Three New Ways to Solve a Problem

Written by Guest blogger Dr Rob Sheffield Thursday 28 February 2019
These Problem-solving Techniques Encourage Cognitive Diversity
brainstorm meeting

For organisations to move forward, they need teams that are creative and innovative. This is particularly true when complex problems arise; employees must be able to think up original ideas and solutions. In these situations it helps to have individuals with different thinking styles in a group – a concept that is known as cognitive diversity.

As mentioned in a previous CMI Insights article, it has been estimated that diverse companies outperform others by 15%. To encourage ideas and solutions in any situation, managers need to create a supportive environment. The following rules can help:

How to Generate New Ideas in a Team

  • No criticism is allowed while generating ideas
  • Aim for quantity (the more ideas that are produced, the more unusual combinations can be found)
  • Freewheel – this means say what you think
  • Combine ideas by building pauses into the idea generation process so participants can reflect

In addition, there are three techniques that can encourage different styles of thinking.

Creative Tool: Brainwriting

This handy technique can be used to boost creativity and generate ideas quickly. Individuals write down their thoughts about a particular scenario on a piece of paper, and pass it onto someone else. Their ideas are then used as prompts for the next person’s thoughts. Ideal for group meetings, this method will encourage quieter members of the team to express their ideas, and can be used when time is limited.

Creative Tool: Lotus Blossom

Used to inspire alternative ways of thinking, the Lotus Blossom method helps participants to focus their thoughts around specific topics. Starting with a central issue, such as ‘how to add value to your organisation’, participants first generate eight ideas. These are written in the squares of a grid, and each is used as a starting point to produce eight more ideas. This technique helps participants to discover connections between ideas, and come up with more. Start with a 9x9 grid and you’ll have 72 ideas in a short amount of time.

Creative Tool: the Random Object Creativity Technique

As part of this problem-solving technique, participants pass around a random object (for example,I’ve used a cone with a string hanging from its top), and write down their thoughts about it. They do this in silence as this avoids their ideas being influenced by others. They then apply their random thoughts to the original business challenge they’ve been posed. For example, a string on an object could be a metaphor for untangling siloed thinking to bring greater collaboration between departments.

This method might seem obscure but it helps break a mental block by inviting participants to think of something stimulating but unrelated to the problem they’ve been asked to solve. Often this can produce real breakthroughs.

Cognitive diversity is a valuable asset for organisations and problem-solving techniques can help us to make the most of it.

Image: Shutterstock

Dr Rob Sheffield

Dr Rob Sheffield

is a leadership development consultant and innovation coach with Bluegreen Learning. He is author of How Leaders Learn to Boost Creativity In Teams: Innovation Catalysts