Problem Solving Activities to Prepare for the Unavoidable

problem solving activitiesYou just spilled your $5 double shot macchiato on your lap = problem.  The internet is not connecting and you cannot get online to find a toll-free help number = problem.  Your project is due in 20 minutes and you overlooked two pages of additional instructions = problem.   Yes, problems are unavoidable.  They happen on a monthly, daily, and hourly basis.  Unfortunately, we are not equipped with a crystal ball to foresee that hurdles we will eventually have to face.  What we can do for ourselves, however, is prepare the best we can for the unavoidable.  We can equip ourselves with problem solving methods and strategies to tackle our problems head-on whether it is in a group or individual setting.  We are going to go over with you some great problem solving activities that are going to benefit you the next time you find yourself in any type of emerging problem.

Stages Involved in Problem Solving

Before we go over activities that you can apply to problem solving, let’s touch on some of the basic elements and stages involved in problem solving.  Knowing stages is going to prove helpful in problem-solving activities as well to help guide you in your thought process.

  1. Identifying the Problem:  The first step in tackling a problem is not tackling it; but knowing, recognizing, or admitting that there is a problem.  Identifying the problem means that you should be able to verbalize and define it.  When you can communicate the problem aloud, or to someone else, you will get a stronger grasp on its nature and what can be done to rectify it.
  2.  Analyzing:  If you have a simple problem, there might not be much analysis involved, but bigger problems need to be looked at with a magnifying glass.  This involves finding unknown facts, inspecting, and analyzing the barriers to the problem and how they can be crossed.
  3. Drafting Solutions:  It is always nice to have more than one!  By now you can start thinking of possible ways that you can go about solving your problem.  Some solutions might seem easier, but write them all down so that you can brainstorm later.
  4. Deciding on a Route:  After analyzing your possible solutions, you can come up with the route that best fits you and the rectification of the problem.  Decision making in itself is an important skill to have, and is not an easy one for most people.  Laying out all your options and possible solutions, however, will make it easier for you to make a decision.
  5. Solving: The implementation stage involves following through with your chosen route of problem solving.  Here you will put action to your decision and, hopefully, be able to seal your problem shut.

Problem Solving Activities

Solving problems, or the process of learning how to solve problems, does not have to be all work and no play.  There are plenty of helpful and fun activities that you can engage in with a group that will be beneficial to you problem solving skills.  Here are a few:

  • No-Crack Egg:  This is a very hands-on activity.  The group will be divided into equal teams, which will all be given materials such as newspaper, cardboard, tape, string, cotton balls, or straws.  The group will then be given a raw egg, and instructed to make a holding or cover for the egg so it will not break when dropped from about 15 feet.
  • Scavenger To-Do List:  If you want to instill motivation and teamwork in a group of people by having them solve problems together in this game.  This is a scavenger hunt game of sorts, which requires team members to do all the things that are written on their “to-do” list.  Whichever team crosses off everything first, wins.  The activities can range from simple to complex, such as taking a picture in front of a fast food restaurant, to doing a 200-piece puzzle.  The goal of this game is to keep the team motivated while dealing with tension and problem-solving situations throughout the round.
  • Situation Skit:  This is a good activity for a group of people that work, go to school, or live together.  Think of problems that you all deal with on a daily basis.  Write all of them down and have each group draw a random one.  Within a time frame, the group needs to act out the situation and solve the problem that has been presented to them.  This is a great way to get a group of people planning and problem solving to effectively handle and solve a problem.
  • Shrinking Space:  Image being confined in a tight space that just keeps getting smaller, what would you do?  This problem solving activity requires groups to figure out just that.  This is a very stressed-based problem solving activity where groups are put within a boundary that progressively shrinks over time.  Their goal is to find a way to occupy that space efficiently without going out of the boundaries.
  • Large Puzzling:  In this activity, everyone will be presented with cut up pieces of one big picture.  The goal for each group is to assemble a picture from the given pieces as fast as you can.  This requires teamwork and effort to work under a time constraint.  You may even be asked to assemble to full picture, where groups will have to work together collaboratively to create a full picture.
  • Duplicate Block Building:  This might seem like a very elementary activity, but it still requires concentration and problem solving skills from everyone involved.  Divide your group into teams and decide on a model that you want the teams to duplicate.  The first team to duplicate the model wins.  The older and more mature the group, the higher level of difficulty should be involved.

Pieces of Advice

Problem solving activities and exercises not only work to help you tackle some real-life hurdles, but they also help open lines of communication, understanding, and efficiency among groups of people, and even with yourself.  Remember that no matter what happens, it is always good to be prepared with the basic building blocks and tools that are going to help you navigate your way through some tough situations.