical, real world leadership content. For more information, please visit,

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Problem-Solving Strategies and Obstacles

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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Sean is a fact-checker and researcher with experience in sociology, field research, and data analytics.

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From deciding what to eat for dinner to considering whether it's the right time to buy a house, problem-solving is a large part of our daily lives. Learn some of the problem-solving strategies that exist and how to use them in real life, along with ways to overcome obstacles that are making it harder to resolve the issues you face.

What Is Problem-Solving?

In cognitive psychology , the term 'problem-solving' refers to the mental process that people go through to discover, analyze, and solve problems.

A problem exists when there is a goal that we want to achieve but the process by which we will achieve it is not obvious to us. Put another way, there is something that we want to occur in our life, yet we are not immediately certain how to make it happen.

Maybe you want a better relationship with your spouse or another family member but you're not sure how to improve it. Or you want to start a business but are unsure what steps to take. Problem-solving helps you figure out how to achieve these desires.

The problem-solving process involves:

  • Discovery of the problem
  • Deciding to tackle the issue
  • Seeking to understand the problem more fully
  • Researching available options or solutions
  • Taking action to resolve the issue

Before problem-solving can occur, it is important to first understand the exact nature of the problem itself. If your understanding of the issue is faulty, your attempts to resolve it will also be incorrect or flawed.

Problem-Solving Mental Processes

Several mental processes are at work during problem-solving. Among them are:

  • Perceptually recognizing the problem
  • Representing the problem in memory
  • Considering relevant information that applies to the problem
  • Identifying different aspects of the problem
  • Labeling and describing the problem

Problem-Solving Strategies

There are many ways to go about solving a problem. Some of these strategies might be used on their own, or you may decide to employ multiple approaches when working to figure out and fix a problem.

An algorithm is a step-by-step procedure that, by following certain "rules" produces a solution. Algorithms are commonly used in mathematics to solve division or multiplication problems. But they can be used in other fields as well.

In psychology, algorithms can be used to help identify individuals with a greater risk of mental health issues. For instance, research suggests that certain algorithms might help us recognize children with an elevated risk of suicide or self-harm.

One benefit of algorithms is that they guarantee an accurate answer. However, they aren't always the best approach to problem-solving, in part because detecting patterns can be incredibly time-consuming.

There are also concerns when machine learning is involved—also known as artificial intelligence (AI)—such as whether they can accurately predict human behaviors.

Heuristics are shortcut strategies that people can use to solve a problem at hand. These "rule of thumb" approaches allow you to simplify complex problems, reducing the total number of possible solutions to a more manageable set.

If you find yourself sitting in a traffic jam, for example, you may quickly consider other routes, taking one to get moving once again. When shopping for a new car, you might think back to a prior experience when negotiating got you a lower price, then employ the same tactics.

While heuristics may be helpful when facing smaller issues, major decisions shouldn't necessarily be made using a shortcut approach. Heuristics also don't guarantee an effective solution, such as when trying to drive around a traffic jam only to find yourself on an equally crowded route.

Trial and Error

A trial-and-error approach to problem-solving involves trying a number of potential solutions to a particular issue, then ruling out those that do not work. If you're not sure whether to buy a shirt in blue or green, for instance, you may try on each before deciding which one to purchase.

This can be a good strategy to use if you have a limited number of solutions available. But if there are many different choices available, narrowing down the possible options using another problem-solving technique can be helpful before attempting trial and error.

In some cases, the solution to a problem can appear as a sudden insight. You are facing an issue in a relationship or your career when, out of nowhere, the solution appears in your mind and you know exactly what to do.

Insight can occur when the problem in front of you is similar to an issue that you've dealt with in the past. Although, you may not recognize what is occurring since the underlying mental processes that lead to insight often happen outside of conscious awareness .

Research indicates that insight is most likely to occur during times when you are alone—such as when going on a walk by yourself, when you're in the shower, or when lying in bed after waking up.

How to Apply Problem-Solving Strategies in Real Life

If you're facing a problem, you can implement one or more of these strategies to find a potential solution. Here's how to use them in real life:

  • Create a flow chart . If you have time, you can take advantage of the algorithm approach to problem-solving by sitting down and making a flow chart of each potential solution, its consequences, and what happens next.
  • Recall your past experiences . When a problem needs to be solved fairly quickly, heuristics may be a better approach. Think back to when you faced a similar issue, then use your knowledge and experience to choose the best option possible.
  • Start trying potential solutions . If your options are limited, start trying them one by one to see which solution is best for achieving your desired goal. If a particular solution doesn't work, move on to the next.
  • Take some time alone . Since insight is often achieved when you're alone, carve out time to be by yourself for a while. The answer to your problem may come to you, seemingly out of the blue, if you spend some time away from others.

Obstacles to Problem-Solving

Problem-solving is not a flawless process as there are a number of obstacles that can interfere with our ability to solve a problem quickly and efficiently. These obstacles include:

  • Assumptions: When dealing with a problem, people can make assumptions about the constraints and obstacles that prevent certain solutions. Thus, they may not even try some potential options.
  • Functional fixedness : This term refers to the tendency to view problems only in their customary manner. Functional fixedness prevents people from fully seeing all of the different options that might be available to find a solution.
  • Irrelevant or misleading information: When trying to solve a problem, it's important to distinguish between information that is relevant to the issue and irrelevant data that can lead to faulty solutions. The more complex the problem, the easier it is to focus on misleading or irrelevant information.
  • Mental set: A mental set is a tendency to only use solutions that have worked in the past rather than looking for alternative ideas. A mental set can work as a heuristic, making it a useful problem-solving tool. However, mental sets can also lead to inflexibility, making it more difficult to find effective solutions.

How to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills

In the end, if your goal is to become a better problem-solver, it's helpful to remember that this is a process. Thus, if you want to improve your problem-solving skills, following these steps can help lead you to your solution:

  • Recognize that a problem exists . If you are facing a problem, there are generally signs. For instance, if you have a mental illness , you may experience excessive fear or sadness, mood changes, and changes in sleeping or eating habits. Recognizing these signs can help you realize that an issue exists.
  • Decide to solve the problem . Make a conscious decision to solve the issue at hand. Commit to yourself that you will go through the steps necessary to find a solution.
  • Seek to fully understand the issue . Analyze the problem you face, looking at it from all sides. If your problem is relationship-related, for instance, ask yourself how the other person may be interpreting the issue. You might also consider how your actions might be contributing to the situation.
  • Research potential options . Using the problem-solving strategies mentioned, research potential solutions. Make a list of options, then consider each one individually. What are some pros and cons of taking the available routes? What would you need to do to make them happen?
  • Take action . Select the best solution possible and take action. Action is one of the steps required for change . So, go through the motions needed to resolve the issue.
  • Try another option, if needed . If the solution you chose didn't work, don't give up. Either go through the problem-solving process again or simply try another option.

You can find a way to solve your problems as long as you keep working toward this goal—even if the best solution is simply to let go because no other good solution exists.

Sarathy V. Real world problem-solving .  Front Hum Neurosci . 2018;12:261. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00261

Dunbar K. Problem solving . A Companion to Cognitive Science . 2017. doi:10.1002/9781405164535.ch20

Stewart SL, Celebre A, Hirdes JP, Poss JW. Risk of suicide and self-harm in kids: The development of an algorithm to identify high-risk individuals within the children's mental health system . Child Psychiat Human Develop . 2020;51:913-924. doi:10.1007/s10578-020-00968-9

Rosenbusch H, Soldner F, Evans AM, Zeelenberg M. Supervised machine learning methods in psychology: A practical introduction with annotated R code . Soc Personal Psychol Compass . 2021;15(2):e12579. doi:10.1111/spc3.12579

Mishra S. Decision-making under risk: Integrating perspectives from biology, economics, and psychology . Personal Soc Psychol Rev . 2014;18(3):280-307. doi:10.1177/1088868314530517

Csikszentmihalyi M, Sawyer K. Creative insight: The social dimension of a solitary moment . In: The Systems Model of Creativity . 2015:73-98. doi:10.1007/978-94-017-9085-7_7

Chrysikou EG, Motyka K, Nigro C, Yang SI, Thompson-Schill SL. Functional fixedness in creative thinking tasks depends on stimulus modality .  Psychol Aesthet Creat Arts . 2016;10(4):425‐435. doi:10.1037/aca0000050

Huang F, Tang S, Hu Z. Unconditional perseveration of the short-term mental set in chunk decomposition .  Front Psychol . 2018;9:2568. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02568

National Alliance on Mental Illness. Warning signs and symptoms .

Mayer RE. Thinking, problem solving, cognition, 2nd ed .

Schooler JW, Ohlsson S, Brooks K. Thoughts beyond words: When language overshadows insight. J Experiment Psychol: General . 1993;122:166-183. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.2.166

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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Critical Thinking and Decision-Making  - Decision-Making Strategies

Critical thinking and decision-making  -, decision-making strategies, critical thinking and decision-making decision-making strategies.

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Critical Thinking and Decision-Making: Decision-Making Strategies

Lesson 3: decision-making strategies.


How do you usually make decisions?

There are lots of ways to make a decision . For example, you could flip a coin. You could trust your gut and do what you think is right. Or you could avoid thinking about it at all, and just make a choice at random—for better or for worse.

door 1 and door 2

That's probably OK for small decisions, but what about more important ones? It's better to think carefully about your options and consider the many paths you could take.

woman looking at many paths

With the right tools, you can learn to do this objectively , so you can make decisions you feel good about. We're going to cover several strategies that can help.

Watch the video below to learn more about decision-making strategies.

Making decisions objectively

The first step to making any decision is simple: Identify the problem . As an example, say you're trying to choose between two apartments. One is cheaper but farther away from work. The other is closer—and nicer!—but much more expensive.

dingy apartment vs. modern apartment

Which one would you choose? Depending on what you value, you probably have some idea. This initial response, the one tied to your instincts and emotions , is perfectly valid; however, you should also try to look at your options rationally .

man weighing value vs. location

Comparing your options

Start by comparing them. There are several ways to do this. For example, you could list all the factors that you're considering—things like price, location, and other amenities—then choose the one thing that's most important to you. With that in mind, which option comes out on top?

list with "price" circled

Creating a points system

You could go one step further and create a points system . Take that same list and turn it into a scorecard for each option.

In this example, it means the first apartment would score high on affordable rent (let's say a 10), but much lower on location . The other apartment would score about the opposite in the same categories.

list of scores for various amenities

Keep going down the list until you've scored every item, being as objective as you can. Then add up the totals, and see if you have a winner.

Identifying pros and cons

Looking at it another way, you could evaluate one option at a time using a list of pros and cons. It sounds simple, but sometimes it helps to write these things down.

apartment 1 - pro: cheap / con: 2-hour commute

This time, it's OK to be subjective —certain factors can and should carry more weight than others. It's how you feel about them that counts, so be honest about what these things mean to you.

Thinking about the consequences

Imagining possible outcomes might give you some perspective on the decision. Say you're thinking about adopting a dog. What do you think the consequences might be in a month? In a year? How about several years from now?

tired man with dog surrounded by tennis balls

Making decisions can be a roller coaster ride, especially when there are long-term consequences to think about. We can't see into the future, but we can try to be prepared.

Other mental tricks

At this point, it's normal to feel overwhelmed, even stuck. With so much to consider, how do you know you're making the right choice? There are a couple more techniques that can help you fire up your brain and trick it into thinking differently . Try these the next time you need a mental reset.


The two-minute diversion

Distract yourself with a two-minute activity that you find moderately difficult . Maybe you like playing mobile games, or solving math problems for fun—whatever works for you (we won't judge).

mobile game

Believe it or not, you'll continue to process the decision unconsciously , according to brain imaging research by Carnegie Mellon University. This brief window of time helps you internalize important details, so you can make better, more insightful decisions.

information flowing through brain

Thinking in third person

Sometimes it helps to step outside yourself and pretend you're helping someone else . Studies show we're able to think more objectively in third person —that's why it's easier to give advice than it is to receive it.

man looks at 3D cut-out of himself

If a friend or family member were struggling with the same decision, what questions would you ask them? What compromises would you suggest?

chat conversation - friend: "what if i bought this lol" / you: "do you know how to play? maybe wait until it's on sale"

Really think about it. Adopting a different point of view might help you see the situation in an entirely new way.

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Making decisions with confidence

Making decisions isn't like taking a test. There are no right or wrong answers, per se—it just depends on the situation.

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Focus on taking the time to think about your options and what you hope to achieve so you can feel confident about the choices you make. It's not as easy as flipping a coin, but it's worth the extra effort.

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In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Problem Solving and Decision Making


  • General Approaches to Problem Solving
  • Representational Accounts
  • Problem Space and Search
  • Working Memory and Problem Solving
  • Domain-Specific Problem Solving
  • The Rational Approach
  • Prospect Theory
  • Dual-Process Theory
  • Cognitive Heuristics and Biases

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Problem Solving and Decision Making by Emily G. Nielsen , John Paul Minda LAST MODIFIED: 26 June 2019 DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0246

Problem solving and decision making are both examples of complex, higher-order thinking. Both involve the assessment of the environment, the involvement of working memory or short-term memory, reliance on long term memory, effects of knowledge, and the application of heuristics to complete a behavior. A problem can be defined as an impasse or gap between a current state and a desired goal state. Problem solving is the set of cognitive operations that a person engages in to change the current state, to go beyond the impasse, and achieve a desired outcome. Problem solving involves the mental representation of the problem state and the manipulation of this representation in order to move closer to the goal. Problems can vary in complexity, abstraction, and how well defined (or not) the initial state and the goal state are. Research has generally approached problem solving by examining the behaviors and cognitive processes involved, and some work has examined problem solving using computational processes as well. Decision making is the process of selecting and choosing one action or behavior out of several alternatives. Like problem solving, decision making involves the coordination of memories and executive resources. Research on decision making has paid particular attention to the cognitive biases that account for suboptimal decisions and decisions that deviate from rationality. The current bibliography first outlines some general resources on the psychology of problem solving and decision making before examining each of these topics in detail. Specifically, this review covers cognitive, neuroscientific, and computational approaches to problem solving, as well as decision making models and cognitive heuristics and biases.

General Overviews

Current research in the area of problem solving and decision making is published in both general and specialized scientific journals. Theoretical and scholarly work is often summarized and developed in full-length books and chapter. These may focus on the subfields of problem solving and decision making or the larger field of thinking and higher-order cognition.

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7 important steps in the decision making process

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The decision making process is a method of gathering information, assessing alternatives, and making a final choice with the goal of making the best decision possible. In this article, we detail the step-by-step process on how to make a good decision and explain different decision making methodologies.

We make decisions every day. Take the bus to work or call a car? Chocolate or vanilla ice cream? Whole milk or two percent?

There's an entire process that goes into making those tiny decisions, and while these are simple, easy choices, how do we end up making more challenging decisions? 

At work, decisions aren't as simple as choosing what kind of milk you want in your latte in the morning. That’s why understanding the decision making process is so important. 

What is the decision making process?

The decision making process is the method of gathering information, assessing alternatives, and, ultimately, making a final choice. 

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Make good choices, fast: How decision-making processes can help businesses stay agile ebook banner image

The 7 steps of the decision making process

Step 1: identify the decision that needs to be made.

When you're identifying the decision, ask yourself a few questions: 

What is the problem that needs to be solved?

What is the goal you plan to achieve by implementing this decision?

How will you measure success?

These questions are all common goal setting techniques that will ultimately help you come up with possible solutions. When the problem is clearly defined, you then have more information to come up with the best decision to solve the problem.

