This EI factor governs our ability to effectively solve problems of a personal and interpersonal nature. Problem-solving together with reality-testing and flexibility for the essential elements of adaptability – they are what drive the Darwinian theory of survival and adaptability. This important EI factor entails the ability to identify and define problems as well as to generate and implement potentially effective solutions. It is multi-phasic in nature and includes the ability to go through the following process:
(i) sensing a problem and feeling confident as well as motivated to deal with it;
(ii) defining and formulating the problem as clearly as possible, which necessitates gathering relevant information;
(iii) generating as many solutions as possible; and
(iv) implementing one of the solutions after weighing the pros and cons of each possible solution and choosing the best course of action.
People who are adept at problem solving are often conscientious, disciplined, methodical and systematic in persevering and approaching challenging situations. Task-oriented behavior also appears to be part of problem-solving together being committed to actively coping with problematic situations in order to improve them. This skill is also associated with a desire to do our best and to confront problems, rather than avoiding them. While a methodical approach appears to be important in this process, flexibility and spontaneity are also important especially as they relate to generating potential solutions (“brainstorming”). Problem-solving entails paying attention to detail in what is often a very complicated situation, quickly and effectively filtering information as well as prioritizing a desired course of action that needs to be anchored in good judgment. This process is closely associated with pattern recognition, which helps one remember what works best in specific situations and the feasibility of applying this approach again. Memory, therefore, plays a key role in learning from past experiences in order to enhance future performance through a type of multitasking during the problem-solving process and making the most effective decisions which entails risk analysis and management in addition to decision-making per se. As such, problem-solving is a complex cognitive process.
Research findings have suggested that it is important to understand emotions in order to solve problems (or possibly to solve problems with emotional content). Problem solving is considered to be one of the most important managerial competencies by the US Office of Personnel Management. Together with reality-testing and flexibility, problem-solving plays a very important part in the ability to negotiate and resolve conflicts. Strength in this area is a true asset, both individually and organizationally. This skill is especially critical for effective strategic planning; it is essential in anticipating and dealing with potentially complex problems on a large scale. This is especially necessary for individuals working alone, or with minimal supervision, who typically have to deal with situations as they arise without the benefit of group decision-making.