Learn Creative Problem Solving Techniques to Stimulate Innovation in Your Organization

By Kate Eby | October 20, 2017 (updated August 27, 2021)

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LinkedIn

Link copied

In today’s competitive business landscape, organizations need processes in place to make strong, well-informed, and innovative decisions. Problem solving - in particular creative problem solving (CPS) - is a key skill in learning how to accurately identify problems and their causes, generate potential solutions, and evaluate all the possibilities to arrive at a strong corrective course of action. Every team in any organization, regardless of department or industry, needs to be effective, creative, and quick when solving problems. 

In this article, we’ll discuss traditional and creative problem solving, and define the steps, best practices, and common barriers associated. After that, we’ll provide helpful methods and tools to identify the cause(s) of problematic situations, so you can get to the root of the issue and start to generate solutions. Then, we offer nearly 20 creative problem solving techniques to implement at your organization, or even in your personal life. Along the way, experts weigh in on the importance of problem solving, and offer tips and tricks. 

What Is Problem Solving and Decision Making?

Problem solving is the process of working through every aspect of an issue or challenge to reach a solution. Decision making is choosing one of multiple proposed solutions  — therefore, this process also includes defining and evaluating all potential options. Decision making is often one step of the problem solving process, but the two concepts are distinct. 

Collective problem solving is problem solving that includes many different parties and bridges the knowledge of different groups. Collective problem solving is common in business problem solving because workplace decisions typically affect more than one person. 

Problem solving, especially in business, is a complicated science. Not only are business conflicts multifaceted, but they often involve different personalities, levels of authority, and group dynamics. In recent years, however, there has been a rise in psychology-driven problem solving techniques, especially for the workplace. In fact, the psychology of how people solve problems is now studied formally in academic disciplines such as psychology and cognitive science.

Joe Carella

Joe Carella is the Assistant Dean for Executive Education at the University of Arizona . Joe has over 20 years of experience in helping executives and corporations in managing change and developing successful business strategies. His doctoral research and executive education engagements have seen him focus on corporate strategy, decision making and business performance with a variety of corporate clients including Hershey’s, Chevron, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, Intel, DP World, Essilor, BBVA Compass Bank.

He explains some of the basic psychology behind problem solving: “When our brain is engaged in the process of solving problems, it is engaged in a series of steps where it processes and organizes the information it receives while developing new knowledge it uses in future steps. Creativity is embedded in this process by incorporating diverse inputs and/or new ways of organizing the information received.”

Laura MacLeod

Laura MacLeod is a Professor of Social Group Work at City University of New York, and the creator of From The Inside Out Project® , a program that coaches managers in team leadership for a variety of workplaces. She has a background in social work and over two decades of experience as a union worker, and currently leads talks on conflict resolution, problem solving, and listening skills at conferences across the country. 

MacLeod thinks of problem solving as an integral practice of successful organizations. “Problem solving is a collaborative process — all voices are heard and connected, and resolution is reached by the group,” she says. “Problems and conflicts occur in all groups and teams in the workplace, but if leaders involve everyone in working through, they will foster cohesion, engagement, and buy in. Everybody wins.”

10 tips that will make you more productive.

Top 3 Productivity Killers Ebook

Uncover the top three factors that are killing your productivity and 10 tips to help you overcome them.

Download the free e-book to overcome my productivity killers

Project Management Guide

Your one-stop shop for everything project management

the 101 guide to project management

Ready to get more out of your project management efforts? Visit our comprehensive project management guide for tips, best practices, and free resources to manage your work more effectively.

View the guide

What Is the First Step in Solving a Problem?

Although problem solving techniques vary procedurally, experts agree that the first step in solving a problem is defining the problem. Without a clear articulation of the problem at stake, it is impossible to analyze all the key factors and actors, generate possible solutions, and then evaluate them to pick the best option. 

Elliott Jaffa

Dr. Elliott Jaffa is a behavioral and management psychologist with over 25 years of problem solving training and management experience. “Start with defining the problem you want to solve,” he says, “And then define where you want to be, what you want to come away with.” He emphasizes these are the first steps in creating an actionable, clear solution. 

Bryan Mattimore

Bryan Mattimore is Co-Founder of Growth Engine, an 18-year old innovation agency based in Norwalk, CT. Bryan has facilitated over 1,000 ideation sessions and managed over 200 successful innovation projects leading to over $3 billion in new sales. His newest book is 21 Days to a Big Idea . When asked about the first critical component to successful problem solving, Mattimore says, “Defining the challenge correctly, or ‘solving the right problem’ … The three creative techniques we use to help our clients ‘identify the right problem to be solved’ are questioning assumptions, 20 questions, and problem redefinition. A good example of this was a new product challenge from a client to help them ‘invent a new iron. We got them to redefine the challenge as first: a) inventing new anti-wrinkle devices, and then b) inventing new garment care devices.”

What Are Problem Solving Skills?

To understand the necessary skills in problem solving, you should first understand the types of thinking often associated with strong decision making. Most problem solving techniques look for a balance between the following binaries:

  • Convergent vs. Divergent Thinking: Convergent thinking is bringing together disparate information or ideas to determine a single best answer or solution. This thinking style values logic, speed, and accuracy, and leaves no chance for ambiguity. Divergent thinking is focused on generating new ideas to identify and evaluate multiple possible solutions, often uniting ideas in unexpected combinations. Divergent thinking is characterized by creativity, complexity, curiosity, flexibility, originality, and risk-taking.
  • Pragmatics vs. Semantics: Pragmatics refer to the logic of the problem at hand, and semantics is how you interpret the problem to solve it. Both are important to yield the best possible solution.
  • Mathematical vs. Personal Problem Solving: Mathematical problem solving involves logic (usually leading to a single correct answer), and is useful for problems that involve numbers or require an objective, clear-cut solution. However, many workplace problems also require personal problem solving, which includes interpersonal, collaborative, and emotional intuition and skills. 

The following basic methods are fundamental problem solving concepts. Implement them to help balance the above thinking models.

  • Reproductive Thinking: Reproductive thinking uses past experience to solve a problem. However, be careful not to rely too heavily on past solutions, and to evaluate current problems individually, with their own factors and parameters. 
  • Idea Generation: The process of generating many possible courses of action to identify a solution. This is most commonly a team exercise because putting everyone’s ideas on the table will yield the greatest number of potential solutions. 

However, many of the most critical problem solving skills are “soft” skills: personal and interpersonal understanding, intuitiveness, and strong listening. 

Mattimore expands on this idea: “The seven key skills to be an effective creative problem solver that I detail in my book Idea Stormers: How to Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs are: 1) curiosity 2) openness 3) a willingness to embrace ambiguity 4) the ability to identify and transfer principles across categories and disciplines 5) the desire to search for integrity in ideas, 6) the ability to trust and exercise “knowingness” and 7) the ability to envision new worlds (think Dr. Seuss, Star Wars, Hunger Games, Harry Potter, etc.).”

“As an individual contributor to problem solving it is important to exercise our curiosity, questioning, and visioning abilities,” advises Carella. “As a facilitator it is essential to allow for diverse ideas to emerge, be able to synthesize and ‘translate’ other people’s thinking, and build an extensive network of available resources.”

MacLeod says the following interpersonal skills are necessary to effectively facilitate group problem solving: “The abilities to invite participation (hear all voices, encourage silent members), not take sides, manage dynamics between the monopolizer, the scapegoat, and the bully, and deal with conflict (not avoiding it or shutting down).” 

Furthermore, Jaffa explains that the skills of a strong problem solver aren’t measurable. The best way to become a creative problem solver, he says, is to do regular creative exercises that keep you sharp and force you to think outside the box. Carella echoes this sentiment: “Neuroscience tells us that creativity comes from creating novel neural paths. Allow a few minutes each day to exercise your brain with novel techniques and brain ‘tricks’ – read something new, drive to work via a different route, count backwards, smell a new fragrance, etc.”

What Is Creative Problem Solving? History, Evolution, and Core Principles

Creative problem solving (CPS) is a method of problem solving in which you approach a problem or challenge in an imaginative, innovative way. The goal of CPS is to come up with innovative solutions, make a decision, and take action quickly. Sidney Parnes and Alex Osborn are credited with developing the creative problem solving process in the 1950s. The concept was further studied and developed at SUNY Buffalo State and the Creative Education Foundation. 

The core principles of CPS include the following:

  • Balance divergent and convergent thinking
  • Ask problems as questions
  • Defer or suspend judgement
  • Focus on “Yes, and…” rather than “No, but…”

According to Carella, “Creative problem solving is the mental process used for generating innovative and imaginative ideas as a solution to a problem or a challenge. Creative problem solving techniques can be pursued by individuals or groups.”

When asked to define CPS, Jaffa explains that it is, by nature, difficult to create boundaries for. “Creative problem solving is not cut and dry,” he says, “If you ask 100 different people the definition of creative problem solving, you’ll get 100 different responses - it’s a non-entity.”

Business presents a unique need for creative problem solving. Especially in today’s competitive landscape, organizations need to iterate quickly, innovate with intention, and constantly be at the cutting-edge of creativity and new ideas to succeed. Developing CPS skills among your workforce not only enables you to make faster, stronger in-the-moment decisions, but also inspires a culture of collaborative work and knowledge sharing. When people work together to generate multiple novel ideas and evaluate solutions, they are also more likely to arrive at an effective decision, which will improve business processes and reduce waste over time. In fact, CPS is so important that some companies now list creative problem solving skills as a job criteria.

MacLeod reiterates the vitality of creative problem solving in the workplace. “Problem solving is crucial for all groups and teams,” she says. “Leaders need to know how to guide the process, hear all voices and involve all members - it’s not easy.”

“This mental process [of CPS] is especially helpful in work environments where individuals and teams continuously struggle with new problems and challenges posed by their continuously changing environment,” adds Carella. 

Problem Solving Best Practices

By nature, creative problem solving does not have a clear-cut set of do’s and don’ts. Rather, creating a culture of strong creative problem solvers requires flexibility, adaptation, and interpersonal skills. However, there are a several best practices that you should incorporate:

  • Use a Systematic Approach: Regardless of the technique you use, choose a systematic method that satisfies your workplace conditions and constraints (time, resources, budget, etc.). Although you want to preserve creativity and openness to new ideas, maintaining a structured approach to the process will help you stay organized and focused. 
  • View Problems as Opportunities: Rather than focusing on the negatives or giving up when you encounter barriers, treat problems as opportunities to enact positive change on the situation. In fact, some experts even recommend defining problems as opportunities, to remain proactive and positive.
  • Change Perspective: Remember that there are multiple ways to solve any problem. If you feel stuck, changing perspective can help generate fresh ideas. A perspective change might entail seeking advice of a mentor or expert, understanding the context of a situation, or taking a break and returning to the problem later. “A sterile or familiar environment can stifle new thinking and new perspectives,” says Carella. “Make sure you get out to draw inspiration from spaces and people out of your usual reach.”
  • Break Down Silos: To invite the greatest possible number of perspectives to any problem, encourage teams to work cross-departmentally. This not only combines diverse expertise, but also creates a more trusting and collaborative environment, which is essential to effective CPS. According to Carella, “Big challenges are always best tackled by a group of people rather than left to a single individual. Make sure you create a space where the team can concentrate and convene.”
  • Employ Strong Leadership or a Facilitator: Some companies choose to hire an external facilitator that teaches problem solving techniques, best practices, and practicums to stimulate creative problem solving. But, internal managers and staff can also oversee these activities. Regardless of whether the facilitator is internal or external, choose a strong leader who will value others’ ideas and make space for creative solutions.  Mattimore has specific advice regarding the role of a facilitator: “When facilitating, get the group to name a promising idea (it will crystalize the idea and make it more memorable), and facilitate deeper rather than broader. Push for not only ideas, but how an idea might specifically work, some of its possible benefits, who and when would be interested in an idea, etc. This fleshing-out process with a group will generate fewer ideas, but at the end of the day will yield more useful concepts that might be profitably pursued.” Additionally, Carella says that “Executives and managers don’t necessarily have to be creative problem solvers, but need to make sure that their teams are equipped with the right tools and resources to make this happen. Also they need to be able to foster an environment where failing fast is accepted and celebrated.”
  • Evaluate Your Current Processes: This practice can help you unlock bottlenecks, and also identify gaps in your data and information management, both of which are common roots of business problems.

MacLeod offers the following additional advice, “Always get the facts. Don’t jump too quickly to a solution – working through [problems] takes time and patience.”

Mattimore also stresses that how you introduce creative problem solving is important. “Do not start by introducing a new company-wide innovation process,” he says. “Instead, encourage smaller teams to pursue specific creative projects, and then build a process from the ground up by emulating these smaller teams’ successful approaches. We say: ‘You don’t innovate by changing the culture, you change the culture by innovating.’”

Barriers to Effective Problem Solving

Learning how to effectively solve problems is difficult and takes time and continual adaptation. There are several common barriers to successful CPS, including:

  • Confirmation Bias: The tendency to only search for or interpret information that confirms a person’s existing ideas. People misinterpret or disregard data that doesn’t align with their beliefs.
  • Mental Set: People’s inclination to solve problems using the same tactics they have used to solve problems in the past. While this can sometimes be a useful strategy (see Analogical Thinking in a later section), it often limits inventiveness and creativity.
  • Functional Fixedness: This is another form of narrow thinking, where people become “stuck” thinking in a certain way and are unable to be flexible or change perspective.
  • Unnecessary Constraints: When people are overwhelmed with a problem, they can invent and impose additional limits on solution avenues. To avoid doing this, maintain a structured, level-headed approach to evaluating causes, effects, and potential solutions.
  • Groupthink: Be wary of the tendency for group members to agree with each other — this might be out of conflict avoidance, path of least resistance, or fear of speaking up. While this agreeableness might make meetings run smoothly, it can actually stunt creativity and idea generation, therefore limiting the success of your chosen solution.
  • Irrelevant Information: The tendency to pile on multiple problems and factors that may not even be related to the challenge at hand. This can cloud the team’s ability to find direct, targeted solutions.
  • Paradigm Blindness: This is found in people who are unwilling to adapt or change their worldview, outlook on a particular problem, or typical way of processing information. This can erode the effectiveness of problem solving techniques because they are not aware of the narrowness of their thinking, and therefore cannot think or act outside of their comfort zone.

According to Jaffa, the primary barrier of effective problem solving is rigidity. “The most common things people say are, ‘We’ve never done it before,’ or ‘We’ve always done it this way.’” While these feelings are natural, Jaffa explains that this rigid thinking actually precludes teams from identifying creative, inventive solutions that result in the greatest benefit.

“The biggest barrier to creative problem solving is a lack of awareness – and commitment to – training employees in state-of-the-art creative problem-solving techniques,” Mattimore explains. “We teach our clients how to use ideation techniques (as many as two-dozen different creative thinking techniques) to help them generate more and better ideas. Ideation techniques use specific and customized stimuli, or ‘thought triggers’ to inspire new thinking and new ideas.” 

