5 Ways To Encourage Problem Solving

problem solvingOne of the real benefits of team work is that it brings together people with diverse views, skills and experiences. The team leader needs to learn how to promote the creativity and problem solving abilities of their team members so that the full potential of the team is unleashed.

Promoting creativity and encouraging problem solving in a team needs a conscious decision on the part of the team leader – and a specific, positive approach. It’s not something that should be left to chance. There are 5 things you can do to encourage creativity which will enable you to tap into the collective intelligence of your team:

1) Involve people
By bringing your team together at the same time it becomes possible to develop creative ideas to a common problem and for these ideas to be agreed and implemented quickly. By getting everyone involved the ideas can be tested for robustness and feasibility as they are being developed. This approach reduces the likelihood of the team saying ‘it won’t work here’ when the ideas are actually implemented. Use your team meetings to jointly discuss problems and generate ideas.

2) Ask Questions
The questions you ask people can produce new insights on a problem, particularly if you ask questions that encourage creativity. Such questions produce new thoughts, connections and ideas and tend to have certain characteristics. They have an element of novelty and surprise because they are questions that the person hasn’t considered before about the problem. Thus, they focus on aspects of the problem that are overlooked or ignored.

An example is asking a team member to consider the positive things about a problem they face when their “reality” of the situation is that it is totally negative. As the team member’s ideas about the context of the problem changes, so does the possibility of doing something different and new ideas can therefore emerge.

3) Imagine the Future
An important part of the creative process is wondering ‘what if?’ Such exploratory mental roaming allows peoples’ imagination to jump over the many current obvious barriers and blocks to an imagined time in the future where the problem has been solved and the goal successfully achieved.

A good “what if?” session acts to fire up peoples’ creativity and creates the motivation for them to do something now to make the desired outcomes a reality. Of course the ideas generated by a “what if” session have to be connected to action, but the session expands the group’s sense of the possible.

4) Encourage risk taking
It can be difficult for people to put forward ideas if these ideas are met with criticism. Encouraging your team to use their initiative and to be innovative or creative requires that you recognize and reward early, tentative attempts for them suggesting something new.

Welcome with open arms any idea your people put forward to grow their willingness to contribute ideas and suggestions to the problems you all face. Only when they truly believe that the act of putting forward ideas or being creative is genuinely welcomed and appreciated by you can you then look at critically evaluating the ideas and suggestions made.

5) Encourage networking
To ensure continuous creativity it is important that your team have good relationships with each other and with their colleagues in other teams, so they know who to go to when they need to sort a particular problem out.

They need to be confident that you, their manager, values the time they invest in both the building of such relationships (networking) and in using these networks to solve problems or generate new ideas.

Where the manager encourages networking the good level of connection between functions and departments it produces encourages the development of trusting relationships and facilitates the flow of information around the organisation.

By following these five tips you can promote and develop the problem solving skills in your team and so unleash their full potential.