Step 2: Gather relevant information

​Gathering information related to the decision being made is an important step to making an informed decision. Does your team have any historical data as it relates to this issue? Has anybody attempted to solve this problem before?

It's also important to look for information outside of your team or company. Effective decision making requires information from many different sources. Find external resources, whether it’s doing market research, working with a consultant, or talking with colleagues at a different company who have relevant experience. Gathering information helps your team identify different solutions to your problem.

Step 3: Identify alternative solutions

This step requires you to look for many different solutions for the problem at hand. Finding more than one possible alternative is important when it comes to business decision-making, because different stakeholders may have different needs depending on their role. For example, if a company is looking for a work management tool, the design team may have different needs than a development team. Choosing only one solution right off the bat might not be the right course of action. 

Step 4: Weigh the evidence

This is when you take all of the different solutions you’ve come up with and analyze how they would address your initial problem. Your team begins identifying the pros and cons of each option, and eliminating alternatives from those choices.

There are a few common ways your team can analyze and weigh the evidence of options:

Pros and cons list

SWOT analysis

Decision matrix

Step 5: Choose among the alternatives

The next step is to make your final decision. Consider all of the information you've collected and how this decision may affect each stakeholder. 

Sometimes the right decision is not one of the alternatives, but a blend of a few different alternatives. Effective decision-making involves creative problem solving and thinking out of the box, so don't limit you or your teams to clear-cut options.

One of the key values at Asana is to reject false tradeoffs. Choosing just one decision can mean losing benefits in others. If you can, try and find options that go beyond just the alternatives presented.

Step 6: Take action

Once the final decision maker gives the green light, it's time to put the solution into action. Take the time to create an implementation plan so that your team is on the same page for next steps. Then it’s time to put your plan into action and monitor progress to determine whether or not this decision was a good one. 

Step 7: Review your decision and its impact (both good and bad)

Once you’ve made a decision, you can monitor the success metrics you outlined in step 1. This is how you determine whether or not this solution meets your team's criteria of success.

Here are a few questions to consider when reviewing your decision:

Did it solve the problem your team identified in step 1? 

Did this decision impact your team in a positive or negative way?

Which stakeholders benefited from this decision? Which stakeholders were impacted negatively?

If this solution was not the best alternative, your team might benefit from using an iterative form of project management. This enables your team to quickly adapt to changes, and make the best decisions with the resources they have. 

Types of decision making models

While most decision making models revolve around the same seven steps, here are a few different methodologies to help you make a good decision.

​Rational decision making models

This type of decision making model is the most common type that you'll see. It's logical and sequential. The seven steps listed above are an example of the rational decision making model. 

When your decision has a big impact on your team and you need to maximize outcomes, this is the type of decision making process you should use. It requires you to consider a wide range of viewpoints with little bias so you can make the best decision possible. 

Intuitive decision making models

This type of decision making model is dictated not by information or data, but by gut instincts. This form of decision making requires previous experience and pattern recognition to form strong instincts.

This type of decision making is often made by decision makers who have a lot of experience with similar kinds of problems. They have already had proven success with the solution they're looking to implement. 

Creative decision making model

The creative decision making model involves collecting information and insights about a problem and coming up with potential ideas for a solution, similar to the rational decision making model. 

The difference here is that instead of identifying the pros and cons of each alternative, the decision maker enters a period in which they try not to actively think about the solution at all. The goal is to have their subconscious take over and lead them to the right decision, similar to the intuitive decision making model. 

This situation is best used in an iterative process so that teams can test their solutions and adapt as things change.

Track key decisions with a work management tool

Tracking key decisions can be challenging when not documented correctly. Learn more about how a work management tool like Asana can help your team track key decisions, collaborate with teammates, and stay on top of progress all in one place.

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making a decision in problem solving

This is how effective teams navigate the decision-making process

Zero Magic 8 Balls required.

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Flipping a coin. Throwing a dart at a board. Pulling a slip of paper out of a hat.

Sure, they’re all ways to make a choice. But they all hinge on random chance rather than analysis, reflection, and strategy — you know, the things you actually need to make the big, meaty decisions that have major impacts.

So, set down that Magic 8 Ball and back away slowly. Let’s walk through the standard framework for decision-making that will help you and your team pinpoint the problem, consider your options, and make your most informed selection. Here’s a closer look at each of the seven steps of the decision-making process, and how to approach each one. 

Step 1: Identify the decision

Most of us are eager to tie on our superhero capes and jump into problem-solving mode — especially if our team is depending on a solution. But you can’t solve a problem until you have a full grasp on what it actually is .

This first step focuses on getting the lay of the land when it comes to your decision. What specific problem are you trying to solve? What goal are you trying to achieve? 

How to do it: 

  • Use the 5 whys analysis to go beyond surface-level symptoms and understand the root cause of a problem.
  • Try problem framing to dig deep on the ins and outs of whatever problem your team is fixing. The point is to define the problem, not solve it. 

⚠️ Watch out for: Decision fatigue , which is the tendency to make worse decisions as a result of needing to make too many of them. Making choices is mentally taxing , which is why it’s helpful to pinpoint one decision at a time. 

2. Gather information

Your team probably has a few hunches and best guesses, but those can lead to knee-jerk reactions. Take care to invest adequate time and research into your decision.

This step is when you build your case, so to speak. Collect relevant information — that could be data, customer stories, information about past projects, feedback, or whatever else seems pertinent. You’ll use that to make decisions that are informed, rather than impulsive.

  • Host a team mindmapping session to freely explore ideas and make connections between them. It can help you identify what information will best support the process.
  • Create a project poster to define your goals and also determine what information you already know and what you still need to find out. 

⚠️ Watch out for: Information bias , or the tendency to seek out information even if it won’t impact your action. We have the tendency to think more information is always better, but pulling together a bunch of facts and insights that aren’t applicable may cloud your judgment rather than offer clarity. 

3. Identify alternatives

Use divergent thinking to generate fresh ideas in your next brainstorm

Use divergent thinking to generate fresh ideas in your next brainstorm

Blame the popularity of the coin toss, but making a decision often feels like choosing between only two options. Do you want heads or tails? Door number one or door number two? In reality, your options aren’t usually so cut and dried. Take advantage of this opportunity to get creative and brainstorm all sorts of routes or solutions. There’s no need to box yourselves in. 

  • Use the Six Thinking Hats technique to explore the problem or goal from all sides: information, emotions and instinct, risks, benefits, and creativity. It can help you and your team break away from your typical roles or mindsets and think more freely.
  • Try brainwriting so team members can write down their ideas independently before sharing with the group. Research shows that this quiet, lone thinking time can boost psychological safety and generate more creative suggestions .

⚠️ Watch out for: Groupthink , which is the tendency of a group to make non-optimal decisions in the interest of conformity. People don’t want to rock the boat, so they don’t speak up. 

4. Consider the evidence

Armed with your list of alternatives, it’s time to take a closer look and determine which ones could be worth pursuing. You and your team should ask questions like “How will this solution address the problem or achieve the goal?” and “What are the pros and cons of this option?” 

Be honest with your answers (and back them up with the information you already collected when you can). Remind the team that this isn’t about advocating for their own suggestions to “win” — it’s about whittling your options down to the best decision. 

How to do it:

  • Use a SWOT analysis to dig into the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the options you’re seriously considering.
  • Run a project trade-off analysis to understand what constraints (such as time, scope, or cost) the team is most willing to compromise on if needed. 

⚠️ Watch out for: Extinction by instinct , which is the urge to make a decision just to get it over with. You didn’t come this far to settle for a “good enough” option! 

5. Choose among the alternatives

This is it — it’s the big moment when you and the team actually make the decision. You’ve identified all possible options, considered the supporting evidence, and are ready to choose how you’ll move forward.

However, bear in mind that there’s still a surprising amount of room for flexibility here. Maybe you’ll modify an alternative or combine a few suggested solutions together to land on the best fit for your problem and your team. 

  • Use the DACI framework (that stands for “driver, approver, contributor, informed”) to understand who ultimately has the final say in decisions. The decision-making process can be collaborative, but eventually someone needs to be empowered to make the final call.
  • Try a simple voting method for decisions that are more democratized. You’ll simply tally your team’s votes and go with the majority. 

⚠️ Watch out for: Analysis paralysis , which is when you overthink something to such a great degree that you feel overwhelmed and freeze when it’s time to actually make a choice. 

6. Take action

Making a big decision takes a hefty amount of work, but it’s only the first part of the process — now you need to actually implement it. 

It’s tempting to think that decisions will work themselves out once they’re made. But particularly in a team setting, it’s crucial to invest just as much thought and planning into communicating the decision and successfully rolling it out. 

  • Create a stakeholder communications plan to determine how you’ll keep various people — direct team members, company leaders, customers, or whoever else has an active interest in your decision — in the loop on your progress.
  • Define the goals, signals, and measures of your decision so you’ll have an easier time aligning the team around the next steps and determining whether or not they’re successful. 

⚠️Watch out for: Self-doubt, or the tendency to question whether or not you’re making the right move. While we’re hardwired for doubt , now isn’t the time to be a skeptic about your decision. You and the team have done the work, so trust the process. 

7. Review your decision

9 retrospective techniques that won’t bore your team to tears.

As the decision itself starts to shake out, it’s time to take a look in the rearview mirror and reflect on how things went.

Did your decision work out the way you and the team hoped? What happened? Examine both the good and the bad. What should you keep in mind if and when you need to make this sort of decision again? 

  • Do a 4 L’s retrospective to talk through what you and the team loved, loathed, learned, and longed for as a result of that decision.
  • Celebrate any wins (yes, even the small ones ) related to that decision. It gives morale a good kick in the pants and can also help make future decisions feel a little less intimidating.

⚠️ Watch out for: Hindsight bias , or the tendency to look back on events with the knowledge you have now and beat yourself up for not knowing better at the time. Even with careful thought and planning, some decisions don’t work out — but you can only operate with the information you have at the time. 

Making smart decisions about the decision-making process

You’re probably picking up on the fact that the decision-making process is fairly comprehensive. And the truth is that the model is likely overkill for the small and inconsequential decisions you or your team members need to make.

Deciding whether you should order tacos or sandwiches for your team offsite doesn’t warrant this much discussion and elbow grease. But figuring out which major project to prioritize next? That requires some careful and collaborative thought. 

It all comes back to the concept of satisficing versus maximizing , which are two different perspectives on decision making. Here’s the gist:

  • Maximizers aim to get the very best out of every single decision.
  • Satisficers are willing to settle for “good enough” rather than obsessing over achieving the best outcome.

One of those isn’t necessarily better than the other — and, in fact, they both have their time and place.

A major decision with far-reaching impacts deserves some fixation and perfectionism. However, hemming and hawing over trivial choices ( “Should we start our team meeting with casual small talk or a structured icebreaker?” ) will only cause added stress, frustration, and slowdowns. 

As with anything else, it’s worth thinking about the potential impacts to determine just how much deliberation and precision a decision actually requires. 

Decision-making is one of those things that’s part art and part science. You’ll likely have some gut feelings and instincts that are worth taking into account. But those should also be complemented with plenty of evidence, evaluation, and collaboration.

The decision-making process is a framework that helps you strike that balance. Follow the seven steps and you and your team can feel confident in the decisions you make — while leaving the darts and coins where they belong.

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Steps in problem solving and decision making

  • Improved efficiency and productivity: Employees with strong problem solving and decision making skills are better equipped to identify and solve issues that may arise in their work. This leads to improved efficiency and productivity as they can complete their work more timely and effectively.
  • Improved customer satisfaction: Problem solving and decision making skills also help employees address any concerns or issues customers may have. This leads to enhanced customer satisfaction as customers feel their needs are being addressed and their problems are resolved.
  • Effective teamwork: When working in teams, problem solving and decision making skills are essential for effective collaboration . Groups that can effectively identify and solve problems together are more likely to successfully achieve their goals.
  • Innovation: Effective problem-solving and decision-making skills are also crucial for driving innovation in the workplace. Employees who think creatively and develop new solutions to problems are more likely to develop innovative ideas to move the business forward.
  • Risk management: Problem solving and decision making skills are also crucial for managing risk in the workplace. By identifying potential risks and developing strategies to mitigate them, employees can help minimize the negative impact of risks on the business.

Problem solving techniques

  • Brainstorming: Brainstorming is a technique for generating creative ideas and solutions to problems. In a brainstorming session, a group of people share their thoughts and build on each other’s suggestions. The goal is to generate a large number of ideas in a short amount of time. For example, a team of engineers could use brainstorming to develop new ideas for improving the efficiency of a manufacturing process.
  • Root Cause Analysis: Root cause analysis is a technique for identifying the underlying cause of a problem. It involves asking “why” questions to uncover the root cause of the problem. Once the root cause is identified, steps can be taken to address it. For example, a hospital could use root cause analysis to investigate why patient falls occur and identify the root cause, such as inadequate staffing or poor lighting.
  • SWOT Analysis: SWOT analysis is a technique for evaluating the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to a problem or situation. It involves assessing internal and external factors that could impact the problem and identifying ways to leverage strengths and opportunities while minimizing weaknesses and threats. For example, a small business could use SWOT analysis to evaluate its market position and identify opportunities to expand its product line or improve its marketing.
  • Pareto Analysis: Pareto analysis is a technique for identifying the most critical problems to address. It involves ranking problems by impact and frequency and first focusing on the most significant issues. For example, a software development team could use Pareto analysis to prioritize bugs and issues to fix based on their impact on the user experience.
  • Decision Matrix Analysis: Decision matrix analysis evaluates alternatives and selects the best course of action. It involves creating a matrix to compare options based on criteria and weighting factors and selecting the option with the highest score. For example, a manager could use decision matrix analysis to evaluate different software vendors based on criteria such as price, features, and support and select the vendor with the best overall score.

Decision making techniques

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: Cost-benefit analysis is a technique for evaluating the costs and benefits of different options. It involves comparing each option’s expected costs and benefits and selecting the one with the highest net benefit. For example, a company could use cost-benefit analysis to evaluate a new product line’s potential return on investment.
  • Decision Trees: Decision trees are a visual representation of the decision-making process. They involve mapping out different options and their potential outcomes and probabilities. This helps to identify the best course of action based on the likelihood of different outcomes. For example, a farmer could use a decision tree to choose crops to plant based on the expected weather patterns.
  • SWOT Analysis: SWOT analysis can also be used for decision making. By identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of different options, a decision maker can evaluate each option’s potential risks and benefits. For example, a business owner could use SWOT analysis to assess the potential risks and benefits of expanding into a new market.
  • Pros and Cons Analysis: Pros and cons analysis lists the advantages and disadvantages of different options. It involves weighing the pros and cons of each option to determine the best course of action. For example, an individual could use a pros and cons analysis to decide whether to take a job offer.
  • Six Thinking Hats: The six thinking hats technique is a way to think about a problem from different perspectives. It involves using six different “hats” to consider various aspects of the decision. The hats include white (facts and figures), red (emotions and feelings), black (risks and drawbacks), yellow (benefits and opportunities), green (creativity and new ideas), and blue (overview and control). For example, a team could use the six thinking hats technique to evaluate different options for a marketing campaign.

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Appreciate the complexities involved in decision-making & problem solving.

Develop evidence to support views

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A 5-Step Problem-Solving Strategy

Specify the problem – a first step to solving a problem is to identify it as specifically as possible.  It involves evaluating the present state and determining how it differs from the goal state.

Analyze the problem – analyzing the problem involves learning as much as you can about it.  It may be necessary to look beyond the obvious, surface situation, to stretch your imagination and reach for more creative options.

seek other perspectives

be flexible in your analysis

consider various strands of impact

brainstorm about all possibilities and implications

research problems for which you lack complete information. Get help.

