How Your Team Can Learn From Failures

How Your Team Can Learn From Failures

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

Winning teams have the ability to fail and not take it personally. They keep moving forward despite failures. The following are some characteristics of teams that learn from their failures.

Related: Resilience Outcome Based Team Building

They Reject Rejections

Teams that learn from their failures are those teams that keep on trying despite setbacks. They do not base their self worth on their performance, but have an internally based self esteem. To learn from your failures, it is important that you never call yourself a failure, but rather say that you made a mistake. Teams that achieve, keep the right perspective, take responsibility for their actions and they never take failure personally.

They See Failure as Temporary

Teams that personalize failure experience the problem as a big hole in which they are stuck. Teams that achieve see the problem as only temporary. For a team to succeed, they need to keep trying and believe in their potential.

See Failures as Isolated Incidents

Winning teams see failures as momentary events and not life long epidemics. They do not take the failure personally and do not allow a single event to influence their view of themselves.

They Keep Their Expectations Realistic

The greater the team goal, the greater the need for mental preparation and overcoming obstacles and persevering. It takes time, effort and ability to overcome setbacks. Your team must approach the day with reasonable expectations, but not get their feelings hurt when the day does not turn out perfectly.

They Focus on Their Strengths

Winning teams keep from personalizing failure by focusing on their strengths. They concentrate more on what they can do, then on what they can’t do. Teams become stronger by developing and maximizing their strengths.

They Vary Their Approaches

Winning teams try various approaches to solve a problem. They do not allow the comments of others to make them feel like failures.

They Bounce Back

Teams that achieve, have the common ability of bouncing back after a failure. If the result is not what they wanted, they find what the mistake was and they make sure they don’t make the same mistake again. Winning teams keep moving forward no matter what happens, knowing that failure does not make them failures.

 

Source: Failing Forward, John C. Maxwell

Team Building Quotes From Aristotle

Team Building Quotes From Aristotle

Aristotle was an ancient Greek philosopher. At about seventeen years of age, he joined Plato’s Academy in Athens and remained there until the age of thirty-seven. His writings cover a wide range of subjects including poetry, aesthetics, biology, physics, zoology, metaphysics, theatre, music, rhetoric, linguistics and politics. After Plato died, Aristotle left Athens and started tutoring Alexander the Great. He established a library in Lyceum, which helped with the production of his many books. Aristotle shifted from Platonism to empiricism and believed that all concepts and knowledge was ultimately based on perception. His influence has gained renewed interest with the modern advent of virtue ethics and Aristotle’s philosophy continues to be the object of academic study today.

We have put together a collection of quotes from Aristotle, which you can use to motivate and build your team.

“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”
– Aristotle

“Bring your desires down to your present means. Increase them only when your increased means permit.”
– Aristotle

“Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.”
– Aristotle

“Quality is not an act, it is a habit.”
– Aristotle

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”
– Aristotle

“The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold.”
– Aristotle

“For one swallow does not make a summer, nor does one day; and so too one day, or a short time, does not make a man blessed and happy.”
– Aristotle

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
– Aristotle

“The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.”
– Aristotle

“Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.”
– Aristotle

“Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.”
– Aristotle

“Our judgments when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained and hostile.”
– Aristotle

“Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them.”
– Aristotle

“The wise man does not expose himself needlessly to danger, since there are few things for which he cares sufficiently; but he is willing, in great crises, to give even his life – knowing that under certain conditions it is not worthwhile to live.”
– Aristotle

“All virtue is summed up in dealing justly.”
– Aristotle

“The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances.”
– Aristotle

“The whole is more than the sum of its parts.”
– Aristotle

“Education is the best provision for old age.”
– Aristotle

“He who is to be a good ruler must have first been ruled.”
– Aristotle

“Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.”
– Aristotle

“Well begun is half done.”
– Aristotle

Help Your Team Manage Their Workspace for Better Time Management

Help Your Team Manage Their Workspace for Better Time Management

In order for your team to effectively manage their time and to be productive each day, they must create the appropriate environment. By eliminating clutter, setting up an effective filing system, gathering essential tools, and managing workflow, your team will be well on their way to creating an effective workspace.