MacLeod adds that ineffective or rushed leadership is another common culprit. “We're always in a rush to fix quickly,” she says. “Sometimes leaders just solve problems themselves, making unilateral decisions to save time. But the investment is well worth it — leaders will have less on their plates if they can teach and eventually trust the team to resolve. Teams feel empowered and engagement and investment increases.”

Strategies for Problem Cause Identification

As discussed, most experts agree that the first and most crucial step in problem solving is defining the problem. Once you’ve done this, however, it may not be appropriate to move straight to the solution phase. Rather, it is often helpful to identify the cause(s) of the problem: This will better inform your solution planning and execution, and help ensure that you don’t fall victim to the same challenges in the future. 

Below are some of the most common strategies for identifying the cause of a problem:

  • Root Cause Analysis: This method helps identify the most critical cause of a problem. A factor is considered a root cause if removing it prevents the problem from recurring. Performing a root cause analysis is a 12 step process that includes: define the problem, gather data on the factors contributing to the problem, group the factors based on shared characteristics, and create a cause-and-effect timeline to determine the root cause. After that, you identify and evaluate corrective actions to eliminate the root cause.

Fishbone Diagram Template

‌ Download Fishbone Diagram Template - Excel

Interrelationship Diagrams

Download 5 Whys Template   Excel  |  Word  |  PDF   

Problem Solving Techniques and Strategies

In this section, we’ll explain several traditional and creative problem solving methods that you can use to identify challenges, create actionable goals, and resolve problems as they arise. Although there is often procedural and objective crossover among techniques, they are grouped by theme so you can identify which method works best for your organization.

Divergent Creative Problem Solving Techniques

Brainstorming: One of the most common methods of divergent thinking, brainstorming works best in an open group setting where everyone is encouraged to share their creative ideas. The goal is to generate as many ideas as possible – you analyze, critique, and evaluate the ideas only after the brainstorming session is complete. To learn more specific brainstorming techniques, read this article . 

Mind Mapping: This is a visual thinking tool where you graphically depict concepts and their relation to one another. You can use mind mapping to structure the information you have, analyze and synthesize it, and generate solutions and new ideas from there. The goal of a mind map is to simplify complicated problems so you can more clearly identify solutions.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI): The basic assumption of AI is that “an organization is a mystery to be embraced.” Using this principle, AI takes a positive, inquisitive approach to identifying the problem, analyzing the causes, and presenting possible solutions. The five principles of AI emphasize dialogue, deliberate language and outlook, and social bonding. 

Lateral Thinking: This is an indirect problem solving approach centered on the momentum of idea generation. As opposed to critical thinking, where people value ideas based on their truth and the absence of errors, lateral thinking values the “movement value” of new ideas: This means that you reward team members for producing a large volume of new ideas rapidly. With this approach, you’ll generate many new ideas before approving or rejecting any.

Problem Solving Techniques to Change Perspective

Constructive Controversy: This is a structured approach to group decision making to preserve critical thinking and disagreement while maintaining order. After defining the problem and presenting multiple courses of action, the group divides into small advocacy teams who research, analyze, and refute a particular option. Once each advocacy team has presented its best-case scenario, the group has a discussion (advocacy teams still defend their presented idea). Arguing and playing devil’s advocate is encouraged to reach an understanding of the pros and cons of each option. Next, advocacy teams abandon their cause and evaluate the options openly until they reach a consensus. All team members formally commit to the decision, regardless of whether they advocated for it at the beginning. You can learn more about the goals and steps in constructive controversy here . 

Carella is a fan of this approach. “Create constructive controversy by having two teams argue the pros and cons of a certain idea,” he says. “It forces unconscious biases to surface and gives space for new ideas to formulate.”

Abstraction: In this method, you apply the problem to a fictional model of the current situation. Mapping an issue to an abstract situation can shed extraneous or irrelevant factors, and reveal places where you are overlooking obvious solutions or becoming bogged down by circumstances. 

Analogical Thinking: Also called analogical reasoning , this method relies on an analogy: using information from one problem to solve another problem (these separate problems are called domains). It can be difficult for teams to create analogies among unrelated problems, but it is a strong technique to help you identify repeated issues, zoom out and change perspective, and prevent the problems from occurring in the future. .

CATWOE: This framework ensures that you evaluate the perspectives of those whom your decision will impact. The factors and questions to consider include (which combine to make the acronym CATWOE):

  • Customers: Who is on the receiving end of your decisions? What problem do they currently have, and how will they react to your proposed solution?
  • Actors: Who is acting to bring your solution to fruition? How will they respond and be affected by your decision?
  • Transformation Process: What processes will you employ to transform your current situation and meet your goals? What are the inputs and outputs?
  • World View: What is the larger context of your proposed solution? What is the larger, big-picture problem you are addressing?
  • Owner: Who actually owns the process? How might they influence your proposed solution (positively or negatively), and how can you influence them to help you?
  • Environmental Constraints: What are the limits (environmental, resource- and budget-wise, ethical, legal, etc.) on your ideas? How will you revise or work around these constraints?

Complex Problem Solving

Soft Systems Methodology (SSM): For extremely complex problems, SSM can help you identify how factors interact, and determine the best course of action. SSM was borne out of organizational process modeling and general systems theory, which hold that everything is part of a greater, interconnected system: This idea works well for “hard” problems (where logic and a single correct answer are prioritized), and less so for “soft” problems (i.e., human problems where factors such as personality, emotions, and hierarchy come into play). Therefore, SSM defines a seven step process for problem solving: 

  • Begin with the problem or problematic situation 
  • Express the problem or situation and build a rich picture of the themes of the problem 
  • Identify the root causes of the problem (most commonly with CATWOE)
  • Build conceptual models of human activity surrounding the problem or situation
  • Compare models with real-world happenings
  • Identify changes to the situation that are both feasible and desirable
  • Take action to implement changes and improve the problematic situation

SSM can be used for any complex soft problem, and is also a useful tool in change management . 

Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA): This method helps teams anticipate potential problems and take steps to mitigate them. Use FMEA when you are designing (redesigning) a complex function, process, product, or service. First, identify the failure modes, which are the possible ways that a project could fail. Then, perform an effects analysis to understand the consequences of each of the potential downfalls. This exercise is useful for internalizing the severity of each potential failure and its effects so you can make adjustments or safeties in your plan. 

FMEA Template

‌ Download FMEA Template  

Problem Solving Based on Data or Logic (Heuristic Methods)

TRIZ: A Russian-developed problem solving technique that values logic, analysis, and forecasting over intuition or soft reasoning. TRIZ (translated to “theory of inventive problem solving” or TIPS in English) is a systematic approach to defining and identifying an inventive solution to difficult problems. The method offers several strategies for arriving at an inventive solution, including a contradictions matrix to assess trade-offs among solutions, a Su-Field analysis which uses formulas to describe a system by its structure, and ARIZ (algorithm of inventive problem solving) which uses algorithms to find inventive solutions. 

Inductive Reasoning: A logical method that uses evidence to conclude that a certain answer is probable (this is opposed to deductive reasoning, where the answer is assumed to be true). Inductive reasoning uses a limited number of observations to make useful, logical conclusions (for example, the Scientific Method is an extreme example of inductive reasoning). However, this method doesn’t always map well to human problems in the workplace — in these instances, managers should employ intuitive inductive reasoning , which allows for more automatic, implicit conclusions so that work can progress. This, of course, retains the principle that these intuitive conclusions are not necessarily the one and only correct answer. 

Process-Oriented Problem Solving Methods

Plan Do Check Act (PDCA): This is an iterative management technique used to ensure continual improvement of products or processes. First, teams plan (establish objectives to meet desired end results), then do (implement the plan, new processes, or produce the output), then check (compare expected with actual results), and finally act (define how the organization will act in the future, based on the performance and knowledge gained in the previous three steps). 

Means-End Analysis (MEA): The MEA strategy is to reduce the difference between the current (problematic) state and the goal state. To do so, teams compile information on the multiple factors that contribute to the disparity between the current and goal states. Then they try to change or eliminate the factors one by one, beginning with the factor responsible for the greatest difference in current and goal state. By systematically tackling the multiple factors that cause disparity between the problem and desired outcome, teams can better focus energy and control each step of the process. 

Hurson’s Productive Thinking Model: This technique was developed by Tim Hurson, and is detailed in his 2007 book Think Better: An Innovator’s Guide to Productive Thinking . The model outlines six steps that are meant to give structure while maintaining creativity and critical thinking: 1) Ask “What is going on?” 2) Ask “What is success?” 3) Ask “What is the question?” 4) Generate answers 5) Forge the solution 6) Align resources. 

Control Influence Accept (CIA): The basic premise of CIA is that how you respond to problems determines how successful you will be in overcoming them. Therefore, this model is both a problem solving technique and stress-management tool that ensures you aren’t responding to problems in a reactive and unproductive way. The steps in CIA include:

  • Control: Identify the aspects of the problem that are within your control.
  • Influence: Identify the aspects of the problem that you cannot control, but that you can influence.
  • Accept: Identify the aspects of the problem that you can neither control nor influence, and react based on this composite information. 

GROW Model: This is a straightforward problem solving method for goal setting that clearly defines your goals and current situation, and then asks you to define the potential solutions and be realistic about your chosen course of action. The steps break down as follows:

  • Goal: What do you want?
  • Reality: Where are you now?
  • Options: What could you do?
  • Will: What will you do?

OODA Loop: This acronym stands for observe, orient, decide, and act. This approach is a decision-making cycle that values agility and flexibility over raw human force. It is framed as a loop because of the understanding that any team will continually encounter problems or opponents to success and have to overcome them.

There are also many un-named creative problem solving techniques that follow a sequenced series of steps. While the exact steps vary slightly, they all follow a similar trajectory and aim to accomplish similar goals of problem, cause, and goal identification, idea generation, and active solution implementation.

MacLeod offers her own problem solving procedure, which echoes the above steps:

“1. Recognize the Problem: State what you see. Sometimes the problem is covert. 2. Identify: Get the facts — What exactly happened? What is the issue? 3. and 4. Explore and Connect: Dig deeper and encourage group members to relate their similar experiences. Now you're getting more into the feelings and background [of the situation], not just the facts.  5. Possible Solutions: Consider and brainstorm ideas for resolution. 6. Implement: Choose a solution and try it out — this could be role play and/or a discussion of how the solution would be put in place.  7. Evaluate: Revisit to see if the solution was successful or not.”

Many of these problem solving techniques can be used in concert with one another, or multiple can be appropriate for any given problem. It’s less about facilitating a perfect CPS session, and more about encouraging team members to continually think outside the box and push beyond personal boundaries that inhibit their innovative thinking. So, try out several methods, find those that resonate best with your team, and continue adopting new techniques and adapting your processes along the way. 

Improve Problem Solving with Work Management in Smartsheet

Empower your people to go above and beyond with a flexible platform designed to match the needs of your team — and adapt as those needs change. 

The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed. 

When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time.  Try Smartsheet for free, today.

Discover why over 90% of Fortune 100 companies trust Smartsheet to get work done.

A Practical Guide to Problem-Solving Techniques in Systems Engineering

A Practical Guide to Problem-Solving Techniques in Systems Engineering

In the world of systems engineering, identifying and addressing issues is a significant part of the job. To ensure the smooth operation of complex systems, engineers employ various practical problem-solving techniques. Problem-solving techniques are not limited to solving issues specific to any one system, but can also be applied when generating new product ideas and solutions.

We'll start by exploring some common analytical and systematic problem-solving techniques, including thought experiments, the 5 Whys, and root cause analysis, before looking at some more creative techniques.

Analytical and Systematic Problem-Solving Techniques

Thought experiments.

A thought experiment is a disciplined imagination process that engineers use to ponder a problem or system without conducting physical experiments. By using hypothetical scenarios, engineers can predict potential challenges and find solutions without the cost and time of real-world testing.

For instance, consider the design of an urban traffic control system. Engineers can create a thought experiment about how the system would handle an emergency, such as a major traffic accident during rush hour. This mental exercise could help identify potential bottlenecks or gaps in the system, allowing engineers to design more effective controls or contingency plans.

The 5 Whys technique, originally developed by Toyota, is a simple yet effective method to drill down to the root of a problem. By repeatedly asking "why?" in response to the previous answer, engineers can uncover the underlying cause behind an issue.

Imagine a server crash in a data centre. The 5 Whys process might look like this:

  • Why did the server crash? Because it overheated.
  • Why did it overheat? Because the cooling system failed.
  • Why did the cooling system fail? Because the coolant was not circulating.
  • Why was the coolant not circulating? Because the pump was broken.
  • Why was the pump broken? Because it was not maintained as per the recommended schedule.

Through this process, we learn that the root cause of the server crash was inadequate maintenance, not merely a random hardware failure.

Root Cause Analysis (RCA)

Root cause analysis (RCA) is a systematic process for identifying the underlying causes of faults or problems. RCA aims to prevent the same problems from recurring by eliminating the root cause rather than treating the symptoms.

For example, suppose a manufacturing assembly line is regularly shutting down due to equipment failure. Rather than just fixing or replacing the equipment each time, an RCA might uncover that a specific part is consistently under high stress due to improper alignment, causing it to fail. By correcting this alignment, the systems engineer can prevent the problem from recurring.

Fault Tree Analysis (FTA)

Fault Tree Analysis (FTA) is a top-down, deductive analysis method used to explore the many different causes of a specific failure or undesirable outcome. It graphically represents the logical relationships between subsystem failures, potential human errors, and external events in the form of a tree.

Suppose a software system suffers from frequent downtime. The FTA would start with the undesired event at the top (downtime), and then branch out into various potential causes such as software bugs, hardware failure, network issues, and so on. Each of these branches can then be subdivided further into more specific faults, allowing the engineer to understand all potential causes of the problem and prioritise the most likely or serious ones for remediation.

Simulation Modelling

Simulation modelling is a powerful tool that allows systems engineers to predict the behaviour of a system under different conditions. By creating a digital twin of a real-world system, engineers can understand the system's response to changes in variables, identify potential issues, and test solutions.

For instance, in a complex logistics operation, a simulation model can be used to understand the impact of adding a new product line or increasing order volume. This could reveal potential bottlenecks or inefficiencies, allowing proactive adjustments to be made before they become real-world problems.

Creative Problem-Solving Techniques

Beyond the analytical and systematic problem-solving techniques traditionally used in engineering, there are numerous creative methods that can be applied. These techniques stimulate lateral thinking, enabling you to view problems from a fresh perspective and identify innovative solutions. Here are a few examples:

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is perhaps one of the most commonly used creative problem-solving techniques. It involves gathering a group of people and encouraging them to freely share their thoughts and ideas related to a specific problem. The key is to refrain from any judgment or criticism during the brainstorming process to encourage free thought and out-of-the-box ideas.

