Problem solving as a team can be difficult – as we have seen, some members will want to talk things through, others will need time on their own to think. Some will want to start by generating novel ideas, while others will want to gather more facts. Some will be very ready to critique ideas while others will take this critique personally. All of these approaches to problem-solving are valuable – so how do you take the best from each?
Here is a process that you can use to do this in a meeting, bearing in mind the tips introduced for team meetings in part 2.
1) Split the time up
The idea is to split the time up into 3 blocks (defining the problem, generating ideas, critiquing the ideas). Work out how much time you have and give a time limit to each of these blocks, letting the team know how much time they will have for each.
2) Defining the problem
The idea here is to approach the problem first from a sensing perspective ie. by gathering more information about the specific details of the problem. Ask questions such as “What do we already know?”, “What has been done before?”. If you know you have someone in your team who has a sensing preference, ask them to lead this block of time. Make sure that people are clear that they shouldn’t start generating ideas just yet. It may be that you find at this point, you need to go away and find more information and come back to the group. If there are details you don’t know and you have time to find them out, this is an important part of the process.
3) Generating ideas
This is the intuitive approach coming into play. Based on the specific information you should now have, the team can start looking for links with other work and new ideas. This can take the form of a traditional “brainstorming” session and members of the team should avoid discussing ideas in detail or critiquing them just yet. It is important to let everyone be as creative as possible here. Ask questions such as “what are all the options?”, “what hasn’t been tried before?” and “what other ways around it are there?”. Again, if you have someone of an intuition preference, it might be an idea to ask them to lead this block of time.
4) Critiquing the ideas
This section needs to be split in two – make sure you allocate time to each. First you need to critique with the thinking approach, so using logic and objectivity, asking questions such as “will it actually work?”. You may want to draw up and apply a consistent set of principles to each idea. Once you have done this, you need to take a feeling approach to critique, looking at the process of how you would achieve the goal, the impact on people and how the ideas relate to your values as a team.
5) Making the decision
At this point, you should have narrowed down the possibilities to help you make a decision. If possible, it is good if you can leave a little bit of time after the meeting before you make a final call to allow anyone to come back with comments upon reflection. It really depends on how important the decision is but if it is important that you get full input from everyone, this will be a vital part of the process. As with any decision which will impact the team, make sure you communicate what you have decided to everyone with clear justification.