Related: Time Management Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Declutter The Workspace

Removing clutter is itself a time-consuming task, but a cluttered workspace significantly impairs the team’s ability to find things, and they will get the time back that they invest – and more! To retrieve materials quickly, the team will need an effective filing system that includes three basic kinds of files:

Working files: Materials used frequently and needed close at hand.

Reference files: Information needed only occasionally.

Archival files: Materials seldom retrieved, but that must be kept. For ease of retrieval, organize files in the simplest way possible. For example, the team could label files with a one or two word tag and arrange the files alphabetically.

Once clutter has been eliminated and other materials have been filed, the effective workspace includes only what is essential: a set of three trays to control the workflow on their desks, standard office supplies, a computer, and a telephone. Everything else, except for what they are working on at the moment, can and should be filed where it can be retrieved as needed.

Managing Workflow

How do you process the mountain of material that collects in your paper and electronic in-baskets? The answer is one piece of paper, one electronic message at a time. Many time management experts agree that the most effective people act on an item the first time it is touched.

Although difficult at first, the practice can become habitual, and is made easier with the four Ds:

DO: If a task can be completed in two minutes or less, do it immediately.

DELETE: If the material is trash or junk, delete it. Or, if it’s something that you might use later on, file it, and move on.

DEFER: If the task is one that can’t be completed quickly and is not a high priority item, simply defer it.

DELEGATE: If a task is not yours to do, then delegate it.

Remember, to take the S.T.I.N.G. out of feeling overwhelmed about a task, follow these steps:

Select one task to do at a time.

Time yourself using a clock for no more than one hour.

Ignore everything else during that time.

No breaks or interruptions should be permitted.

Give yourself a reward when the time is up.

Dealing with E-mail

Electronic communication can be managed just as easily and as quickly as paper with the four D’s that we just discussed. However, there are some other key ideas that will help your team maximize their e-mail time.

Like other routine tasks (such as returning phone calls, handling paper mail, and checking voice mail), e-mail is best handled in batches at regularly scheduled times of the day.

Ask your e-mail contacts to use specific subject lines, and make sure to use them yourself. This will help you to determine whether your incoming mail is business or personal, urgent or trivial.

Once you know the subject of the message, open and read urgent e-mails, and respond accordingly. Non-urgent e-mails, like jokes, can be read later. Delete advertising-related e-mail that you have no interest in, or which you consider spam.

Use your e-mail system to its fullest potential. Create folders for different topics or projects, or by senders. Most e-mail systems also allow you to create folders and add keywords or categories to messages, which makes information retrieval much easier.

Many e-mail programs allow you to create rules that automatically move messages to the appropriate folder. This can help you follow your e-mail plan.

Finally, don’t forget to delete e-mail from your trash can and junk folder on a regular basis.

Using Calendars

To manage all of the things that they have to do, it’s important that the team organize their reminders into a small number of calendars and lists that can be reviewed regularly. A calendar (paper or electronic) is the obvious place to record meetings, appointments, and due dates.

For people with multiple responsibilities, an annual calendar organized by areas of responsibility (e.g., budget, personnel, schedule, planning, and miscellaneous) may be especially valuable. For each of these areas, one can list the major responsibilities month by month and thereby see at a glance what tasks must be completed in a given month of the year.

Crisis Management in Teams

Crisis Management in Teams

With better planning, improved efficiency, and increased productivity, the number of crises the team encounter should decline. However, you can’t plan for everything, so in this blog we’ll look at what to do when a crisis does occur.

When the Storm Hits

The key to successfully handling a crisis is to move quickly and decisively, but carefully.

The first thing to do when a crisis hits is to identify the point of contact and make the team aware of the situation. Then, the team will want to gather and analyze the data.

  • What happened?
  • What were the direct causes? What were the indirect causes?
  • What will happen next? What could happen next?
  • What events will this impact?
  • Who else needs to know about this?