Formulate possible solutions – identify a wide range of possible solutions.

try to think of all possible solutions

be creative

consider similar problems and how you have solved them

Evaluate possible solutions – weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each solution.  Think through each solution and consider how, when, and where you could accomplish each.  Consider both immediate and long-term results.  Mapping your solutions can be helpful at this stage.

Choose a solution – consider 3 factors:

compatibility with your priorities

amount of risk


Keys to Problem Solving

Think aloud – problem solving is a cognitive, mental process.  Thinking aloud or talking yourself through the steps of problem solving is useful.  Hearing yourself think can facilitate the process.

Allow time for ideas to "gel" or consolidate.  If time permits, give yourself time for solutions to develop.  Distance from a problem can allow you to clear your mind and get a new perspective.

Talk about the problem – describing the problem to someone else and talking about it can often make a problem become more clear and defined so that a new solution will surface.

Decision Making Strategies

Decision making is a process of identifying and evaluating choices.  We make numerous decisions every day and our decisions may range from routine, every-day types of decisions to those decisions which will have far reaching impacts.  The types of decisions we make are routine, impulsive, and reasoned.  Deciding what to eat for breakfast is a routine decision; deciding to do or buy something at the last minute is considered an impulsive decision; and choosing your college major is, hopefully, a reasoned decision.  College coursework often requires you to make the latter, or reasoned decisions.

Decision making has much in common with problem solving.  In problem solving you identify and evaluate solution paths; in decision making you make a similar discovery and evaluation of alternatives.  The crux of decision making, then, is the careful identification and evaluation of alternatives.  As you weigh alternatives, use the following suggestions:

Consider the outcome each is likely to produce, in both the short term and the long term.

Compare alternatives based on how easily you can accomplish each.

Evaluate possible negative side effects each may produce.

Consider the risk involved in each.

Be creative, original; don't eliminate alternatives because you have not heard or used them before.

An important part of decision making is to predict both short-term and long-term outcomes for each alternative.  You may find that while an alternative seems most desirable at the present, it may pose problems or complications over a longer time period.

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Chocolate or strawberry? Life or death? We make some choices quickly and automatically, relying on mental shortcuts our brains have developed over the years to guide us in the best course of action. Understanding strategies such as maximizing vs. satisficing , fast versus slow thinking, and factors such as risk tolerance and choice overload, can lead to better outcomes.

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When making a decision, we form opinions and choose actions via mental processes which are influenced by biases, reason, emotions, and memories. The simple act of deciding supports the notion that we have free will . We weigh the benefits and costs of our choice, and then we cope with the consequences. Factors that limit the ability to make good decisions include missing or incomplete information, urgent deadlines, and limited physical or emotional resources.

When people are put in a familiar situation, their decisions are often fast and automatic , based on longtime experience with what works and what doesn’t. However, when encountering a situation they’ve never been in before, they have to take time to weigh the potential benefits and risks when choosing a course of action. They are more likely to make mistakes and face negative consequences.

The ability to think critically is key to making good decisions without succumbing to common errors or bias . This means not just going with your gut, but rather figuring out what knowledge you lack and obtaining it. When you look at all possible sources of information with an open mind, you can make an informed decision based on facts rather than intuition .

A satisficing approach to making decisions involves settling for a good-enough outcome, even if it’s flawed. A maximizing approach, on the other hand, waits for conditions to be as perfect as possible to minimize potential risks. People who make good decisions know when it’s important to act immediately, and when there’s time to wait and gather more facts before making their choice.

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How do we choose between two or more options that seem equally appealing on the surface? Decision-making usually involves a mixture of intuition and rational thinking; critical factors, including personal biases and blind spots, are often unconscious , which makes decision-making hard to fully operationalize, or get a handle on.

However, there are steps to ensure that people make consistently excellent choices, including gathering as much information as possible, considering all the possible alternatives, as well as their attendant benefits and costs, and taking the time to sleep on weightier decisions.

In life, there is often no “right” decision. When surrounded by an abundance of options, it’s easy to experience decision paralysis or feel less satisfied with your decisions. You may even blame yourself when really you are going through “choice overload.” The key is to find ways to simplify your decision and not ruminate over the many roads not taken.

Decision-making can be stressful , and follow-through is essential. You may need to accept that panic , fear , and lack of self-confidence are often part of the decision-making process. It’s crucial to get enough sleep, so you can think clearly. Try to keep your priorities straight. Carefully weigh the trade-offs, commit to a decision, and then follow through on it.

Slow down the decision-making process to prevent impulsive choices. Be aware of common sales strategies like nudges and the decoy effect, which introduces a trick option to get individuals to make a certain decision. Gather as much information as you can, and don’t allow the desires of others to dictate your decision.


The field of behavioral economics demonstrated that people are not always rational when it comes to decision making. Fortunately, most personal and professional choices have few or no long-term, negative consequences. However, sometimes a person has to make a decision that will have a profound impact on their future—from who they marry to where they live to how they manage their professional career . In these cases, it’s important to avoid the common pitfalls that can lead to poor decision-making. These can include doing too little or too much research, mistaking opinions for facts, decision fatigue, a failure to learn from past errors, and more.

Don’t try to make the decision you would make, or railroad them into simply acting quickly if they are vacillating about an important matter. Rather, help them cultivate qualities of mind that will serve beyond just this moment, and encourage them to think through their options by simply and respectfully asking questions.

There are two types of rationalization that people commonly engage in: prospective and retrospective. Prospective rationalizing refers to rationalizing a decision before making it, whereas retrospective rationalizing refers to rationalizing a decision after the fact.

In the 2000s, Barry Schwarz coined the phrase the paradox of choice to describe the fact that American consumers have so many choices from which to choose that they often waste time and mind-space second-guessing themselves and comparing trivial differences.

When a large number of people are involved in making a decision, the process can be usurped by groupthink . Groupthink is when well-intentioned individuals make poor or irrational choices out of a desire to conform or avoid dissent. As a result, group members may feel pressured to ignore ethical considerations and refrain from expressing natural doubts and concerns.

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Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

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There are major differences between decision-making and problem-solving. The two entities differ in discrete and subtle ways and should be resolved at different levels within teams or organizations. Decision-making usually involves more experienced higher-order, process-dependent, and non-linear skills. The impact of decisions is usually more global, long-term, and less quantifiable and qualifiable.

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Bosk CL. (2003). Forgive and Remember: Managing Medical Failure . Second Edition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press; 2003.

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35 problem-solving techniques and methods for solving complex problems

Problem solving workshop

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All teams and organizations encounter challenges as they grow. There are problems that might occur for teams when it comes to miscommunication or resolving business-critical issues . You may face challenges around growth , design , user engagement, and even team culture and happiness. In short, problem-solving techniques should be part of every team’s skillset.

Problem-solving methods are primarily designed to help a group or team through a process of first identifying problems and challenges , ideating possible solutions , and then evaluating the most suitable .

Finding effective solutions to complex problems isn’t easy, but by using the right process and techniques, you can help your team be more efficient in the process.

So how do you develop strategies that are engaging, and empower your team to solve problems effectively?

In this blog post, we share a series of problem-solving tools you can use in your next workshop or team meeting. You’ll also find some tips for facilitating the process and how to enable others to solve complex problems.

Let’s get started! 

How do you identify problems?

How do you identify the right solution.

  • Tips for more effective problem-solving

Complete problem-solving methods

  • Problem-solving techniques to identify and analyze problems
  • Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions

Problem-solving warm-up activities

Closing activities for a problem-solving process.

Before you can move towards finding the right solution for a given problem, you first need to identify and define the problem you wish to solve. 

Here, you want to clearly articulate what the problem is and allow your group to do the same. Remember that everyone in a group is likely to have differing perspectives and alignment is necessary in order to help the group move forward. 

Identifying a problem accurately also requires that all members of a group are able to contribute their views in an open and safe manner. It can be scary for people to stand up and contribute, especially if the problems or challenges are emotive or personal in nature. Be sure to try and create a psychologically safe space for these kinds of discussions.

Remember that problem analysis and further discussion are also important. Not taking the time to fully analyze and discuss a challenge can result in the development of solutions that are not fit for purpose or do not address the underlying issue.

Successfully identifying and then analyzing a problem means facilitating a group through activities designed to help them clearly and honestly articulate their thoughts and produce usable insight.

With this data, you might then produce a problem statement that clearly describes the problem you wish to be addressed and also state the goal of any process you undertake to tackle this issue.  

Finding solutions is the end goal of any process. Complex organizational challenges can only be solved with an appropriate solution but discovering them requires using the right problem-solving tool.

After you’ve explored a problem and discussed ideas, you need to help a team discuss and choose the right solution. Consensus tools and methods such as those below help a group explore possible solutions before then voting for the best. They’re a great way to tap into the collective intelligence of the group for great results!

Remember that the process is often iterative. Great problem solvers often roadtest a viable solution in a measured way to see what works too. While you might not get the right solution on your first try, the methods below help teams land on the most likely to succeed solution while also holding space for improvement.

Every effective problem solving process begins with an agenda . A well-structured workshop is one of the best methods for successfully guiding a group from exploring a problem to implementing a solution.

In SessionLab, it’s easy to go from an idea to a complete agenda . Start by dragging and dropping your core problem solving activities into place . Add timings, breaks and necessary materials before sharing your agenda with your colleagues.

The resulting agenda will be your guide to an effective and productive problem solving session that will also help you stay organized on the day!

making a decision in problem solving

Tips for more effective problem solving

Problem-solving activities are only one part of the puzzle. While a great method can help unlock your team’s ability to solve problems, without a thoughtful approach and strong facilitation the solutions may not be fit for purpose.

Let’s take a look at some problem-solving tips you can apply to any process to help it be a success!

Clearly define the problem

Jumping straight to solutions can be tempting, though without first clearly articulating a problem, the solution might not be the right one. Many of the problem-solving activities below include sections where the problem is explored and clearly defined before moving on.

This is a vital part of the problem-solving process and taking the time to fully define an issue can save time and effort later. A clear definition helps identify irrelevant information and it also ensures that your team sets off on the right track.

Don’t jump to conclusions

It’s easy for groups to exhibit cognitive bias or have preconceived ideas about both problems and potential solutions. Be sure to back up any problem statements or potential solutions with facts, research, and adequate forethought.

The best techniques ask participants to be methodical and challenge preconceived notions. Make sure you give the group enough time and space to collect relevant information and consider the problem in a new way. By approaching the process with a clear, rational mindset, you’ll often find that better solutions are more forthcoming.  

Try different approaches  

Problems come in all shapes and sizes and so too should the methods you use to solve them. If you find that one approach isn’t yielding results and your team isn’t finding different solutions, try mixing it up. You’ll be surprised at how using a new creative activity can unblock your team and generate great solutions.

Don’t take it personally 

Depending on the nature of your team or organizational problems, it’s easy for conversations to get heated. While it’s good for participants to be engaged in the discussions, ensure that emotions don’t run too high and that blame isn’t thrown around while finding solutions.

You’re all in it together, and even if your team or area is seeing problems, that isn’t necessarily a disparagement of you personally. Using facilitation skills to manage group dynamics is one effective method of helping conversations be more constructive.

Get the right people in the room

Your problem-solving method is often only as effective as the group using it. Getting the right people on the job and managing the number of people present is important too!

If the group is too small, you may not get enough different perspectives to effectively solve a problem. If the group is too large, you can go round and round during the ideation stages.

Creating the right group makeup is also important in ensuring you have the necessary expertise and skillset to both identify and follow up on potential solutions. Carefully consider who to include at each stage to help ensure your problem-solving method is followed and positioned for success.

Document everything

The best solutions can take refinement, iteration, and reflection to come out. Get into a habit of documenting your process in order to keep all the learnings from the session and to allow ideas to mature and develop. Many of the methods below involve the creation of documents or shared resources. Be sure to keep and share these so everyone can benefit from the work done!

Bring a facilitator 

Facilitation is all about making group processes easier. With a subject as potentially emotive and important as problem-solving, having an impartial third party in the form of a facilitator can make all the difference in finding great solutions and keeping the process moving. Consider bringing a facilitator to your problem-solving session to get better results and generate meaningful solutions!

Develop your problem-solving skills

It takes time and practice to be an effective problem solver. While some roles or participants might more naturally gravitate towards problem-solving, it can take development and planning to help everyone create better solutions.

You might develop a training program, run a problem-solving workshop or simply ask your team to practice using the techniques below. Check out our post on problem-solving skills to see how you and your group can develop the right mental process and be more resilient to issues too!

Design a great agenda

Workshops are a great format for solving problems. With the right approach, you can focus a group and help them find the solutions to their own problems. But designing a process can be time-consuming and finding the right activities can be difficult.

Check out our workshop planning guide to level-up your agenda design and start running more effective workshops. Need inspiration? Check out templates designed by expert facilitators to help you kickstart your process!

In this section, we’ll look at in-depth problem-solving methods that provide a complete end-to-end process for developing effective solutions. These will help guide your team from the discovery and definition of a problem through to delivering the right solution.

If you’re looking for an all-encompassing method or problem-solving model, these processes are a great place to start. They’ll ask your team to challenge preconceived ideas and adopt a mindset for solving problems more effectively.

  • Six Thinking Hats
  • Lightning Decision Jam
  • Problem Definition Process
  • Discovery & Action Dialogue
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1. Six Thinking Hats

Individual approaches to solving a problem can be very different based on what team or role an individual holds. It can be easy for existing biases or perspectives to find their way into the mix, or for internal politics to direct a conversation.

Six Thinking Hats is a classic method for identifying the problems that need to be solved and enables your team to consider them from different angles, whether that is by focusing on facts and data, creative solutions, or by considering why a particular solution might not work.

Like all problem-solving frameworks, Six Thinking Hats is effective at helping teams remove roadblocks from a conversation or discussion and come to terms with all the aspects necessary to solve complex problems.

2. Lightning Decision Jam

Featured courtesy of Jonathan Courtney of AJ&Smart Berlin, Lightning Decision Jam is one of those strategies that should be in every facilitation toolbox. Exploring problems and finding solutions is often creative in nature, though as with any creative process, there is the potential to lose focus and get lost.

Unstructured discussions might get you there in the end, but it’s much more effective to use a method that creates a clear process and team focus.

In Lightning Decision Jam, participants are invited to begin by writing challenges, concerns, or mistakes on post-its without discussing them before then being invited by the moderator to present them to the group.

From there, the team vote on which problems to solve and are guided through steps that will allow them to reframe those problems, create solutions and then decide what to execute on. 

By deciding the problems that need to be solved as a team before moving on, this group process is great for ensuring the whole team is aligned and can take ownership over the next stages. 

Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ)   #action   #decision making   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #innovation   #design   #remote-friendly   The problem with anything that requires creative thinking is that it’s easy to get lost—lose focus and fall into the trap of having useless, open-ended, unstructured discussions. Here’s the most effective solution I’ve found: Replace all open, unstructured discussion with a clear process. What to use this exercise for: Anything which requires a group of people to make decisions, solve problems or discuss challenges. It’s always good to frame an LDJ session with a broad topic, here are some examples: The conversion flow of our checkout Our internal design process How we organise events Keeping up with our competition Improving sales flow

3. Problem Definition Process

While problems can be complex, the problem-solving methods you use to identify and solve those problems can often be simple in design. 

By taking the time to truly identify and define a problem before asking the group to reframe the challenge as an opportunity, this method is a great way to enable change.

Begin by identifying a focus question and exploring the ways in which it manifests before splitting into five teams who will each consider the problem using a different method: escape, reversal, exaggeration, distortion or wishful. Teams develop a problem objective and create ideas in line with their method before then feeding them back to the group.