SCAMPER is a creative-thinking technique that uses seven types of transformations: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, and Reverse. By examining a problem through these different lenses, you can generate novel solutions. For example, if you're trying to enhance the efficiency of a manufacturing process, you might "Adapt" a method from a completely different industry or "Combine" two existing processes into one.

Mind Mapping

Mind Mapping is a visual tool that helps structure information, enabling you to better analyse, comprehend, and generate new ideas. Starting with a central concept, you add nodes branching out into related subtopics. This can reveal unexpected connections and encourage creative problem-solving.

Six Thinking Hats

This technique, devised by Edward de Bono, involves viewing a problem from six distinct perspectives, symbolised by hats of different colours. The white hat considers facts and information, the red hat looks at the issue emotionally, the black hat uses caution and considers risks, the yellow hat optimistically thinks about benefits, the green hat encourages creativity, and the blue hat manages the process and oversees the big picture.

Analogy Thinking

Analogy thinking, or analogous thinking, is a method of comparing the problem at hand to other similar situations or phenomena. By drawing parallels, you might find creative solutions that you would not have considered otherwise. For example, an engineer might draw inspiration from the natural world, such as how a bird flies or a tree distributes nutrients, to solve a complex mechanical or systems problem.

In conclusion, problem-solving in systems engineering represents a harmonious blend of art and science. It's not about completely discarding systematic, logical techniques, but instead complementing them with creative strategies. This combination of traditional and creative methods equips systems engineers with the tools to predict, identify, and address issues effectively and efficiently. By fostering a balance between analytical and innovative thinking, fresh insights can be gained and novel solutions developed. This fusion is often where the most impactful solutions are found. As these techniques are regularly practiced and mastered, they can lead to smoother operations, reduced downtime, and ultimately more successful projects. The artistry lies in the creativity, and the science in the application and understanding of these tools, culminating in an exciting, evolving, and rewarding field.

This content was generated using OpenAI's GPT Large Language Model (with some human curation!). Check out the post "Explain it like I'm 5: What is ChatGPT?" to learn more.

The Power of Active Inference in Systems Engineering

Applications of the pyramid principle in systems engineering, you might also like..., stock and flow modelling, the art of debugging, the importance of model testing and types.

Patching System Leaks

Patching System Leaks

loading

How it works

For Business

Join Mind Tools

Article • 11 min read

The Competing Values Framework

Analyzing corporate culture.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

problem solving techniques for competing value systems

Think for a moment about the Google organization. What comes to mind? Probably words like "flexible," "innovative," or perhaps "fun corporate culture," right?

Now think about a government department, or a university. When you envisage organizations like these, words like "stable," "dependable," and "steadfast" are more likely to come to mind.

All companies have their own unique culture. Some companies are effective and successful because they're fast, adaptable, and always at the cutting edge. Others are known for their slow, steady evolution, their dependable values, and their longevity.

Understanding your own corporate culture is important, because that culture will affect the decisions you make, the processes you want to implement, and the results you can expect from your teams. But correctly identifying a corporate culture can be tricky!

This is where the Competing Values Framework comes in. The Competing Values Framework not only makes it easier for companies to identify their corporate culture, but it also helps leaders make the right decisions, recognize and work with the contradictions inherent in their organization, and improve value and effectiveness.

In this article, we'll look at exactly what the Competing Values Framework model is, and we'll show you how you can use it in your workplace to improve your own and your team's performance.

Understanding the Tool

The Competing Values Framework (CVF) was first published in 1983 by R.E. Quinn and J. Rohrbaugh, as a result of their research into organizational culture and leadership.

The CVF was created to help an organization understand its culture, and to determine what makes it truly effective.

The model is based on the finding that most organizations can be described using two dimensions, represented by a horizontal and vertical axis each running between opposite or "competing" values. In practice, this means that even the most transformational and innovative companies have somewhat predictable patterns. What's great about the CVF is that it helps organizations to locate their starting point, and to predict what tensions and trade-offs they can expect when implementing change.

The CVF is shown in figure 1, below:

problem solving techniques for competing value systems

Adapted with permission from Quinn, R.E. and Rohrbaugh, J., " A Spatial Model of Effectiveness Criteria: Towards a Competing Values Approach to Organizational Analysis ," Management Science , volume (29), number 3, (March, 1983). Copyright (1983), the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, 5521 Research Park Drive, Catonsville, Maryland 21228.

The first dimension is represented on the vertical axis and shows where the organization's culture sits between the extremes of being completely flexible and absolutely stable. Google, for example, would sit well towards the "flexible" end of this axis, in contrast to an organization like the New York Stock Exchange, which is rightly bureaucratic and consistent.

The second dimension is represented on the horizontal axis, and shows whether the organization is more internally or externally focused. Organizations with a strong, internally focused culture benefit from effective relationships between team members, and clearly defined processes. General Electric, for example, is renowned for its internal focus on the Six Sigma quality approach. In externally focused organizations, such as Apple, the culture puts strong emphasis on valuing customer satisfaction and competitiveness.

As you can see in figure 1, these two intersecting axes result in four quadrants, each representing sets of values and typical activities. Organizations in each quadrant are described as follows:

Clan (Collaborate) – The Clan quadrant, in the upper left, represents teamwork, effective relationships, personal empowerment, and talent management. This is the "people-oriented" section.

Market (Compete) – This quadrant, in the lower right, is Clan's opposite. It represents goal achievement, fast response, and competitiveness. This is the "task and goals" section.

Adhocracy (Create) – The Create quadrant is located in the upper right section. It represents innovation, creativity, and planning for the future. This is the "informal and entrepreneurial" section.

Hierarchy (Control) – This quadrant, located in the lower left section, represents bureaucracy, structure, and efficiency. This is the "formal, stable" section.

There is no "best" or "worst" quadrant to be in. Most organizations will show all of these characteristics to some degree. But what matters is that the characteristics of one, or perhaps two, of the quadrants will be clearly dominant. The "right" quadrant for an organization at a particular time will depend on what it produces or does, where it is in its lifecycle, the conditions in which it operates, its position within the marketplace, and its source of competitive advantage.

The vertical flexibility/stability axis of the CVF is similar to the "Feedback Speed" dimension of Deal and Kennedy's Cultural Model, which is also based on two dimensions. Although the two models differ in their second dimension, each is based on research observations, so they can be seen as offering slightly different perspectives on the hard-to-define phenomenon of organizational culture.

Using the Competing Values Framework

Once you've identified which quadrant your organization lies in, you can use that knowledge to enhance the values and behaviors typical of that quadrant, in order to strengthen your existing culture.

On the other hand, if your current culture is leading to problems, you may want to pay attention to the qualities of the diagonally opposite quadrant. By incorporating some of these into your company or your team's practice, you may be able to bring about positive change. However, you need to be aware that you'll have to make trade-offs in the opposite quadrant. If you need to encourage creativity, for example, expect to lose a bit of control. On the other hand, if you want your organization to focus on being competitive, you may find there's less scope in your team for caring and collaborative relationships. If you use the CVF to anticipate these kinds of outcomes, you should find it easier to handle them.

The CVF has a wide range of uses, including:

  • Mapping leadership roles and responsibilities.
  • Designing a new organization or department.
  • Improving performance within an organization or department.
  • Assessing quality in products or departments.
  • Recruitment.
  • Identifying effective learning approaches.

CVF in Action

Let's take the example of an educational publishing company that has some serious morale issues. The employees are overworked, and the atmosphere in the offices is very bureaucratic, rigid, and stale. The company leaders know they need to make a drastic change in order to reinvigorate their workforce.

Using the CVF, they can quickly see that their corporate culture is located in the Control quadrant. The opposite sector is the Create quadrant.

With this in mind, the company's leaders develop a plan that will enable their team to start expanding into that quadrant. They give team members a small amount of time every week to pursue their own product development projects. One editor uses this time to go out on calls with some of the sales force. As a result, she gets feedback from bookstore buyers that leads to redesigning the covers for a key series of books. Sales then leap, as stores give the more attractive books better shelf positions.

Team members are also given more flexibility in how they complete their work, and rewards are introduced for coming up with creative solutions to old problems. As a result, one warehouse operative suggests a much more cost-effective way of dealing with "returns" from stores.

By identifying their current position, as well as its exact opposite, the publisher was able to bring new life to their team, because they could see clearly where they needed to go.

Using the Competing Values Framework to Learn About Leadership Roles

The CVF doesn't just tell you about corporate culture. It can be extended to identify leadership styles that are generally assumed to fit with the cultures in each quadrant. You can see this illustrated in figure 2.

problem solving techniques for competing value systems

Typical leadership traits in each quadrant are as follows:

Clan (Collaborate) – Leaders in this quadrant tend to be described as mentors, facilitators or team builders. They hold everything together when times are tough, and encourage the pursuit of shared objectives. They'll help members of their team develop the skills needed to work together more effectively.

Market (Compete) – Leaders in this quadrant are results-driven, and usually focused on the short-term. They like to take charge, and act fast to close deals with customers.

Adhocracy (Create) – Leaders in this quadrant are visionaries, who embrace change and new thinking, and are often not overly worried about risk. They're not just imaginative, but eager to turn their ideas into reality.

Hierarchy (Control) – Leaders in this quadrant are best described as managers. They're focused on organizing, problem solving, and ensuring things are done correctly. They're scrupulous about paying attention to detail, staying informed, and being rigorous in their analyzes.

Whilst a team or organization will largely fit in one quadrant or another, individual leaders can more easily switch between quadrants, adopting different leadership styles as the situation demands.

When you use the CVF to analyze how you work as a leader, make sure you also apply the tool to your team or organization as a whole. The most effective leaders will be able to introduce elements of the leadership style from whichever quadrant the wider group is targeting.

The Competing Values Framework is a great tool for helping you, or your company, establish a starting point for change. Using this model, you can easily see where you are currently, and where you'd like to go.

It can be used in a wide variety of ways, from identifying and changing corporate culture, to helping leaders be more effective, to creating a new marketing strategy in response to emerging competition.

Quinn, Robert E. and Rohrbaugh, John (1983). 'A Spatial Model of Effectiveness Criteria: Towards a Competing Values Approach to Organizational Analysis,' Management of Science, 29(3), 273-393. Available here .

You've accessed 1 of your 2 free resources.

Get unlimited access

Discover more content

Jain and sharma's badir framework.

Extracting Information From Data, Intelligently

The Iron Triangle of Project Management

Balancing Your Budget, Scope and Schedule

Add comment

Comments (0)

Be the first to comment!

problem solving techniques for competing value systems

Try Mind Tools for free

Get unlimited access to all our career-boosting content and member benefits with our 7-day free trial.

Sign-up to our newsletter

Subscribing to the Mind Tools newsletter will keep you up-to-date with our latest updates and newest resources.

Subscribe now

Business Skills

Personal Development

Leadership and Management

Most Popular

Newest Releases

Article az1b1vg

The Quest For Fewer Interruptions

Article a5eygum

What Are Your Values?

Mind Tools Store

About Mind Tools Content

Discover something new today

Frederick taylor and scientific management.

Understanding Taylorism and Early Management Theory

What Is Frederick Taylor's Scientific Management Theory?

Applying science to management

How Emotionally Intelligent Are You?

Boosting Your People Skills

Self-Assessment

What's Your Leadership Style?

Learn About the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Way You Like to Lead

Recommended for you

Connecting remote and hybrid workers to organizational mission.

Bringing people together through a shared purpose

Business Operations and Process Management

Strategy Tools

Customer Service

Business Ethics and Values

Handling Information and Data

Project Management

Knowledge Management

Self-Development and Goal Setting

Time Management

Presentation Skills

Learning Skills

Career Skills

Communication Skills

Negotiation, Persuasion and Influence

Working With Others

Difficult Conversations

Creativity Tools

Self-Management

Work-Life Balance

Stress Management and Wellbeing

Coaching and Mentoring

Change Management

Team Management

Managing Conflict

Delegation and Empowerment

Performance Management

Leadership Skills

Developing Your Team

Talent Management

Problem Solving

Decision Making

problem solving techniques for competing value systems

Competing Values Framework

Values define the culture of an organization. Its philosophy, mission and vision are all a part of this. While large…

Competing Values Framework

Values define the culture of an organization. Its philosophy, mission and vision are all a part of this. While large businesses might have a culture of their own—in most organizations—the leadership is what drives it.

And its importance can’t be overestimated. According to the competing values framework, the culture of an organization is the key to understanding its effectiveness.

What Is A Competing Values Framework?

The quadrants of the competing values framework, value frameworks and leadership, how the competing values framework can help.

The Competing Values Framework was created by Quinn and Rohrbaugh (1983) to study organizational culture and the kinds of management styles that lead to these.

This theory proposes there are two major dimensions to organizational effectiveness:

Organizational Focus

There are two types of organizational focus—internal and external. If an organization is focused on the external world, reputation and market share might be its primary motivators. If it focuses on the internal, it’s more concerned with functioning within the organization.

Organizational Structure

Is a business flexible or does it prioritize stability? If it values flexibility, it will base its decisions on it.  This can result in a more agile structure, essential in certain industries such as information technology. If an organization leans toward stability, it will be process-oriented, which is suitable in other industries.

Following the competing value approach, there are four quadrants between flexibility and stability, and internal and external that define organizational culture.

There are four competing value types that emerge from this Competing Values Model. Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

This is a collaborative culture that emerges when an organization is flexible, with internal focus. These are organizations where people are front and centre. If you’ve ever worked at a place that felt like a family-run business, it probably fit into the clan quadrant of the framework.

This is an external-facing, flexible environment ideal for innovation. Creativity and risk-taking are welcome. This culture is typically seen in advertising agencies and other organizations that need to push the boundaries and step outside their comfort zone.

This is an internally-focused organization that prioritizes stability. Think of large, process-driven corporations. The strength of the culture lies in its standardization. This helps cut costs and makes work smooth.

Organizations with a high external motivation with a stable structure fall into this category. These are fiercely competitive organizations that strive to create a strong brand identity and employees work to maintain an external image. Customers are king in this culture.

Each competing value approach can be equally effective depending on the sector the business is operating in and how efficiently the culture is translated into action.

The Competing Values Framework can be used to study leadership styles just as it is used to study organizational values. Here are the eight leadership characteristics that fit within each quadrant of the framework.

Human Relations Model

If the leader falls into the flexible, internal quadrant, they might be a mentor or facilitator

Open Systems Model

The flexible, external leader can be described as the innovator or the broker

Internal Process Model

The stable, internal leader can be described as the monitor and coordinator

Rational Goal Model

The stable, external leader is the  dynamic producer and director of the team

Robert E. Quinn, the cofounder of the Center of Positive Organizations, developed this model. He believes that leaders can play a combination of each of these roles at different times. In fact, a leader should be able to balance all these roles depending on the needs of the situation.

Organizations can understand their own culture better using the Competing Values Framework. Once they have done so, they can evaluate if change is needed. Leaders can learn how to function better within the existing culture as well.

