Problem solving

What is problem solving?

Problem solving is shown in people who can

  • analyse facts and circumstances to determine the cause of problems
  • evaluate alternative possible solutions
  • identify appropriate solutions
  • implement a solution and assess its impact on the original problem

Problem solving and the ability to analyse situations is essential to the workplace. The capacity to solve problems proactively and reactively means that work can be carried out efficiently and that processes can be improved and streamlined through creative solutions. When starting a new job there will always be new and unfamiliar situations and being able to take logical steps to make decisions about how to deal with them is an attribute most employers will need.

Problem solving 'behaviours'

  • Recognising when a problem exists
  • Being able to identify and isolate the problem
  • Applying critical analysis to define the precise nature of the problem
  • Making decisions about whether there is one solution or a number of possible solutions to the problem
  • Thinking creatively/flexibly about ideas for solutions
  • Balancing creative and analytic thinking
  • Evaluating the options available to tackle the problem and the possible consequences of different courses of action
  • Identifying the most appropriate solution to the problem
  • Recognising any barriers to implementing the chosen solution(s)
  • Planning and preparing the best way to implement the solution(s)
  • Implementing solutions and evaluating their effectiveness
  • Showing resilience when a solution doesn't work out as expected and trying alternative solutions

Problem solving skills development: examples and evidence

Problem solving examples and evidence
Academic related

Analysing information for essays/projects/dissertations in order to construct coherent arguments

Analysing different types of data, such as quantitative and qualitative, and scholarly material such as journal articles

Taking on a role as a class rep and resolving course related issues


Taking part in student consulting, which provides the opportunity to solve problems of other organisations such as charities, small businesses or start-ups

Working with a struggling society to analyse problems and improve performance

Taking part in student competitions or business challenges

Duke of Edinburgh award|, during challenges such as the expedition

Work experience/volunteering

Noticing when a process or situation could be improved to complete work more efficiently and implementing a solution

Resolving problems within a team in the workplace

Prioritising a busy schedule to ensure work deadlines are met

Dealing with awkward or unhappy clients to find a mutually acceptable solution

Mentoring through Widening Participation| or other schemes to help others overcome problems and succeed


Solving personal issues, eg problems with a landlord, or managing your finances efficiently

Taking part in case study scenarios with employers/LSE Careers

Organising the logistics of travelling, either independently or on behalf of a group

Taking steps to overcome language or cultural barriers when in a new environment