This method is great for enabling in-depth discussions while also creating space for finding creative solutions too!

Problem Definition   #problem solving   #idea generation   #creativity   #online   #remote-friendly   A problem solving technique to define a problem, challenge or opportunity and to generate ideas.

4. The 5 Whys 

Sometimes, a group needs to go further with their strategies and analyze the root cause at the heart of organizational issues. An RCA or root cause analysis is the process of identifying what is at the heart of business problems or recurring challenges. 

The 5 Whys is a simple and effective method of helping a group go find the root cause of any problem or challenge and conduct analysis that will deliver results. 

By beginning with the creation of a problem statement and going through five stages to refine it, The 5 Whys provides everything you need to truly discover the cause of an issue.

The 5 Whys   #hyperisland   #innovation   This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. As the title suggests, the group defines a problems, then asks the question “why” five times, often using the resulting explanation as a starting point for creative problem solving.

5. World Cafe

World Cafe is a simple but powerful facilitation technique to help bigger groups to focus their energy and attention on solving complex problems.

World Cafe enables this approach by creating a relaxed atmosphere where participants are able to self-organize and explore topics relevant and important to them which are themed around a central problem-solving purpose. Create the right atmosphere by modeling your space after a cafe and after guiding the group through the method, let them take the lead!

Making problem-solving a part of your organization’s culture in the long term can be a difficult undertaking. More approachable formats like World Cafe can be especially effective in bringing people unfamiliar with workshops into the fold. 

World Cafe   #hyperisland   #innovation   #issue analysis   World Café is a simple yet powerful method, originated by Juanita Brown, for enabling meaningful conversations driven completely by participants and the topics that are relevant and important to them. Facilitators create a cafe-style space and provide simple guidelines. Participants then self-organize and explore a set of relevant topics or questions for conversation.

6. Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)

One of the best approaches is to create a safe space for a group to share and discover practices and behaviors that can help them find their own solutions.

With DAD, you can help a group choose which problems they wish to solve and which approaches they will take to do so. It’s great at helping remove resistance to change and can help get buy-in at every level too!

This process of enabling frontline ownership is great in ensuring follow-through and is one of the methods you will want in your toolbox as a facilitator.

Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)   #idea generation   #liberating structures   #action   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   DADs make it easy for a group or community to discover practices and behaviors that enable some individuals (without access to special resources and facing the same constraints) to find better solutions than their peers to common problems. These are called positive deviant (PD) behaviors and practices. DADs make it possible for people in the group, unit, or community to discover by themselves these PD practices. DADs also create favorable conditions for stimulating participants’ creativity in spaces where they can feel safe to invent new and more effective practices. Resistance to change evaporates as participants are unleashed to choose freely which practices they will adopt or try and which problems they will tackle. DADs make it possible to achieve frontline ownership of solutions.

7. Design Sprint 2.0

Want to see how a team can solve big problems and move forward with prototyping and testing solutions in a few days? The Design Sprint 2.0 template from Jake Knapp, author of Sprint, is a complete agenda for a with proven results.

Developing the right agenda can involve difficult but necessary planning. Ensuring all the correct steps are followed can also be stressful or time-consuming depending on your level of experience.

Use this complete 4-day workshop template if you are finding there is no obvious solution to your challenge and want to focus your team around a specific problem that might require a shortcut to launching a minimum viable product or waiting for the organization-wide implementation of a solution.

8. Open space technology

Open space technology- developed by Harrison Owen – creates a space where large groups are invited to take ownership of their problem solving and lead individual sessions. Open space technology is a great format when you have a great deal of expertise and insight in the room and want to allow for different takes and approaches on a particular theme or problem you need to be solved.

Start by bringing your participants together to align around a central theme and focus their efforts. Explain the ground rules to help guide the problem-solving process and then invite members to identify any issue connecting to the central theme that they are interested in and are prepared to take responsibility for.

Once participants have decided on their approach to the core theme, they write their issue on a piece of paper, announce it to the group, pick a session time and place, and post the paper on the wall. As the wall fills up with sessions, the group is then invited to join the sessions that interest them the most and which they can contribute to, then you’re ready to begin!

Everyone joins the problem-solving group they’ve signed up to, record the discussion and if appropriate, findings can then be shared with the rest of the group afterward.

Open Space Technology   #action plan   #idea generation   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #large group   #online   #remote-friendly   Open Space is a methodology for large groups to create their agenda discerning important topics for discussion, suitable for conferences, community gatherings and whole system facilitation

Techniques to identify and analyze problems

Using a problem-solving method to help a team identify and analyze a problem can be a quick and effective addition to any workshop or meeting.

While further actions are always necessary, you can generate momentum and alignment easily, and these activities are a great place to get started.

We’ve put together this list of techniques to help you and your team with problem identification, analysis, and discussion that sets the foundation for developing effective solutions.

Let’s take a look!

  • The Creativity Dice
  • Fishbone Analysis
  • Problem Tree
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Agreement-Certainty Matrix
  • The Journalistic Six
  • LEGO Challenge
  • What, So What, Now What?
  • Journalists

Individual and group perspectives are incredibly important, but what happens if people are set in their minds and need a change of perspective in order to approach a problem more effectively?

Flip It is a method we love because it is both simple to understand and run, and allows groups to understand how their perspectives and biases are formed. 

Participants in Flip It are first invited to consider concerns, issues, or problems from a perspective of fear and write them on a flip chart. Then, the group is asked to consider those same issues from a perspective of hope and flip their understanding.  

No problem and solution is free from existing bias and by changing perspectives with Flip It, you can then develop a problem solving model quickly and effectively.

Flip It!   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   Often, a change in a problem or situation comes simply from a change in our perspectives. Flip It! is a quick game designed to show players that perspectives are made, not born.

10. The Creativity Dice

One of the most useful problem solving skills you can teach your team is of approaching challenges with creativity, flexibility, and openness. Games like The Creativity Dice allow teams to overcome the potential hurdle of too much linear thinking and approach the process with a sense of fun and speed. 

In The Creativity Dice, participants are organized around a topic and roll a dice to determine what they will work on for a period of 3 minutes at a time. They might roll a 3 and work on investigating factual information on the chosen topic. They might roll a 1 and work on identifying the specific goals, standards, or criteria for the session.

Encouraging rapid work and iteration while asking participants to be flexible are great skills to cultivate. Having a stage for idea incubation in this game is also important. Moments of pause can help ensure the ideas that are put forward are the most suitable. 

The Creativity Dice   #creativity   #problem solving   #thiagi   #issue analysis   Too much linear thinking is hazardous to creative problem solving. To be creative, you should approach the problem (or the opportunity) from different points of view. You should leave a thought hanging in mid-air and move to another. This skipping around prevents premature closure and lets your brain incubate one line of thought while you consciously pursue another.

11. Fishbone Analysis

Organizational or team challenges are rarely simple, and it’s important to remember that one problem can be an indication of something that goes deeper and may require further consideration to be solved.

Fishbone Analysis helps groups to dig deeper and understand the origins of a problem. It’s a great example of a root cause analysis method that is simple for everyone on a team to get their head around. 

Participants in this activity are asked to annotate a diagram of a fish, first adding the problem or issue to be worked on at the head of a fish before then brainstorming the root causes of the problem and adding them as bones on the fish. 

Using abstractions such as a diagram of a fish can really help a team break out of their regular thinking and develop a creative approach.

Fishbone Analysis   #problem solving   ##root cause analysis   #decision making   #online facilitation   A process to help identify and understand the origins of problems, issues or observations.

12. Problem Tree 

Encouraging visual thinking can be an essential part of many strategies. By simply reframing and clarifying problems, a group can move towards developing a problem solving model that works for them. 

In Problem Tree, groups are asked to first brainstorm a list of problems – these can be design problems, team problems or larger business problems – and then organize them into a hierarchy. The hierarchy could be from most important to least important or abstract to practical, though the key thing with problem solving games that involve this aspect is that your group has some way of managing and sorting all the issues that are raised.

Once you have a list of problems that need to be solved and have organized them accordingly, you’re then well-positioned for the next problem solving steps.

Problem tree   #define intentions   #create   #design   #issue analysis   A problem tree is a tool to clarify the hierarchy of problems addressed by the team within a design project; it represents high level problems or related sublevel problems.

13. SWOT Analysis

Chances are you’ve heard of the SWOT Analysis before. This problem-solving method focuses on identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is a tried and tested method for both individuals and teams.

Start by creating a desired end state or outcome and bare this in mind – any process solving model is made more effective by knowing what you are moving towards. Create a quadrant made up of the four categories of a SWOT analysis and ask participants to generate ideas based on each of those quadrants.

Once you have those ideas assembled in their quadrants, cluster them together based on their affinity with other ideas. These clusters are then used to facilitate group conversations and move things forward. 

SWOT analysis   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   #meeting facilitation   The SWOT Analysis is a long-standing technique of looking at what we have, with respect to the desired end state, as well as what we could improve on. It gives us an opportunity to gauge approaching opportunities and dangers, and assess the seriousness of the conditions that affect our future. When we understand those conditions, we can influence what comes next.

14. Agreement-Certainty Matrix

Not every problem-solving approach is right for every challenge, and deciding on the right method for the challenge at hand is a key part of being an effective team.

The Agreement Certainty matrix helps teams align on the nature of the challenges facing them. By sorting problems from simple to chaotic, your team can understand what methods are suitable for each problem and what they can do to ensure effective results. 

If you are already using Liberating Structures techniques as part of your problem-solving strategy, the Agreement-Certainty Matrix can be an invaluable addition to your process. We’ve found it particularly if you are having issues with recurring problems in your organization and want to go deeper in understanding the root cause. 

Agreement-Certainty Matrix   #issue analysis   #liberating structures   #problem solving   You can help individuals or groups avoid the frequent mistake of trying to solve a problem with methods that are not adapted to the nature of their challenge. The combination of two questions makes it possible to easily sort challenges into four categories: simple, complicated, complex , and chaotic .  A problem is simple when it can be solved reliably with practices that are easy to duplicate.  It is complicated when experts are required to devise a sophisticated solution that will yield the desired results predictably.  A problem is complex when there are several valid ways to proceed but outcomes are not predictable in detail.  Chaotic is when the context is too turbulent to identify a path forward.  A loose analogy may be used to describe these differences: simple is like following a recipe, complicated like sending a rocket to the moon, complex like raising a child, and chaotic is like the game “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”  The Liberating Structures Matching Matrix in Chapter 5 can be used as the first step to clarify the nature of a challenge and avoid the mismatches between problems and solutions that are frequently at the root of chronic, recurring problems.

Organizing and charting a team’s progress can be important in ensuring its success. SQUID (Sequential Question and Insight Diagram) is a great model that allows a team to effectively switch between giving questions and answers and develop the skills they need to stay on track throughout the process. 

Begin with two different colored sticky notes – one for questions and one for answers – and with your central topic (the head of the squid) on the board. Ask the group to first come up with a series of questions connected to their best guess of how to approach the topic. Ask the group to come up with answers to those questions, fix them to the board and connect them with a line. After some discussion, go back to question mode by responding to the generated answers or other points on the board.

It’s rewarding to see a diagram grow throughout the exercise, and a completed SQUID can provide a visual resource for future effort and as an example for other teams.

SQUID   #gamestorming   #project planning   #issue analysis   #problem solving   When exploring an information space, it’s important for a group to know where they are at any given time. By using SQUID, a group charts out the territory as they go and can navigate accordingly. SQUID stands for Sequential Question and Insight Diagram.

16. Speed Boat

To continue with our nautical theme, Speed Boat is a short and sweet activity that can help a team quickly identify what employees, clients or service users might have a problem with and analyze what might be standing in the way of achieving a solution.

Methods that allow for a group to make observations, have insights and obtain those eureka moments quickly are invaluable when trying to solve complex problems.

In Speed Boat, the approach is to first consider what anchors and challenges might be holding an organization (or boat) back. Bonus points if you are able to identify any sharks in the water and develop ideas that can also deal with competitors!   

Speed Boat   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   Speedboat is a short and sweet way to identify what your employees or clients don’t like about your product/service or what’s standing in the way of a desired goal.

17. The Journalistic Six

Some of the most effective ways of solving problems is by encouraging teams to be more inclusive and diverse in their thinking.

Based on the six key questions journalism students are taught to answer in articles and news stories, The Journalistic Six helps create teams to see the whole picture. By using who, what, when, where, why, and how to facilitate the conversation and encourage creative thinking, your team can make sure that the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the are covered exhaustively and thoughtfully. Reporter’s notebook and dictaphone optional.

The Journalistic Six – Who What When Where Why How   #idea generation   #issue analysis   #problem solving   #online   #creative thinking   #remote-friendly   A questioning method for generating, explaining, investigating ideas.

18. LEGO Challenge

Now for an activity that is a little out of the (toy) box. LEGO Serious Play is a facilitation methodology that can be used to improve creative thinking and problem-solving skills. 

The LEGO Challenge includes giving each member of the team an assignment that is hidden from the rest of the group while they create a structure without speaking.

What the LEGO challenge brings to the table is a fun working example of working with stakeholders who might not be on the same page to solve problems. Also, it’s LEGO! Who doesn’t love LEGO! 

LEGO Challenge   #hyperisland   #team   A team-building activity in which groups must work together to build a structure out of LEGO, but each individual has a secret “assignment” which makes the collaborative process more challenging. It emphasizes group communication, leadership dynamics, conflict, cooperation, patience and problem solving strategy.

19. What, So What, Now What?

If not carefully managed, the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the problem-solving process can actually create more problems and misunderstandings.

The What, So What, Now What? problem-solving activity is designed to help collect insights and move forward while also eliminating the possibility of disagreement when it comes to identifying, clarifying, and analyzing organizational or work problems. 

Facilitation is all about bringing groups together so that might work on a shared goal and the best problem-solving strategies ensure that teams are aligned in purpose, if not initially in opinion or insight.

Throughout the three steps of this game, you give everyone on a team to reflect on a problem by asking what happened, why it is important, and what actions should then be taken. 

This can be a great activity for bringing our individual perceptions about a problem or challenge and contextualizing it in a larger group setting. This is one of the most important problem-solving skills you can bring to your organization.

W³ – What, So What, Now What?   #issue analysis   #innovation   #liberating structures   You can help groups reflect on a shared experience in a way that builds understanding and spurs coordinated action while avoiding unproductive conflict. It is possible for every voice to be heard while simultaneously sifting for insights and shaping new direction. Progressing in stages makes this practical—from collecting facts about What Happened to making sense of these facts with So What and finally to what actions logically follow with Now What . The shared progression eliminates most of the misunderstandings that otherwise fuel disagreements about what to do. Voila!

20. Journalists  

Problem analysis can be one of the most important and decisive stages of all problem-solving tools. Sometimes, a team can become bogged down in the details and are unable to move forward.

Journalists is an activity that can avoid a group from getting stuck in the problem identification or problem analysis stages of the process.

In Journalists, the group is invited to draft the front page of a fictional newspaper and figure out what stories deserve to be on the cover and what headlines those stories will have. By reframing how your problems and challenges are approached, you can help a team move productively through the process and be better prepared for the steps to follow.

Journalists   #vision   #big picture   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   This is an exercise to use when the group gets stuck in details and struggles to see the big picture. Also good for defining a vision.

Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions 

The success of any problem-solving process can be measured by the solutions it produces. After you’ve defined the issue, explored existing ideas, and ideated, it’s time to narrow down to the correct solution.

Use these problem-solving techniques when you want to help your team find consensus, compare possible solutions, and move towards taking action on a particular problem.