In this era of increased globalization and rapid change, businesses need to adapt. By understanding their current values, it’s possible to bring about that change intentionally.

By learning from other organizations through examples of Competing Values Framework, a leader can change their management style if they wish to.

Learning different management styles and analytical tools will help any organization move forward. In Harappa’s  High Performing Leaders program, mid-career professionals can refresh their knowledge on the various analytical frameworks. Managers who lack theoretical knowledge—they may have risen through the ranks without formal management training—can learn how to use the tools to take their leadership to the next level. The blended, self-paced learning model fits in well with the life of a busy professional.

Explore Harappa Diaries to learn more about topics such as Who is a  Project Manager , Must-Have  Skills For Leadership , Top  Behavioral Skills  For Managers,  Operational Manager Skills  &  Managerial Roles And Skills  that will help organizations tap into their employee’s potential.

Thriversitybannersidenav

Logo for University of West Florida Pressbooks

Want to create or adapt books like this? Learn more about how Pressbooks supports open publishing practices.

5.2 Conflict Management

The theory of conflict.

Conflict is inevitable, especially for leaders. Effective nurse leaders invest time understanding the causes of conflict and learn how to manage and resolve it. The first step to managing conflict is to reflect on your own experiences and understand your personal approach to conflict. After learning their own preferred style, effective leaders learn to understand the styles of others and adapt their approaches accordingly. They observe and practice de-escalating situations and coaching people toward resolution. Fortunately, managing conflict is not something to be feared; rather, it is something that can be learned and practiced. It just takes time.

The model of conflict resolution presented has been used by informal and formal nurse leaders in  a variety of health care environments. This section describes the model and helps the reader understand conflict and the five different approaches to managing conflict. Each approach is then applied to hypothetical nursing situations or environments, to help the reader see the practical use of the theory in nursing. A review of the evidence concludes the chapter.

For centuries, people accepted adversarial disputes and harsh conflict as a by-product of human nature. This acceptance caused people to analyze only how conflict could be resolved, that is, how they could make it go away. In the past decade or two, many people have started to also ask, “Why is conflict resolved in that way?” and, “Might there be a better way?”

If we are to make progress toward better conflict resolution, it is imperative that we understand why conflicts arise and how people traditionally have reacted to conflict situations. When we are able to analyze more clearly the causes of disputes, we will be able to determine better what processes need to be implemented to produce a more positive outcome to the conflict.

Four Major Types of Conflict

In order to analyze how to transform destructive conflict into a dispute with a positive outcome, let us begin by exploring the four major types of conflict (categorized by cause): data conflicts, relationship conflicts, value conflicts, and structural conflicts.

Data Conflicts

Data conflicts occur when people lack the information necessary to make wise decisions, are misinformed, disagree over which data are relevant, interpret information differently, or have competing assessment procedures. This type of conflict is usually the simplest to overcome, by adopting a process to ensure both parties perceive the data in the same way.

Relationship Conflicts

These problems often result in what have been called unrealistic or unnecessary conflicts since they may occur even when objective pre-conditions for conflict, such as limited resources or mutually exclusive goals, are not present. They occur due to the presence of strong emotion (e.g., jealousy, mistrust, hatred) and are created from perceptions, poor communication, stereotypes, and so on. Relationship conflicts often fuel disputes, causing them to escalate.

Value Conflicts

This type of conflict is caused by perceived or actual incompatible value systems. Values are beliefs people use to give meaning to life and to explain what is good, bad, right, or wrong. Value conflicts occur only when people attempt to force one’s set of values on another or lay claim to exclusive value systems, which do not allow for divergent beliefs.

Structural Conflicts

Structural conflicts are caused by oppressive patterns of human relationships. These patterns are often shaped by forces external to the people in dispute. Often, the disputants have no reason to be in conflict other than the structural problem that is imposed on their relationship. Often, these conflicts can be overcome by identifying the structural problem and working to change it. Acceptance of the status quo can perpetuate structural conflict.

It is important to understand what type of conflict (data, value, relationship, or structural) you are dealing with before you can effectively work toward a resolution. The solution for each type of conflict will be different and must suit the type of conflict you are addressing. For example, it would be unlikely that you would resolve a relationship problem with a data solution.

Data and structural conflicts have external sources of conflict and are typically easier to resolve; this is done by changing something in the external environment. Conversely, relationship and value conflicts relate to internal sources of conflict and can be much more difficult to resolve. Understanding relationship and value conflicts requires a deep internal awareness and empathy for others. Resolving relationship and value conflicts may significantly challenge an individual’s personal perspectives, which generally makes the process more difficult. Typically, when we are under stress or in an escalated conflict we reach for data or structural solutions to resolve the conflict as these solutions require less time and effort.

Dealing with Conflict—Different Approaches

Every individual or group manages conflict differently. In the 1970s, consultants Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann developed a tool for analyzing the approaches to conflict resolution. This tool is called the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) ( Kilmann Diagnostics, 2017 ).

Thomas and Kilmann suggest that in a conflict situation, a person’s behavior can be assessed on two factors:

  • Commitment to goals or assertiveness —the extent to which an individual (or a group) attempts to satisfy his or her own concerns or goals.
  • Commitment to relationships or cooperation —the extent to which an individual (or a group) attempts to satisfy the concerns of the other party, and the importance of the relationship with the other party.

Thomas and Kilmann use these factors to explain the five different approaches to dealing with conflict: avoiding, competing, accommodating, compromising, and collaborating. There is an appropriate time to use each approach in dealing with conflict. While most people will use different methods in various circumstances, we all tend to have a more dominant approach that feels most comfortable. One approach is not necessarily better than another and all approaches can be learned and utilized. To most effectively deal with conflict, it is important to analyze the situation and determine which approach is most appropriate.

Let’s take a closer look at each approach and when to use it.

An avoidance approach demonstrates a low commitment to both goals and relationships. This is the most common method of dealing with conflict, especially by people who view conflict negatively.

Types of avoidance include:

  • Physical and/or mental withdrawal
  • Blaming or minimizing
  • Denial that a problem exists or changing the subject
  • Postponement to a more appropriate time
  • Use of emotions (tears, anger, etc.)

What may result from avoidance:

  • The dispute is not resolved, or may build up and eventually explode
  • Frustration over the dispute may lead to complaining, discontentment, or talking back
  • Stress spreads to other parties (e.g., coworkers, family)

Application to Nursing – Avoidance

When might avoidance be an appropriate approach to conflict in a hospital or clinic setting?

In a hospital or clinical setting, there may be times when it is appropriate to avoid conflict. For example, on a particularly busy day in the emergency room, when a patient in life-threatening condition has just been received, the attending doctor may bark directions at the assisting nurses to get equipment. The nurses may feel offended by the doctor’s actions; however, it may be appropriate for the nurses to avoid the conflict at that moment given the emergency situation. The nurse, if he or she felt it was inappropriate behavior by the doctor, could then deal with the conflict after the patient has been stabilized.

When might avoidance be an inappropriate approach to conflict in a hospital or clinic setting?

Avoiding the conflict may be inappropriate if that same doctor continues to bark directions at the nursing staff in non-emergency situations, such as during debrief of a surgery, or when communicating non-emergency instructions. When the nurses and doctor have to continue a working relationship, avoiding the continuing conflict will no longer be appropriate.

A competing approach to conflict demonstrates a high commitment to goals and a low commitment to relationships. Individuals who use the competing approach pursue their own goals at the other party’s expense. People taking this approach will use whatever power is necessary to win. It may display as defending a position, interest, or value that you believe to be correct. Competing approaches are often supported by structures (courts, legislatures, sales quotas, etc.) and can be initiated by the actions of one party. Competition may be appropriate or inappropriate (as defined by the expectations of the relationship).

Types of competition include:

  • Power of authority, position, or majority
  • Power of persuasion
  • Pressure techniques (e.g., threats, force, intimidation)
  • Disguising the issue

What may result from competition:

  • The conflict may escalate or the other party may withdraw
  • Reduces the quality and durability of agreement
  • Assumes no reciprocating power will come from the other side; people tend to reach for whatever power they have when threatened
  • Increases the likelihood of future problems between parties
  • Restricts communication and decreases trust

Application to Nursing – Competing

A completing approach to conflict may be appropriate in a hospital or clinic setting if you recognize that another nurse has made an error in how much medication to administer to a patient. You recognize this mistake prior to the nurse entering the patient’s room so you approach the nurse, take the medication out of his or her hands, and place the correct dosage. The goal of patient safety outweighs the commitment to the relationship with that nurse in this case.

When might a competing approach to conflict be inappropriate in a hospital or clinic setting?

It would be inappropriate to continue to be competitive when you debrief with the nurse about the dangers of medication errors and the system of double checking dosage amounts. The goal at this point is to enhance the learning of that nurse as well as to build trust in your relationship as colleagues. A different approach is needed.

Accommodating

Accommodating demonstrates a low commit ment to goals and high commitment to relationship. This approach is the opposite of competing. It occurs when a person ignores or overrides their own concerns to satisfy the concerns of the other party. An accommodating approach is used to establish reciprocal adaptations or adjustments. This could be a hopeful outcome for those who take an accommodating approach, but when the other party does not reciprocate, conflict can result. Others may view those who use the accommodating approach heavily as “that is the way they are” and don’t need anything in return. Accommodators typically will not ask for anything in return. Accommodators tend to get resentful when a reciprocal relationship isn’t established. Once resentment grows, people who rely on the accommodating approach often shift to a competing approach because they are tired of being “used.” This leads to confusion and conflict.

Types of accommodation:

  • Playing down the conflict to maintain surface harmony
  • Self-sacrifice
  • Yielding to the other point of view

What may result from accommodation:

  • Builds relationships that will allow you to be more effective in future problem solving
  • Increases the chances that the other party may be more accommodating to your needs in the future
  • Does not improve communication

Application to Nursing – Accommodation

When might accommodation be an appropriate approach to conflict in a hospital or clinic setting?

It may be appropriate to use an accommodating approach when, for example, one of the nurses on your shift has a particularly difficult patient who is taking up a lot of time and effort. Seeing that the nurse is having difficulty, you take on some of her or his tasks. This increases your workload for a period of time, but it allows your colleague the time needed to deal with the difficult patient.

When might accommodation be an inappropriate approach to conflict in a hospital or clinic setting?

This approach may no longer be appropriate if that same nurse expects you to continue to cover his or her tasks after the situation with the difficult patient has been resolved.

Compromising

A compromising approach strikes a balance between a commitment to goals and a commitment to relationships. The objective of a compromising approach is a quick solution that will work for both parties. Usually it involves both parties giving up something and meeting in the middle. Compromising is often used in labor negotiations, as typically there are multiple issues to resolve in a short period of time.

Types of compromising:

  • Splitting the difference
  • Exchanging concessions
  • Finding middle ground

What may result from compromising:

  • Both parties may feel they lost the battle and feel the need to get even next time.
  • No relationship is established although it should also not cause relationship to deteriorate.
  • Danger of stalemate
  • Does not explore the issue in any depth

Application to Nursing – Compromise

When might compromise be an appropriate approach to conflict in a hospital or clinic setting?

You are currently on shift with another nurse that does the bare minimum and rarely likes to help his or her colleagues out. It is two hours since lunch and one of your hyperglycemic patients have not received their lunch tray. You approach your colleague and ask him or her to go look for the tray while you draw blood from a patient for them. The other nurse agrees as he or she has been having difficulty with the patient that needs a blood draw.

When might a compromise be an inappropriate approach to conflict in a hospital or clinic setting?

It would be inappropriate to continue to ask the nurse to do tasks for you that are less appealing than the tasks you take on.

Collaborating

Collaborating is an approach that demonstrates a high commitment to goals and also a high commitment to relationships. This approach is used in an attempt to meet concerns of all parties. Trust and willingness for risk is required for this approach to be effective.

Types of collaboration:

  • Maximizing use of fixed resources
  • Working to increase resources
  • Listening and communicating to promote understanding of interests and values
  • Learning from each other’s insight

What may result from collaboration:

  • Builds relationships and improves potential for future problem solving
  • Promotes creative solutions

Application to Nursing – Collaborating

When might collaboration be an appropriate approach to conflict in a hospital or clinic setting?

It may be appropriate to use collaboration in a hospital or clinic setting when discussing vacation cover off with team members at a team meeting. During a team meeting, time is available to discuss and focus on what is important for each member of the team.

When might collaboration be an inappropriate approach to conflict in a hospital or clinic setting?

Collaboration would be inappropriate in a discussion of a new policy that has been put in place if the team has little influence in making adjustments.

What Does Each Approach Need?

There are times when others may take an approach that is not helpful to the situation. However, the only person that you can control in a conflict is yourself. It is important to be flexible and shift your approach according to the situation and the other people with whom you are working. When someone else is taking an approach that is not beneficial to the situation, it is critical to understand what needs underlie the decision to take that approach. Here are a few examples:

  • Avoider s may need to feel physically and emotionally safe. When dealing with avoiders, try taking the time to assure them that they are going to be heard and listened to.
  • Competitor s may need to feel that something will be accomplished in order to meet their goals. When dealing with competitors, say for example, “We will work out a solution; it may take some time for us to get there.”
  • Compromiser s may need to know that they will get something later. When dealing with compromisers, say for example, “We will go to this movie tonight, and next week you can pick.” (Be true to your word.)
  • Accommodator s may need to know that no matter what happens during the conversation, your relationship will remain intact. When dealing with accommodators, say for example, “This will not affect our relationship or how we work together.”
  • Collaborator s may need to know what you want before they are comfortable sharing their needs. When dealing with collaborators, say for example, “I need this, this, and this. . . . What do you need?”

All approaches to conflict can be appropriate at some times, and there are times when they can be overused. It is important to take the time to consider which approach would be most beneficial to the situation in question. Taking the wrong approach can escalate conflict, damage relationships, and reduce your ability to effectively meet goals. The right approach will build trust in relationships, accomplish goals, and de-escalate conflict.

Everyone has the capacity to use each approach to conflict and to shift from his or her natural style as needed. We react with our most dominant style when we are under stress, but other styles can be learned and applied with practice and self-awareness. When dealing with others who may not have developed their capacity to shift from their preferred style of conflict, it is important to listen for their underlying needs. By understanding the needs that exist beneath the surface of the conflict, you can work with the other person toward a common goal.

Applied Learning Activity 5.2 Conflict Management Style

Take the self-assessment above to determine your conflict management style. Keep in mind that one style of conflict management is not necessarily better than another; each style has pros and cons, and each can be useful depending on the situation.

