What are the Barriers to Problem Solving?

barriers to problem solving

What are the Barriers to Problem Solving?


Solving problems is a magical superpower. It’s like being a detective, piecing together clues and finding that “aha!” moment when the solution just feels right. But sometimes, solving problems can be harder than it seems. There are hidden barriers that trip us up and make it tough to find the answers we need.

In this post, we’ll explore the biggest barriers to problem-solving and how to overcome them.

We’ll learn from mistakes, think outside the box, and have a little fun along the way. So grab your detective hats and let’s dive in!

The Blind Spot Barrier

Have you ever been so focused on something that you completely missed the obvious solution right in front of you? That’s the Blind Spot Barrier. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our way of thinking that we fail to see the problem for what it is.

“Failure by some to recognize that there is a problem: You may encounter some people who refuse to acknowledge a problem because the admission may cast them in a bad light, or the solution may be uncomfortable.”

The solution? Stay open-minded and don’t be afraid to question your assumptions. Involve people with different perspectives, and be willing to admit when you’re wrong. A little humility goes a long way in problem-solving.

The Size Matters Barrier

Some problems are just too big to tackle all at once. It’s like trying to eat a whole elephant in one sitting – not only is it impossible, but you’ll probably end up feeling sick and overwhelmed.

Instead of taking on the whole problem at once, break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Tackle each piece one by one, and before you know it, you’ll have conquered the entire problem.

“The problem is too big to be solved as one: break it into smaller, more manageable sub-problems, ensuring that you do not lose sight along the way of the original problem.”

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are complex solutions. Take it one step at a time, and you’ll get there.

The Framing Fiasco Barrier

Have you ever tried to solve the wrong problem entirely? That’s the Framing Fiasco Barrier, and it’s a doozy. If you don’t properly understand and frame the problem you’re trying to solve, you’ll end up wasting time and effort on solutions that don’t address the real issue.

“Poor framing of the problem: You get what you focus on. If you are sloppy in the wording or framing of a problem, you are unlikely to solve it. First, ensure that you are stating the right problem.”

To avoid this barrier, take the time to really understand the problem from multiple angles. Ask lots of questions, gather information, and don’t be afraid to reframe the problem if your initial understanding was off base.

The Rush Hour Barrier

Slow and steady wins the race, but sometimes we get impatient and try to solve problems too quickly. This is the Rush Hour Barrier, and it can lead to half-baked solutions that cause more problems than they solve.

“Solving the problem too quickly: Systems thinking theory suggests that the way out of a problem may lead very quickly back in. If you try to solve a problem too quickly with inadequate research or too little understanding of the ramifications of the solution (not only within, but outside your own work area), you may do more harm than good.”

The solution? Take a deep breath and resist the urge to rush. Gather as much information as you can, consider your solution’s potential consequences, and only then proceed with a well-thought-out plan.

The Office Politics Barrier

Ah, office politics – the bane of every problem-solver’s existence. Sometimes, even the most brilliant solution can be derailed by hidden agendas and personal vendettas. This is the Office Politics Barrier, and it’s a tricky one to navigate.

“Politics: Sadly, an understanding of organizational politics is necessary in problem solving. You may hit on the perfect solution only to find that you are not allowed to implement it because it does not fit someone’s personal agenda.”

To overcome this barrier, try to involve the right people from the start. Use problem-solving methods that give everyone an equal voice and expose them to different perspectives. And if all else fails, be prepared to compromise (but not too much!).

The Loudmouth Barrier

Have you ever been in a meeting where one or two people just won’t stop talking, drowning out everyone else’s ideas? That’s the Loudmouth Barrier, and it can be a real obstacle to effective problem-solving.

“Dominant people: Many of the methods offered in this book prevent the more vocal, senior or dominant people pushing others towards their solutions. You cannot avoid the person who wants center stage, but you can choose problem-solving methods that allow them no greater say than anyone else involved in the process.”

The solution? Use problem-solving techniques that give everyone an equal chance to contribute, like silent brainstorming or round-robin discussions. That way, no one voice can dominate, and you’ll get a better variety of ideas.

The Clueless Crew Barrier

Sometimes, the people tasked with solving a problem just don’t have enough knowledge or experience to really understand what they’re dealing with. This is the Clueless Crew Barrier, and it can lead to a lot of wasted time and frustration.

“Lack of understanding of the problem: We did our best to solve it, but did not really understand it sufficiently well at the beginning. Here you need to ask good questions, collect information and contextualize the problem for others helping you to solve it.”

To overcome this barrier, make sure you have the right people involved from the start. If the team lacks experience, bring in experts or do thorough research to get everyone up to speed. And don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions – it’s better to seek clarification than to make assumptions.

The Echo Chamber Barrier

Sometimes, we surround ourselves with people who think just like us, creating an echo chamber where no new ideas can get in. This is the Echo Chamber Barrier, and it can seriously limit our problem-solving abilities.

“Too much experience among problem solvers: Involve less experienced people with fresh insights.”