  • Improved Solutions
  • Four-Step Sketch
  • 15% Solutions
  • How-Now-Wow matrix
  • Impact Effort Matrix

21. Mindspin  

Brainstorming is part of the bread and butter of the problem-solving process and all problem-solving strategies benefit from getting ideas out and challenging a team to generate solutions quickly. 

With Mindspin, participants are encouraged not only to generate ideas but to do so under time constraints and by slamming down cards and passing them on. By doing multiple rounds, your team can begin with a free generation of possible solutions before moving on to developing those solutions and encouraging further ideation. 

This is one of our favorite problem-solving activities and can be great for keeping the energy up throughout the workshop. Remember the importance of helping people become engaged in the process – energizing problem-solving techniques like Mindspin can help ensure your team stays engaged and happy, even when the problems they’re coming together to solve are complex. 

MindSpin   #teampedia   #idea generation   #problem solving   #action   A fast and loud method to enhance brainstorming within a team. Since this activity has more than round ideas that are repetitive can be ruled out leaving more creative and innovative answers to the challenge.

22. Improved Solutions

After a team has successfully identified a problem and come up with a few solutions, it can be tempting to call the work of the problem-solving process complete. That said, the first solution is not necessarily the best, and by including a further review and reflection activity into your problem-solving model, you can ensure your group reaches the best possible result. 

One of a number of problem-solving games from Thiagi Group, Improved Solutions helps you go the extra mile and develop suggested solutions with close consideration and peer review. By supporting the discussion of several problems at once and by shifting team roles throughout, this problem-solving technique is a dynamic way of finding the best solution. 

Improved Solutions   #creativity   #thiagi   #problem solving   #action   #team   You can improve any solution by objectively reviewing its strengths and weaknesses and making suitable adjustments. In this creativity framegame, you improve the solutions to several problems. To maintain objective detachment, you deal with a different problem during each of six rounds and assume different roles (problem owner, consultant, basher, booster, enhancer, and evaluator) during each round. At the conclusion of the activity, each player ends up with two solutions to her problem.

23. Four Step Sketch

Creative thinking and visual ideation does not need to be confined to the opening stages of your problem-solving strategies. Exercises that include sketching and prototyping on paper can be effective at the solution finding and development stage of the process, and can be great for keeping a team engaged. 

By going from simple notes to a crazy 8s round that involves rapidly sketching 8 variations on their ideas before then producing a final solution sketch, the group is able to iterate quickly and visually. Problem-solving techniques like Four-Step Sketch are great if you have a group of different thinkers and want to change things up from a more textual or discussion-based approach.

Four-Step Sketch   #design sprint   #innovation   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   The four-step sketch is an exercise that helps people to create well-formed concepts through a structured process that includes: Review key information Start design work on paper,  Consider multiple variations , Create a detailed solution . This exercise is preceded by a set of other activities allowing the group to clarify the challenge they want to solve. See how the Four Step Sketch exercise fits into a Design Sprint

24. 15% Solutions

Some problems are simpler than others and with the right problem-solving activities, you can empower people to take immediate actions that can help create organizational change. 

Part of the liberating structures toolkit, 15% solutions is a problem-solving technique that focuses on finding and implementing solutions quickly. A process of iterating and making small changes quickly can help generate momentum and an appetite for solving complex problems.

Problem-solving strategies can live and die on whether people are onboard. Getting some quick wins is a great way of getting people behind the process.   

It can be extremely empowering for a team to realize that problem-solving techniques can be deployed quickly and easily and delineate between things they can positively impact and those things they cannot change. 

15% Solutions   #action   #liberating structures   #remote-friendly   You can reveal the actions, however small, that everyone can do immediately. At a minimum, these will create momentum, and that may make a BIG difference.  15% Solutions show that there is no reason to wait around, feel powerless, or fearful. They help people pick it up a level. They get individuals and the group to focus on what is within their discretion instead of what they cannot change.  With a very simple question, you can flip the conversation to what can be done and find solutions to big problems that are often distributed widely in places not known in advance. Shifting a few grains of sand may trigger a landslide and change the whole landscape.

25. How-Now-Wow Matrix

The problem-solving process is often creative, as complex problems usually require a change of thinking and creative response in order to find the best solutions. While it’s common for the first stages to encourage creative thinking, groups can often gravitate to familiar solutions when it comes to the end of the process. 

When selecting solutions, you don’t want to lose your creative energy! The How-Now-Wow Matrix from Gamestorming is a great problem-solving activity that enables a group to stay creative and think out of the box when it comes to selecting the right solution for a given problem.

Problem-solving techniques that encourage creative thinking and the ideation and selection of new solutions can be the most effective in organisational change. Give the How-Now-Wow Matrix a go, and not just for how pleasant it is to say out loud. 

How-Now-Wow Matrix   #gamestorming   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   When people want to develop new ideas, they most often think out of the box in the brainstorming or divergent phase. However, when it comes to convergence, people often end up picking ideas that are most familiar to them. This is called a ‘creative paradox’ or a ‘creadox’. The How-Now-Wow matrix is an idea selection tool that breaks the creadox by forcing people to weigh each idea on 2 parameters.

26. Impact and Effort Matrix

All problem-solving techniques hope to not only find solutions to a given problem or challenge but to find the best solution. When it comes to finding a solution, groups are invited to put on their decision-making hats and really think about how a proposed idea would work in practice. 

The Impact and Effort Matrix is one of the problem-solving techniques that fall into this camp, empowering participants to first generate ideas and then categorize them into a 2×2 matrix based on impact and effort.

Activities that invite critical thinking while remaining simple are invaluable. Use the Impact and Effort Matrix to move from ideation and towards evaluating potential solutions before then committing to them. 

Impact and Effort Matrix   #gamestorming   #decision making   #action   #remote-friendly   In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.

27. Dotmocracy

If you’ve followed each of the problem-solving steps with your group successfully, you should move towards the end of your process with heaps of possible solutions developed with a specific problem in mind. But how do you help a group go from ideation to putting a solution into action? 

Dotmocracy – or Dot Voting -is a tried and tested method of helping a team in the problem-solving process make decisions and put actions in place with a degree of oversight and consensus. 

One of the problem-solving techniques that should be in every facilitator’s toolbox, Dot Voting is fast and effective and can help identify the most popular and best solutions and help bring a group to a decision effectively. 

Dotmocracy   #action   #decision making   #group prioritization   #hyperisland   #remote-friendly   Dotmocracy is a simple method for group prioritization or decision-making. It is not an activity on its own, but a method to use in processes where prioritization or decision-making is the aim. The method supports a group to quickly see which options are most popular or relevant. The options or ideas are written on post-its and stuck up on a wall for the whole group to see. Each person votes for the options they think are the strongest, and that information is used to inform a decision.

All facilitators know that warm-ups and icebreakers are useful for any workshop or group process. Problem-solving workshops are no different.

Use these problem-solving techniques to warm up a group and prepare them for the rest of the process. Activating your group by tapping into some of the top problem-solving skills can be one of the best ways to see great outcomes from your session.

  • Check-in/Check-out
  • Doodling Together
  • Show and Tell
  • Constellations
  • Draw a Tree

28. Check-in / Check-out

Solid processes are planned from beginning to end, and the best facilitators know that setting the tone and establishing a safe, open environment can be integral to a successful problem-solving process.

Check-in / Check-out is a great way to begin and/or bookend a problem-solving workshop. Checking in to a session emphasizes that everyone will be seen, heard, and expected to contribute. 

If you are running a series of meetings, setting a consistent pattern of checking in and checking out can really help your team get into a groove. We recommend this opening-closing activity for small to medium-sized groups though it can work with large groups if they’re disciplined!

Check-in / Check-out   #team   #opening   #closing   #hyperisland   #remote-friendly   Either checking-in or checking-out is a simple way for a team to open or close a process, symbolically and in a collaborative way. Checking-in/out invites each member in a group to be present, seen and heard, and to express a reflection or a feeling. Checking-in emphasizes presence, focus and group commitment; checking-out emphasizes reflection and symbolic closure.

29. Doodling Together  

Thinking creatively and not being afraid to make suggestions are important problem-solving skills for any group or team, and warming up by encouraging these behaviors is a great way to start. 

Doodling Together is one of our favorite creative ice breaker games – it’s quick, effective, and fun and can make all following problem-solving steps easier by encouraging a group to collaborate visually. By passing cards and adding additional items as they go, the workshop group gets into a groove of co-creation and idea development that is crucial to finding solutions to problems. 

Doodling Together   #collaboration   #creativity   #teamwork   #fun   #team   #visual methods   #energiser   #icebreaker   #remote-friendly   Create wild, weird and often funny postcards together & establish a group’s creative confidence.

30. Show and Tell

You might remember some version of Show and Tell from being a kid in school and it’s a great problem-solving activity to kick off a session.

Asking participants to prepare a little something before a workshop by bringing an object for show and tell can help them warm up before the session has even begun! Games that include a physical object can also help encourage early engagement before moving onto more big-picture thinking.

By asking your participants to tell stories about why they chose to bring a particular item to the group, you can help teams see things from new perspectives and see both differences and similarities in the way they approach a topic. Great groundwork for approaching a problem-solving process as a team! 

Show and Tell   #gamestorming   #action   #opening   #meeting facilitation   Show and Tell taps into the power of metaphors to reveal players’ underlying assumptions and associations around a topic The aim of the game is to get a deeper understanding of stakeholders’ perspectives on anything—a new project, an organizational restructuring, a shift in the company’s vision or team dynamic.

31. Constellations

Who doesn’t love stars? Constellations is a great warm-up activity for any workshop as it gets people up off their feet, energized, and ready to engage in new ways with established topics. It’s also great for showing existing beliefs, biases, and patterns that can come into play as part of your session.

Using warm-up games that help build trust and connection while also allowing for non-verbal responses can be great for easing people into the problem-solving process and encouraging engagement from everyone in the group. Constellations is great in large spaces that allow for movement and is definitely a practical exercise to allow the group to see patterns that are otherwise invisible. 

Constellations   #trust   #connection   #opening   #coaching   #patterns   #system   Individuals express their response to a statement or idea by standing closer or further from a central object. Used with teams to reveal system, hidden patterns, perspectives.

32. Draw a Tree

Problem-solving games that help raise group awareness through a central, unifying metaphor can be effective ways to warm-up a group in any problem-solving model.

Draw a Tree is a simple warm-up activity you can use in any group and which can provide a quick jolt of energy. Start by asking your participants to draw a tree in just 45 seconds – they can choose whether it will be abstract or realistic. 

Once the timer is up, ask the group how many people included the roots of the tree and use this as a means to discuss how we can ignore important parts of any system simply because they are not visible.

All problem-solving strategies are made more effective by thinking of problems critically and by exposing things that may not normally come to light. Warm-up games like Draw a Tree are great in that they quickly demonstrate some key problem-solving skills in an accessible and effective way.

Draw a Tree   #thiagi   #opening   #perspectives   #remote-friendly   With this game you can raise awarness about being more mindful, and aware of the environment we live in.

Each step of the problem-solving workshop benefits from an intelligent deployment of activities, games, and techniques. Bringing your session to an effective close helps ensure that solutions are followed through on and that you also celebrate what has been achieved.

Here are some problem-solving activities you can use to effectively close a workshop or meeting and ensure the great work you’ve done can continue afterward.

  • One Breath Feedback
  • Who What When Matrix
  • Response Cards

How do I conclude a problem-solving process?

All good things must come to an end. With the bulk of the work done, it can be tempting to conclude your workshop swiftly and without a moment to debrief and align. This can be problematic in that it doesn’t allow your team to fully process the results or reflect on the process.

At the end of an effective session, your team will have gone through a process that, while productive, can be exhausting. It’s important to give your group a moment to take a breath, ensure that they are clear on future actions, and provide short feedback before leaving the space. 

The primary purpose of any problem-solving method is to generate solutions and then implement them. Be sure to take the opportunity to ensure everyone is aligned and ready to effectively implement the solutions you produced in the workshop.

Remember that every process can be improved and by giving a short moment to collect feedback in the session, you can further refine your problem-solving methods and see further success in the future too.

33. One Breath Feedback

Maintaining attention and focus during the closing stages of a problem-solving workshop can be tricky and so being concise when giving feedback can be important. It’s easy to incur “death by feedback” should some team members go on for too long sharing their perspectives in a quick feedback round. 

One Breath Feedback is a great closing activity for workshops. You give everyone an opportunity to provide feedback on what they’ve done but only in the space of a single breath. This keeps feedback short and to the point and means that everyone is encouraged to provide the most important piece of feedback to them. 

One breath feedback   #closing   #feedback   #action   This is a feedback round in just one breath that excels in maintaining attention: each participants is able to speak during just one breath … for most people that’s around 20 to 25 seconds … unless of course you’ve been a deep sea diver in which case you’ll be able to do it for longer.

34. Who What When Matrix 

Matrices feature as part of many effective problem-solving strategies and with good reason. They are easily recognizable, simple to use, and generate results.

The Who What When Matrix is a great tool to use when closing your problem-solving session by attributing a who, what and when to the actions and solutions you have decided upon. The resulting matrix is a simple, easy-to-follow way of ensuring your team can move forward. 

Great solutions can’t be enacted without action and ownership. Your problem-solving process should include a stage for allocating tasks to individuals or teams and creating a realistic timeframe for those solutions to be implemented or checked out. Use this method to keep the solution implementation process clear and simple for all involved. 

Who/What/When Matrix   #gamestorming   #action   #project planning   With Who/What/When matrix, you can connect people with clear actions they have defined and have committed to.

35. Response cards

Group discussion can comprise the bulk of most problem-solving activities and by the end of the process, you might find that your team is talked out! 

Providing a means for your team to give feedback with short written notes can ensure everyone is head and can contribute without the need to stand up and talk. Depending on the needs of the group, giving an alternative can help ensure everyone can contribute to your problem-solving model in the way that makes the most sense for them.

Response Cards is a great way to close a workshop if you are looking for a gentle warm-down and want to get some swift discussion around some of the feedback that is raised. 

Response Cards   #debriefing   #closing   #structured sharing   #questions and answers   #thiagi   #action   It can be hard to involve everyone during a closing of a session. Some might stay in the background or get unheard because of louder participants. However, with the use of Response Cards, everyone will be involved in providing feedback or clarify questions at the end of a session.

Save time and effort discovering the right solutions

A structured problem solving process is a surefire way of solving tough problems, discovering creative solutions and driving organizational change. But how can you design for successful outcomes?

With SessionLab, it’s easy to design engaging workshops that deliver results. Drag, drop and reorder blocks  to build your agenda. When you make changes or update your agenda, your session  timing   adjusts automatically , saving you time on manual adjustments.

Collaborating with stakeholders or clients? Share your agenda with a single click and collaborate in real-time. No more sending documents back and forth over email.

Explore  how to use SessionLab  to design effective problem solving workshops or  watch this five minute video  to see the planner in action!

making a decision in problem solving

Over to you

The problem-solving process can often be as complicated and multifaceted as the problems they are set-up to solve. With the right problem-solving techniques and a mix of creative exercises designed to guide discussion and generate purposeful ideas, we hope we’ve given you the tools to find the best solutions as simply and easily as possible.

Is there a problem-solving technique that you are missing here? Do you have a favorite activity or method you use when facilitating? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you! 

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Decision-Making & Its Importance in Problem-Solving

Life is all about making decisions. From getting out of bed in the morning until you call it a day,…

Decision Making & Its Importance In Problem Solving

Life is all about making decisions. From getting out of bed in the morning until you call it a day, we are constantly making choices and making decisions.

Whether it is your personal or professional life, you are often defined by your decisions.

