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People who succeed here tend to be good problem solvers. The training was a real eye opener for me to see how much stronger we can become as an organization if we, as managers, restrain the initial urge to ‘jump to solution’.

— Director, Financial Services

Collaborative Problem Solving: A Systems Thinking Approach

Had a standup meeting in the hall lately? Many companies are finding that’s not a bad approach for collaborative problem solving. Taking a systems thinking approach to the complex problems in organizations is now very much a requirement.

“The world is changing too fast…Old fashioned ‘problem-solving’ no longer works.” – Marvin Weisbord, Productive Workplaces.  In a world where change is constant and the pace of change constantly increasing, the traditional approach of having experts go off to solve problems is not enough to deal with the complexity of the issues. Instead, experts are having to join with everybody else in learning how to solve whole handfuls of problems at once, to make improvements systemically.

In his groundbreaking book The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge refers to “the staggering potential of collaborative learning – that collectively we can be more insightful, more intelligent than we can possibly be individually. The IQ of the team can potentially be much greater than the IQ of the individuals.”

It’s true. In spite of what you learned in elementary school, 2+2 really does, under the right conditions, equal more than 4.  Just putting a group to work on a problem, without the right skills, mindsets, and conditions, is clearly not enough. Disasters such as 3 Mile Island and the Challenger space shuttle demonstrate that “groupthink” is a common risk.

The right conditions include ensuring the group has the right skills, tools, and practices in place and uses an effective process to address problems.  Building the capability for Collaborative Problem Solving in your organization helps you achieve important benefits:

  • Problems are addressed systemically (holistically) at the root, not band-aided, only to reappear
  • All stakeholders – the “whole system” – are involved in solving problems and implementing solutions
  • The collective wisdom of the group is brought to bear on problems, resulting in more creative, permanent solutions to persistent problems
  • High levels of employee engagement

Collaborative Problem Solving Training highlights:

NOTE: Collaborative Problem Solving may be tailored for intact teams, key team leaders, or for large group problem solving.

  • The 6 step problem solving model
  • The leader’s role as facilitator
  • How to get a shared understanding of the problems to be solved – the importance of finding common ground
  • How to tap into the collective wisdom of the group
  • How to avoid “groupthink” by empowering people to speak freely
  • Strategies and tools for group analysis and group decision making
  • How to help the group learn the appropriate use of inquiry and advocacy, and dialogue and debate in group discussion
  • How to help the group use systems thinking to solve the real, underlying problem
  • How to help the group reach consensus decisions when different interests are at stake

Collaborative Problem Solving Methodology

Participants in Collaborative Problem Solving spend most of their workshop time in practices with coaching and feedback. They bring their own real situations to use in the practice sessions and gain insight and skills through customized exercises, case studies, and simulations.

Collaborative Problem Solving Customized Solutions

To ensure that training is not just an “event,” but instead produces enduring results, we customize Collaborative Problem Solving to fit your unique situation, business strategy, culture, and people.  After discussion with you and other experts within your organization, we select the emphasis, specific skills to be developed, key learning points, exercises, and case studies for practice to create a solution tailored just for you.

Collaborative Problem Solving Applications

The following are some of the ways our clients have used custom versions of Collaborative Problem Solving:

  • To position the Company for increased innovation to respond to a changing marketplace
  • To enable project teams to develop innovative solutions to critical business problems
  • To equip a cadre of team leaders to engage employees in supporting a Company’s lean manufacturing initiative
  • To engage a wide range of stakeholders to ensure the problem is fully understood and solutions do not generate unintended negative consequences

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