Above all, the team should take the time to do thorough, proper research. They don’t want to jump into action based on erroneous information and make the crisis worse.

The team will also want to identify the threshold time: the time that they have before the situation moves out of their control, or becomes exponentially worse. They may also find that the crisis will resolve itself after a certain point of time.

Creating a Plan

Once the team has gathered the data, it’s time to create a plan. The best approach is to identify the problem, decide on a solution, break it down into parts, and create a timeline.

Executing the Plan

As the team  executes the plan, make sure that they continue evaluating if the plan is working. During execution, it is important to stay organized and on top of events to make sure that the plan is still applicable. This will also help the team deliver accurate, effective communication to others affected by the crisis.

Lessons Learned

After the crisis is over, the team should take a moment to look at why it happened and how to prevent it in the future.  The team can even be prepared for disasters that can’t be predicted, such as illness, fire, or theft. In the case of illness, for example, the team  could prepare a short contingency plan indicating who will be responsible for the duties of a team member if they are taken ill for an extended time. Make sure the team  shares these plans with the appropriate people so that they can be prepared as well.

Help Your Team to Plan Wisely

Help Your Team to Plan Wisely

The hallmark of successful time management is being consistently productive each day. Many people use a daily plan to motivate themselves. Having a daily plan and committing to it can help your team stay focused on the priorities of that particular day. They are also more likely to get things accomplished if they write down their plans for the day.

Related: Time Management Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Creating a Productivity Journal

Essentially, planning is nothing more than taking a piece of paper and a pen and writing down the tasks and associated steps that the team needs to take throughout the day to ensure that the goal is completed.

To start, get a spiral notebook and label it as the Team Productivity Journal.  Label each page with the day and the date and what needs to be done that particular day. Next, prioritize each task in order of importance. Highlight the top three items and focus on those first. Cross off items as the team completes them. Items that are not completed should be carried over to the next page.

Maximizing the Power of the Team Productivity Journal

By planning the afternoon before, the team will start fresh and focused on the most important tasks for the day. Of course, the team will want to review their list in the morning, but they will have a head start on the day.

The team should keep the productivity journal with them during the day to avoid becoming sidetracked. Crossing off completed tasks will give their subconscious mind a tremendous amount of satisfaction. This will also help to maintain their motivation to complete the remaining items on the action list.

If the team  finds that are moving uncompleted tasks over into the following day, and the day after that, then they need to ask themselves why that task is on the list in the first place and what value it has for the team. If they postpone a task three times, it does not belong on the action list.

The Glass Jar: Rocks, Pebbles, Sand, and Water

There is a story about time management that uses a glass jar, rocks, stones, pebbles, sand, and water to illustrate how to plan your day. The glass jar represents the time the team has each day, and each item that goes into it represents an activity with a priority relative to its size.

Rocks: The general idea is to fill the glass jar first with rocks. Plan each day around the most important tasks that will propel the team toward achieving their goals. These represent the team’s  highest priority projects and deadlines with the greatest value, often important, but not urgent tasks that move the team toward their goals.

Pebbles: Next, fill in the space between the rocks with pebbles. These represent tasks that are urgent, and important, but contribute less to important goals. Without proper planning, these tasks are often unexpected, and left unmanaged, can quickly fill the day. Working to reduce these tasks will give the team more time to work toward their goals.

Sand: Now add sand to fill the jar. In other words, schedule urgent, but not important tasks, only after important tasks. These activities are usually routine or maintenance tasks that do not directly contribute to the team goals.

Water: Finally, pour water into your jar. These trivial time-wasters are neither important nor urgent and take you away from working toward high return activities and  goals.

If the team commits to this approach to planning their days, they will see as time goes on that they are able to achieve more in less time. Instead of finishing things in a mad rush to meet deadlines, each day will be organized and become more productive and profitable. They will also notice that they are spending less time on activities that are of little to no value. And because they have a clear vision for dealing with competing priorities, the level of stress in the team will diminish, which will allow them to become even more focused and productive.

