Leading modules


Module 5 “Can I solve problems?” – Creative problem solving

Unit 4 – How to develop problem-solving skills?
How to develop a positive attitude towards problems?

Optimism and a positive attitude are key elements for successful stress management and problem-solving. Having a positive attitude towards problems doesn’t mean to ignore them, but to see the options and to deal better with stress. Thinking positive will broaden your sense of possibilities and open your mind, which in turn allows you to build new skills and resources that can provide value in other areas of your life.

You can learn to become more positive and how this can help you for solving problems. Start with the following advices:

  • Distinguish between important and not so important problems, in order to not loose your time and energy on not important problems.
  • If a solution does not work, try another, and always expect a positive outcome.
  • Whenever you solved a problem successfully, take time to reflect on how you did it. It will help you the next time you face a similar problem.
  • Try always to achieve a win/win solution, which meets the needs of all parties.
  • Be open to experience and learn. Stay learning without necessarily becoming an expert but be aware of change. Inform yourself and read articles, join discussions, watch documentaries.
  • Be open for the ideas of others, do not reject them.

In the following you will learn about some simple techniques to develop your positive attitude when facing problems and how to see problems as opportunities:

Change problem definitions into positive definitions/questions:

Instead of asking “How to cope with……?” you can ask “How to accomplish…..?”

When you are still in the problem understanding and definition stage, you should absolutely avoid “Who?” questions. They are not creative but blaming and destructive. You should choose only “What?” questions.

Re-state problems:

For example, instead of the problem statement “The cities are overcrowded” you can ask “Why people don’t want to live in the countryside or smaller towns?”. This allows you to approach the problem from a different perspective.

View Problems as Opportunities: 

Rather than focusing on the negatives or giving up when you encounter barriers, treat problems as opportunities to enact positive change on the situation. In fact, some experts even recommend defining problems as opportunities, to remain proactive and positive. Problems can in fact be opportunities, because they allow you to see things differently and to do things in a different way, which might be a new start. When facing interpersonal problems like conflicts, you should keep in mind that you cannot change people’s character. So, if for example, a person hurt you without excusing himself/herself, you should not define as problem question “Why did he/she do this?”. Following the 5Whys tool, it will lead you to further questions you will not be able to answer, unless you are a psychologist, and you will drift away from the main point. You should rather ask “Why did it hurt me what he/she did or said?” or “Why I can’t accept this behaviour?”. The further questions will lead you to your personal values, your personal limit setting, or maybe other underlying problems you face. It can help you to turn the problem into an opportunity to review your interaction with others instead of just blaming the person.

Change perspective:

If you feel stuck with a problem, it can help to take a break, change environment, and return to it later. You can take fresh air, go for a walk, or do some sports. Physical activities improve mental performance. An office environment is maybe not the perfect environment to develop new ideas. Make sure you get out to draw inspiration from spaces and people out of your usual reach. Sometimes we happen to have the best ideas when travelling or simply when doing something else than work. According to Marc Cropley, author of “The Off Switch: Leave on time, relax your mind but still get more done”, this happens to problem-solving ponderes, who think and ponder about work related issues when not at work, because they enjoy their work and the mental challenge of solving a problem. Even when they are not actively involved, because in their free time, doing a free time activity like gardening or watching a film, suddenly an idea can appear in their mind. Sometimes this may also happen by an apparently unrelated comment or while reading something. However, if you tend to be a problem-solving ponderer you should schedule enough downtimes to prevent fatigue in the long term.