Improve Team Problem Solving - Top 10 Factors

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Problem solving is such a general term, it means so many different things from "fixing" things that are not working to "capitalizing" on opportunities. For purposes of this article I'm referring to the process of working through a challenge either to fix a negative or capitalize on an opportunity. 

Individual problem solving techniques follow some general processes driven by specific personality types, the real value of a team is to make the most of each of these different ways/skills of problem solving without letting those differences be a problem in and of themselves. I recently wrote about decision making and many of the factors that influence effective team decision making are relevant for problem solving, so I will include those elements as well as augment with additional elements that come into play.

  1. Intuitive versus factual - does the team member operate from a "gut" feel about things or based purely on things that are clearly defined.
  2. Extrapolate versus a logical linear connection - does the team member jump from one element to another or only connect items that have a clear linkage.
  3. Solve it using tried and true methods versus seek new ways - does the team member build on prior experience or look for ways that "could" work but have not been proven in the past.
  4. Process information internally or through verbal discussion - team brainstorming is key to effective problem solving but some individuals may need to process information internally first, in situation where time is not available, these team members will need to trust their teammates to allow them to move forward in the time available.
  5. Intent to revolutionize or make gradual improvements - team members will start from very different perspectives but can work together to build on each others ideas.
  6. Taping into the entire groups knowledge base.
  7. Taping into the teams creativity by taking ideas and building on them.
  8. Focus on the big picture versus see the fine details of the challenge can both yield benefits, capitalizing on both is the goal.
  9. Response to time pressure, some team members thrive under a time pressure, others freeze, recognize and capitalize on the ones that thrive to pull the group through.
  10. Response to rules, some believe rules were made to be broken and will brainstorm ideas that throw rules out the window, often this will allow for solutions to be devised that can then be modified to work within the "rules".

Many of the 10 items listed above represent opposite ends of a spectrum, people will likely fall somewhere in between. As a team take a current "problem" that needs to be solved. During the meeting work through where on the spectrum each of the team members fall. Have a team member explain why they feel it is important to work from one end of the spectrum, this will give others that see things from the "other" side a new appreciation. Also it will allow for more tolerance of differences of opinion. Then when working through a specific problem you can have two leaders one from each end of the spectrum lead the brainstorming elements. Each will guide the group in quite different ways and often some combination of the results will yield the best solution.


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Lynn Ferguson has 1 articles online

Lynn has held executive positions at a variety of organizations that range from an EVP of a dot-com start up to most recently, VP Global Sourcing for Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce prior to becoming a partner in Conundrum Adventures. Conundrum Adventures delivers team building programs to corporate clients Through-out her career she has demonstrated the ability to lead and inspire teams to achieve excellent results. A key focus area has been effective relationship management. Lynn draws on her experience to effectively facilitate team discussions to find creative solutions to the most challenging problems. Lynn holds an HBA and an MBA degree from the Ivey Business School. If you are interested in reading more articles written by Lynn check out the Team Resources blog

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Improve Team Problem Solving - Top 10 Factors

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This article was published on 2010/04/02