Next: 5.3 Interprofessional Collaborative Practice

Supplemental Resources Appendix D Conflict Management Strategies

competitive or opposing action of incompatibles  :  antagonistic state or action (as of divergent ideas, interests, or persons) https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conflict

Leading Change in Health Systems: Strategies for RN-BSN Students Copyright © 2023 by Kathy Andresen DNP, MPH, RN, CNE is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book

SoftwareDominos

problem solving techniques for competing value systems

The 7 Timeless Steps to Guide You Through Complex Problem Solving

' src=

As we go through life, we inevitably encounter problems that require extensive forethought, critical thinking , and creativity . Solving complex problems is a crucial skill for success, whether it’s a business challenge, a personal dilemma, or a societal issue.

This guide will explore the fundamentals of complex problem-solving and provide practical tips and strategies for mastering this critical skill.

This article is part of a series on complex problem-solving. The list below will guide you through the different subtopics.

Complex Problem-Solving Guide in 7 Steps

The Nature of Complex Problems

What Does the Nature of the Problem Tell Us About Its Solution

Gaussian Distributions vs Power Laws

Your Ultimate Guide to Making Sense of Natural and Social Phenomena

1. What Is a Complex Problem?

1.1 generic definition of complex problems.

Four properties allow us to distinguish complex problems from simple ones.

  • Complex problems accept alternative solutions
  • Choices can weighed in multiple ways
  • Data supports multiple hypotheses
  • Breakdown of causal chains.

In crude terms, a complex problem presents no trivial or obvious solution. In other words, it shows the following characteristics:

Now that we have defined the general notion of a complex problem, let’s look at some specific cases related to software development , business management , and complexity theory.

1.2 Complex Problems in Software Development

A complex software development problem involves intricate interactions between numerous system components and requires a sophisticated understanding of the business problem, computing , algorithms and data structures.

Source: “Domain-Driven Design: Tackling Complexity in the Heart of Software” by Eric Evans

1.3 Complex Problems in Business Management

In business management , a complex problem is characterized by interconnected elements, uncertainty, and dynamic interactions, making it challenging to predict outcomes and devise straightforward solutions. This is most obviously seen in formulating effective organisational strategies or leading successful enterprise transformations.

Source: “ Strategic Management and Organisational Dynamics: The Challenge of Complexity ” by Ralph D. Stacey

1.4 Complex Problems in Complexity Theory

From a complexity theory standpoint, a complex problem involves many interacting agents or components, often exhibiting emergent properties that cannot be easily deduced from the properties of individual agents.

Source: “ The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and the Complex ” by Murray Gell-Mann

Complex problems are contrasted with complicated problems. Complicated problems have clear causes and effects, can be broken down into smaller parts, and have predictable solutions. Complex problems, however, are dynamic, have interconnected parts, and exhibit emergent properties (unpredictable outcomes from the interaction of parts).

Source:  “Cynefin Framework” (2007) by Dave Snowden

1.5 What are Complex Problem Solving Skills?

Complex problem-solving skills involve identifying , analysing , and solving non-routine problems requiring high cognitive effort.

These problems typically involve a large number of variables and require the application of creative and critical thinking skills to identify potential solutions. Individuals with complex problem-solving skills can work through ambiguity and uncertainty and use logical reasoning to develop effective solutions.

2. Solving Complex Problems: A Generic Approach

While developing a universal solution that works in any context would be very challenging, we will describe a generic approach consisting of seven steps that will assist you in creating a bespoke method suitable to the specific context you are working in.

At the heart of this approach is logical decomposition , or breaking down a complex problem into smaller, more manageable ones and then developing and implementing effective solutions for each. It is a key skill essential for success in many areas of life, including business, education , and personal relationships.

Logical decomposition is at the heart of scientific thought, as described in Edsger W. Dijkstra’s paper “ On the Role of Scientific Thought “.

The seven steps to solving complex problems are listed below. We will go through them in great detail in the following sections.

problem solving techniques for competing value systems

The 7 steps to creative solutions

Complexity in Natural and Human Systems — Why and When We Should Care

3. Complex Problem-Solving Skills

3.1 why are complex problem solving skills essential.

In today’s rapidly changing world, individuals and organizations must possess complex problem-solving skills to succeed. These skills are essential for several reasons:

Dealing with Uncertainty

In many situations, there is no clear-cut solution to a problem. Complex problem-solving skills enable individuals to work through ambiguity and uncertainty and develop effective solutions.

Identifying Root Causes

Complex problems often have multiple causes that are difficult to identify. Individuals with complex problem-solving skills can identify and address the root causes of problems rather than just treating the symptoms.

Developing Creative Solutions

Complex problems require creative solutions that go beyond traditional approaches. Individuals who possess complex problem-solving skills can think outside the box and develop innovative solutions.

Achieving Business Success

Organizations with complex problem-solving skills are better equipped to overcome challenges, identify opportunities, and succeed in today’s competitive business environment.

3.2 How to Develop Complex Problem-Solving Skills

While some individuals possess a natural aptitude for complex problem-solving, these skills can be developed and improved over time. Here are some tips to help you develop complex problem-solving skills:

3.2.1 Build Your Knowledge Base

Developing complex problem-solving skills requires a strong foundation of knowledge in your area of expertise. Stay updated on your field’s latest trends, research, and developments to enhance your problem-solving abilities.

3.2.2 Practice Critical Thinking

Developing critical thinking skills is essential for complex problem-solving. Practice questioning assumptions, analyzing information , and evaluating arguments to develop critical thinking skills.

3.2.3 Embrace Creativity

Complex problems require creative solutions. Embrace your creativity by exploring new ideas, brainstorming solutions, and seeking diverse perspectives.

3.2.4 Collaborate with Others

Collaborating with others can help you develop your complex problem-solving skills. Working in a team environment can expose you to new ideas and approaches, help you identify blind spots, and provide opportunities for feedback and support.

3.2.5 Seek Out Challenging Problems

Developing complex problem-solving skills requires practice. Seek out challenging problems and apply your problem-solving skills to real-world situations.

4. Step 1: Understanding the Nature of Complex vs Complicated

4.1 the cynefin framework.

Complex and complicated problems are two distinct types of challenges that require different approaches to solve. Dave Snowden, a management consultant and researcher, developed the Cynefin framework, a conceptual model used to understand complex systems and situations. The framework identifies five domains: simple, complicated, complex, chaotic, and disordered, and guides how to approach challenges in each domain.

4.2 Complicated Problems

problem solving techniques for competing value systems

Complicated Problems:

  • are characterized by having many interrelated parts and require specialized knowledge and expertise to solve.
  • have a clear cause-and-effect relationship , and the solution can be discovered by systematically analysing the components.
  • are best addressed through a top-down, expert-driven approach , where the experts can identify the best solution through analysis and evaluation.

4.3 Complex Problems

Complex problems are characterized by uncertainty, ambiguity, and the involvement of multiple interconnected factors. There is no clear cause-and-effect relationship, and the solution cannot be found by simply analysing the components. Complex problems require a bottom-up, participatory approach, where multiple perspectives and ideas are considered to develop a solution. The solution may not be clear initially but involves experimentation, adaptation, and feedback.

The Cynefin framework proposes that complex problems belong to the complex domain, where emergent solutions cannot be predicted or prescribed. The complex domain should explore the problem, generate hypotheses, and test them through experimentation. The emphasis is on learning from the process , adapting to changing circumstances, and using feedback to guide the solution.

4.4 Practical Tips on Identifying an Appropriate Framework

Objective — Classify the problem as complex, complicated, or disordered. This classification will determine the approach to be used.

How it’s done — You can do that by asking the following questions.

  • Do we have multiple, internally consistent, competing hypotheses explaining the issue?
  • Does the available data support both theories?

In this case, the problem lies in the complex domain, and the preferred approach is to identify good solutions and conduct safe-to-fail experiments. If it’s a complicated (but not complex) problem, the following questions can be answered in the affirmative:

  • Do we have a single view that explains the problem?
  • Do we know the engineering part of the solution?
  • Is the problem sufficiently familiar to be solved by an expert?

5. Step 2: Identifying and Defining the Problem

5.1 problem identification.

The first step in problem-solving is identifying the problem. This step involves recognizing that a problem exists and understanding its nature. Some tips for identifying the problem include:

Once you have identified the problem, the next step is to define it. This step involves breaking down the problem into smaller parts and better understanding its nature. Some tips for defining the problem include:

  • Writing it down: Write down the problem statement clearly and concisely. This will help you to focus on the specific issue and avoid confusion.
  • Breaking it down: Break the problem into smaller parts to better understand its nature. This can help you to identify the underlying causes and potential solutions. The logical decomposition of the issues is vital, and we have dedicated the next section.
  • Identifying the scope: Identify the scope of the problem and determine its impact. This can help you to prioritize the problem and allocate resources accordingly.

Reliable data and statistical analysis skills are crucial in problem-solving. Data provides information and insights necessary for understanding the root cause of the problem. Statistical analysis allows us to make sense of the data and extract meaningful information. This article will discuss the importance of reliable data and statistical analysis skills in problem identification.

5.2 Practical Tips on Identifying the Problem

Objective — Paint a full picture of the problem by laying out the details, preferably on a piece of paper, classifying it, and deciding on an approach to solving it.

How it’s done — Write down a complete description of the problem, including its scope and impact on the various stakeholders or aspects of the business. Use data as evidence to support initial hypotheses. Find out if the problem is localised and can be resolved locally or whether it might need escalation and support from higher levels of management.

6. Step 3: Gathering and Analyzing Data

6.1 gathering reliable data.

In today’s fast-paced business environment, reliable data is more critical than ever. It is vital to have accurate and objective information to identify problems and determine their root cause.

Reliable data is the basis of any evidence-based decision-making, without which what we have is opinions and assumptions.

Without reliable data, it is difficult to make informed decisions that can lead to effective problem-solving. Here are some of the benefits of using reliable data in problem identification:

  • Objective information: Reliable data provides an objective perspective of the situation.
  • Evidence-based decision-making: Using reliable data ensures that decisions are based on evidence rather than assumptions or opinions.
  • Improved accuracy: Reliable data improves the accuracy of problem identification, leading to better solutions.
  • Better understanding: Reliable data provides a better understanding of the situation, leading to a more comprehensive and holistic approach to problem-solving.
  • Improved Risk Management : Reliable helps put problems into perspective by allowing analysts to calculate their occurrence probabilities and impacts. Based on impact and probability , risk can then be categorised and prioritized.

6.2 Statistical Analysis Skills

Statistical analysis skills are necessary for making sense of the data and extracting meaningful information. These skills allow us to identify patterns and trends, understand the relationships between different variables, and (sometimes) predict future outcomes.

How statistical analysis can help with complex problem solving.

Some benefits of using statistical analysis skills in problem identification include the following:

  • Identifying patterns: Statistical analysis skills enable us to identify patterns and trends in the data, which can help identify the problem accurately.
  • Understanding relationships: Statistical analysis skills help us understand the relationships between different variables, which can help identify the problem’s root cause.
  • Predictive capabilities: Statistical analysis skills allow us to predict future outcomes based on the data, which can help develop effective solutions.
  • Objective analysis: Statistical analysis provides objective data analysis, which can help make evidence-based decisions.

Interpreting data, however, requires technical skills to avoid misinterpretations. The following is a common list of statistical analysis mistakes non-professionals can make.

6.3 How Software Team Leads Can Gather Reliable Data

Software team leads need reliable data on their performance to make informed decisions and identify areas for improvement. Here are some sources where software team leads can gather reliable data on their team’s performance:

  • Project management tools: Most project management tools have built-in reporting features, allowing team leads to track performance metrics such as task completion rates, sprint velocity, and burn-down charts. This data can be used to identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions.
  • Team feedback: Gathering feedback from team members through one-on-one meetings or anonymous feedback forms can provide valuable insights into team performance . This data can help team leads identify areas where team members may struggle or additional training or resources may be needed. Crucially, it also provides insights into the organisational culture .
  • Code analysis tools like SonarQube or Code Climate can provide insights into code quality , maintainability, and security. This data can help team leads identify needed code improvements and prioritize technical debt reduction.
  • Customer feedback: Customer feedback, such as ratings, reviews, and support tickets, can provide insights into the usability and functionality of deployed applications. This data can help team leads identify areas for improvement and prioritize feature development.

The software team should gather data from multiple sources, use that data to inform decisions and identify areas for improvement. By using reliable data sources and monitoring team performance metrics regularly, software team leads can drive continuous improvement and ensure project success.

6.4 Practical Tips on Gathering Data to Support the Proposed Hypotheses

Objective — The availability of data can help place the problem into perspective. For example, a dollar figure of the losses due to process inefficiencies can help identify the potential solutions that management will deem feasible.

How it’s done — All modern project management and tracking tools have sophisticated built-in data capture tools that can be exported, cleaned, and analysed for insights.

For example, when evaluating a team’s productivity , you can export data from JIRA, Jenkins, or BitBucket and measure performance metrics such as team velocity, overruns, and time-to-market.

When evidence is insufficient, you can gather more data, abandon the hypothesis, or temporarily shelve it.

7 Step 4: Logical Decomposition in Problem Solving

7.1 logical decomposition.

Logical decomposition is a problem-solving technique that breaks down complex problems into smaller, more manageable pieces. It is a structured approach that enables individuals to examine a problem from multiple angles, identify key issues and sub-problems, and develop a solution that addresses each piece of the problem.

The process of logical decomposition involves breaking down the main problem into smaller sub-problems, which are then broken down into smaller pieces. Each piece is analyzed in detail to determine its underlying cause-and-effect relationships and potential solutions. By breaking down the problem into smaller pieces, the individual can better understand the overall problem, identify potential solutions more easily, and prioritize which sub-problems to address first.

Logical decomposition is particularly useful for dealing with complex issues, as it allows individuals to break down a large, overwhelming problem into smaller, more manageable pieces. This not only makes the problem easier to understand and solve but also makes it less daunting and more approachable. Additionally, by breaking down the problem into smaller pieces, individuals can identify and focus on the underlying root causes of the problem rather than just treating the symptoms.

Logical decomposition is a vital stage of architecting large systems and solutions.

7.2 Practical Tips on Logical Decomposition

Objective — Most problems worth tackling are also overwhelming in size and complexity (or complicatedness). Luckily, a logical decomposition into specialized areas or modules will help focus the team’s efforts on a small enough subproblem or bring in the right expertise.

How it’s done — This author prefers mindmaps. A mindmap is a tree that starts with a single node and branches off into different areas, views, or perspectives of the problem. Mindmaps help analysts stay focused on a key area and ensure that all aspects of a problem are covered.

Once a mindmap has been created, potential solutions can be explored.

From Abstract Concepts to Tangible Value: Solution Architecture in Modern IT Systems

8. Step 5: Generating and Evaluating (Several) Potential Solutions

Generating multiple solutions to solve a problem is an effective way to increase creativity and innovation in problem-solving. By exploring different options, individuals can identify the strengths and weaknesses of each solution and determine the most effective approach to solving the problem. This section will discuss the advantages and techniques of generating multiple solutions to solve problems more effectively.

