Balancing Act: Learn how to find solutions on the job

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With the recession and cutbacks, it has become easy to be a workplace whiner or someone who points out roadblocks. What's more difficult is being the person who puts on his problem-solving cap and bring ideas and solutions.

"Companies are dying to have people play these roles," said Dwayne Spradlin, CEO of InnoCentive, a crowd-sourcing company.

Being viewed as a problem solver can put a career on the fast track and can even lead to better work-life balance. Problem-solving ability is "a key skill workers of the future will need to tackle the technology and global changes that lie ahead," said Sayed Sadjady, talent management and organizational design leader with PwC's advisory practice in New York.

With a little effort and some know-how, you can become a problem solver. Here's how:

• Define the problem. Become better at asking the right questions so that you tackle the right problems, Mr. Spradlin said.

• Think bigger. Craig Robins, a Miami real estate developer, has become a problem solver by "getting out of box and not being consumed by conventional thinking or process."

• Examine a failure. When faced with a challenge, be the person who does his homework.

• Practice makes perfect. Get into the habit of always bringing at least one solution idea for every problem you identify.

• Use your subconscious. C. James Jensen, author of "Beyond the Power of Your Subconscious Mind," said people become problem solvers when they learn to walk away from a difficult situation rather than "worry a problem to death."

• Resist starting from scratch. Mr. Sadjady says technology makes it easier to apply a solution others have used to your situation or build on it.

• Consider a team approach. In big, global companies, expect to see more reliance on team-based problem solving to stay innovative.

Going forward, Mr. Spradlin asserts anyone can learn to adopt a problem-solving mind-set: "It takes an individual that says, 'Here is the problem. We have options. Let me run with them and create a path forward.' All that takes is courage, clear thinking and relationship-management skills."

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Cindy Krischer Goodman can be reached at balancegal@gmail.com.


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