Some of your decisions are mundane and almost automatic such as brushing your teeth and taking a bath, while some tasks require minor decision-making such as planning your daily schedule.

However, in a professional environment, decision-making skills can make all the difference as they can determine your growth and future career development. Depending on your role in an organization, your decisions can also impact other employees and even the overall image of the business.

When it comes to challenges and taking critical decisions, a lot of people shy away from taking responsibility. However, people with a decisive approach and a knack for taking well-measured and well-timed decisions are automatically regarded as leaders.

By honing your decision-making skills, you can create a strong bond with your colleagues and create a harmonious environment around you.

What is Decision-Making?

If we have to define decision-making in the context of the workplace, it is safe to say that management is nothing but a continuous process of decision-making. It is the responsibility of business managers to make operational decisions and ensure that their teams execute the tasks. In fact, the success of every manager depends largely on her decision-making skills.

The process of business planning depends on the art of decision-making. During the planning stage, managers need to make various decisions such as setting organizational goals. They decide on key products, marketing strategies, role assignments and timelines for every task.

In situations where the plans don’t deliver the desired outcome or are derailed due to external issues or lack of performance, it is the managers who need to bring things back on track by taking contingency decisions.

The charting of business plans is in effect great evidence of the importance of decision making. The care and research put in before taking a decision shape the impact it will make. Managers decide individual targets, team goals and various other rules and regulations related to the team’s functioning and conflict resolution, wherever needed.

Importance of decision-making

Iconic 20th-century management guru Peter F. Drucker said once, “Whatever a manager does, he does through making decisions.” That is exactly what we are talking about here.

It doesn’t matter whether you are working in a small company with less than 10 employees or in a large enterprise that has thousands of employees, things and situations always change. Over time, old practices, rules and personnel make space for new processes, especially in uncertain situations. However, these changed situations need people to make decisions.

The meaning of decision-making is strongly connected with management roles. Whether you create plans or organize discussions, give orders or advice, approve plans or reject them, every action involves decision-making. Thus, it can be considered an essential function of management.

If you work in a highly profitable enterprise, you will need to make a lot of critical decisions such as pricing a product, deciding which products to market, controlling production costs, advertising, capital investments, creating a policy for dividends and taking care of employee issues, among others.

Such decisions also need to be taken even by managers in government or social service enterprises where profit is not the criterion of success.

Decision-making and its importance in problem-solving

The importance of decision making lies in the way it helps you in choosing between various options. Before making a decision, there is a need to gather all available information and to weigh its pros and cons. It is crucial to focus on steps that can help in taking the right decisions.

There is a strong correlation between decision-making and problem-solving.

To further understand the importance of decision-making skills, let us take a look at the various ways in which decision-making can help solve problems:

Step-wise approach:.

Decision-making is not a random process. Before taking crucial decisions that can have a long-term impact on individual as well as organizational goals and performance, it is important to avoid various challenges.

Many times, we tend to get influenced by the majority opinion. Even if you feel that the group is not moving towards the right decision, you are scared of voicing your opinion due to the fear of isolation.

A systematic decision process ensures such erroneous situations are avoided.

Impact analysis:

By using the correct approaches and ethical decision-making processes, we can evaluate the impact of different choices. For instance, it is important to know whether a decision is long-term or temporary. We can assess the impact that a decision might have on people in the organization and whether they will feel happy about it or not.

Finding decision alternatives:

The decision-making process brings to fore skills such as probing and creativity. By using probing skills, you can gather more information about the various alternatives and creativity can help you in finding options that were previously not known.

Future forecasting:

The importance of decision making is amply seen in its ability to allow future forecasting. When we make a decision through a systematic process, we can calculate the likely impact of the decision on a business’s future growth.

Evaluating various options:

One of the characteristics of decision-making is that it is a fact-based process. Before making a decision, we gather all information about the various options and evaluate their feasibility and impact on the company’s present and future scenarios. This gives us the ability to make ethical decisions that are generally also the right decisions.

Risk assessment:

Strong decision-making skills are crucial in the risk assessment of decisions. They give us the ability to not only take the various options into account and weigh their pros and cons but also to assess the risk. By thoroughly evaluating all the options, market scenarios and past data, we can anticipate the chances of success and prepare for worst-case scenarios. Such a risk analysis comes handy for contingency planning as well as during any course corrections.

Impact on human resources:

Good decision-making can reap rich benefits for the organization. It can help foster a collaborative work environment and create clarity of communication among various stakeholders. By adopting group decision-making processes, it is possible to make different team members understand each other’s perspectives, strengths and weaknesses.

Leadership and emotional management:

Strong decision-making helps solve problems promptly and creates a leadership position for the decision-makers. Strong decisions should be impartial and devoid of any emotional influences that might make us overlook shortcomings. Such decision-making should also be transparent and logical.

These aspects of decision-making reduce stress and friction and increase cohesiveness as well as mutual understanding among team members and respect for the leaders.

Our daily life decisions give us opportunities to become better at what we do. Most of our decisions are made out of habit. However, by bringing our choices in the conscious domain, we can evaluate them, assess their impact and indulge in self-reflection. Such steps eventually lead to better decisions and outcomes.

Hence, it is very important to learn what is decision-making, and Harappa Education’s Making Decisions specially-curated course helps you learn the techniques of ethical decision-making. It has a section on the good decision process which will help you remove obstacles such as biases, peer pressure and lack of clarity that come in the path of good decision-making. Sign up for the course and start making smart decisions for success.

Explore our Harappa Diaries section to know more about the topic related to the Solve habit  –  Ethical Decision Making  in order to develop your  problem solving and decision making  skills.


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What is the difference between Problem Solving and Decision Making?

Explore the nuances of "Problem Solving and Decision Making" in this insightful discussion. Gain a deeper understanding of the concepts - what Decision Making entails and uncover the key distinctions between Decision Making and Problem-Solving. This blog will equip you with valuable insights into these essential life and professional skills.


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Have you ever faced the trouble of deciding what is right or wrong? In our daily lives, we often come across situations that require us to confront challenges and make choices. This is why two critical cognitive processes are involved in addressing these situations: Problem Solving and Decision Making. While the terms are frequently used interchangeably, they represent distinct mental activities with specific objectives. Problem Solving involves identifying and resolving issues using critical thinking and creativity. On the other hand, Decision Making entails choosing the best course of action among alternatives and considering risks and rewards. In this blog, we will Learn the differences between Problem Solving and Decision Making, how to apply these abilities at work, and some advice on how to improve them.

Table of Contents 

1) What do you understand by Decision Making? 

2) Understanding Problem Solving 

3) What are the differences between Problem Solving and Decision Making?

4) Tips on how to improve Problem-solving and Decision-making skills

5) How can you integrate Decision Making and Problem Solving? 

6) Conclusion 

What do you understand by Decision Making? 

It is a hard choice for all of us when we are faced with the responsibility to make important decisions, both in the workplace and personal life. However, instead of getting afraid, we can tackle these important tasks by fully understanding the implications of our decisions. Before getting to know the differences between Decision Making and Problem Solving, let us first understand about Decision Making. 

It is a cognitive process that plays an essential role in our personal and professional lives. It involves evaluating different options and selecting the most appropriate course of action based on various factors and objectives. 

Effective Decision Making requires a combination of critical thinking, analysis, and judgment, and it can have a significant impact on outcomes and consequences. Let's uncover the important steps to Decision -making and some real-life examples:

Steps of Decision Making

1) Evaluation of alternatives: As a first step, you can start Decision Making by identifying and generating possible alternatives to address a given situation or problem. 

2) Rationality and objectivity: Making a correct rational decision involves a systematic analysis of available information, weighing the pros and cons of each alternative, and choosing the most logical and beneficial option. 

3) Heuristics and biases: In some cases, you may have mental shortcuts to make decisions quickly. However, remember that these shortcuts can also introduce biases and lead to suboptimal choices.  

4) Decision Making under uncertainty: Often, decisions must be made with incomplete or uncertain information. This requires you to make risk assessments. You also need to have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. 

5) Group Decision Making: In collaborative environments, decisions may be made collectively through group discussions, brainstorming, and consensus-building. This approach leverages diverse perspectives and expertise. 

6) Strategic Decision Making: In organisations, you need to make strategic Decision Making. It involves considering long-term implications, aligning decisions with organisational goals, and anticipating potential impacts on stakeholders.  

7) Ethical considerations: Ethical Decision Making involves assessing the moral implications of choices. It revolves around making decisions that align with your values and principles. 

8) Learning from outcomes: To be an effective decision-maker, you need to learn from both successful and unsuccessful outcomes to improve your future Decision Making processes. 

Here are some real-life examples that may require you to make some justified decisions: 

a) Choosing between two job offers based on salary, benefits, and career prospects. 

b) Deciding which college or university to attend, considering factors like location, courses offered, and campus culture. 

c) Selecting an investment option after analysing risk, return potential, and financial goals. 

d) Determining the best marketing strategy for a new product launch, considering target audience, budget, and competition. 

e) Making a medical treatment choice for a patient after weighing the benefits, risks, and patient preferences. 

Gain a deeper understanding of yourself to take more effective Decision Making with our Personal & Organisational Development Training . 

Understanding Problem Solving  

You're now aware of how you can make effective Decision Making. Let us now learn how to effectively carry out Problem Solving tasks in our daily life. Problem Solving is a critical cognitive process that allows individuals to address obstacles, overcome difficulties, and achieve desired outcomes. 

It involves a systematic approach to understanding the issue, identifying possible solutions, and implementing the most effective resolution. This helps you to navigate complexities and arrive at successful conclusions. Let us now look at some tips that can help you in Problem Solving effectively:  

Steps to be efficient in problem Solving

1) Problem identification: As a first step towards Problem Solving, effectively carry out tasks. Also, recognise and define the issue or challenge that needs to be addressed.  

2) Data gathering: Gathering relevant information and data related to the problem is essential for understanding its root causes and implications. This helps you become a good problem solver. 

3) Analysis and diagnosis: Analyse the gathered information to identify the underlying causes of the problem. This helps you in devising targeted solutions. 

4) Solution generation: Brainstorming and generating multiple potential solutions is crucial for you when you are exploring diverse approaches to resolve the problem. 

5) Evaluation of alternatives: Carefully evaluate the pros and cons of each solution. This helps you in selecting the most feasible and effective one. 

6) Implementation: After choosing a solution, you have to put the chosen solution into action. This requires planning, coordination, and effective execution. 

7) Creative thinking: Employing creative thinking approaches can lead you to have innovative solutions to complex problems. 

8) Root cause analysis: Identifying and addressing the root cause of a problem ensures that you have a more sustainable and lasting solution. 

Let us now see some real-life examples where you need to apply your Problem Solving skills: 

a) Resolving a technical issue with a computer by identifying and troubleshooting the actual cause of the problem. 

b) Finding an alternative transportation route when faced with unexpected road closures. 

c) Addressing a communication breakdown within a team by facilitating open discussions and conflict resolution. 

d) Solving a math problem by applying various Problem Solving Techniques and mathematical principles. 

e)  Fixing a malfunctioning appliance by diagnosing the issue and performing necessary repairs. 

Learn to be more Mindful when you are applying your Problem Solving skills with our Conflict Management Training .  

What are the differences between Problem Solving and Decision Making?

Let us now have a look how Problem Solving and Decision Making skills are different from each other:

1) Definition  

Problem Solving is a systematic process to identify, analyse, and resolve issues or challenges. It involves understanding the root cause of a problem, generating possible solutions, and selecting the best course of action. This approach aims to eliminate or reduce the negative impact of the issue. 

On the other hand, Decision Making is the process of choosing among various alternatives. Every Decision Making process yields a choice that can be an action, a strategy, or a resolution. It doesn’t necessarily need a problem; it can be any situation requiring a choice. 

2) Objective  

The main objective of Problem Solving is to overcome an obstacle or challenge. It aims to transform the current undesirable situation into a desired state. On the contrary, the primary goal of Decision Making is to select the best possible choice out of multiple alternatives. It could be proactive, like deciding on a strategy for market expansion, or reactive, like choosing a course of action in response to a competitor's move. 

3) Nature  

The process of Problem Solving is often reactive. It arises when a discrepancy occurs between the expected outcome and the actual outcome, necessitating a solution. However, in Decision Making it can be both proactive and reactive. Proactive Decision Making involves making choices in anticipation of future events, while reactive Decision Making responds to an immediate situation or problem. 

4) Process  

The process of Problem Solving often begins with understanding and diagnosing the problem. It is then followed by brainstorming potential solutions, analysing the feasibility of each solution, and finally, implementing the most suitable one. 

Whereas, in Decision Making, the process typically starts by identifying a need, gathering information, identifying alternatives, weighing them based on criteria like risks, benefits, and implications, and then selecting the best option.

5) Tools and techniques  

In Problem Solving, the common tools include Root Cause Analysis, Brainstorming, SWOT Analysis, and fishbone diagrams (Ishikawa). These tools help identify the origin of a problem and explore possible solutions. 

On the other hand, Decision Making involves techniques that are often used such as decision trees, cost-benefit analysis, pros and cons lists, and grid analysis. These help in evaluating the implications of each available choice. 

6) Skills required  

In Problem Solving, the major skills required are critical thinking, analytical skills, creativity, and resilience. The ability to persevere and not get overwhelmed when faced with challenges is vital. 

However, Decision Making requires analytical skills, risk assessment, intuition, and foresight. The ability to predict the outcomes of each choice and be accountable for decisions is essential. 

7) Duration and finality  

Problem Solving is time-consuming. It requires a deep dive into understanding the problem before moving on to solutions. The process concludes once a solution is implemented, and the problem is resolved. 

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Tips on how to improve Problem-solving and Decision-making skills

Decision-making and Problem-solving are two most important skills that every individual must possess to excel in their career and in their personal life. There are multiple ways which can be used to improve these skills. Let’s have a look at some of these tips to improve these skills:

Developing skills related to Decision-making and Problem-solving

You can improve your Decision-making and Problem-solving skills by developing other skills such as analytical thinking, creativity and critical thinking. These allied skills will help you boost your analytical thinking skills, will help you think creatively and outside the box. Moreover, honing these skills will help you understand the problems deeply and analyse them without getting partial with your decisions.

Effective communication

Communication is the one of the major keys to success. Effective communication helps in solving problems, miscommunications and helps you understand different perspectives to the same problem. By practicing effective communication, you can convey an information or tasks seamlessly to you team members or colleagues. It helps you understand the root cause of any problem and helps you take an informed decision.

Think about past decisions

It may seem unrelated to you in this context, however, thinking back on your decisions that you made previously can help you not repeat the mistakes, or save you the time that you previously took to make a small decision. Reflecting on past decisions helpin analysing the current problems impartially and help you learn more about your own methods to decide or solve a problem.

Research your industry

Before you make any important decision, or solve out a problem, you need to know about your industry in detail. Since not all situations are same, neither are the industries. Every industry, company or business have their own set of goals, requirements, ideologies, and policies. Whenever you are a part of that specific industry, you should keep in mind, their framework. If you are going beyond their framework or their principles, while solving a problem, there may not be any significant impact taken by your decisions.

Keep yourself updated

It is necessary that you keep yourself updated. As you know that our world is going through many technological advancements. Hence you need to know and update yourself so that you can incorporate all these inventions and discoveries in your industry.

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How can you integrate Decision Making and Problem Solving? 

