Why Group Problem Solving Is Usually More Effective

Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up. – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Why Group Problem Solving 

The importance of problem-solving skills in the workplace cannot be overstated because difficult problems consistently need to be resolved effectively. Using established problem-solving techniques while working as part of a team helps employees work well together and improves company run alike!

Problem-solving techniques come with benefits of increased productivity for businesses and teamwork among employees, all while preserving harmony within teams or even communities at large!

There is a reason old adages won’t die out anytime soon because they’re proven correct too often. Just take “two heads are better than one” this principle is true no matter what career you’ve chosen.

Having multiple people on your side can help you find solutions together faster, increasing efficiency and productivity. Team problem solving is essential in just about any workplace.

This is true for both employers and employees because problems will always arise, especially at a company where team members have their own job with different responsibilities but needs to work together cohesively if they want things done efficiently.

This benefits not only those working there but also others who may depend on them or rely upon that business’ services somehow!

Problem Solving and Decision Making examples

Problem-solving can be a difficult task, but there are two main approaches you can take. The first way to solve complex problems is done individually and happens almost without thinking about it.

The second team-based approach refers to small groups when everyone’s input has been considered as they work through their individual thoughts on how best to address this issue at hand.

When done individually, the principle of divergence can take place. We can think of as many solutions as possible without the influence of others.

An example is the classic creativity test is; individuals are asked to provide a list of alternative uses for an object, let’s say, a brick or a pencil. This tends to work best for simple problems where you can implement solutions on your own.

The importance of problem solving skills in the workplaceHow many different uses can you find for that item? This requires critical thinking and the use of logic while considering a much more comprehensive range of ideas that would not commonly be thought of.

Individual problem solving is beneficial because ideas are unfiltered and unaffected by others. But when multiple people are working on the same problem independently, ideas can also be repetitive.

If you’re a supervisor and were two go around their office, asking your employees to provide ideas for the best solution to a problem might be, you would likely get a lot of repetitive answers. It could then take longer to narrow down the most viable solutions, keeping in mind the most obvious solutions are not always the best.

When done collectively as a group, convergence takes the very best of the individual results and combines them with practical, group-based problem-solving techniques. These tools will help you, as a group leader, decide how to approach a group problem-solving activity with your employees.

When combined, a good group problem-solving activity begins with divergence and then transitions into convergence. Employees should still individually consider what the solution is. But instead of one person deciding what to do, the group collectively considers what would be best and can more easily reach a decision.

How to organize and lead group problem sessions

Problem-solving is so important that problem-solving training courses help business owners, leaders, etc., learn how to lead a group effectively. The group you choose is essential, and you would want different people with high interest in the current situation and covering the various roles involved in the process.

Also, large groups are not always a good thing. You may think you are getting a large number of possible solutions, but everyone may not be familiar with the root cause of the problem.

Basic techniques used in problem-solving.

By applying the following normal group techniques, you will be coming up with creative solutions to common problems where the standard solutions do not fit.

Step One: Define the Problem

It’s important to define the problem. A common issue with problem-solving techniques in business is that employees will think of solutions before thinking the problem through. Sometimes you can get lucky this way, but it’s not a fool-proof solution.

But it’s commonly done anyway because it can be hard to figure out precisely what the problem is. This is because the issues that are often noticed come from a separate but related root problem. A systematic approach to problem identification is the first step.

There are several questions you can ask to find the root problem.

1. What is the nature of the problem?

2. What situation is taking place when the problem occurs?

3. If part of a process, at what point in that process does the problem occur? 

4. How does this problem arise?

5. Why is this problem important?

6. Are there terms with fluid or divergent definitions being used? If so, define those terms clearly, so everyone’s using the same language.

Step Two: Analyze the Problem

Understanding the problem is groundbreaking but not enough on its own. Analyzing the problem helps the group understand what to do with the problem. Try these steps.

1. What is happening that indicates that the problem has taken place? For example, let’s say you supervise a group of custodians who are cleaning an office building five days a week. You’ve budgeted your labor to allow 30 minutes to clean each office, but one office always takes an hour. The problem is at the end of the week, and your labor cost is 2.5 hours over your budget. 

2. How serious are the effects of this? If you’re busy supervising a large group of employees, you might need to help finish their work yourself. This cuts down on your time to accomplish other supervisor duties.