Help Your Team Prioritize Their Time

Help Your Team Prioritize Their Time

Time management is about more than just managing time; it is about the team members managing themselves, in relation to time. It is about setting priorities and taking charge. It means changing habits or activities that cause the team to waste time. It means being willing to experiment with different methods and ideas to enable the team to find the best way to make maximum use of time.

Related: Time Management Outcome Based Team Building Activities

The 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 rule, also known as Pareto’s Principle, states that 80% of your results come from only 20% of your actions. Across the board, you will find that the 80/20 principle is pretty much right on with most things in your life. For most people, it really comes down to analyzing what you are spending your time on. Are you focusing in on the 20% of activities that produce 80% of the results in your life?

The Urgent/Important Matrix

Great time management means being effective as well as efficient. Managing time effectively, and achieving the things that the team wants to achieve, means spending time on things that are important and not just urgent. To do this, the team needs to distinguish clearly between what is urgent and what is important:

Important: These are activities that lead to the achievement of team goals and have the greatest impact on the team.

Urgent: These activities demand immediate attention, but are often associated with outside goals rather than the goals of the team.

The Urgent/Important Matrix is a powerful way of organizing tasks based on priorities. Using it helps the team overcome the natural tendency to focus on urgent activities, so that they can have time to focus on what’s truly important.

The Urgent/Important Matrix:

Urgent And Important: Activities in this area relate to dealing with critical issues as they arise and meeting significant commitments. Perform these duties now.

Urgent, But Not Important: These chores do not move you forward toward your own goals. Manage by delaying them, cutting them short, and rejecting requests from others. Postpone these chores.

Not Urgent And Not Important: These trivial interruptions are just a distraction, and should be avoided if possible. However, be careful not to mislabel things like time with family and recreational activities as not important. Avoid these distractions altogether.

Being Assertive

At times, requests from others may be important and need immediate attention. Often, however, these requests conflict with team values and take time away from working toward the team goals. Even if it is something the team would like to do, but simply don’t have the time for, it can be very difficult to say no. One approach in dealing with these types of interruptions is to use a Positive No, which comes in several forms.

Say no, followed by an honest explanation, such as, “I am uncomfortable doing that because…”

Say no and then briefly clarify your reasoning without making excuses. This helps the listener to better understand your position. Example: “I can’t right now because I have another project that is due by 5 pm today.”

Say no, and then give an alternative. Example: “I don’t have time today, but I could schedule it in for tomorrow morning.”

Empathetically repeat the request in your own words, and then say no. Example: “I understand that you need to have this paperwork filed immediately, but I will not be able to file it for you.”

Say yes, give your reasoning for not doing it, and provide an alternative solution. Example: “Yes, I would love to help you by filing this paperwork, but I do not have time until tomorrow morning.”

Provide an assertive refusal and repeat it no matter what the person says. This approach may be most appropriate with aggressive or manipulative people and can be an effective strategy to control your emotions. Example: “I understand how you feel, but I will not [or cannot]…” Remember to stay focused and not become sidetracked into responding to other issues.

Help Your Team Select a Solution

Help Your Team Select a Solution

“After every storm the sun will smile; for every problem there is a solution, and the soul’s indefeasible duty is to be of good cheer.” – William R. Alger

After your team generated solutions for the problem, the next step is to select one or more solutions from the possibilities. The team has to do a final analysis to come up with one or more of the best solutions to the problem. This blog discusses that final analysis, as well as a tool for selecting a solution called Paired Comparison Analysis. It also discusses analyzing potential problems that may arise with a selected solution.

Related: Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Doing a Final Analysis

For each potential solution, the team must weigh the potential advantages and disadvantages. They need to consider the compatibility with the priorities and values of the team. Consider how much risk the solution involves. Finally, the team must consider the practicality of the solution. The team may find it helpful to create a map for each solution that addresses all of the relevant issues.

Consider the potential results of each solution, both the immediate results and the long-term possibilities.

In the final analysis, the team will refine their short list and keep re-refining it until they determine the most effective solution.