Even though Decision-making and Problem-solving have their differences, there are still instances where you need to integrate these two special skills so that you can carry out any challenging tasks or situations, whether it be in the workplace or in your personal life. The following tips will help you show how you can take effective decisions and simultaneously solve problems: 

1) Foster a systematic approach: You can start by adopting a systematic approach to Problem-solving. It involves defining the issue, gathering relevant information, analysing data, generating potential solutions, and evaluating alternatives. Then, you can implement your structured Problem-solving process, which provides a solid foundation for your informed Decision Making. 

2) Identify decision points: You can recognise the key decision points within the Problem-solving process. Then you have to determine which factors require choices and weigh the consequences of each decision on the overall Problem-solving outcome.  

3) Incorporate critical thinking: You can emphasise your critical thinking throughout both Problem-solving and Decision-making. Engage in objective analysis so that you can consider multiple perspectives and challenge assumptions to arrive at well-rounded solutions and decisions.  

4) Utilise data-driven decisions: Ensure that the decisions made during the Problem-solving process are backed by relevant data and evidence. Your data-driven Decision-making minimises biases and increases the chances of arriving at the most suitable solutions. 


If you integrate both Problem Solving and Decision Making, you can have a more potent approach toward various challenges or tasks. This will help you in making well-informed choices in those circumstances. Moreover, this synergy will empower you to have a Problem -solving mindset to navigate complexities with clarity and achieve effective outcomes. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Problem-solving can be defined as the act of defining a problem, determine the cause of the problem, identify and prioritise solution according to the problem. Decision-making can be defined as the process of making choices by identifying a decision, gather information, and assess alternative solutions.

There are some common barriers to effective Decision-making. These are as follows:

a) Lack of knowledge about bias and decision-making in organisations

b) Poor culture of making proper decisions

c) Diversity in thought

d) Loss aversion bias

There are mainly five steps which are involved in Problem-solving and Decision-making:

Step 1: Identifying goals

Step 2: Gathering information for weighing options

Step 3: Considering consequences

Step 4: Making your decision

Step 5: Evaluating your decision made

There are seven steps involved in the Decision-making process. These steps are as follows:

Step 1: Identify the decision

Step 2: Gather relevant information

Step 3: Identifying the alternatives

Step 4: Weighing the evidence

Step 5: Choosing among alternatives

Step 6: Taking action

Step 7: Reviewing your decision and its consequences

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The power of critical thinking: enhancing decision-making and problem-solving.

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Dr. Ron Young, Founder and Board Chair of Trove, Inc . Ron specializes in psychological coaching & transition consulting.

Critical thinking is a fundamental cognitive process that enables individuals to objectively analyze, evaluate and interpret information to make informed decisions and solve complex problems. It involves employing reasoning and logic, questioning assumptions, recognizing biases and considering multiple perspectives. It requires self-monitored, self-directed, self-disciplined and self-corrective thinking. Critical thinking is essential in a world of information and diverse opinions. It helps us see things more clearly and avoid being misled or deceived.

Importance Of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is crucial in various aspects of life, including education, professional endeavors and personal decision-making. In academic settings, it allows students to comprehend and engage with complex subjects while discerning valid arguments from fallacious ones. In the workplace, critical thinking empowers individuals to analyze problems, devise creative solutions and make informed judgments. In everyday life, it helps individuals navigate an increasingly complex world by making sound choices and avoiding cognitive biases. It is our primary defense against misleading or "spun" information.

Benefits Of Critical Thinking

There are many benefits of critical thinking.

Enhanced Decision-Making

Critical thinking helps us trust our gut feelings and think independently. It enables individuals to make logical and well-reasoned decisions based on evidence and objective analysis. It encourages the consideration of all relevant factors and the evaluation of potential consequences, leading to more informed choices.

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Best 5% interest savings accounts of 2024, effective problem-solving.

Critical thinking facilitates the identification of underlying issues, the generation of innovative solutions and the evaluation of their viability. It encourages individuals to approach problems from different angles and consider various perspectives, increasing the likelihood of finding effective resolutions.

Reduction Of Cognitive Biases

Critical thinking supports self-reflection. It helps individuals recognize and challenge cognitive biases that hinder clear judgment. Individuals can better overcome confirmation bias, groupthink and the availability heuristic (judging the likelihood of an event based on recall of similar events) by understanding and questioning their assumptions and beliefs. It requires a commitment to overcoming the tendency to see the world from a narrow, self-centered perspective.

Enhanced Communication Skills

Practicing critical thinking fosters effective communication by enabling individuals to articulate and defend their ideas with logical reasoning and evidence. It encourages active listening, empathy and the ability to evaluate and respond to counterarguments, leading to more constructive and meaningful discussions.

More United Citizens

Using critical thinking enables citizens to see the whole picture by better protecting against biases and propaganda. It reduces partisanship and a “we/they” mentality.

Cultivating Critical Thinking

How can you cultivate critical thinking?

Be curious and inquisitive.

Foster a mindset of curiosity and an eagerness to explore and understand the world. Talk with people from different backgrounds, cultures, political affiliations or religions. Ask probing questions, seek new perspectives and engage in active learning. Learn from people who hold different viewpoints.

Develop analytical skills.

You can do this by learning to break down complex problems into manageable parts, recognize patterns and identify cause-and-effect relationships. Remember, not all opinions are equal, and some are flat-out wrong.

Evaluate information.

Develop skills to evaluate the credibility and reliability of information sources. Be aware of bias, assess evidence and differentiate between fact and opinion. Guard against "swallowing information whole" or believing that "If it's on the internet, it must be true."

Practice reflection.

Engage in reflective thinking by evaluating your thoughts, beliefs and assumptions. Consider alternative viewpoints, and be open to changing your perspective based on new information.

Embrace intellectual humility.

Be humble and aware that you could be wrong. Knowledge is an ongoing process; be open to admitting mistakes or gaps in understanding. Embrace a growth mindset that values continuous learning and improvement.

Develop your sense of belonging.

The third tier in Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a sense of belonging. One aspect of belonging is connection. All humans have this need. Without critical thinking, we are vulnerable to making our group's beliefs our own rather than evaluating which beliefs align with our values.

Align your view and your values.

Rather than defining yourself by a particular view, ask whether a different view aligns with your values. When we identify ourselves by the beliefs of our reference group (religious, political, etc.), we look for ways to justify our ideas. In doing so, we deny ourselves access to critical thinking.

Evidence Of Critical Thinking

When you practice critical thinking, it will be evident in several areas:

Evidence-Based Decision-Making

Rely on facts rather than emotions or personal biases. Follow five distinct steps, called the five A’s : ask, access, appraise, apply and audit. Gather relevant information, evaluate the evidence objectively and consider different perspectives before making decisions. Then reevaluate them as you learn new information.


Approach problems systematically by defining the issue, gathering relevant data, brainstorming potential solutions and evaluating feasibility. Engage in collaborative problem-solving to benefit from diverse perspectives. Open-mindedly consider alternative systems of thought. Recognize assumptions, implications and practical consequences, then adjust as needed.

Effective Communication

Solve complex problems by clearly and effectively communicating with others. Utilize critical thinking skills to articulate your thoughts clearly, listen actively and engage in respectful and constructive dialogue. Challenge ideas through logical arguments and evidence rather than resorting to personal attacks. Respecting people with different views does not mean you agree with their opinions. Evaluate, formulate and communicate questions with clarity and precision.

Continuous Learning

Apply critical thinking to ongoing personal and professional development. Seek opportunities for further education, engage in intellectual discourse and actively challenge your beliefs and assumptions.

Using Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a powerful cognitive tool that empowers individuals to navigate the complexities of the modern world. Critical thinking enhances decision-making, problem-solving and communication abilities by fostering logical reasoning, analytical skills and an open mindset. It enables individuals to overcome cognitive biases, evaluate information effectively and make informed choices. Cultivating and applying critical thinking skills benefits individuals and contributes to a more thoughtful and rational society. Embracing critical thinking is essential for fostering intellectual growth, facilitating progress and addressing the challenges of the 21st century.

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What is Decision Making? 7 Important Steps of Decision Making Process

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Decision-making is a fundamental aspect of our daily lives, influencing everything from the everyday choices of what to eat for breakfast to the complex deliberations that shape our careers and personal relationships. Whether it’s an individual pondering a personal decision or an organization strategizing its next move, making a decision is universal and vital.

In this article, we will discuss what decision-making is, what are the 7 steps of a decision-making process , and more.

Decision making: Meaning, Nature, Role and Relationship between Planning and Decision-making

Table of Content

What is Decision Making?

7 effective steps of decision-making, nature of decision-making, role of decision-making  , relationship between planning and decision-making.

Decision-making is an integral part of everyday life and a crucial component of management in organizations. It involves selecting the best action from various options by considering resources, outcomes, and personal preferences. This process includes identifying a situation, gathering and analyzing information, evaluating the pros and cons, and choosing a path forward. Decisions, whether made through rational analysis or instinct, significantly affect all involved parties.

Effective decision-making, which entails evaluating all possible outcomes and choosing the most beneficial one, is essential for personal, professional, and organizational success. Conversely, poor decisions can lead to losses and tarnish reputations. Thus, developing a structured approach to decision-making is vital for achieving favorable outcomes.

“Decision-making is the selection based on some criteria from two or more possible alternatives.“ – George R. Terry “A decision is an act of choice, wherein an executive form a conclusion about what must be done in a given situation. A decision represents a course of behaviour chosen from several possible alternatives.“ – D.E. Mc. Farland

1. Identifying the Decision

The initial step in decision-making is identifying the precise issue that needs resolution or the query that demands an answer. It’s essential to accurately define the decision at hand. Incorrectly identifying the problem or choosing an overly broad issue can derail your decision-making efforts from the get-go. For goals associated with the decision, ensure they are quantifiable and bound by time.

2. Collecting Relevant Information

Once the decision has been indetified, the next phase involves collecting relevant information to that decision. This includes an internal review to understand past successes and failures within your organization that relate to your decision. Additionally, acquiring information from external sources, such as academic research, market analysis, or possibly feedback from consulting services, is crucial. However, be wary of information overload, as it can overwhelm and complicate the decision-making process.

3. Exploring Possible Alternatives

Armed with the relevant data, it’s now time to outline potential solutions to your problem. Typically, there are several avenues to consider for achieving a goal. For instance, if the aim is to boost social media engagement, alternatives could range from investing in paid social ads, tweaking your organic social media tactics, or employing a blend of both strategies.

4. Evaluating the Alternatives

Having pinpointed several potential solutions, the next step involves assessing the merits and demerits of these alternatives. Review past instances of success within similar contexts, and analyze your organization’s past achievements and setbacks. Evaluate the risks associated with each option against the potential benefits.

5. Making a Choice

This stage is where the actual decision is made. Ideally, by this point, you’ve clearly identified the decision to be made, gathered all necessary information, and considered various possible directions. Now, you’re equipped to make an informed choice.

6. Implementing the Decision

With the decision made, it’s time to act. Formulate a plan to bring your decision to fruition. Create a detailed project plan based on your decision, assigning specific tasks to members of your team to execute the plan effectively.

7. Evaluating the Outcome

After a set period, which was determined in the first step, revisit your decision to evaluate its effectiveness. Did it address the problem? Did it achieve the intended goal? If the answer is yes, document the successful strategies for future reference. If not, take this as a learning opportunity to refine your decision-making process for future endeavors.

The nature of decision-making can be characterized by several key factors, including:

  • Goal-oriented: Effective decision-making hinges on setting clear goals and selecting strategies to achieve them, while remaining unbiased and avoiding personal prejudices that may affect judgment.
  • Dynamic Process: Decision-making is a dynamic process as it involves a time dimension and time lag. The techniques used for choice vary with the type of problem involved and the time available. 
  • Continuous or ongoing process: It is a continuous and ongoing process as managers have to take a series of decisions.
  • Intellectual or Rational process: As decisions are products of reasoning, deliberation and evaluation, decision-making is an intellectual and rational process.
  • Set of Alternatives: Decision-making implies a set of alternatives as a decision problem arises only when there are two or more alternatives. No decision is to be made if there is only one alternative.                             

Thus, decision-making is generally a complex and dynamic process that requires taking decisions that give the best-desired outcomes and involves analyzing possibilities, taking risks into account, acquiring information, and working with others.

Making decisions plays a key part in the life of an individual and any organization. The accomplishment of personal and organizational objectives, enhanced performance, risk minimization, and success maintenance all depend on effective decision-making. Here are some key roles of decision-making:

  • Strategic planning: Decision-making is an important element of strategic planning. It provides a framework for taking decisions that determine the goals or objectives of the organization.  
  • Problem-solving: Decision-making helps individuals or organizations to identify all the possible solutions and decide the best course of action. It comprises evaluating the current situation, identifying the cause of the issue, balancing them, and selecting the best course of action.  
  • Opportunity identification: Making decisions enables one to recognize and take advantage of opportunities. It allows for identifying potential advantages and determining if they are consistent with the objectives of the person or organization.
  • Resource allocation: Decision-making is essential for allocating resources effectively, whether it is the allocation of budget, time, or personnel. It requires evaluating the available resources, determining the priorities, and allocating resources to the situation and goals of the organization.  
  • Risk management: Decision-making is also important in managing risks. Decision makers must analyze the potential risks and benefits of different options and make decisions based on the analysis done.  
  • Goal achievement: Effective decision-making is an important tool for achieving personal and organizational goals. It involves setting goals, determining courses of action to achieve those goals, and evaluating progress along the way.  
  • Continuous improvement: Good decision-making requires continuous improvement. Organizations must evaluate their performance, determine where they can make improvements, and then decide what adjustments will best improve their functioning.  

Therefore, the general purpose of decision-making is to give people and organizations direction and advice so they may succeed by making decisions that are in line with their priorities.

Making decisions and planning are closely interrelated activities. Making decisions is frequently seen as the most important step in the planning process. This is because planning enables establishing objectives, choosing practicable courses of action, and evaluating potential outcomes, all of which are essential processes for making effective decisions.

Relationship between Planning and Decision-making

Following are some ways in which planning and decision-making are related:

  • Planning acts as a foundation for decision-making: Planning is the process of setting goals, determining resources, and creating a strategy that helps in the accomplishment of an organization’s goals. A plan acts as a framework for how to achieve the set objectives.  
  • Decision-making is necessary for effective planning: Making decisions is essential to the planning process to choose the appropriate course of action for achieving the goals. Making choices regarding resources, priorities, deadlines, and other aspects is essential in creating a thorough and successful plan.
  • Planning and decision-making are a constant process: Planning and decision-making are ongoing processes that require constant evaluation and revision. Decisions made during the planning phase may need to be revised as new information arises, and thus, planning may need to be adjusted based on the results of previous decisions.
  • Planning provides a framework for decision-making during implementation: Making decisions is required to successfully carry out a strategy once it has been created. The plan offers a framework for choosing how to allocate resources and handle other problems.
  • Both require collaboration and communication: Effective planning and decision-making also require a certain level of collaboration and communication. Planning often involves working together with managers, stakeholders, executives, etc. Similarly, decision-making also demands multiple opinions and perspectives be taken into account before choosing any course of action.  

Overall, planning and decision-making are repetitive processes that demand constant review and modification. To make sure that objectives are met, and resources are used efficiently, planning and decision-making must adapt according to the changing conditions and information.

In conclusion, the art of decision making is a critical skill that influences every facet of our lives, from personal choices to professional strategies. Mastering decision making involves understanding the balance between intuition and analysis, recognizing the impact of biases, and applying a structured approach to navigate through options.

Thus, cultivating strong decision-making skills is indispensable for anyone looking to navigate the challenges of the modern world with confidence and understanding.

What is Decision Making – FAQs

What is the decision-making means.

Decision-making is the process of choosing the best option from multiple alternatives to achieve a desired outcome. It involves identifying a problem, gathering information, evaluating options, and making a choice.