To avoid this barrier, make sure your problem-solving team has a diverse range of perspectives and backgrounds. Seek out people with different life experiences, education levels, and ways of thinking. That way, you’ll have a much richer pool of ideas to draw from.

The Broken Telephone Barrier

Have you ever played the game “Telephone” as a kid, where a message gets passed along and distorted beyond recognition? That’s the Broken Telephone Barrier, and it can happen when solutions aren’t communicated effectively.

“Failure to communicate the solution: Solving the problem is not enough – you need to communicate the solution to those who will be affected by it and those who were affected by the original problem.”

To overcome this barrier, make sure you have a clear and consistent communication plan. Involve all stakeholders, both during the problem-solving process and when implementing the solution. And don’t be afraid to repeat yourself – clear communication is key to success.

The Stuck in a Rut Barrier

Sometimes, we get so stuck in our ways of thinking that we can’t see any other possible solutions. This is the Stuck in a Rut Barrier, and it can be a major roadblock to innovation and progress.

“Trying to solve a problem by using the same thinking that created the problem: We become institutionalized in our thinking very quickly after joining an organization. If you apply the same thinking, the same measures, the same assumptions to a problem that its creators applied, then you will have little hope of solving the problem.”

To get out of this rut, you need to shake things up. Use problem-solving techniques that encourage divergent thinking, like brainstorming or mind mapping. Seek new perspectives, and don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo.

The Bandaid Barrier

Sometimes, we get so focused on fixing the symptoms of a problem that we fail to address the root cause. This is the Bandaid Barrier, and it can lead to a never-ending cycle of putting out fires instead of preventing them.

“Fixing the symptoms without getting to the causes: Single loop learning patches over the symptoms – we recognized a problem and we fixed it. Double loop learning explores the root causes of a problem and then fixes the controls or processes that allowed the problem to occur in the first place.”

To overcome this barrier, you need to dig deeper and understand what’s causing the problem in the first place. Ask lots of questions, gather data, and don’t be satisfied with surface-level solutions. Only by addressing the root cause can you truly solve the problem for good.

The Negative Nelly Barrier

Negative attitudes can be a major barrier to effective problem-solving. This is the Negative Nelly Barrier, and it can sap your motivation and creativity before you even get started.

“Others’ attitudes: Typical attitudes are: ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ ‘You can’t do that.’ ‘It’s too expensive.’ ‘We haven’t budgeted for that this year.’ ‘That’s not in our job description.’ ‘Leave well enough alone.’ ‘We haven’t got the time.’ ‘We can’t spare anyone to work on this.’ ‘Frankly, that isn’t our problem.’

To overcome this barrier, you need to stay positive and resilient. Surround yourself with supportive people who believe in your ability to solve the problem. And don’t be afraid to challenge negative attitudes with facts, data, and a can-do spirit.


Failure to recognize there is a problemHelp them see the benefits of new approaches without judgment
Problem is too bigBreak it into smaller, manageable sub-problems
Poorly framed problemCarefully frame the problem statement
Solving the problem too quicklyTake time to research and understand all ramifications
Office politicsInvolve the right stakeholders and give all voices equal weight
Dominant peopleUse methods that limit excessive airtime for any one person
Lack of understandingAsk questions, gather information, get input from knowledgeable people
Too much experience on the teamUse methods that allow fresh perspectives
Failure to communicate the solutionInvolve some less experienced people to get new insights
Failure to consult key peopleEnsure you involve those affected by the problem and solution
Using the same flawed thinkingThoroughly brief all impacted parties on the resolution
Fixing symptoms, not root causesDig deeper to understand and address the core issues
Negative attitudesUse facts, stay positive, challenge negativity respectfully
Barriers to problem-solving and their solutions

Solving problems can be a real challenge, but it’s not impossible.

By understanding the common barriers and how to overcome them, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a problem-solving pro.

Remember, stay open-minded, break big problems into smaller pieces, frame the problem correctly, take your time, navigate office politics, give everyone a voice, get the right people involved, seek diverse perspectives, communicate clearly, think outside the box, address root causes, and stay positive.

With these tips in your toolbox, you’ll be unstoppable!


Q: What if I’m struggling to frame the problem correctly?

A: Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions and gather as much information as possible. Seek out different perspectives and look at the problem from multiple angles. Sometimes, it can help to take a step back and come at it with fresh eyes. And remember, it’s okay to reframe the problem as you learn more – the goal is to get it right, even if it takes a few tries.

Q: How can I involve people with different perspectives when everyone on my team thinks alike?

A: Look outside your immediate team or department. Seek out people from other areas of the organization, or even outside experts or consultants. You can also try to find people with diverse backgrounds, education levels, or life experiences. The key is to bring in fresh perspectives that challenge your team’s existing assumptions and ways of thinking.

Q: What if I’m facing resistance or negative attitudes when trying to solve a problem?

A: Stay positive and resilient. Use data and facts to counter negative attitudes, and focus on the benefits of solving the problem rather than dwelling on the challenges. Surround yourself with supportive people who believe in your ability to find a solution. And don’t be afraid to respectfully challenge negative attitudes – sometimes, a little push-back is necessary to make progress.

Leave a Reply