Paired Comparison Analysis

The Paired Comparison Analysis tool is a method of prioritizing a small number of workable solutions. The first step for using this tool is to list all of the possible solutions. Label each potential solution with a letter or number.

Next, compare the solutions in pairs. Decide only between those two which solution is preferable. Assign a number to indicate the strength of the preference for each option. For example, problem solvers could assign a “3” to items they strongly prefer, a “2” to a moderate preference, or a “1” to a mild preference.

This first round continues two at a time until all of the solutions are ranked. Then all the ranks are added together to obtain a priority score for each item. The top score is the preferred solution.

Analyzing Potential Problems

The team must think forward to the solution implementation. They need to ask how, when, who, what, and where in relation to implementing the solution. Does the imagined future state with this problem solution match the desired state developed earlier in the process?

Brainstorm for potential problems related to the solution. Consider how likely potential problems might occur and how serious they are. These potential issues can then be evaluated by the team as needs and wants along with the other criteria for evaluating the solution.

Sometimes this analysis can uncover a potential hardship or opportunity that changes the criteria, problem definition, or other aspects of the problem solving process.

Generating Solutions for Team Problems

Generating Solutions for Team Problems

“There is a beauty and clarity that comes from simplicity that we sometimes do not appreciate in our thirst for intricate solutions.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

It is important to generate as many solutions as possible to the problem before analyzing the solutions or trying to implement them. There are many different methods for generating solutions. This blog begins with some ground rules for brainstorming sessions. Then it presents several idea-generating techniques, including free-association style brainstorming, brainwriting, mind mapping, and Duncker Diagrams. We will also be looking at additional tools and information to consider when generating solutions as part of the creative problem solving process.

Related: Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Brainstorming Basics

In order to come up with a good idea, the team must come up with many ideas. The first rule of brainstorming is to come up with as many ideas as the team possibly can.

Some of the ideas will not be good. If the team starts analyzing the ideas while they are generating them, the creative process will quickly come to a halt, and they may miss out on some great ideas. Therefore, the second rule for brainstorming sessions is to defer judgment.

Allow creativity and imagination to take over in this phase of the process. The next rule for brainstorming is to come up with the wildest, most imaginative solutions to your problem that the team can. Often the team might not consider a solution because of assumptions or associational constraints. However, sometimes those solutions, even if they do not end up implementing them, can lead them to a successful solution. So along with deferring judgment, allow those ideas that might be considered crazy to flow. One of those crazy ideas might just contain the seeds of the perfect solution.Finally, use early ideas as springboards to other ideas.

Basic brainstorming is a free-association session of coming up with ideas. Use the other team member’s ideas to trigger additional ideas. One member of the team should make a list of all of the ideas.

Brainwriting and Mind Mapping

Brainwriting and Mind Mapping are two additional tools to generate ideas.

Brainwriting is similar to free-association brainstorming, except that it is conducted in silence. This method encourages participants to pay closer attention to the ideas of others and piggyback on those ideas.

Before a brainwriting session, create sheets of paper with a grid of nine squares on each sheet. You will need as many sheets as there are participants in the brainwriting session with one or two extra sheets. Plan to sit the team members in a circle or around a table. Determine how long the session will last, and remind participants that there is no talking. Remind participants of the other rules for brainstorming, especially deferring judgment.

For the session itself, state the problem or challenge to be solved. Each participant fills out three ideas on a brainwriting grid. Then he or she places that brainwriting sheet in the center of the table and selects a new sheet. Before writing additional ideas, the participant reads the three ideas at the top (generated by a different participant). The hope is that these items will suggest additional ideas to the participants. The participants should not write down the same ideas they have written on other sheets. This activity continues until all of the grids are full or the time runs out. At the end of the activity, there should be many ideas to consider and discuss.

Mind mapping is another method of generating ideas on paper, but can be conducted alone.

The problem solver starts by writing one main idea in the center of the paper. Write additional ideas around the sheet of paper, circling the idea and connecting the ideas with lines. This technique allows for representing non-linear relationships between ideas.