What are the 5 steps in decision-making?

The 5 steps in decision-making are: Identify the problem. Gather information. Evaluate alternatives. Make a decision. Implement and assess.

What is the significance of decision-making?

Decision-making is crucial for achieving goals, solving problems, and ensuring success in personal and organizational contexts.

What are the 7 elements of decision-making?

The 7 elements of decision-making are: Identify the decision. Gather information. Identify alternatives. Weigh evidence. Choose among alternatives. Take action. Review decision and consequences.

What are the five importance of decision-making?

The five importance of Decision-making are: Guides Goal Achievement: Decision-making directs efforts towards achieving personal and organizational goals efficiently. Problem Solving: It’s essential for addressing and resolving issues effectively. Resource Utilization: Optimizes the use of available resources to maximize outcomes. Facilitates Innovation: Encourages creative solutions and new ideas for growth and improvement. Risk Management: Helps in assessing and mitigating potential risks, leading to more informed and safer choices.

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Scenario-based learning 101

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Learning through dull documents or PowerPoints can be as ineffective and tedious as running on a treadmill..

However, scenario-based learning, especially with some interactivity, saves learning and corporate training from becoming a snoozefest. 82% of employees prefer learning from interactive videos over non-interactive ones because they hold their attention better.

In this post:

  • We explore what scenario-based learning is as opposed to traditional learning experiences.
  • Why it’s a favorite instructional strategy. 
  • We give you practical insights and examples of text, audio, and video scenario-based learning for inspiration.

What is scenario-based learning?

Scenario-based learning (SBL) is a strategy that walks learners through a storyline where they make decisions, training their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. SBL requires that you think on your feet, make decisions, and see how your choices play out in a given context. In short, scenario-based learning is all about active learning .

Practical scenarios adapt to various needs, from tech to leadership and soft skills training across industries. Here are three quick scenario-based learning examples that prove it:

A basic scenario-based learning model for decision-making:

“You’re a marketing manager at a tech startup. Your budget for the quarter is $100,000, and you must allocate it between social media advertising, traditional media, and influencer partnerships. Explain: How will you allocate it and why? How will you measure success? What are the potential risks, and how do you plan to mitigate them?”

A more complex scenario using text, images, and audio:

A skills practice simulation game with built-in videos and branches:

Why is scenario-based learning so effective?

Implementing a scenario-based learning strategy allows students to practice skills in a safe environment with real-world challenges but no pressure. Learner engagement and satisfaction are highest with SBL compared to other methods like grade point averages or project-based learning, a study found.

Experiential learning keeps you hooked. It’s adaptable, makes the learning process fun, and makes you use your imagination.

Students who imagine a procedure or concept learn better and score higher on test results than those who just studied the same procedure or concept. Researchers call it the imagination effect .

Scenario-based learning is a type of educational gamification. Game elements are highly motivational for learners. Students say learning experiences with game elements motivate them more ( 67.7% ) and improve their results (by nearly 35% )!

Whether for compliance training , leadership development, or technical skill enhancement, SBL can create customizable scenarios that meet diverse learning needs. Plus, the quick feedback that scenarios often provide can boost employee engagement nearly fourfold.

Scenario-based learning examples and types

A scenario is a mini-adventure in which you learn by making choices, observing the learning outcomes, and adjusting your approach. Below, you’ll find different types of scenario-based learning with examples you can adapt for your own strategy.

Scenario-based learning type 1: Problem-solving

The goal of problem-solving scenarios is to help learners identify, analyze, and solve complex problems. Here’s an example of problem-focused scenario-based learning. It gives a frame with a question, users select an answer, and realistic feedback is instant, like in the video below:

Scenario-based learning type 2: Decision-making

Decision-making scenarios train learners to analyze information, weigh options, and consider consequences to make informed decisions.

“Connect with Haji Kamal” is a great example of decision-making scenario-based learning. It turns you into a US Army sergeant in Afghanistan who must advise a young lieutenant on making a good impression on a Pashtun leader. The script navigates cultural nuances, strategic communication, and military diplomacy.

Scenario-based learning type 3: Critical thinking

This type of online training presents scenarios that require evaluating information, arguments, and different perspectives to form reasoned judgments and improve critical thinking skills. 

A scenario-based learning experience in this category is Hana Feels:

Scenario-based learning type 4: Skill application

Scenario-based learning can be very useful by providing a practical context for learners to apply technical skills. Smartbuilder creates such experiences, one of which was specifically designed for hardware/device training.

Single, double, and triple-loop scenario-based learning

Aside from the “learning objectives” classification above, scenarios differ by complexity. While anything with choices can be branching scenario-based learning, we also have single-loop, double-loop, and triple-loop learning scenarios on an axis from the simplest to the most complex scenarios.

Tamarack Institute presents these scenarios inspired by Professor Brenda Zimmerman's classification of problems as Simple/Complicated/Complex:

To better understand these scenarios, check out this tool by the Tamarack Institute .

How to create scenario-based learning videos

Viewers recall 95% of a video’s message vs. only 10% from text, which makes video the most effective form of scenario-based learning. While there are many ways to create scenario-based instructional videos, the simplest, fastest, and easiest method, even for non-techies, is with an AI video maker.

Synthesia is an AI-powered text-to-video tool you can use in your web browser. It includes pre-defined video templates, customizable and diverse AI avatars (digital doubles of real actors), and text-to-speech in 130+ languages. This short video shows how it works:

This tool has a built-in AI script generator and can turn text into a talking-head video in minutes. Instead of a stock avatar, you can clone someone with authority at your company and make the video more relevant and relatable.

When using Synthesia to create scenario-based learning videos, develop on-screen dialogues between two or more avatars. These dialogues will simulate real-life scenarios and make your content more engaging regardless of complexity:

With the Dialogue feature, you can add multiple avatars in a scene, assign each one a unique voice, and even create multi-language scenes. Your scenario-based learning will become more dynamic and facilitate multilingual accessibility.

Multilingual accessibility is a great asset for sharing knowledge and training diverse employees. 66% of the world’s population is bilingual or multilingual, but 40% don’t have access to education in a language they speak or understand. 

How to create a training module on active listening

With the Dialogue feature, you can set up a scene where one avatar plays a manager, and another is an employee. The manager's avatar explains a complex concept, and the employee demonstrates active listening skills. This visual and interactive approach helps learners grasp the nuances of effective communication, making the training more impactful.

Here’s a ‎ template you can customize to create your video and model whatever dialogue you need:

How to create a customer service training video

With the Dialogue feature, you can create a scene with an avatar as a customer service representative and another as a customer. You can simulate various customer interactions, showing effective strategies for de-escalation and problem-solving.

Because Synthesia integrates with authoring and eLearning tools like Easygenerator and Articulate 360 , it can create interactive video courses with branching scenarios and rapid feedback:

This sales simulation video introduced a fully interactive course created in Articulate 360 that you can take here .

How to use scenario-based learning

To make the most of scenario-based learning, plan it carefully. Designing scenarios that meet your learners' needs and expectations requires the following steps:

Step 1: Identify your audience and their learning objectives . Knowing what learners need to achieve by the end of the scenario helps design relevant and targeted scenarios.

Step 2: Design realistic scenarios. To fully engage learners with the situation, scenarios must be detailed and lifelike, reflecting the challenges they will likely face in their roles.

Step 3: Incorporate interactive elements. Interactive content with branching decisions, simulations, or role-plays increases audience engagement by 52.6% .

Step 4: Provide constructive feedback. Immediate, constructive, specific, and actionable feedback helps learners understand the implications of their choices.

Step 5: Evaluate and iterate. To keep training relevant and impactful, continuously assess its effectiveness and adjust based on learner feedback and performance.

Choose the best scenario-based learning software

Instructional designers develop scenario-based learning resources with software that can build multiple paths. Creating a problem-solving environment is like crafting a path in a forest, where learners can choose to go left or right, and each choice leads to a different adventure.

These tools should:

  • Be easy to use.
  • Provide interactions like simple and multiple choice questions, forms, etc., that you can customize.
  • Let you add visuals like pictures or videos and even voiceovers.
  • Give options to implement feedback.

You’ve seen how helpful an AI video maker like Synthesia is for scenario-based online learning. You also know you can upload your AI videos into authoring tools like Easygenerator and Articulate 360 to add interactions and feedback. So, check out Synthesia’s 35+ integrations to discover some more helpful authoring tools!

If you’re into PowerPoint, check out the iSpring Suite that integrates with it. This tool is beginner-friendly and makes scenario-based learning as easy as making slides.

Alternatively, you can explore BranchTrack, which is super decision-focused and like drawing stories on a napkin, or Twine, a free storytelling tool.

Create scenario-based videos with engaging dialogues

Dialogues are at the heart of active learning. They bring scenarios to life and make learning more engaging and relatable for the viewer.

You've seen a few jaw-dropping scenario-based learning examples that prove amazing scenarios can be created even without virtual reality technology. Are you ready to create your own scenario-based learning programs with realistic work challenges that keep your learners engaged?

Try out Synthesia's dialogue feature to easily create interactive eLearning videos . AI video production can save you 90% time as it did for Zoom with their interactive sales course “Deal Detective.”

Frequently asked questions

What is an example of scenario-based elearning.

Problem-solving scenario: You’re an IT technician and must resolve a network outage affecting your company's main office. Analyze the various potential causes like hardware failure, software issues, or external cyber-attacks.

Why is scenario-based training effective?

Scenario-based training involves learners in real-life situations. They enhance engagement, improve problem-solving skills, and make theoretical knowledge practical. Thus, they lead to better retention and readiness for actual work challenges.

How is PBL different from scenario-based learning?

Project-based learning (PBL) focuses on completing projects over time and fosters broader skills. Scenario-based learning involves short, immersive scenarios that target specific decisions or actions in defined contexts.

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    Decision making is the process of selecting and choosing one action or behavior out of several alternatives. Like problem solving, decision making involves the coordination of memories and executive resources. Research on decision making has paid particular attention to the cognitive biases that account for suboptimal decisions and decisions ...

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    There are 4 modules in this course. Problem-solving and effective decision-making are essential skills in today's fast-paced and ever-changing workplace. Both require a systematic yet creative approach to address today's business concerns. This course will teach an overarching process of how to identify problems to generate potential ...

  11. 7 important steps in the decision making process

    Step 3: Identify alternative solutions. This step requires you to look for many different solutions for the problem at hand. Finding more than one possible alternative is important when it comes to business decision-making, because different stakeholders may have different needs depending on their role.

  12. Decision-Making Process: Steps, Tips, and Strategies

    Here's a closer look at each of the seven steps of the decision-making process, and how to approach each one. Step 1: Identify the decision. Most of us are eager to tie on our superhero capes and jump into problem-solving mode — especially if our team is depending on a solution.

  13. Problem Solving And Decision Making: 10 Hacks That Managers Love

    Here is a brief explanation of the difference between problem solving and decision making: Problem solving: Problem solving is identifying, analyzing, and resolving problems or issues. It involves specifying the root cause of a problem and finding solutions to overcome it. Problem solving requires critical thinking, creativity, and analytical ...

  14. Decision-making and Problem-solving

    Decision making has much in common with problem solving. In problem solving you identify and evaluate solution paths; in decision making you make a similar discovery and evaluation of alternatives. The crux of decision making, then, is the careful identification and evaluation of alternatives.

  15. Decision-Making

    When making a decision, we form opinions and choose actions via mental processes which are influenced by biases, reason, emotions, and memories. ... Creative Problem-Solving; Analytical Reasoning ...

  16. Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

    Problem-solving is a more analytical process than decision-making. Problem-solving is more process-related, while decision-making is more contextual. Problem-solving is directed at a specific goal or discrete answer. Problem-solving and decision-making may have consequences that are not always predictable or sequential.

  17. Decision making

    decision making, process and logic through which individuals arrive at a decision. Different models of decision making lead to dramatically different analyses and predictions. Decision-making theories range from objective rational decision making, which assumes that individuals will make the same decisions given the same information and ...

  18. Problem Solving & Decision Making

    Problem solving and decision making in the workplace is undoubtedly an important skill. As a result, having the right systematic approach is essential. It may seem like a lot of work upfront, but taking the necessary steps to solving important problems and successfully arriving at a solution will save much more time and create a healthier ...

  19. 35 problem-solving techniques and methods for solving complex problems

    Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ) #action #decision making #problem solving #issue analysis #innovation #design #remote-friendly . The problem with anything that requires creative thinking is that it's easy to get lost—lose focus and fall into the trap of having useless, open-ended, unstructured discussions.

  20. Decision-Making & Its Importance in Problem-Solving

    Decision-making and its importance in problem-solving. The importance of decision making lies in the way it helps you in choosing between various options. Before making a decision, there is a need to gather all available information and to weigh its pros and cons. It is crucial to focus on steps that can help in taking the right decisions.

  21. Described differences between Problem Solving and Decision Making

    In Problem Solving, the major skills required are critical thinking, analytical skills, creativity, and resilience. The ability to persevere and not get overwhelmed when faced with challenges is vital. However, Decision Making requires analytical skills, risk assessment, intuition, and foresight. The ability to predict the outcomes of each ...

  22. Project Based Problem Solving and Decision Making: A Guide for Project

    2.4 The Impact of Assumptions on Project Problem-Solving and Decision-Making 13. 2.5 Understanding the Project Environment's Complexities 14. 2.6 Selecting the Right Project Manager 15. 2.7 The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Project Management 15. 2.8 Differences Between Program and Project Problem-Solving and Decision-Making 18. 2.9 ...

  23. The Power Of Critical Thinking: Enhancing Decision-Making And Problem

    Critical thinking enhances decision-making, problem-solving and communication abilities by fostering logical reasoning, analytical skills and an open mindset. It enables individuals to overcome ...

  24. Strategy & Problem Solving

    I also will give you this toolkit, this framework, for decision-making that you can then take away with you as you confront whatever decisions that you have to make yourself. As I work through just the framework of running a business and existing as a professional, there are problem-solving principles that I always return to.

  25. Improve Problem Solving with Better Decisions

    1 Assess Honestly. One of the first steps to take when you notice that your decision-making may be impeding problem-solving is to conduct an honest self-assessment. Reflect on recent decisions and ...

  26. Overcome Decision-Making Barriers: Problem-Solving Tips

    1 Overcome Fear. Fear of making the wrong choice can paralyze your decision-making. To combat this, acknowledge the fear but don't let it dictate your actions. Consider the worst-case scenario and ...

  27. Decision Making and Problem Solving skills for Managers

    Decision Making and Problem Solving skills for ManagersMaster the art of making effective decisions and solving problems like a pro and become an effective managerRating: 0.0 out of 50 reviews3.5 total hours53 lecturesIntermediateCurrent price: $49.99. Human and Emotion: CHRMI.

  28. What is Decision Making? 7 Important Steps of Decision Making Process

    Now, you're equipped to make an informed choice. 6. Implementing the Decision. With the decision made, it's time to act. Formulate a plan to bring your decision to fruition. Create a detailed project plan based on your decision, assigning specific tasks to members of your team to execute the plan effectively. 7.

  29. Everything You Need To Know About Scenario-Based Learning

    A basic scenario-based learning model for decision-making: ... Scenario-based learning type 1: Problem-solving. The goal of problem-solving scenarios is to help learners identify, analyze, and solve complex problems. Here's an example of problem-focused scenario-based learning. It gives a frame with a question, users select an answer, and ...

  30. What Is Data Analysis? (With Examples)

    Explore four types of data analysis with examples. Data analysis is the practice of working with data to glean useful information, which can then be used to make informed decisions. "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly, one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts," Sherlock ...