5 Easy Ways to Increase the Speed of Problem-Solving

How to find more immediate answers and make faster decisions at work

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“Let’s just put a meeting on the calendar sometime next week to figure that out.”

(*INSERT FACEPALMING EMOJI*)

If you’re like us, then you love getting stuff done and would rather not “circle back to that later.” Unfortunately, the pandemic seems to have exacerbated this mentality of procrastination. Solving problems at work has become easier for people to punt down the road, and for many of us, this has been the source of increasing frustration.

And yet, despite the seismic changes over these past two years in how we work, there are still plenty of effective ways to increase the speed of problem-solving, and they should be just as useful regardless of whether you are working from home, back in the office, or using a “hybrid” work model.

At SuperQuickQuestion, we try to embrace an “eat the frog” mentality when it comes to problem-solving (here’s the etymology on that admittedly strange-sounding phrase).

We like to identify and resolve our biggest problems as directly, immediately, and efficiently as possible, and we’ve boiled down our problem-solving approach to these five strategies…

Five Key Problem-Solving Strategies

1. Work the Problem — For Step 1, we find our problem-solving inspiration in Houston, a city synonymous with the phrase “we have a problem.” If you’ve seen the 1995 space docudrama Apollo 13 (please fix this ASAP if you have not), then you remember Gene Kranz (played by a no-nonsense Ed Harris and his iconic crew-cut) encouraging his team of NASA engineers to “work the problem,” which to us means really digging in and focusing on finding a solution without getting bogged down by the process or details.

2. Choose the Proper Means of Communication — These three questions will help you choose properly…

  • Can the problem be resolved with just a word or two? If so, it’s probably an email, text or Slack, but note that unless it’s a question that can be resolved with a simple one-word answer, then there’s likely a better way — after all, “a face-to-face request Is 34 times more successful than an email” (Harvard Business Review).
  • Does the problem require a larger group and more robust debate? If so, it sounds like a Zoom or Google Meet, but just be aware that on average, “executives spend nearly 23 hours a week in meetings” (Harvard Business Review), so set your big group meetings judiciously.
  • Do you need something more collaborative than an email but more efficient than a big video meeting? SuperQuickQuestion fills that void with a live one-on-one video chat with a 60-second time limit that provides the back-and-forth of a video meeting without the inefficiency that often occurs when everyone on a Zoom feels compelled to give their opinions on how to solve a problem. One question, one minute, one-on-one, and you won’t need to bother “circling back”!

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3. Focus on What’s Actually Possible — Ideal scenarios are great, but in the words of the OG Voltaire, “perfect is the enemy of good.” Of course it would be great if you had a bigger budget, more people, and more time, but focusing your attention on what you have rather than what you need will help increase the speed of problem-solving.

4. Don’t Play the Blame Game — The Blame Game is one of the rare games that no one really wins. It hurts employee relationships and sows distrust, but more relevant here, it wastes valuable time that should be spent solving the problem. So try not to focus on what’s wrong, why it’s wrong, or whose fault it is. That doesn’t help. If you really want to solve problems faster, then just focus on making it right, right away.

5. If There’s More Than One Correct Answer, Pick One and Move On — And finally, once you’ve identified the possible solutions, don’t waste time debating between them — pick the best one and move on. Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote in “Blink” about “thin-slicing,” which refers to the process of “making very quick decisions with minimal amounts of information that are often as accurate (or even more so) than judgments based on much more information” (Wikipedia). Essentially, your initial judgment is often the right one, so don’t belabor the point by overthinking it. Quickly identify the best possible solutions, commit to one, and move on.

That’s it! These five rules have helped SuperQuickQuestion increase the speed of problem-solving, and we’re confident that if you follow those five guidelines, you’ll become a proud frog-eater like us.

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To become a pilot user of SuperQuickQuestion on Slack or Teams, visit our website to get started, and email our founder ([email protected]) to let us know what you think (and potentially earn a sweet SQQ t-shirt)!