To achieve Step 4, individuals will be able to see that many problems have multiple possible solutions to them. They will be able to start coming up with different options to solve those problems.
In earlier steps the focus was on completing a simple task by following instructions, seeking help or finding extra information. The emphasis here now switches to exploring problems – understanding that unlike simple tasks, there is not always one obvious solution, but multiple options.
The building blocks of this step are learning:
There is a difference between simple problems which have one correct answer, and those that we call complicated problems which might have different possible solutions.
Simple problems might include things like
For simple problems, it is about trying to find the correct answer.
Complicated problems do not have one obvious answer, and might include things like:
For these, no answer is factually correct, and a range of options exist.
For example, for travelling to Manchester there are a range of possibilities (wherever in the world you’re starting from) – car, walking, cycling, flying are all options. Similarly, there are plenty of places in Birmingham that you could visit, and the best answer to that question will be different for every individual and what they want to achieve in their visit.
In the next step, we will think about how you could choose between different options.
To create lots of possible solutions to a problem, we first have to recognise that something is a complicated problem where it is helpful to have lots of possible solutions
We then have to decide that we want to explore a problem, rather than using the first idea that we have.
Although it sounds simple, there is good evidence that humans are often quite bad at exploring problems. We tend to take the first idea that comes into our heads and to imagine that is the best answer that there could be. We become very attached to that idea and decide that it must be the right answer.
This is because it is hard to come up with lots of ideas, so it is easier just to stick with the first one we create. However, there is also evidence that our first ideas are rarely our best ideas – however you feel at the time.
So, the most important thing to remember about achieving this step is that it takes commitment to create lots of possible solutions.
Sometimes when we are learning we may come across a simple problem or a more complicated problem. A simple problem is about finding one correct answer, such as working out the answer to a mathematical question or recalling a particular event in history. A complicated problem does not have one obvious answer. For example, whether or not to attend a trip abroad. In order to solve complicated problems like this, it is important to explore different solutions and not always go with the first answer we come up with. This is because this may not be the best solution and, using our example, you might be excited to go and learn new things but it may be a country you have visited before.
When in the workplace, you will face a range of problems, perhaps with a task you are completing, a disagreement with a peer, or difficulty finishing a job on time. When these happen, you may be tempted to go with the first solution you can think of to solve the problem. This might be because of pressure from colleagues, a lack of time or that there is lots of other tasks left to do. You may not want to have to ask a colleague or manager because you know they are very busy too. Or you may fear they will judge you for bothering them with a problem you should have an answer to already. It is important to remember though, by exploring different solutions you may save yourself and others time (and possibly money) in the future.
It is important to explore different solutions to problems in our daily lives. We might need to decide on a new pair of shoes for an occasion or on the best mode of transport to an event. By coming up with a range of solutions we find the best way to solve the problem. This could result in us saving money by finding the same pair of shoes for a lower price in another shop or saving time by taking two buses instead of a train. It can be hard to come up with lots of ideas as it takes more time and effort. However, there may be a number of positives that come from doing so.
To best practise this step of Problem Solving, apply what you have learnt to a real-life situation. Choose one or more of the activities below, remind yourself of the key points and strategies in the step, and have a go!
To teach this step:
This is a good step to reinforce in a classroom setting. Learners can be reminded when a question they are being asked is a simple problem or a complicated problem.
In the case of a complicated problem, it is worth actively encouraging learners to think about the range of possible answers or solutions that they could come up with, rather than just picking the first idea that comes to mind.
This step is best assessed through an exercise. For example:
This step will be relevant for most individuals, including those who solve complicated problems at work.
To build this step in the work environment, managers could:
There are plenty of opportunities for building this skill in the workplace:
For those already employed, this step is can be assessed by asking an individual’s colleagues to provide feedback
During the recruitment process, this step could be assessed by:
We work with a wide range of organisations, who use the Skills Builder approach in lots of different settings – from youth clubs, to STEM organisations, to careers and employability providers.
We have a lot of materials available to support you to use the Skills Builder Universal Framework with the individuals you work with, including:
We also do a lot of work with organisations who join the Skills Builder Partnership to build the Universal Framework into their work and impact measurement systems. You can find out a lot more using the links below.
At home, you can easily support your child to build their essential skills. The good news is that there
are lots of ways that you can have a big impact, including: