By Burkhardt Prigge, Kepner-Tregoe

What differentiates the leaders from the followers in your organization?  Education, certification and years of work experience may be the building blocks for and indicators of an employee’s potential but real value lies in applying these building blocks to the real problems and opportunities your company faces.  That is where problem-solving skills come into the picture.  At Kepner-Tregoe, we love problem-solving because (regardless of the industry) it is the secret ingredient for transforming potential into business value.

Problem-solving is all about understanding context and interacting with the business environment – whether it be in operations, R&D or IT.  Effective leaders understand that the environments where they work are both complex and continuously evolving.  They see problems as opportunities to make things better and the people around them as sources of knowledge and potential waiting to be harnessed.  Connecting people and opportunities together in thoughtful ways can bring out the best in your team and generate tremendous business impact.

When people think of problem-solving, their mind may instinctively jump to thoughts of things that are broken or things that “need fixing”.  Problem-solving isn’t just about addressing negative situations – it’s about exploiting opportunities.  Every invention and every product in the market exists as the response to a problem or opportunity that someone saw and decided to solve.  Every cultural development, every piece of artwork ever created is the result of someone looking at their environment and applying the tools and resources available to them to create something that wasn’t there before. 

Problem-solving skills help people understand their environment, identify opportunities, assess the impact of alternatives and make choices that lead to changes that they perceive as desirable.  Problems and opportunities exist in every facet of our lives – work, family, community, the environment… and the skills that we use to respond to them can be used almost universally.

For some people, problem-solving is an innate ability – something that seems to come naturally.  These people are few and far between.  Much more often, problem-solving is a learned skill – either through training or many years of trial and error.  Fortunately for businesses, these high-impact skills are not only something that can be taught, but they are something that most employees have the capability to learn and almost immediately apply, regardless of their job role.

What are the problems and opportunities that exist within your organization?  How are your employees responding to them?  Are they exhibiting the qualities of leaders – actively seeking to make things better, or are they acting like followers – waiting for direction on what to do next?  Perhaps an emphasis on problem-solving is the key to unlocking some under-utilized potential in your workforce. 

Consider the impacts if every person in your organization spent a few minutes each day focusing on solving problems and making their environment better.  Could it improve the profitability of your operations?  Could it unlock new markets?  Enable new competitive advantage?  Yes, it could!  There is a leader inside every one of us just waiting for our chance to make a difference. At KT, we love problem-solving because it brings together the potential of people with the opportunities that exist all around us… Once you see what problem-solving can do, we think you will love it too!

For almost 60 years, the problem-solving experts at Kepner-Tregoe have been helping organizations up-level their employees’ skills, implement problem management processes and embed problem-solving into organizational culture.  To learn more about how KT can help you unlock your company’s potential, visit here

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