Problem-solving is a critical skill that can be used in all aspects of life.
Whether you’re trying to figure out how to complete a project at work, or how to fix an issue with your car, learning the critical thinking skills necessary to formulate a solution is essential.
There are many titles out there on the topic, but which ones are worth your time?
In this article, we will discuss the 5 best books on problem-solving and why you should read them.
Best books on problem-solving
1. What’s Your Problem?: To Solve Your Toughest Problems, Change the Problems You Solve by Thomas Wedell-Weddellsborg
In today’s fast-paced world, it’s more important than ever to be able to make quick, informed decisions.
However, our brains are hardwired to think in certain ways that can lead to errors in judgment.
These “cognitive biases” can lead us to make suboptimal choices, even when we’re trying to do our best.
In his book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman spells out these biases and shows how they can lead us astray.
This book, in contrast, provides practical solutions and innovative strategies for reframing difficult situations, making it an essential resource for anyone needing to make important decisions quickly and effectively.
Clear examples, step-by-step guidelines, and straightforward diagrams provide easy-to-follow instructions for mastering the art of reframing and effectively communicating with others.
Additionally, the book offers tips and techniques for working successfully with resistant team members or other individuals who may impede progress on a project.
With its comprehensive coverage of all aspects of this important skill set, this guide is sure to be an invaluable resource for anyone looking to improve their decision-making abilities and achieve success in personal or professional endeavors.
- A great introduction to the concept of reframing as applied to problem-solving
- Material is delivered in a witty, charming tone
- Could be applied in both a personal and professional context
- Could be considered light on actionable, how-to information
- Slightly repetitive at times
2. Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe
In today’s business world, being able to think critically and solve problems is more important than ever before.
That’s why Ken Watanabe wrote The Problem Solving and Decision Making Toolbox.
In it, he adapts his proven consulting techniques to help shift the focus in Japanese education from memorization to critical thinking.
As a result, adults can learn the simple yet powerful skills they need to succeed in any industry.
And because the book is written in both English and Japanese, it’s accessible to businesspeople all over the world.
Whether you’re just starting out in your career or you’re a seasoned executive, this problem-solving and decision-making toolbox will give you the resources you need to get ahead.
- A great resource for children and adults alike
- A fun, easy read, containing diagrams to illustrate the author’s points
- Provides a systematic approach to problem-solving through relatable stories
- You might already utilize the methods in this book, albeit subconsciously
- The book could have possibly applied a more rigorous approach to the material presented
3. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip and Dan Heath
Making decisions is not always easy, but it is an important part of life, and a skill that is often dependent on problem-solving.
In this book, The Heath brothers, authors of international bestsellers Switch and Made to Stick, identify the main issues that can present barriers to effective decision making.
These include a tendency towards overly narrow problem-solving, an over-reliance on short-term emotions, and a lack of consideration for how our decisions may affect the future.
With its in-depth exploration of the thought processes that influence our decision-making, this book provides invaluable insight into how we can work to overcome these obstacles and make better choices.
This includes utilizing techniques like the “WRAP” mnemonic, which signifies widening your options, reality-testing your assumptions, and preparing to be wrong.
Making better decisions doesn’t guarantee that you’ll always make the right choice, but it does increase your chances of success.
So if you’re ready to take charge of your own decisions and develop true clarity in your thinking, look no further than this essential guide.
- Breaks decision making down into a digestible format, utilizing a useful mnemonic
- Contains useful anecdotes and stories to illustrate the authors’ points
- Academic in its content but also an engaging and easy read
- Doesn’t need to be quite as long
- Ideas in the book might not be new to some readers
4. Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill That Changes Everything by Charles Conn and Robert McLean
As a consultant, one of the most important skills you need to master is effective problem-solving.
Whether you’re navigating a complex business scenario, tackling unforeseen obstacles on a project, or simply seeking to improve your strategy for overcoming issues, it’s essential that you employ a systematic and repeatable approach.
While this book offers a useful 7-step program for complex problem solving, its approach can be somewhat overcomplicated and difficult to apply to everyday problems.
The heavy use of logic tree techniques presupposes a familiarity with these concepts, which may leave beginners confused.
Additionally, while there are plenty of case studies presented in the book, many of them feel dry and unremarkable, failing to provide much insight or inspiration for problem solvers.
However, despite these drawbacks, this book does offer some valuable techniques for tackling complex problems in an efficient and replicable way.
So, whether you’re a seasoned pro or simply looking to develop your problem-solving skills, this book is worth considering.
- A great introduction to problem-solving from a management consultant perspective
- Demystifies problem-solving and creates a systematic, repeatable method to develop the skill
- The authors provide key takeaways in each chapter
- Some advanced concepts might make it difficult for beginners
- Slightly dry and overly complex for quotidian problems
5. Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky and Brad Kowitz
Looking for a quick and effective method for developing new products and ideas, but struggling with the requirements of scrum and user-centered design?
Look no further than this book on 5-day sprints.
With clear instructions and helpful tips, it provides an engaging introduction to the key concepts of product vision development.
Design sprints are a pre-planned five-day system for solving tricky problems using design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers.
The Google Ventures design sprint team has developed this process to help startups rapidly prototype and test ideas with customers, so they can get feedback early and iterate quickly.
Filled with useful checklists that you can access online, this book is perfect for anyone looking to run efficient, user-focused sprints with minimal effort.
Whether you are new to scrum or well-versed in the principles of user-centered design, you will find this guide both informative and engaging.
So if you are ready to start taking your ideas from concept to reality at lightning speed, look no further than this book on 5-day sprints.
- A very practical book, with tools and exercises available for immediate implementation
- Perfect for solving problems in a team workshop-style setting
- Written by well-credentialed business pros working for Google Ventures
- The book could have been more concise
- Focuses on the professional sphere rather than personal problem-solving
- Doesn’t always credit other problem-solving approaches it utilizes
Problems are inevitable in life and will test us no matter how skilled or knowledgeable we may be.
Effective problem solving requires us to step back and examine the situation from multiple angles in order to determine the root cause of the issue and find a robust solution.
Reading the five book recommendations above will provide the tools and strategies to do so.
By practicing their teachings, we can begin to make more effective decisions, benefitting us both personally and professionally.
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