8.1 Advantages of Generating Multiple Solutions

The advantages of generating multiple solutions during problem-solving are:

8.2 Techniques for Generating Multiple Solutions

Techniques for generating multiple solutions:

8.3 Practical Tips on Solution Generation and Selection

Objective — The key principle of solution generation is comprehensively exploring the solution space. This exploration allows teams to avoid local minima or overcommitting to a suboptimal solution.

How it’s done — The most effective approach is to bring in several people from different areas of expertise or seniority and to offer every suggestion the opportunity to be heard and thoroughly explored.

Also, different stakeholders might favour solutions that maximise their (potentially) narrow gains. If not consulted, they might actively block the implementation of the selected solution if it adversely impacts their interests.

The technical aspect of problem-solving is relatively easy to generate and implement without budgetary or scheduling constraints . It’s only when you consider the cost and impact of a solution that complexity arises.

5 Key Concepts You Need to Know From Herbert Simon’s Paper on the Architecture of Complexity

9. Step 6: Implementing and Assessing Solutions

Implementing solutions to complex problems requires a structured approach that considers the unique challenges and variables involved. Effective problem-solving involves implementing practical, feasible, and sustainable solutions.

This section will first discuss two approaches to implementing solutions to complex problems: small, safe-to-fail solutions and solving easy problems with large benefits.

9.1 Implementing Many Safe-to-Fail Solutions

One effective approach to implementing solutions to complex problems is small, safe-to-fail solutions. This technique involves implementing a small-scale solution that can be tested quickly and easily to gather feedback.

Exploring multiple paths allows analysts to avoid over-commitment to suboptimal solutions.

Starting with small-scale solutions allows individuals to gather feedback and adjust before investing significant resources in a larger solution. This approach can save time and resources while ensuring that the final solution meets the needs of stakeholders.

Small safe-to-fail experiments effectively deal with complexity where an engineering solution is unknown priori.

9.2 Prioritizing High-Yield Solutions

Another effective approach to implementing solutions to complex problems is to first solve easy problems with large benefits. This technique involves identifying and solving simple, straightforward problems that significantly impact the overall problem.

By prioritising easy problems, individuals can progress quickly and gain momentum towards solving the larger problem. This approach can also help build trust and credibility with stakeholders, as progress is visible and measurable.

9.3 A Systematic Approach to Implementing Solutions

It is important to note that both approaches should be used with a broader problem-solving methodology . Effective problem-solving requires a systematic approach that involves identifying the problem, gathering information, analyzing data, developing and evaluating potential solutions, and implementing the best solution. By implementing small, safe-to-fail solutions and solving easy problems with large benefits, individuals can enhance their problem-solving approach and increase the likelihood of success.

In conclusion, implementing solutions to complex problems requires a structured approach that considers the unique challenges and variables involved. Implementing small, safe-to-fail solutions and solving easy problems with large benefits are two effective techniques for enhancing problem-solving. These techniques should be used with a broader problem-solving methodology to ensure the final solution is practical, feasible, and sustainable.

9.4 Implementing the Solution

Objective — This stage aims to efficiently and effectively implement the (optimal) selected solution(s).

How it’s done — Three principal techniques are required for the implementation of the solution to succeed. The first is conducting safe-to-fail experiments. The second is allocating resources to conduct each experiment. The third is setting up the criteria for success or failure.

10. Step 7: Evaluating the Solution

Objective — Solutions might work well under laboratory conditions but fail spectacularly in the field. Evaluating solutions after a trial is vital to avoid continuing investment in failed solutions.

How it’s done — The best way to evaluate a solution is to monitor the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) originally used in the problem diagnosis. When solutions are successful, noticeable and measurable improvements should be observed.

Measuring second-order effects or observing undesirable team or business dynamics changes is key to continuing or aborting initiatives.

Complex problem-solving refers to the ability to solve complex, ambiguous problems that often require creative and innovative solutions. It involves identifying the root cause of a problem, analyzing different variables and factors, developing and evaluating possible solutions, and selecting the best course of action.

Complex problem-solving is essential because it allows individuals and organizations to overcome challenges and obstacles hindering their progress and success. It enables them to identify opportunities, improve processes, and innovate to stay ahead of the competition.

To develop your complex problem-solving skills, you can practice consistently, develop a systematic approach, and leverage the right tools and resources. You can also seek feedback from others, learn from your mistakes, and adopt a growth mindset that values continuous learning and improvement.

Some common obstacles to effective problem-solving include cognitive biases , lack of information, unclear objectives, and groupthink. These obstacles can hinder individuals and teams from developing effective solutions to complex problems.

Various tools and techniques for complex problem-solving include root cause analysis, fishbone diagrams, SWOT analysis, Pareto analysis, decision trees, and scenario planning. These tools can help individuals and teams to analyze complex problems, identify underlying causes, and develop effective solutions.

To improve your decision-making skills, you can develop a structured approach, gather and analyze relevant data, evaluate different options, and consider each alternative’s potential risks and benefits. You can also seek feedback from others and reflect on your past decisions to learn from your mistakes.

Complex problem-solving skills can be applied in various aspects of your personal life, such as improving your relationships, managing your finances, and achieving your goals. You can overcome obstacles and succeed personally by systematically analyzing different variables and factors and developing creative and innovative solutions.

To overcome cognitive biases in problem-solving, you can challenge your assumptions, seek diverse perspectives, and use data and evidence to inform your decisions. You can also use brainstorming and mind-mapping techniques to generate new ideas and avoid tunnel vision.

12. Final Words

In conclusion, complex problem-solving is a crucial skill that can significantly impact your professional and personal life. It allows you to navigate complex challenges, identify the root cause of a problem, and develop effective solutions.

By mastering the art of complex problem-solving, you can enhance your critical thinking, analytical skills, and decision-making abilities, which are essential for success in today’s fast-paced and dynamic business environment.

The key to mastering complex problem-solving is to practice consistently, develop a systematic approach, and leverage the right tools and resources. With patience, persistence, and a growth mindset, anyone can become a skilled problem solver and tackle even the most challenging problems.

Decision Making In a Professional Environment: Techniques and Pitfalls

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

The .gov means it’s official. Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.

The site is secure. The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

  • Publications
  • Account settings

Preview improvements coming to the PMC website in October 2024. Learn More or Try it out now .

  • Advanced Search
  • Journal List
  • Elsevier - PMC COVID-19 Collection

Logo of pheelsevier

Problem solving through values: A challenge for thinking and capability development

  • • This paper introduces the 4W framework of consistent problem solving through values.
  • • The 4W suggests when, how and why the explication of values helps to solve a problem.
  • • The 4W is significant to teach students to cope with problems having crucial consequences.
  • • The paper considers challenges using such framework of thinking in different fields of education.

The paper aims to introduce the conceptual framework of problem solving through values. The framework consists of problem analysis, selection of value(s) as a background for the solution, the search for alternative ways of the solution, and the rationale for the solution. This framework reveals when, how, and why is important to think about values when solving problems. A consistent process fosters cohesive and creative value-based thinking during problem solving rather than teaching specific values. Therefore, the framework discloses the possibility for enabling the development of value-grounded problem solving capability.The application of this framework highlights the importance of responsibility for the chosen values that are the basis for the alternatives which determine actions. The 4W framework is meaningful for the people’s lives and their professional work. It is particularly important in the process of future professionals’ education. Critical issues concerning the development of problem solving through values are discussed when considering and examining options for the implementation of the 4W framework in educational institutions.

1. Introduction

The core competencies necessary for future professionals include problem solving based on complexity and collaborative approaches ( OECD, 2018 ). Currently, the emphasis is put on the development of technical, technological skills as well as system thinking and other cognitive abilities (e.g., Barber, 2018 ; Blanco, Schirmbeck, & Costa, 2018 ). Hence, education prepares learners with high qualifications yet lacking in moral values ( Nadda, 2017 ). Educational researchers (e.g., Barnett, 2007 ; Harland & Pickering, 2010 ) stress that such skills and abilities ( the how? ), as well as knowledge ( the what? ), are insufficient to educate a person for society and the world. The philosophy of education underlines both the epistemological and ontological dimensions of learning. Barnett (2007) points out that the ontological dimension has to be above the epistemological one. The ontological dimension encompasses the issues related to values that education should foster ( Harland & Pickering, 2010 ). In addition, values are closely related to the enablement of learners in educational environments ( Jucevičienė et al., 2010 ). For these reasons, ‘ the why ?’ based on values is required in the learning process. The question arises as to what values and how it makes sense to educate them. Value-based education seeks to address these issues and concentrates on values transfer due to their integration into the curriculum. Yazdani and Akbarilakeh (2017) discussed that value-based education could only convey factual knowledge of values and ethics. However, such education does not guarantee the internalization of values. Nevertheless, value-based education indicates problem solving as one of the possibilities to develop values.

Values guide and affect personal behavior encompassing the ethical aspects of solutions ( Roccas, Sagiv, & Navon, 2017 ; Schwartz, 1992 , 2012 ; Verplanken & Holland, 2002 ). Therefore, they represent the essential foundation for solving a problem. Growing evidence indicates the creative potential of values ( Dollinger, Burke, & Gump, 2007 ; Kasof, Chen, Himsel, & Greenberger, 2007 ; Lebedeva et al., 2019) and emphasizes their significance for problem solving. Meanwhile, research in problem solving pays little attention to values. Most of the problem solving models (e.g., Newell & Simon, 1972 ; Jonassen, 1997 ) utilize a rational economic approach. Principally, the research on the mechanisms of problem solving have been conducted under laboratory conditions performing simple tasks ( Csapó & Funke, 2017 ). Moreover, some of the decision-making models share the same steps as problem solving (c.f., Donovan, Guss, & Naslund, 2015 ). This explains why these terms are sometimes used interchangeably ( Huitt, 1992 ). Indeed, decision-making is a part of problem solving, which emerges while choosing between alternatives. Yet, values, moral, and ethical issues are more common in decision-making research (e.g., Keeney, 1994 ; Verplanken & Holland, 2002 ; Hall & Davis, 2007 ; Sheehan & Schmidt, 2015 ). Though, research by Shepherd, Patzelt, and Baron (2013) , Baron, Zhao, and Miao (2015) has affirmed that contemporary business decision makers rather often leave aside ethical issues and moral values. Thus, ‘ethical disengagement fallacy’ ( Sternberg, 2017, p.7 ) occurs as people think that ethics is more relevant to others. In the face of such disengagement, ethical issues lose their prominence.

The analysis of the literature revealed a wide field of problem solving research presenting a range of more theoretical insights rather empirical evidence. Despite this, to date, a comprehensive model that reveals how to solve problems emphasizing thinking about values is lacking. This underlines the relevance of the chosen topic, i.e. a challenge for thinking and for the development of capabilities addressing problems through values. To address this gap, the following issues need to be investigated: When, how, and why a problem solver should take into account values during problem solving? What challenges may occur for using such framework of thinking in different fields of education? Aiming this, the authors of the paper substantiated the conceptual framework of problem solving grounded in consistent thinking about values. The substantiation consists of several parts. First, different approaches to solving problems were examined. Second, searching to reveal the possibilities of values integration into problem solving, value-based approaches significant for problem solving were critically analyzed. Third, drawing on the effect of values when solving a problem and their creative potential, the authors of this paper claim that the identification of values and their choice for a solution need to be specified in the process of problem solving. As a synthesis of conclusions coming from the literature review and conceptual extensions regarding values, the authors of the paper created the coherent framework of problem solving through values (so called 4W).

The novelty of the 4W framework is exposed by several contributions. First, the clear design of overall problem solving process with attention on integrated thinking about values is used. Unlike in most models of problem solving, the first stage encompass the identification of a problem, an analysis of a context and the perspectives that influence the whole process, i.e. ‘What?’. The stage ‘What is the basis for a solution?’ focus on values identification and their choice. The stage ‘Ways how?’ encourages to create alternatives considering values. The stage ‘Why?’ represent justification of a chosen alternative according particular issues. Above-mentioned stages including specific steps are not found in any other model of problem solving. Second, even two key stages nurture thinking about values. The specificity of the 4W framework allows expecting its successful practical application. It may help to solve a problem more informed revealing when and how the explication of values helps to reach the desired value-based solution. The particular significance is that the 4W framework can be used to develop capabilities to solve problems through values. The challenges to use the 4W framework in education are discussed.

2. Methodology

To create the 4W framework, the integrative literature review was chosen. According to Snyder (2019) , this review is ‘useful when the purpose of the review is not to cover all articles ever published on the topic but rather to combine perspectives to create new theoretical models’ (p.334). The scope of this review focused on research disclosing problem solving process that paid attention on values. The following databases were used for relevant information search: EBSCO/Hostdatabases (ERIC, Education Source), Emerald, Google Scholar. The first step of this search was conducted using integrated keywords problem solving model , problem solving process, problem solving steps . These keywords were combined with the Boolean operator AND with the second keywords values approach, value-based . The inclusion criteria were used to identify research that: presents theoretical backgrounds and/or empirical evidences; performed within the last 5 years; within an educational context; availability of full text. The sources appropriate for this review was very limited in scope (N = 2).

We implemented the second search only with the same set of the integrated keywords. The inclusion criteria were the same except the date; this criterion was extended up to 10 years. This search presented 85 different sources. After reading the summaries, introductions and conclusions of the sources found, the sources that do not explicitly provide the process/models/steps of problem solving for teaching/learning purposes and eliminates values were excluded. Aiming to see a more accurate picture of the chosen topic, we selected secondary sources from these initial sources.

Several important issues were determined as well. First, most researchers ground their studies on existing problem solving models, however, not based on values. Second, some of them conducted empirical research in order to identify the process of studies participants’ problem solving. Therefore, we included sources without date restrictions trying to identify the principal sources that reveal the process/models/steps of problem solving. Third, decision-making is a part of problem solving process. Accordingly, we performed a search with the additional keywords decision-making AND values approach, value-based decision-making . We used such inclusion criteria: presents theoretical background and/or empirical evidence; no date restriction; within an educational context; availability of full text. These all searches resulted in a total of 16 (9 theoretical and 7 empirical) sources for inclusion. They were the main sources that contributed most fruitfully for the background. We used other sources for the justification the wholeness of the 4W framework. We present the principal results of the conducted literature review in the part ‘The background of the conceptual framework’.

3. The background of the conceptual framework

3.1. different approaches of how to solve a problem.

Researchers from different fields focus on problem solving. As a result, there still seems to be a lack of a conventional definition of problem solving. Regardless of some differences, there is an agreement that problem solving is a cognitive process and one of the meaningful and significant ways of learning ( Funke, 2014 ; Jonassen, 1997 ; Mayer & Wittrock, 2006 ). Differing in approaches to solving a problem, researchers ( Collins, Sibthorp, & Gookin, 2016 ; Jonassen, 1997 ; Litzinger et al., 2010 ; Mayer & Wittrock, 2006 ; O’Loughlin & McFadzean, 1999 ; ect.) present a variety of models that differ in the number of distinct steps. What is similar in these models is that they stress the procedural process of problem solving with the focus on the development of specific skills and competences.

