||Behavioural innovations have become central to our thinking about how animals adjust to changing environments. It is now well established that animals vary in their ability to innovate, but understanding why remains a challenge. This is because innovations are rare, so studying innovation requires alternative experimental assays that create opportunities for animals to express their ability to invent new behaviours, or use pre-existing ones in new contexts. Problem solving of extractive foraging tasks has been put forward as a suitable experimental assay. We review the rapidly expanding literature on problem solving of extractive foraging tasks in order to better understand to what extent the processes underpinning problem solving, and the factors influencing problem solving, are in line with those predicted, and found, to underpin and influence innovation in the wild. Our aim is to determine whether problem solving can be used as an experimental proxy of innovation. We find that in most respects, problem solving is determined by the same underpinning mechanisms, and is influenced by the same factors, as those predicted to underpin, and to influence, innovation. We conclude that problem solving is a valid experimental assay for studying innovation, propose a conceptual model of problem solving in which motor diversity plays a more central role than has been considered to date, and provide recommendations for future research using problem solving to investigate innovation. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Cognition in the wild.