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How To Solve Problems Collaboratively in Meetings

Collaborative Problem Solving
February 23, 2023 11:35 am

Collaborative Problem-Solving in Meetings: Key Techniques and Strategies

In the realm of business and team dynamics, effective problem-solving during meetings is paramount. However, it’s not enough to simply jump into brainstorming solutions. The success of collaborative problem-solving hinges on a well-defined process that ensures everyone understands the problem agrees on its core aspects, and collectively devises actionable solutions. 

As a meeting leader, your role in guiding this process is pivotal. In this article, we’ll explore a simple yet powerful approach to collaborative problem-solving in meetings, with a focus on identifying, prioritizing, and implementing solutions. 

Whether you’re seeking to enhance group decision-making, streamline meeting facilitation strategies, or foster team-based problem resolution, this guide provides valuable insights to maximize your meetings’ productivity and effectiveness.

There are many different problem-solving techniques. We prefer to keep it simple and straightforward.

5 Steps to Effective Group Problem Solving

Step One: Defining the Problem

The first and foundational step in effective problem-solving during meetings is to clearly define the problem at hand. This step is crucial because it ensures that everyone in the group understands and agrees on the nature and scope of the issue. Without a clear problem statement, participants may have different interpretations and approaches, leading to confusion and ineffective problem-solving.

Example: Imagine a marketing team faced with a decline in website traffic. Before jumping into solutions, they need to define the problem. Is it a decrease in organic search traffic, a drop in referral traffic, or a decline in overall user engagement? Defining the problem as “a 20% decrease in organic search traffic over the last three months” provides a clear and specific focus for the collaborative problem-solving process.

Step Two: Envisioning the Future

Once the problem is defined, it’s time to imagine what the future could look like if the problem were successfully resolved. This step serves as a motivating force, helping participants see the potential positive outcomes of their efforts. It provides a shared vision that can inspire creativity and commitment to finding solutions.

Example: Continuing with the marketing team’s problem of declining organic search traffic, envisioning the future might involve imagining a scenario where organic traffic not only recovers but exceeds previous levels. This could mean higher rankings in search results, increased website conversions, and a broader online presence.

Step Three: Analyzing the Gaps

With a clear vision of the desired future, it’s essential to identify the gaps between the current state and the envisioned future. This step helps participants understand the specific challenges that need to be addressed and provides a basis for prioritization.

To effectively prioritize you’ll need some type of criteria (e.g., supports our strategic mandate, or will lead to greater cost cutting, etc.) to help the group collaboratively sort out ‘must haves’ from ‘nice to haves’. By analyzing the gaps, you can determine which aspects require immediate attention and which can be addressed later.

Example: In the marketing team’s case, analyzing the gaps might reveal that the website lacks relevant content to attract organic traffic, the SEO strategy needs optimization, and the user experience needs improvement. These identified gaps serve as a roadmap for the subsequent brainstorming and solution-generation steps.

Step 4: Generating Solutions

Once you’ve identified the most crucial gaps, it’s time to generate potential solutions. This step is where the creativity of the group comes into play. Encourage participants to think outside the box and propose various approaches to address the identified gaps. The goal is to have a diverse set of ideas that can be evaluated with the same prioritization criteria that we used in Step 2 to identify key gaps.

Example: The marketing team might brainstorm solutions such as creating high-quality, SEO-optimized content, conducting a backlink outreach campaign, or redesigning the website for better user experience. By generating a range of solutions, the team increases the chances of finding effective strategies to tackle the problem.

Step 5: Crafting an Action Plan

After evaluating potential solutions, the final step is to create a comprehensive action plan. This step transforms ideas into actionable steps with clear accountability and timelines. It ensures that the solutions identified in the previous step are not just theoretical but are ready for implementation. 

For a comprehensive troubleshooting process that will ensure your strategic plan gets put into action check out our other post, but to get started our action plan should include: 

  • The action 
  • Who is accountable for the action
  • When the action begins and ends
  • What resources may be required to facilitate the action
  • What the desired or expected outcome will be once the action is implemented

Example: For the marketing team, crafting an action plan could involve specifying tasks, assigning responsible team members (e.g., content creators, SEO specialists), setting deadlines (e.g., publish two blog posts per week for the next three months), and identifying the resources required (e.g., keyword research tools). This action plan outlines the practical steps needed to address the identified gaps and achieve the envisioned future.

Having a structured approach to collaborative problem-solving, you’ll empower your team to tackle issues effectively, prioritize solutions, and ensure successful implementation. Whether you’re handling complex business challenges or seeking to enhance group dynamics, this methodology will guide you towards constructive outcomes.

By Michael Goldman

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