Problem solving techniques in business3. What is causing the problem? Is there something about this office that takes more time to clean? Are the employees focusing too much effort on the wrong tasks and not using their time efficiently? 

4. Are the causes inherent in the problem? In other words, are these problems typically with this type of work? If so, how can they be effectively resolved for? If this is the case, previous experience may lend itself to solve the problem.

5. Have you already tried solving the problem on your own but haven’t yet succeeded? A group approach may provide the solution.

Step Three: Establish Criteria for Solutions

It’s vital that the solution to your problem, whatever the solution might be, is not worse than the problem you’re facing. Try not to make it too complicated. The less time it takes and the simpler it is, the better. There are numerous questions to ask to ensure that the solution is not worse than the problem.

1. Is the solution viable? Is it something that can be done? Is it difficult? Easy? Somewhere in the middle?

2. Is it economical? What if the cost to solve the problem is more than the money that would be saved? If so, what then. do you go back and start again, or do you set it aside to be revisited later

3. Is there a better way to solve the problem? Or is this the best way?

4. Will more benefits than problems come from this solution?

5. How good are the benefits? Will they significantly improve things?

6. Is the solution just? Moral? Efficient? Clear? Will it harm anyone in any way?

7. Create an action plan out of the most effective solutions

These are all good questions that are important to consider. If the solution has more positives than negatives, and if the solution will indeed solve the problem, you’re probably safe to proceed.

But if there are more negative effects, and you’re not sure if it will solve the problem, it might be best to continue problem-solving.

Step Four: Generating Potential Solutions to the Problem

This might be the hardest part! But generating your potential solutions is a key part of problem-solving. And even if the first solution you come up with seems like it will work, continue brainstorming.

That way, if the first solution turns out not to work, you have backup solutions. Not knowing what to do when something doesn’t work out can be frustrating and discouraging.

1. Express ideas freely. No one should be shut down, even if what they suggest doesn’t sound like it will work.

2. All ideas are welcome, no matter how outlandish they might seem. Everyone should feel like they have a voice.

3. Quantity is the goal. The total quantity can be narrowed down to the best quality once you have as many ideas as possible. Your solution could be in the first 30 seconds of your meeting or at the very end of it.

Don’t stop presenting solutions until all the group members have run out of ideas.

Step Five: Select the Best Solution

This is where the importance of problem-solving skills in the workplace begins to shine. As you decide what the best solution is, consider these questions. 

1. How does each solution work?

2. Will it solve the problem?

3. How well will it solve the problem? Will it fix it entirely or partially?

4. How well does it satisfy the criteria that need to be met?

5. Is there one solution or multiple solutions that should be combined together as the solution?

Once these questions are answered, decide how to vote. You can reach a consensus together as a group; hold majority or minority votes; have an expert decide for you; or decision by an authority, where you, as the group leader, make the final decision.

Step Six: Implement the Solution

Have confidence that your group problem-solving skills will work effectively. Believe that your solution will work, and remember that you have a backup plan just in case! This means that your worst-case scenario isn’t at all bad.

At the very least, you aren’t going back to square one. You’re moving forward, not backward. This is a very beneficial part of problem-solving techniques in business.

Available problem-solving training courses.

As you can see, the problem-solving process in the workplace is not easy. If this article has overwhelmed you with information, you might want to try taking a problem-solving training course. This will provide you with practice exercises and questions to consider, which will build your confidence and your ability to lead a group problem-solving meeting effectively.Problem solving training courses

A simple Google search will yield quite a few results for problem-solving training courses. There are courses from universities like Cornell, the University of Minnesota, Rice University, and Wesleyan. Each course will be different but should provide you with the foundational tools of problem-solving.

Problem Solving Mindset

Workplace problems will always come up. It’s part of the business world, and as stressful and tiring dealing with problems can be at times, those problems don’t have to consume your day. Everyone can benefit as you learn how to lead and effectively solve problems with your team.

Most problems may not be fun to deal with, but finding solutions will become part of your process and can improve the quality of your workday, your team, and your entire business, or that of the company you work for.

Plus, the company you work for and the people who you lead won’t be concerned when problems arise because they know that you are a good leader who can effectively lead your team to the best possible solution.

By Bryan Greene

Group Problem Solving Is Usually More Effective


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