Problem Solving and Need Recognition Techniques

Sometimes, navigating from the recognition of an opportunity to overcoming problems in the development of that opportunity can feel like winding through a maze. Problem solving is essential to the genesis of entrepreneurship. At the same time, problem-solving techniques can be used in management and in an individual’s everyday personal life.

Entrepreneurs often visualize an opportunity gap, a gap between what exists and what could exist. Entrepreneurial problem solving is the process of using innovation and creative solutions to close that gap by resolving societal, business, or technological problems. Sometimes, personal problems can lead to entrepreneurial opportunities if validated in the market. The entrepreneur visualizes the prospect of filling the gap with an innovative solution that might entail the revision of a product or the creation of an entirely new product. In any case, the entrepreneur approaches the problem-solving process in various ways. This module is more about problem solving as it pertains to the entrepreneur’s thought process and approach rather than on problem solving in the sense of opportunity recognition and filling those gaps with new products. The key learning points are the following:
Define problem solving in the context of entrepreneurship
Describe and compare the adaptive model and the innovative model of problem solving
Identify the skills entrepreneurs need for effective problem solving
Identify types of problem solvers

A selections of videos for this module

What’s in the Bag?
Dora Psaltopoulou, arts teacher at AUTH

Following her participation in a Problem Solving and Need Recognition module, Dora Psaltopoulou, an arts teacher, introduced the “What’s in the Bag” activity to her students. This hands-on project aimed to cultivate problem-solving skills and creativity in her classroom. By incorporating the SCAMPER technique and repurposing existing artwork, Dora provided her students with an engaging opportunity to explore innovative solutions to artistic challenges. Let’s delve into this real-life example to see how Dora effectively applied problem-solving strategies in her teaching.

I created 6 bags for each of my art 1 classes. That required my students to break into 6 teams of 4…no one was allowed to work alone. (Working together in a group was another problem to solve). Each group picked a prompt from the bucket and then received their bags. They were given an hour (broken up over 2 classes) to bring their prompt to life. Bag contents included: a portion of an egg carton, 3 pipe cleaners, a cork, a round plastic piece, 10 popsicle sticks, 2 tongue depressors, some puzzle pieces, 3′ strip of lollipop wrapper, 3 small square chipboard pieces, and 2 rectangular chip board pieces. They could also use the bag if needed, but it was not required. After time was up, students were asked to present their creation to the class, addressing topics like what was your prompt, or what was the hardest problem to overcome building your creation and how did you overcome it. To complicate things a little I decided to involve in this module an SCAMPER activity. I learned about SCAMPER while at a Gifted and Talented training this past summer. Out of all the different activities we went over at the training, I felt SCAMPER was one that I could actually take back to my classroom and have the students use. I wanted my students to create an artwork, on their own, but I wanted it to fall under this unit. I thought with SCAMPER I could kill 2 birds with 1 stone so-to-speak, as I have a ton of old student artwork that I no longer needed or wanted. So, this was a great time to use them. Students would pick an artwork from the pile and use it to create a new artwork. The catch was, they had to choose one of the letters of SCAMPER when creating their “new” artwork. Subject matter, medium(s), and technique(s) are all up to the student.
Modify (M) was the letter most used in the activity. But, a few really dug in with combine, rearrange, eliminate and put to other uses. I wish I had some of the before images, but I don’t. Oh well. Anyway, they stepped up with SCAMPER –some students taking the artwork so far off the original…YAY! One student totally took her piece apart and created a whole new piece. One note I did have for myself for next year is to have a wider variety of old artwork for the students to choose from. Too many of the same starting image and ending with not changing the image enough.

Marshmallow Spaghetti Tower

This activity helps with collaboration. Why collaboration is important for problem-solving: “Collectively, we can be more insightful, more intelligent than we can possibly be individually,” writes Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline. We can solve problems better as a team than we can alone, which means developing your team’s collaboration skills will lead to better problem-solving outcomes.

What you’ll need (per team):
20 sticks of uncooked spaghetti
1 roll of masking tape
1 yard of string
1 marshmallow

1. The goal of this exercise is to see which team can use the materials provided to build the tallest tower within an allotted time period. The tower must be able to stand on its own.
2. To make this exercise more challenging, try adding a marshmallow to the top of the tower. This team problem-solving exercise helps people think on their toes while building camaraderie and leadership.


This activity helps with Communication. You will need an empty room or hallway, blindfolds, and a collection of common office items.

1. Place the items (boxes, chairs, water bottles, bags, etc.) around the room so there’s no clear path from one end of the room to the other.
2. Divide your team into pairs and blindfold one person on the team.
3. The other must verbally guide that person from one end of the room to the other, avoiding the “mines.”
4. The partner who is not blindfolded can’t touch the other.
5. If you want to make the activity more challenging, have all the pairs go simultaneously so teams must find ways to strategically communicate with each other.

Take the Quiz!