Do you ever find yourself short of ideas on how to solve a challenge? Are you always comfortable with the decisions you make?

Usually, a problem is accompanied by incomplete information and unknown or conflicted variables. This is compounded by the inability to clearly see into and predict the future. Somehow you have to weigh the options and cope with the uncertainty – and often, hope for the best.

If only you were clairvoyant or just had all the information – then there would be no problem or at least it would be simple to solve. While there is no magic answer, there are some tools to help navigate through the maze of unknown and doubt.

Here are a few tools to utilize as needed:

Clearly define the problem:

  • Try restating the problem differently:

For example-

Initial statement: How can we decrease customer wait times to check out?

Restated: How can we keep wait times for customers to check out from increasing?

  • Identify barriers by asking the opposite:

Initial statement: How can we improve attendance at a community event?            

Restated: How can we prevent people from attending?

  • Broaden the focus:Problem-Solving

Initial statement: Should I change jobs?

Restated: How can I make my work more challenging and satisfying?

  • Boldly redirect the focus:

Initial statement: How can we increase income?

Restated: How can we decrease expenses?

  • Ask why, why, why, why, why?

Get to the bottom of the issue by repeatedly asking why.

Revise your “thinking views”:

Generally, there are two types of thinkers:

  • Convergent thinkers bring ideas together to focus on a single aspect of the issue to identify a solution and bring closure.
  • Divergent thinkers do just the opposite. Thoughts are spread out in all directions to take in a broader view of the problem. (Innovation is often found here!)

Both types of thinking are necessary to arrive at an effective solution to the problem.

Generate alternatives, ideas, options, outcomes and scenarios in a divergent mode then narrow them down to an effective and concise fix.

Note – Good divergent thinkers are truly a valuable find! Be on the lookout for these folks in your organization, work, community, etc. and realize the potential significance of their abilities.

Beware of short cuts!

It is human nature to unconsciously simplify the problem-solving process. Be aware of tendencies to:

  • Be satisfied with the first solution that appears “good enough” rather than considering all alternatives to select the one that is best.
  • Hold onto initial impressions and disregard information to the contrary.
  • Be influenced by how the information is presented.
  • Stop thinking when confronted with “authority.”

Also, know and acknowledge your own biases.  They keep you from seeing the bigger picture. Be willing to question your own opinions and thoughts. Maybe those need to be adjusted from time to time.


The best answer may be directly in front of those open to new options, willing to take an extra step and anxious to accept a challenge. Never underestimate the ingenuity of the people all around you to address the obstacles ahead!

Read more about it:

The Thinker’s Toolkit by Morgan D. Jones. Three Rivers Press, New York. 1998

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