Common Problem-Solving Models & How to Use Them

Problem-Solving Models

Problemsolving models are step-by-step processes that provide a framework for addressing challenges. Problems arise in every facet of life. From work. to home. to friends and family, problems and conflicts can make life difficult and interfere with our physical and mental well-being. Understanding how to approach problems when they arise and implementing problem-solving techniques can make the journey through a problem less onerous on ourselves and those around us.

By building a structured problem-solving process, you can begin to build muscle memory by repeatedly practicing the same approach, and eventually, you may even begin to find yourself solving complex problems. Building a problem-solving model for each of the situations where you may encounter a problem can give you a path forward, even when the most difficult of problems arise.

This article will explore the concept of problem-solving models and dive into examples of such models and how to use them. It will also outline the benefits of implementing a problem-solving model in each area of life and why these problem-solving methods can have a large impact on your overall well-being. The goal of this article is to help you identify effective problem-solving strategies and develop critical thinking to generate solutions for any problem that comes your way.

Problem-Solving Model Defined

The first step in creating a problem-solving plan is to understand what we mean when we say problem-solving models. A problem-solving model is a step-by-step process that helps a team identify and effectively solve problems that they may encounter. This problem-solving approach gives the team the muscle memory and guide to address a conflict and resolve disputes quickly and effectively.

There are common problem-solving models that many teams have implemented, but there is also the freedom to shape a method to fit the needs of a specific situation. These models often rely on various problem-solving techniques to identify the root cause of the issue and find the best solution. This article will explore some common problem-solving models as well as general problem-solving techniques to help a team engage with and solve problems effectively.

Benefits of Implementing Problem-Solving Models

Before we discuss the exact models for problem-solving, it can be helpful to discuss why problem-solving models are beneficial in the first place. There are a variety of benefits to having a plan in place when a problem arises, but a few important benefits are listed below.

Guide Posts

When a team encounters a problem and has a guide for how to approach and solve the problem, it can be a relief to know that they have a process to fall back on when the issue cannot be resolved quickly from the beginning. A problem-solving strategy will serve as a guide for the parties to know which steps to take next and how to identify the appropriate solution.

It can also clarify when the issue needs to stay within the team, and when the issue needs to be escalated to someone in a position with more authority. It can also help the entire team solve complex problems without creating an issue out of the way the team solves the problem. It gives the team a blueprint to work from and encourages them to find a good solution.

Creative Solutions That Last

When the team or family has a way to fall back on to solve a problem, it takes some of the pressure off of coming up with the process and allows the parties to focus on identifying the relevant information and coming up with various potential solutions to the issue. By using a problem-solving method, the parties can come up with different solutions and find common ground with the best solution. This can be stifled if the team is too focused on figuring out how to solve the problem.

Additionally, the solutions that the parties come up with through problem-solving tools will often address the root cause of the issue and stop the team from having to revisit the same problem over and over again. This can lead to overall productivity and well-being and help the team continue to output quality work. By encouraging collaboration and creativity, a problem-solving technique will often keep solving problems between the parties moving forward and possibly even address them before they show up.

Common Models to Use in the Problem-Solving Process

Several models can be applied to a complex problem and create possible solutions. These range from common and straightforward to creative and in-depth to identify the most effective ways to solve a problem. This section will discuss and break down the problem-solving models that are most frequently used.

Standard Problem-Solving Process

When you search for a problem-solving technique, chances are you will find the standard model for saving problems. This model identifies and uses several important steps that will often be used in other models as well, so it can be helpful to begin the model-building process with an understanding of this model as a base. Other models often draw from this process and adapt one or more of the steps to help create additional options. Each of these steps works to accomplish a specific goal in furtherance of a solution.

Define the Problem

The first step in addressing a problem is to create a clear definition of the issue at hand. This will often require the team to communicate openly and honestly to place parameters around the issue. As the team defines the problem, it will be clear what needs to be solved and what pieces of the conflict are ancillary to the major issue. It helps to find the root causes of the issue and begin a process to address that rather than the symptoms of the problem. The team can also create a problem statement, which outlines the parameters of the problem and what needs to be fixed.

In addition to open and honest communication, other techniques can help to identify the root cause and define the problem. This includes a thorough review of the processes and steps that are currently used in the task and whether any of those steps are directly or indirectly causing the problem.

This includes reviewing how tasks are done, how communication is shared, and the current partners and team members that work together to identify if any of those are part of the issue. It is also the time to identify if some of the easy fixes or new tools would solve the problem and what the impact would be.

It is also important to gain a wide understanding of the problem from all of the people involved. Many people will have opinions on what is going on, but it is also important to understand the facts over the opinions that are affecting the problem. This can also help you identify if the problem is arising from a boundary or standard that is not being met or honored. By gathering data and understanding the source of the problem, the process of solving it can begin.

Generate Solutions

The next step in the basic process is to generate possible solutions to the problem. At this step, it is less important to evaluate how each of the options will play out and how they may change the process and more important to identify solutions that could address the issue. This includes solutions that support the goals of the team and the task, and the team can also identify short and long-term solutions.

The team should work to brainstorm as many viable solutions as possible to give them the best options to consider moving forward. They cannot pick the first solution that is proposed and consider it a successful problem-solving process.

Evaluate and Select

After a few good options have been identified, the next step is to evaluate the options and pick the most viable option that also supports the goals of the team or organization. This includes looking at each of the possible solutions and determining how they would either encourage or hinder the goals and standards of the team. These should evaluated without bias toward the solution proposed or the person putting forward the solution. Additionally, the team should consider both actual outcomes that have happened in the past and predicted instances that may occur if the solution is chosen.

Each solution should be evaluated by considering if the solution would solve the current problem without causing additional issues, the willingness of the team to buy in and implement the solution, and the actual ability of the team to implement the solution.