For the sake of this paper, we have focused on those models of problem solving that clarify the process and draw attention to values, specifically, on Huitt (1992) , Basadur, Ellspermann, and Evans (1994) , and Morton (1997) . Integrating the creative approach to problem solving, Newell and Simon (1972) presents six phases: phase 1 - identifying the problem, phase 2 - understanding the problem, phase 3 - posing solutions, phase 4 - choosing solutions, phase 5 - implementing solutions, and phase 6 - final analysis. The weakness of this model is that these phases do not necessarily follow one another, and several can coincide. However, coping with simultaneously occurring phases could be a challenge, especially if these are, for instance, phases five and six. Certainly, it may be necessary to return to the previous phases for further analysis. According to Basadur et al. (1994) , problem solving consists of problem generation, problem formulation, problem solving, and solution implementation stages. Huitt (1992) distinguishes four stages in problem solving: input, processing, output, and review. Both Huitt (1992) and Basadur et al. (1994) four-stage models emphasize a sequential process of problem solving. Thus, problem solving includes four stages that are used in education. For example, problem-based learning employs such stages as introduction of the problem, problem analysis and learning issues, discovery and reporting, solution presentation and evaluation ( Chua, Tan, & Liu, 2016 ). Even PISA 2012 framework for problem solving composes four stages: exploring and understanding, representing and formulating, planning and executing, monitoring and reflecting ( OECD, 2013 ).

Drawing on various approaches to problem solving, it is possible to notice that although each stage is named differently, it is possible to reveal some general steps. These steps reflect the essential idea of problem solving: a search for the solution from the initial state to the desirable state. The identification of a problem and its contextual elements, the generation of alternatives to a problem solution, the evaluation of these alternatives according to specific criteria, the choice of an alternative for a solution, the implementation, and monitoring of the solution are the main proceeding steps in problem solving.

3.2. Value-based approaches relevant for problem solving

Huitt (1992) suggests that important values are among the criteria for the evaluation of alternatives and the effectiveness of a chosen solution. Basadur et al. (1994) point out to visible values in the problem formulation. Morton (1997) underlines that interests, investigation, prevention, and values of all types, which may influence the process, inspire every phase of problem solving. However, the aforementioned authors do not go deeper and do not seek to disclose the significance of values for problem solving.

Decision-making research shows more possibilities for problem solving and values integration. Sheehan and Schmidt (2015) model of ethical decision-making includes moral sensitivity, moral judgment, moral motivation, and moral action where values are presented in the component of moral motivation. Another useful approach concerned with values comes from decision-making in management. It is the concept of Value-Focused Thinking (VFT) proposed by Keeney (1994) . The author argues that the goals often are merely means of achieving results in traditional models of problem solving. Such models frequently do not help to identify logical links between the problem solving goals, values, and alternatives. Thus, according to Keeney (1994) , the decision-making starts with values as they are stated in the goals and objectives of decision-makers. VFT emphasizes the core values of decision-makers that are in a specific context as well as how to find a way to achieve them by using means-ends analysis. The weakness of VFT is its restriction to this means-ends analysis. According to Shin, Jonassen, and McGee (2003) , in searching for a solution, such analysis is weak as the problem solver focuses simply on removing inadequacies between the current state and the goal state. The strengths of this approach underline that values are included in the decision before alternatives are created. Besides, values help to find creative and meaningful alternatives and to assess them. Further, they include the forthcoming consequences of the decision. As VFT emphasizes the significant function of values and clarifies the possibilities of their integration into problem solving, we adapt this approach in the current paper.

3.3. The effect of values when solving a problem

In a broader sense, values provide a direction to a person’s life. Whereas the importance of values is relatively stable over time and across situations, Roccas et al. (2017) argue that values differ in their importance to a person. Verplanken and Holland (2002) investigated the relationship between values and choices or behavior. The research revealed that the activation of a value and the centrality of a value to the self, are the essential elements for value-guided behavior. The activation of values could happen in such cases: when values are the primary focus of attention; if the situation or the information a person is confronted with implies values; when the self is activated. The centrality of a particular value is ‘the degree to which an individual has incorporated this value as part of the self’ ( Verplanken & Holland, 2002, p.436 ). Thus, the perceived importance of values and attention to them determine value-guided behavior.

According to Argandoña (2003) , values can change due to external (changing values in the people around, in society, changes in situations, etc.) and internal (internalization by learning) factors affecting the person. The research by Hall and Davis (2007) indicates that the decision-makers’ applied value profile temporarily changed as they analyzed the issue from multiple perspectives and revealed the existence of a broader set of values. The study by Kirkman (2017) reveal that participants noticed the relevance of moral values to situations they encountered in various contexts.

Values are tightly related to personal integrity and identity and guide an individual’s perception, judgment, and behavior ( Halstead, 1996 ; Schwartz, 1992 ). Sheehan and Schmidt (2015) found that values influenced ethical decision-making of accounting study programme students when they uncovered their own values and grounded in them their individual codes of conduct for future jobs. Hence, the effect of values discloses by observing the problem solver’s decision-making. The latter observations could explain the abundance of ethics-laden research in decision-making rather than in problem solving.

Contemporary researchers emphasize the creative potential of values. Dollinger et al. (2007) , Kasof et al. (2007) , Lebedeva, Schwartz, Plucker, & Van De Vijver, 2019 present to some extent similar findings as they all used Schwartz Value Survey (respectively: Schwartz, 1992 ; ( Schwartz, 1994 ), Schwartz, 2012 ). These studies disclosed that such values as self-direction, stimulation and universalism foster creativity. Kasof et al. (2007) focused their research on identified motivation. Stressing that identified motivation is the only fully autonomous type of external motivation, authors define it as ‘the desire to commence an activity as a means to some end that one greatly values’ (p.106). While identified motivation toward specific values (italic in original) fosters the search for outcomes that express those specific values, this research demonstrated that it could also inhibit creative behavior. Thus, inhibition is necessary, especially in the case where reckless creativity could have painful consequences, for example, when an architect creates a beautiful staircase without a handrail. Consequently, creativity needs to be balanced.

Ultimately, values affect human beings’ lives as they express the motivational goals ( Schwartz, 1992 ). These motivational goals are the comprehensive criteria for a person’s choices when solving problems. Whereas some problem solving models only mention values as possible evaluation criteria, but they do not give any significant suggestions when and how the problem solver could think about the values coming to the understanding that his/her values direct the decision how to solve the problem. The authors of this paper claim that the identification of personal values and their choice for a solution need to be specified in the process of problem solving. This position is clearly reflected in humanistic philosophy and psychology ( Maslow, 2011 ; Rogers, 1995 ) that emphasize personal responsibility for discovering personal values through critical questioning, honest self-esteem, self-discovery, and open-mindedness in the constant pursuit of the truth in the path of individual life. However, fundamental (of humankind) and societal values should be taken into account. McLaughlin (1997) argues that a clear boundary between societal and personal values is difficult to set as they are intertwined due to their existence in complex cultural, social, and political contexts at a particular time. A person is related to time and context when choosing values. As a result, a person assumes existing values as implicit knowledge without as much as a consideration. This is particularly evident in the current consumer society.

Moreover, McLaughlin (1997) stresses that if a particular action should be tolerated and legitimated by society, it does not mean that this action is ultimately morally acceptable in all respects. Education has possibilities to reveal this. One such possibility is to turn to the capability approach ( Sen, 1990 ), which emphasizes what people are effectively able to do and to be. Capability, according to Sen (1990) , reflects a person’s freedom to choose between various ways of living, i.e., the focus is on the development of a person’s capability to choose the life he/she has a reason to value. According to Webster (2017) , ‘in order for people to value certain aspects of life, they need to appreciate the reasons and purposes – the whys – for certain valuing’ (italic in original; p.75). As values reflect and foster these whys, education should supplement the development of capability with attention to values ( Saito, 2003 ). In order to attain this possibility, a person has to be aware of and be able to understand two facets of values. Argandoña (2003) defines them as rationality and virtuality . Rationality refers to values as the ideal of conduct and involves the development of a person’s understanding of what values and why he/she should choose them when solving a problem. Virtuality approaches values as virtues and includes learning to enable a person to live according to his/her values. However, according to McLaughlin (1997) , some people may have specific values that are deep or self-evidently essential. These values are based on fundamental beliefs about the nature and purpose of the human being. Other values can be more or less superficial as they are based on giving priority to one or the other. Thus, virtuality highlights the depth of life harmonized to fundamentally rather than superficially laden values. These approaches inform the rationale for the framework of problem solving through values.

4. The 4W framework of problem solving through values

Similar to the above-presented stages of the problem solving processes, the introduced framework by the authors of this paper revisits them (see Fig. 1 ). The framework is titled 4W as its four stages respond to such questions: Analyzing the Problem: W hat ? → Choice of the value(s): W hat is the background for the solution? → Search for the alternative w ays of the solution: How ? → The rationale for problem solution: W hy is this alternative significant ? The stages of this framework cover seven steps that reveal the logical sequence of problem solving through values.

Fig. 1

The 4 W framework: problem solving through values.

Though systematic problem solving models are criticized for being linear and inflexible (e.g., Treffinger & Isaksen, 2005 ), the authors of this paper assume a structural view of the problem solving process due to several reasons. First, the framework enables problem solvers to understand the thorough process of problem solving through values. Second, this framework reveals the depth of each stage and step. Third, problem solving through values encourages tackling problems that have crucial consequences. Only by understanding and mastering the coherence of how problems those require a value-based approach need to be addressed, a problem solver will be able to cope with them in the future. Finally, this framework aims at helping to recognize, to underline personal values, to solve problems through thinking about values, and to take responsibility for choices, even value-based. The feedback supports a direct interrelation between stages. It shapes a dynamic process of problem solving through values.

The first stage of problem solving through values - ‘ The analysis of the problem: What? ’- consists of three steps (see Fig. 1 ). The first step is ‘ Recognizing the problematic situation and naming the problem ’. This step is performed in the following sequence. First, the problem solver should perceive the problematic situation he/she faces in order to understand it. Dostál (2015) argues that the problematic situation has the potential to become the problem necessary to be addressed. Although each problem is limited by its context, not every problematic situation turns into a problem. This is related to the problem solver’s capability and the perception of reality: a person may not ‘see’ the problem if his/her capability to perceive it is not developed ( Dorst, 2006 ; Dostál, 2015 ). Second, after the problem solver recognizes the existence of the problematic situation, the problem solver has to identify the presence or absence of the problem itself, i.e. to name the problem. This is especially important in the case of the ill-structured problems since they cannot be directly visible to the problem solver ( Jonassen, 1997 ). Consequently, this step allows to determine whether the problem solver developed or has acquired the capability to perceive the problematic situation and the problem (naming the problem).

The second step is ‘ Analysing the context of the problem as a reason for its rise ’. At this step, the problem solver aims to analyse the context of the problem. The latter is one of the external issues, and it determines the solution ( Jonassen, 2011 ). However, if more attention is paid to the solution of the problem, it diverts attention from the context ( Fields, 2006 ). The problem solver has to take into account both the conveyed and implied contextual elements in the problematic situation ( Dostál, 2015 ). In other words, the problem solver has to examine it through his/her ‘contextual lenses’ ( Hester & MacG, 2017 , p.208). Thus, during this step the problem solver needs to identify the elements that shape the problem - reasons and circumstances that cause the problem, the factors that can be changed, and stakeholders that are involved in the problematic situation. Whereas the elements of the context mentioned above are within the problematic situation, the problem solver can control many of them. Such control can provide unique ways for a solution.

Although the problem solver tries to predict the undesirable results, some criteria remain underestimated. For that reason, it is necessary to highlight values underlying the various possible goals during the analysis ( Fields, 2006 ). According to Hester and MacG (2017) , values express one of the main features of the context and direct the attention of the problem solver to a given problematic situation. Hence, the problem solver should explore the value-based positions that emerge in the context of the problem.

The analysis of these contextual elements focus not only on a specific problematic situation but also on the problem that has emerged. This requires setting boundaries of attention for an in-depth understanding ( Fields, 2006 ; Hester & MacG, 2017 ). Such understanding influences several actions: (a) the recognition of inappropriate aspects of the problematic situation; (b) the emergence of paths in which identified aspects are expected to change. These actions ensure consistency and safeguard against distractions. Thus, the problem solver can now recognize and identify the factors that influence the problem although they are outside of the problematic situation. However, the problem solver possesses no control over them. With the help of such context analysis, the problem solver constructs a thorough understanding of the problem. Moreover, the problem solver becomes ready to look at the problem from different perspectives.

The third step is ‘ Perspectives emerging in the problem ’. Ims and Zsolnai (2009) argue that problem solving usually contains a ‘problematic search’. Such a search is a pragmatic activity as the problem itself induces it. Thus, the problem solver searches for a superficial solution. As a result, the focus is on control over the problem rather than a deeper understanding of the problem itself. The analysis of the problem, especially including value-based approaches, reveals the necessity to consider the problem from a variety of perspectives. Mitroff (2000) builds on Linstone (1989) ideas and claims that a sound foundation of both naming and solving any problem lays in such perspectives: the technical/scientific, the interpersonal/social, the existential, and the systemic (see Table 1 ).

The main characteristics of four perspectives for problem solving

Whereas all problems have significant aspects of each perspective, disregarding one or another may lead to the wrong way of solving the problem. While analysing all four perspectives is essential, this does not mean that they all are equally important. Therefore, it is necessary to justify why one or another perspective is more relevant and significant in a particular case. Such analysis, according to Linstone (1989) , ‘forces us to distinguish how we are looking from what we are looking at’ (p.312; italic in original). Hence, the problem solver broadens the understanding of various perspectives and develops the capability to see the bigger picture ( Hall & Davis, 2007 ).

The problem solver aims to identify and describe four perspectives that have emerged in the problem during this step. In order to identify perspectives, the problem solver search answers to the following questions. First, regarding the technical/scientific perspective: What technical/scientific reasons are brought out in the problem? How and to what extent do they influence a problem and its context? Second, regarding the interpersonal/social perspective: What is the impact of the problem on stakeholders? How does it influence their attitudes, living conditions, interests, needs? Third, regarding the existential perspective: How does the problem affect human feelings, experiences, perception, and/or discovery of meaning? Fourth, regarding the systemic perspective: What is the effect of the problem on the person → community → society → the world? Based on the analysis of this step, the problem solver obtains a comprehensive picture of the problem. The next stage is to choose the value(s) that will address the problem.