Duncker Diagrams

A Duncker diagram generates solutions by creating possible pathways from the present state to the desired state. However, the Duncker diagram also addresses an additional pathway of solving the problem by making it okay not to reach the desired state.

Duncker diagrams can help with refining the problem as well as generating ideas for solutions. The diagram begins with general solutions. Then it suggests functional solutions that give more specifics on what to do. The diagram can also include specific solutions of how to complete each item in the functional solutions.

For example, Michael wanted to address the problem of his job being too stressful. He is responsible for managing up to 1500 work hours per month. He cannot find a way to complete all of his tasks within a desired work week of no more than 45-50 hours per week. He has over 10 years’ experience in public account and is interested in moving into industry. However, he is so busy, that he does not even have time to look for a new job.

The present state and desired state statements are:

  • Present State: Job requires more demands on my time than I am willing to dedicate to a job I do not really care about.
  • Desired State: Work a job I care about with adequate free time to spend with family and pursuing personal interests

The Morphological Matrix

Fritz Zwicky developed a method for general morphological analysis in the 1960s. The method has since been applied to many different fields. It is a method of listing examples of different attributes or issues to an item (or problem), and randomly combining the different examples to form a solution. Depending on the number of issues or attributes identified, there can be quite a large number of possible combinations.

The Morphological Matrix is a grid with several different columns. The problem solvers enter a specific attribute or issue about the item or problem at the top of each column. Then for each column, problem solvers generate a list of examples for that attribute. Once there are many different ideas in the columns, the solutions can be combined strategically or randomly. While some combinations naturally are incompatible, problem solvers should not rule out ideas until they reach the analysis phase of the problem-solving process.

As an example, let’s look at the traffic problems experienced at a new elementary school. The administrative staff of the school has identified the problem statement as: “Get approximately 500 students to class safely, on time, and with no more than a five minute wait for parents and drivers in the neighborhood.” A few sample attributes to this problem are safety, timeliness, pedestrians, and drivers.

This matrix can help identify different considerations of the problem. It can also help formulate comprehensive solutions to complex problems.

The Six Thinking Hats

Dr. Edward de Bono introduced a concept for thinking more effectively in groups in his book, Six Thinking Hats. The premise of this idea is that the brain thinks about things in a number of different ways.

The identified different categories of thought are assigned to a color-coded “hat,” as described below. The hats provide a structured way to think about different aspects of a problem.

  1. White hat – Facts and Information: This hat includes Information collected or identified as missing.
  2. Red Hat – Feelings and Emotion: This hat includes feelings, including gut reactions to ideas or items identified in another area.
  3. Black Hat – Critical Judgment: This hat includes details about obstacles to solving the problem or other negative connotations about an item or idea. Since people are naturally critical, it is important to limit black hat thinking to its appropriate role.
  4. Yellow Hat – Positive Judgment: This hat is the opposite of the black hat. It includes details about the benefits of an idea or issue, or thoughts about favoring an idea. It is still critical thinking and judgment, as opposed to blind optimism.
  5. Green Hat – Alternatives and Learning: This hat concerns ideas about new possibilities and thinking about implications rather than judgments. Green hat thinking covers the full spectrum of creativity.
  6. Blue Hat – The Big Picture: This hat serves as the facilitator of the group thinking process. This hat can be used to set objectives both for the problem solving process and the thinking session itself.

The six thinking hat methodology allows a deliberate focusing during problem solving sessions, with an agreed-upon sequence and time limit to each hat. It ensures that everyone in the team is focused on a particular approach at the same time, rather than having one person reacting emotionally (red hat) while others are being objective (white hat) and still another is wearing the black hat to form critical judgments of ideas.

The green hat is the main thinking hat for generating solutions in the problem solving process. The other hats can be used as a reminder of the rules of productive brainstorming sessions, such as limiting critical judgment (positive and negative – yellow and black hats).

The Blink Method

Malcolm Gladwell popularizes scientific research about the power of the adaptive unconscious in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Gladwell’s premise is that in an age of information overload, our decisions based on limited information are often as good as or better than decisions made with ample critical thinking.