Participation and honesty from all team members will make the process go more smoothly and ensure that the best option for everyone involved is selected. Once the team picks the option they would like to use for the specific problem, they should clearly define what the solution is and how it should be implemented. There should also be a strategy for how to evaluate the effectiveness of the solution.

Implement the Solution and Follow Up

Once a solution is chosen, a team will often assume that the work of solving problems is complete. However, the final step in the basic model is an important step to determine if the matter is resolved or if additional options are needed. After the solution has been implemented by the team, the members of the team must provide feedback and identify any potential obstacles that may have been missed in the decision-making process.

This encourages long-term solutions for the problem and helps the team to continue to move forward with their work. It also gives the team a sense of ownership and an example of how to evaluate an idea in the future.

If the solution is not working the way that it should, the team will often need to adapt the option, or they may get to the point where they scrap the option and attempt another. Solving a problem is not always a linear process, and encouraging reform and change within the process will help the team find the answer to the issues that they face.

GROW Method

Another method that is similar to the standard method is the G.R.O.W. method. This method has very similar steps to the standard method, but the catchiness of the acronym helps a team approach the problem from the same angle each time and work through the method quickly.


The first step in the method is to identify a goal, which is what the “g” stands for in “grow.” To establish a goal, the team will need to look at the issues that they are facing and identify what they would like to accomplish and solve through the problem-solving process. The team will likely participate in conversations that identify the issues that they are facing and what they need to resolve.


The next step is to establish the current reality that the group is facing. This helps them to determine where they currently are and what needs to be done to move them forward. This can help the group establish a baseline for where they started and what they would like to change.


The next step is to find any obstacles that may be blocking the group from achieving their goal. This is where the main crux of the issues that the group is facing will come out. This is also helpful in giving the group a chance to find ways around these obstacles and toward a solution.

Way Forward

After identifying the obstacles and potential ways to avoid them, the group will then need to pick the best way to move forward and approach their goal together. Here, they will need to create steps to move forward with that goal.

Divide and Conquer

Another common problem-solving method is the divide-and-conquer method. Here, instead of the entire team working through each step of the process as a large group, they split up the issue into smaller problems that can be solved and have individual members or small groups work through the smaller problems. Once each group is satisfied with the solution to the problem, they present it to the larger group to consider along with the other options.

This process can be helpful if there is a large team attempting to solve a large and complex problem. It is also beneficial because it can be used in teams with smaller, specialized teams within it because it allows each smaller group to focus on what they know best.

However, it does encourage the parties to shy away from collaboration on the overall issue, and the different solutions that each proposes may not be possible when combined and implemented.

For this reason, it is best to use this solution when approaching complex problems with large teams and the ability to combine several problem-solving methods into one.

Six Thinking Hats

The Six Thinking Hats theory is a concept designed for a team with a lot of differing conflict styles and problem-solving techniques. This method was developed to help sort through the various techniques that people may use and help a team find a solution that works for everyone involved. It helps to organize thinking and lead the conversation to the best possible solution.

Within this system, there are six different “hats” that identify with the various aspects of the decision-making process: the overall process, idea generation, intuition and emotions, values, information gathering, and caution or critical thinking. The group agrees to participate in the process by agreeing on which of the hats the group is wearing at a given moment. This helps set parameters and expectations around what the group is attempting to achieve at any moment.

This system is particularly good in a group with different conflict styles or where people have a hard time collecting and organizing their thoughts. It can be incredibly beneficial for complex problems with many moving parts. It can also help groups identify how each of the smaller sections relates to the big picture and help create new ideas to answer the overall problem.

However, it can derail if the group focuses too heavily or for too long on one of the “hats.” The group should ensure that they have a facilitator to guide them through the process and ensure that each idea and section is considered adequately.

Trial and Error

The trial and error process takes over the evaluation and selection process and instead chooses to try out each of the alternatives to determine what the best option would be. It allows the team to gather data on each of the options and how they apply practically. It also provides the ability for the team to have an example of each possible answer to help a decision-maker determine what the best option is.

Problem-solving methods that focus on trial and error can be helpful when a team has a simple problem or a lot of time to test potential solutions, gather data, and determine an answer to the issue.

It can also be helpful when the team has a sense of the best guess for a solution but wants to test it out to determine if the data supports that option, or if they have several viable options and would like to identify the best one. However, it can be incredibly time-consuming to test each of the options and evaluate how they went. Time can often be saved by evaluating each option and selecting the best to test.

Other Problem-Solving Skills

In addition to the methods outlined above, other problem-solving skills can be used regardless of the model that is used. These techniques can round out the problem-solving process and help address either specific steps in the overall method or alter the step in some way to help it fit a specific situation.

Ask Good Questions

One of the best ways to work through any of the problem-solving models is to ask good questions. This will help the group find the issue at the heart of the problem and address that issue rather than the symptoms. The best questions will also help the group find viable solutions and pick the solution that the group can use to move forward. The more creative the questions, the more likely that they will produce innovative solutions.

Take a Step Back

Occasionally, paying attention to a problem too much can give the group tunnel vision and harm the overall processes that the group is using. Other times, the focus can lead to escalations in conflict. When this happens, it can be helpful to set aside the problem and give the group time to calm down. Once they have a chance to reconsider the options and how they apply, they can approach the issue with a new sense of purpose and determination. This can lead to additional creative solutions that may help the group find a new way forward.

Final Thoughts

Problem-solving can be a daunting part of life. However, with a good problem-solving method and the right techniques, problems can be addressed well and quickly. Applying some of these options outlined in this article can give you a head start in solving your next problem and any others that arise.

To learn more about problem-solving models, problem-solving activities, and more, contact ADR Times!

Emily Holland
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