Problem-solving is hard. Resolving complex issues is certainly too complicated to be automated with software tools. You’re better than a robot, of course.
But you’ve already done the heavy lifting. You’ve established a plan. You’ve set the criteria. And you’ve sourced the necessary data. All that work requires a savvy mind. That’s the hard part. The smart part. So why does the final decision still seem so hard?
Much of it has to do with our limitations in synthesizing and calculating the broad array of data we’ve gathered. In a way, that’s the tedious part. With the “smart part” done, why not leave the final calculations to non-biased, problem-solving software automation?
On this list of problem-solving tools, you’ll find software and online routines to make your decisions easier. Some simply guide you through the problem-solving process with tools such as mind maps, flowcharts and decision trees. Each of them is effective. With that in mind, let’s look at our favorite six tools to solve problems and move your company forward.
1. Pugh Matrix: Free Interactive Decision-Making Tool
We often struggle choosing between candidates to hire. Not because we have difficulty evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. Those sorts of qualitative analyses come easily to us. It’s the quantitative aspect—weighing all those facts for a resolution—that creates the dilemma of overthinking
Use for Free: Pugh Matrix: Free Interactive Decision-Making Tool
2. Ben Franklin Method Decision Balance Sheet
This handy decision-making tool is even simpler than the Pugh Matrix. And with simplicity comes versatility. With this free, online tool from DecisionCount, you can more simply choose between two options. Avoid analysis paralysis. Instead, simply enter the strengths of each option and weigh them by truth and importance. It’s handy for snap decisions both big and small. Whether choosing if you should increase a marketing budget or where to have lunch, this tool can help you make a final decision.
Use for Free: Ben Franklin Method Decision Balance Sheet
Graphic representations are critical. They help us get our heads around even the most difficult problems through concrete visualization. Plus, mind mapping and brainstorming allow us to see connections we might not otherwise have missed. GitMind offers a free, online tool to get you started. Choose from dozens of templates that include mind maps, organizational charts, flowcharts, Ishikawa diagrams, UML diagrams, and more to move your business forward. You can even download a mobile app for problem-solving on the go.
Use for Free: GitMind
4. Creately: Online SWOT Analysis Creator
A SWOT analysis serves as one of the key tools in problem-solving. Team members brainstorm to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) of a particular problem. After careful analysis, they hopefully reach a consensus. But conveying the results of such a meeting to external team members can prove challenging. This handy, online tool provides 36 attractive templates to make your SWOT analysis more understandable to both internal and external audiences. You can even collaborate online. This feature allows you to brainstorm together remotely and over longer periods. Make your SWOT analysis easier and clearer with this handy tool.
Use Free (Limited use, low-fee subscriptions): Online Swot Analysis Creator
5. Pareto Analysis: Chart Templates from Visual Paradigm
Developed by the economist Vilfredo Pareto, the Pareto Principle has been used in problem-solving across industries from sports to computing. Sometimes called the 8/20 Rule, the Pareto Principle states that 20% of causes frequently lead to 80% of outcomes. This mathematical reality has vast implications for decision-making and prioritization. After all, 20% of work performed may lead to 80% of revenue. Conversely, 20% of errors or bad judgments often lead to 80% of company losses. A Pareto analysis identifies both to leverage the good and diminish the bad.
Four templates provided by Visual Paradigm allow you to easily and attractively present your Pareto analysis. But why stop there? While visiting Visual Paradigm, you’ll find templates for all kinds of interactive decision-making. You’ll also find royalty free photos and icons. There’s even an art editor to create infographics, brochures and more. Don’t miss this vast treasure trove at $15 per month or less.
Use Free (limited use, low-fee subscriptions): Pareto Analysis Chart Templates
6. Syncopation Software: DPL
Now for something more robust. You’ve probably used decision trees for problem-solving. But the likelihood of strong results depends on two things. First, the quality and scope of the input data. And second, the quality of your analysis. Plus, the output needs to be presentable and understandable to everyone impacted.
DPL from Syncopation Software assists you on each of these fronts and more. Used for problem-solving by industries ranging from Boeing and Ford Motors to Intel and UPS, DPL integrates seamlessly with Excel spreadsheet data. You can conduct sensitivity analyses within the system to weigh variables and develop insights on problems to resolve. Outputs, including Syncopation’s Policy Tree, are easy for anyone on the team to understand visually. Put it all together, and DPL helps your company gather data, present solutions, and implement the best decisions available.
Photo by @ajknapp/Twenty20
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