In the examples and research Gladwell presents, experts and average subjects alike are better able and happier with choices made through what he calls “thin-slicing,” or coming to a conclusion with limited information. An example presented is the case in which many experts identify a statue as a fake, when the museum that spent money on the statue did not identify it as such with weeks of research.

Gladwell also presents the cautions of the adaptive unconscious. Our power to make effective decisions by tapping into this power can be corrupted by personal likes and dislikes and stereotypes. Rapid, intuitive judgment can have disastrous consequences, as presented in his example of an innocent man shot on his own doorstep 41 times by New York policemen.

Gladwell summarizes the dilemma between when to tap into our unconscious, and when to use a more critical approach as thus: “On straightforward choices, deliberate analysis is best. When questions of analysis and personal choice start to get complicated – when we have to juggle many different variables – then our unconscious thought process may be superior.”

Analyzing Your Team’s Problem Solving Solutions

Analyzing Your Team’s Problem Solving Solutions

With many different solutions in hand, the problem solvers in your team need to analyze those solutions to determine the effectiveness of each one. This blog helps you consider the criteria or goals for solving the problem, as well as distinguishing between wants and needs. This module also introduces the cost/benefit analysis as a method of analyzing solutions to the problems your team has to solve.

Related: Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Developing Criteria

Return to the information the team generated when they defined the problem. Consider who, what, when, where, and how that the potential solution should meet to be an effective solution to the problem.

When developing criteria that possible solutions to the problem should meet, also consider the following:

  • Ask questions such as “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” or “Wouldn’t it be terrible if…” to isolate the necessary outcome of the problem resolution.
  • Think about what the team wants the solution to do or not do.
  • Think about what values should be considered.

Use the answers to these questions as the starting point for team’s goals or problem-solving criteria.

Additionally, the criteria for an effective solution to the problem should consider the following:

  • Timing – Is the problem urgent? What are the consequences for delaying action?
  • Trend – What direction is the problem heading? Is the problem getting worse? Or does the problem have a low degree of concern when considering the future of the circumstances?
  • Impact – Is the problem serious?

It is important to think about what the circumstances will look like after a successful solution has been implemented. Use your imagination to explore the possibilities for identifying goals or criteria related to the problem.

Analyzing Wants and Needs

The creative problem solving process is a fluid process, with some steps overlapping each other. Sometimes, as the process provides additional information, the team needs to go back and refine the problem statement or gather additional information in order to effectively solve the problem.

Wants and needs seem like a fundamental aspect of defining the problem. However, in order to analyze the potential solutions, the wants and needs for the desired state after the problem is solved must be very clear.

Needs are items the potential solution absolutely must meet. If the potential solution does not meet a need requirement, the team can disregard it from further analyzing.

Wants are nice to have items. The team can provide a weight to each item to indicate its importance. For each potential solution, the team can provide a rating for how well the solution addresses the selected want. Multiply the rating by the weight of the want to score the potential solution.

With scores for each item, it is an easy matter for the team to rank the potential solutions in order of preference.

Using Cost/Benefit Analysis

Cost – benefit analysis is a method of assigning a monetary value to the potential benefits of a solution and weighing those against the costs of implementing that solution.

It is important to include ALL of the benefits and costs. This can be tricky, especially with intangible benefits (or costs). Some benefits or costs may be obvious, but others may take a little digging to uncover. For example, imagine you want to replace three employees with a machine that makes stamps. A hidden benefit is that you may be able to use large feed stock instead of individual sheets, saving materials costs. In the same example, you would not only consider the salaries of the employees, but the total cost for those employees, including benefits and overhead.

The value assigned to the costs and benefits must be the same unit, which is why monetary value is suggested. The valuations assigned should represent what the involved parties would actually spend on the benefit or cost. For example, if people are always willing to save five minutes and spend an extra 50 cents on parking closer, they are demonstrating that time is worth more than 10 cents per minute. The considerations should also include the time value of money, or the value of money spent or earned now versus money spent or earned at some future point.

