The Art of Problem Solving: Approaching Challenges with a Consulting Mindset

Feranmi Olaseinde

Hatched by Feranmi Olaseinde

Apr 19, 2024

3 min read


The Art of Problem Solving: Approaching Challenges with a Consulting Mindset


Problem-solving is an essential skill in various aspects of life, whether it be personal or professional. In today's fast-paced world, the ability to approach problems with a consulting mindset can make a significant difference in finding effective solutions. This article will explore the principles, processes, and actionable advice for problem-solving like a management consultant.

Understanding the Different Types of Problems:

When it comes to problem-solving, it is important to recognize that not all problems are the same. Some problems can be thought of as puzzles, with clear endpoints and specific algorithms to solve them. On the other hand, there are problems that resemble campaigns, requiring a strategic approach to achieve desired outcomes. Lastly, we have mysteries, which demand a deeper understanding of the problem itself before determining the appropriate solution.

The Pitfall of the Smash-and-Grab Method:

One common approach to problem-solving is what experts refer to as the "smash-and-grab" method. This method involves breaking a problem into smaller pieces, assigning them to individuals, and then attempting to put everything back together. While this approach may yield some results, it often lacks coherence and fails to address the underlying complexities of the problem at hand.

The Principle of Success in Problem-Solving:

Success in problem-solving goes beyond simply completing a task or finding a solution. In the realm of management consulting, high-impact work is achieved when decision-makers gain clarity and confidence to take action. Therefore, problem-solving should not only address the right issues but also provide the necessary confidence for decision-makers to make informed choices.

The Process of Problem-Solving:

To approach problems like a management consultant, it is crucial to have a defined process in place. This process involves breaking the problem apart, analyzing its components, and synthesizing information to make informed decisions. While different organizations may have varying steps and tools, a general seven-step process can be followed:

  • 1. Define the problem: Identify the core issue at the heart of the problem, rather than focusing on the stated problem.
  • 2. Break the problem apart: Divide the central question into smaller, manageable pieces to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities involved.
  • 3. Plan the work: Use the identified issues to drive the work plan and create a roadmap for tackling the problem effectively.
  • 4. Pivot and gain insights: Transition from asking questions to gaining insights and formulating answers and actionable steps.
  • 5. Synthesize and bring things together: Use the gathered insights to synthesize information and bring everything back together to make informed decisions.
  • 6. Take action: Implement the decisions made and take necessary actions to address the problem effectively.
  • 7. Evaluate and iterate: Continuously evaluate the outcomes and iterate the process as needed to refine the solution and improve results.

Actionable Advice for Effective Problem-Solving:

  • 1. Avoid the "smash-and-grab" method: Instead of assigning random pieces to individuals, encourage collaboration and a holistic approach to problem-solving. By working together, teams can leverage diverse perspectives and insights to arrive at comprehensive solutions.
  • 2. Focus on the key question: When defining the problem, formulate a key question or central issue that encapsulates the heart of the problem. This will provide clarity and direction throughout the problem-solving process.
  • 3. Embrace iteration and continuous improvement: Problem-solving is rarely a linear process. Encourage a mindset of continuous improvement, where teams can evaluate outcomes, learn from them, and iterate on the solution. This approach allows for flexibility and adaptability in an ever-changing environment.


Approaching problems with a consulting mindset requires a combination of strategic thinking, effective collaboration, and a structured problem-solving process. By avoiding the smash-and-grab method, defining the problem with a key question, and embracing continuous improvement, individuals and teams can enhance their problem-solving capabilities. With these actionable pieces of advice, one can navigate through complex challenges and achieve impactful results in various domains, just like a management consultant.

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