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Key skills: making a difference
Key skills: making a difference

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8.3.1 Identify opportunities for using problem-solving skills

Where and how will you use problem-solving skills over the next 3–4 months? What opportunities do you have to develop your skills? For example, you may be working on a course project with a defined goal but the best route to that goal is not clear; you might be involved in contributing to the design of a system, improving its performance or investigating the feasibility of ideas; you may be involved in resolving resource or staffing difficulties, or in planning a major event.

Problems like this are likely to involve a number of factors which you will have to consider, and this consideration involves more than just following a fixed procedure. On the other hand, what counts as an acceptable solution should not be just a matter of opinion, but should be discussed with others and supported by evidence. Problem solving should present you with a challenge. Spend some time thinking about your study or work requirements and what opportunities you will have or can create to develop your problem-solving skills.

Identifying just what your course or work practice will require and what you will need to focus on can be quite a complex process, so don't be discouraged if you find it difficult. At work you may be able to discuss requirements with colleagues or your manager. On a course you can refer to the aims and outcomes to identify what you are expected to know and be able to do. In an assignment, there may be particular criteria you are expected to meet in order to be successful.

It is unlikely that you will be able to identify and pin down all the opportunities to use problem-solving skills right at the beginning of your course or work activities. New ideas will probably occur as you go along and you may come back to modify and adapt your strategy several times as your work progresses. This is fine – plans should be flexible and responsive as circumstances change. Discussing your ideas with others (such as your tutor, manager, other students or colleagues at work) can be helpful in identifying those aspects of key skills you need to work on.

Time out

Make a list of the problems you expect to tackle over your work period. Identify ones for which you have techniques or procedures and those which you will need to tackle in new ways.