Preparing the Way for Creative Problem Solving

Preparing the way for the creative problem solving process.

“Creating something is all about problem-solving.” – Philip Seymour Hoffman

This blog introduces common mental blocks to productive team brainstorming sessions, as well as techniques for dealing with the mental blocks. It also presents some ideas for stimulating creativity.

Identifying Mental Blocks

Brainstorming can help your team arrive at a solution to the problem, even for problems that seem unsolvable or that seem to only have inadequate solutions. However, before beginning a successful brainstorming session to generate ideas, you must remove any mental blocks. Mental blocks can eliminate great solutions before they are thoroughly examined as possibilities or springboards to other possible solutions.

Related: Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activities

There are many types of mental blocks. Most blocks to problem-solving fit into the following categories.

  • Emotions: Emotional blocks can include anything from a fear of risk taking to a tendency to judge or approach the problem with a negative attitude.
  • Distractions: Too much information, irrelevant information, or environmental distractions can prevent a productive team brainstorming session.
  • Assumptions: If problem solvers assume there is only one correct solution, they will be unable to generate additional ideas. Assumptions also become mental blocks from stereotypes or perceived boundaries where none exists.
  • Culture: Culture defines the way we live and limits the ideas we may generate or consider. However, not every culture is the same. Sometimes the cultural blocks are unnecessary, and sometimes we do not consider cultural limitations when we should.
  • Communication difficulties: If we cannot communicate our ideas in some way – speaking, writing, or pictures – these communication difficulties can block our progress in generating ideas.

 Removing Mental Blocks

The first technique is an attitude adjustment. To remove blocks arising from a negative attitude, the team lists the positive aspects or possible outcomes of the problem. Remember that problems are also opportunities for improvement.

The next technique deals with risk taking. To remove emotional blocks arising from a fear of failure, define the risk, then indicate why it is important. Define what the worst possible outcome might be and what options there are in that scenario. Think about how to deal with that possible failure.

The next technique encourages the team to break the rules. Some rules are important, but when rules create an unnecessary imaginary boundary, they must be disregarded so that problem solvers can come up with innovative solutions.

The fourth technique is to allow imagination, feelings, and a sense of humor to overcome a reliance on logic and a need to conduct problem solving in a step-by-step manner.

The fifth technique involves encouraging the team’s creativity.

Stimulating Creativity

The creative problem solving process requires creativity. However, many people feel that they are not creative. This is the sign of a mental block at work. Everyone can tap into creative resources in their brains. Sometimes, it just takes a little extra prodding.

Creativity is not something to be turned on and off when needed. The potential for creativity is always there. We just need to learn how to access it.

Here are some tips for creating a creative mental space to encourage productive brainstorming sessions.

  • Go outside for a few minutes, especially for a nature walk or bike ride. Exercising and getting sunshine even for just a few minutes are sure ways to redirect your brain to a more creative outlook.
  • Change your perspective. Work on the floor or go to the park for you brainstorming session.
  • Breathe deeply. Especially when stressed, we tend to become shallow breathers. Fill your entire lungs with air to get some extra oxygen to your brain. Practice deep breathing for 5 to 15 minutes for not only more creativity, but for a great burst of energy.
  • Write in a journal. Write for 15-20 minutes in a spare notebook or plain paper. It does not have to be about the specific problem you need to solve, but you may discover some mental blocks if you do write about the problem. Dump all of your mental clutter on to one to three pages that no one will ever see (unless you want them to). Then let the pages and their recorded thoughts go, even if just in your mind.

Once you get your creative juices flowing, keep them going by trying the following ideas everyday:

  • Carry a small notebook or jot ideas in your PDA. Be prepared for ideas whenever they come. Ideas often come as you are drifting off to sleep or as you are waking.
  • Stretch your boundaries by posing new questions to yourself, learning things outside your specialty, or breaking up set patterns of doing things.
  • Be receptive to new, fragile ideas that may still need time to develop.
  • Be observant of details, including self details.
  • Find a creative hobby, including working puzzles and playing games.