How structured is your approach to problem-solving?

SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from more than 220,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

How structured is your approach to problem-solving?

  • Very – we have clearly defined steps and output at each step: 19.5%
  • Kind of – we generally follow a repeatable problem solving process: 50.5%
  • Not very – our problem solving is a bit haphazard: 21.5%
  • Not at all – we never solve problems the same way twice: 8.5%

A weak structure means weak solutions. Problem-solving is a repeatable process with predictable end products for most common problems. A structured approach to problem-solving ensures you fully understand the problem and are comprehensive in your search for solutions. The structured approach is also efficient. If you can be hypothesis-based in your problem solving and focus on the highest opportunity solutions, you can save a lot of time by not chasing small ideas. For the 30% of you not solving problems with a structured approach, give structure a try. You might find you’ll come up with bigger and better solutions faster than ever before.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He's the author of three leadership books: "One Piece of Paper," "Lead Inside the Box" and "The Elegant Pitch."