Teamwork and Problem Solving – sometimes it’s the details….

There are many different ways to solve a problem. I think the interesting reality is (I know I’ve done this myself) the belief that in the end our way is the best way. Problem solving isn’t an art form but it is greatly influenced by how you learned to solve problems.

I started out working on a helpdesk as an IT person. Based on that I usually start with the simple question what’s changed since the last time it worked? The problem with that problem solving model is that of course the person you are asking has to know not only what has changed but relative to the current problem did the change occur before or during the problem.

Last night I sat at a table with a bunch of folks who solved problems many different ways and I realized that sometimes we shut down the other models because we solve problems the way we solve problems. So I tried really hard last night to listen, hear and evaluate the others ways of solving the problem.

Problem solving is as unique as the person but is often the same based on profession.  I heard a presentation one time from a brain surgeon’s perspective. We were supposed to pick which of the two scenarios were better in choosing the right brain doctor. The first scenario was “well we are going to cut open the top of your head and poke around with a sharp stick to see what is wrong up there.” As you can imagine we all selected the second scenario.

Problem solving is point of reference. If you know nothing about the problem most likely you will seek out an expert to solve it for you. If you know a lot about a problem you will most likely solve it on your own. In the first scenario you run the risk of waiting. In the second scenario you run the risk of arrogance (I can solve this).

The last scenario is the most interesting. It is the gray area between the two scenarios about, what we call the middle ground. I think I can solve this problem. I don’t know that I can, but I don’t know that I can’t.

It’s ok to ask for help. Last night as I was walking out with one of the group members I was working with I learned a valuable lesson. I thanked him for taking on the scribe role for our team – not always the most thanked job. He said “I don’t ever do what we are doing, so I took the approach of helping the team.” We didn’t ask him as a teammate to do that – he simply saw that his skills in the area would help the team.

Problem solving is so much easier when it is team work.

My lesson for the day – listens and be part of the team.


IASA Fellow