The second stage - ‘ The choice of value(s): What is the background for the solution?’ - includes the fourth and the fifth steps. The fourth step is ‘ The identification of value(s) as a base for the solution ’. During this step, the problem solver should activate his/her value(s) making it (them) explicit. In order to do this, the problem solver proceeds several sub-steps. First, the problem solver reflects taking into account the analysis done in previous steps. He/she raises up questions revealing values that lay in the background of this analysis: What values does this analyzed context allow me to notice? What values do different perspectives of the problem ‘offer’? Such questioning is important as values are deeply hidden ( Verplanken & Holland, 2002 ) and they form a bias, which restricts the development of the capability to see from various points of view ( Hall & Paradice, 2007 ). In the 4W framework, this bias is relatively eliminated due to the analysis of the context and exploration of the perspectives of a problem. As a result, the problem solver discovers distinct value-based positions and gets an opportunity to identify the ‘value uncaptured’ ( Yang, Evans, Vladimirova, & Rana, 2017, p.1796 ) within the problem analyzed. The problem solver observes that some values exist in the context (the second step) and the disclosed perspectives (the third step). Some of the identified values do not affect the current situation as they are not required, or their potential is not exploited. Thus, looking through various value-based lenses, the problem solver can identify and discover a congruence between the opportunities offered by the values in the problem’s context, disclosed perspectives and his/her value(s). Consequently, the problem solver decides what values he/she chooses as a basis for the desired solution. Since problems usually call for a list of values, it is important to find out their order of priority. Thus, the last sub-step requires the problem solver to choose between fundamentally and superficially laden values.

In some cases, the problem solver identifies that a set of values (more than one value) can lead to the desired solution. If a person chooses this multiple value-based position, two options emerge. The first option is concerned with the analysis of each value-based position separately (from the fifth to the seventh step). In the second option, a person has to uncover which of his/her chosen values are fundamentally laden and which are superficially chosen, considering the desired outcome in the current situation. Such clarification could act as a strategy where the path for the desired solution is possible going from superficially chosen value(s) to fundamentally laden one. When a basis for the solution is established, the problem solver formulates the goal for the desired solution.

The fifth step is ‘ The formulation of the goal for the solution ’. Problem solving highlights essential points that reveal the structure of a person’s goals; thus, a goal is the core element of problem solving ( Funke, 2014 ). Meantime, values reflect the motivational content of the goals ( Schwartz, 1992 ). The attention on the chosen value not only activates it, but also motivates the problem solver. The motivation directs the formulation of the goal. In such a way, values explicitly become a basis of the goal for the solution. Thus, this step involves the problem solver in formulating the goal for the solution as the desired outcome.

The way how to take into account value(s) when formulating the goal is the integration of value(s) chosen by the problem solver in the formulation of the goal ( Keeney, 1994 ). For this purpose the conjunction of a context for a solution (it is analyzed during the second step) and a direction of preference (the chosen value reveals it) serves for the formulation of the goal (that represents the desired solution). In other words, a value should be directly included into the formulation of the goal. The goal could lose value, if value is not included into the goal formulation and remains only in the context of the goal. Let’s take the actual example concerning COVID-19 situation. Naturally, many countries governments’ preference represents such value as human life (‘it is important of every individual’s life’). Thus, most likely the particular country government’s goal of solving the COVID situation could be to save the lifes of the country people. The named problem is a complex where the goal of its solution is also complex, although it sounds simple. However, if the goal as desired outcome is formulated without the chosen value, this value remains in the context and its meaning becomes tacit. In the case of above presented example - the goal could be formulated ‘to provide hospitals with the necessary equipment and facilities’. Such goal has the value ‘human’s life’ in the context, but eliminates the complexity of the problem that leads to a partial solution of the problem. Thus, this step from the problem solver requires caution when formulating the goal as the desired outcome. For this reason, maintaining value is very important when formulating the goal’s text. To avoid the loss of values and maintain their proposed direction, is necessary to take into account values again when creating alternatives.

The third stage - ‘ Search for the alternative ways for a solution: How? ’ - encompasses the sixth step, which is called ‘ Creation of value-based alternatives ’. Frequently problem solver invokes a traditional view of problem identification, generation of alternatives, and selection of criteria for evaluating findings. Keeney (1994) ; Ims and Zsolnai (2009) criticize this rational approach as it supports a search for a partial solution where an active search for alternatives is neglected. Moreover, a problematic situation, according to Perkins (2009) , can create the illusion of a fully framed problem with some apparent weighting and some variations of choices. In this case, essential and distinct alternatives to the solution frequently become unnoticeable. Therefore, Perkins (2009) suggest to replace the focus on the attempts to comprehend the problem itself. Thinking through the ‘value lenses’ offers such opportunities. The deep understanding of the problem leads to the search for the alternative ways of a solution.

Thus, the aim of this step is for the problem solver to reveal the possible alternative ways for searching a desired solution. Most people think they know how to create alternatives, but often without delving into the situation. First of all, the problem solver based on the reflection of (but not limited to) the analysis of the context and the perspectives of the problem generates a range of alternatives. Some of these alternatives represent anchored thinking as he/she accepts the assumptions implicit in generated alternatives and with too little focus on values.

The chosen value with the formulated goal indicates direction and encourages a broader and more creative search for a solution. Hence, the problem solver should consider some of the initial alternatives that could best support the achievement of the desired solution. Values are the principles for evaluating the desirability of any alternative or outcome ( Keeney, 1994 ). Thus, planned actions should reveal the desirable mode of conduct. After such consideration, he/she should draw up a plan setting out the actions required to implement each of considered alternatives.

Lastly, after a thorough examination of each considered alternative and a plan of its implementation, the problem solver chooses one of them. If the problem solver does not see an appropriate alternative, he/she develops new alternatives. However, the problem solver may notice (and usually does) that more than one alternative can help him/her to achieve the desired solution. In this case, he/she indicates which alternative is the main one and has to be implemented in the first place, and what other alternatives and in what sequence will contribute in searching for the desired solution.

The fourth stage - ‘ The rationale for the solution: Why ’ - leads to the seventh step: ‘ The justification of the chosen alternative ’. Keeney (1994) emphasizes the compatibility of alternatives in question with the values that guide the action. This underlines the importance of justifying the choices a person makes where the focus is on taking responsibility. According to Zsolnai (2008) , responsibility means a choice, i.e., the perceived responsibility essentially determines its choice. Responsible justification allows for discovering optimal balance when choosing between distinct value-based alternatives. It also refers to the alternative solution that best reflects responsibility in a particular value context, choice, and implementation.

At this stage, the problem solver revisits the chosen solution and revises it. The problem solver justifies his/her choice based on the following questions: Why did you choose this? Why is this alternative significant looking from the technical/scientific, the interpersonal/social, the existential, and the systemic perspectives? Could you take full responsibility for the implementation of this alternative? Why? How clearly do envisaged actions reflect the goal of the desired solution? Whatever interests and for what reasons do this alternative satisfies in principle? What else do you see in the chosen alternative?

As mentioned above, each person gives priority to one aspect or another. The problem solver has to provide solid arguments for the justification of the chosen alternative. The quality of arguments, according to Jonassen (2011) , should be judged based on the quality of the evidence supporting the chosen alternative and opposing arguments that can reject solutions. Besides, the pursuit of value-based goals reflects the interests of the individual or collective interests. Therefore, it becomes critical for the problem solver to justify the level of responsibility he/she takes in assessing the chosen alternative. Such a complex evaluation of the chosen alternative ensures the acceptance of an integral rather than unilateral solution, as ‘recognizing that, in the end, people benefit most when they act for the common good’ ( Sternberg, 2012, p.46 ).

5. Discussion

The constant emphasis on thinking about values as explicit reasoning in the 4W framework (especially from the choice of the value(s) to the rationale for problem solution) reflects the pursuit of virtues. Virtues form the features of the character that are related to the choice ( Argandoña, 2003 ; McLaughlin, 2005 ). Hence, the problem solver develops value-grounded problem solving capability as the virtuality instead of employing rationality for problem solving.

Argandoña (2003) suggests that, in order to make a sound valuation process of any action, extrinsic, transcendent, and intrinsic types of motives need to be considered. They cover the respective types of values. The 4W framework meets these requirements. An extrinsic motive as ‘attaining the anticipated or expected satisfaction’ ( Argandoña, 2003, p.17 ) is reflected in the formulation of the goal of the solution, the creation of alternatives and especially in the justification of the chosen alternative way when the problem solver revisits the external effect of his/her possible action. Transcendent motive as ‘generating certain effects in others’ ( Argandoña, 2003, p.17 ) is revealed within the analysis of the context, perspectives, and creating alternatives. When the learner considers the creation of alternatives and revisits the chosen alternative, he/she pays more attention to these motives. Two types of motives mentioned so far are closely related to an intrinsic motive that emphasizes learning development within the problem solver. These motives confirm that problem solving is, in fact, lifelong learning. In light of these findings, the 4W framework is concerned with some features of value internalization as it is ‘a psychological outcome of conscious mind reasoning about values’ ( Yazdani & Akbarilakeh, 2017, p.1 ).

The 4W framework is complicated enough in terms of learning. One issue is concerned with the educational environments ( Jucevičienė, 2008 ) required to enable the 4W framework. First, the learning paradigm, rather than direct instruction, lies at the foundation of such environments. Second, such educational environments include the following dimensions: (1) educational goal; (2) learning capacity of the learners; (3) educational content relevant to the educational goal: ways and means of communicating educational content as information presented in advance (they may be real, people among them, as well as virtual); (5) methods and means of developing educational content in the process of learners’ performance; (6) physical environment relevant to the educational goal and conditions of its implementation as well as different items in the environment; (7) individuals involved in the implementation of the educational goal.

Another issue is related to exercising this framework in practice. Despite being aware of the 4W framework, a person may still not want to practice problem solving through values, since most of the solutions are going to be complicated, or may even be painful. One idea worth looking into is to reveal the extent to which problem solving through values can become a habit of mind. Profound focus on personal values, context analysis, and highlighting various perspectives can involve changes in the problem solver’s habit of mind. The constant practice of problem solving through values could first become ‘the epistemic habit of mind’ ( Mezirow, 2009, p.93 ), which means a personal way of knowing things and how to use that knowledge. This echoes Kirkman (2017) findings. The developed capability to notice moral values in situations that students encountered changed some students’ habit of mind as ‘for having “ruined” things by making it impossible not to attend to values in such situations!’ (the feedback from one student; Kirkman, 2017, p.12 ). However, this is not enough, as only those problems that require a value-based approach are addressed. Inevitably, the problem solver eventually encounters the challenges of nurturing ‘the moral-ethical habit of mind’ ( Mezirow, 2009, p.93 ). In pursuance to develop such habits of mind, the curriculum should include the necessity of the practising of the 4W framework.

Thinking based on values when solving problems enables the problem solver to engage in thoughtful reflection in contrast to pragmatic and superficial thinking supported by the consumer society. Reflection begins from the first stage of the 4W framework. As personal values are the basis for the desired solution, the problem solver is also involved in self-reflection. The conscious and continuous reflection on himself/herself and the problematic situation reinforce each step of the 4W framework. Moreover, the fourth stage (‘The rationale for the solution: Why’) involves the problem solver in critical reflection as it concerned with justification of ‘the why , the reasons for and the consequences of what we do’ (italic, bold in original; Mezirow, 1990, p.8 ). Exercising the 4W framework in practice could foster reflective practice. Empirical evidence shows that reflective practice directly impacts knowledge, skills and may lead to changes in personal belief systems and world views ( Slade, Burnham, Catalana, & Waters, 2019 ). Thus, with the help of reflective practice it is possible to identify in more detail how and to what extent the 4W framework has been mastered, what knowledge gained, capabilities developed, how point of views changed, and what influence the change process.

Critical issues related to the development of problem solving through values need to be distinguished when considering and examining options for the implementation of the 4W framework at educational institutions. First, the question to what extent can the 4W framework be incorporated into various subjects needs to be answered. Researchers could focus on applying the 4W framework to specific subjects in the humanities and social sciences. The case is with STEM subjects. Though value issues of sustainable development and ecology are of great importance, in reality STEM teaching is often restricted to the development of knowledge and skills, leaving aside the thinking about values. The special task of the researchers is to help practitioners to apply the 4W framework in STEM subjects. Considering this, researchers could employ the concept of ‘dialogic space’ ( Wegerif, 2011, p.3 ) which places particular importance of dialogue in the process of education emphasizing both the voices of teachers and students, and materials. In addition, the dimensions of educational environments could be useful aligning the 4W framework with STEM subjects. As STEM teaching is more based on solving various special tasks and/or integrating problem-based learning, the 4W framework could be a meaningful tool through which content is mastered, skills are developed, knowledge is acquired by solving pre-prepared specific tasks. In this case, the 4W framework could act as a mean addressing values in STEM teaching.

Second is the question of how to enable the process of problem solving through values. In the current paper, the concept of enabling is understood as an integral component of the empowerment. Juceviciene et al. (2010) specify that at least two perspectives can be employed to explain empowerment : a) through the power of legitimacy (according to Freire, 1996 ); and b) through the perspective of conditions for the acquisition of the required knowledge, capabilities, and competence, i.e., enabling. In this paper the 4W framework does not entail the issue of legitimacy. This issue may occur, for example, when a teacher in economics is expected to provide students with subject knowledge only, rather than adding tasks that involve problem solving through values. Yet, the issue of legitimacy is often implicit. A widespread phenomenon exists that teaching is limited to certain periods that do not have enough time for problem solving through values. The issue of legitimacy as an organizational task that supports/or not the implementation of the 4W framework in any curriculum is a question that calls for further discussion.

Third (if not the first), the issue of an educator’s competence to apply such a framework needs to be addressed. In order for a teacher to be a successful enabler, he/she should have the necessary competence. This is related to the specific pedagogical knowledge and skills, which are highly dependent on the peculiarities of the subject being taught. Nowadays actualities are encouraging to pay attention to STEM subjects and their teacher training. For researchers and teacher training institutions, who will be interested in implementing the 4W framework in STEM subjects, it would be useful to draw attention to ‘a material-dialogic approach to pedagogy’ ( Hetherington & Wegerif, 2018, p.27 ). This approach creates the conditions for a deep learning of STEM subjects revealing additional opportunities for problem solving through values in teaching. Highlighting these opportunities is a task for further research.

In contrast to traditional problem solving models, the 4W framework is more concerned with educational purposes. The prescriptive approach to teaching ( Thorne, 1994 ) is applied to the 4W framework. This approach focuses on providing guidelines that enable students to make sound decisions by making explicit value judgements. The limitation is that the 4W framework is focused on thinking but not executing. It does not include the fifth stage, which would focus on the execution of the decision how to solve the problem. This stage may contain some deviation from the predefined process of the solution of the problem.

6. Conclusions

The current paper focuses on revealing the essence of the 4W framework, which is based on enabling the problem solver to draw attention to when, how, and why it is essential to think about values during the problem solving process from the perspective of it’s design. Accordingly, the 4W framework advocates the coherent approach when solving a problem by using a creative potential of values.

The 4W framework allows the problem solver to look through the lens of his/her values twice. The first time, while formulating the problem solving goal as the desired outcome. The second time is when the problem solver looks deeper into his/her values while exploring alternative ways to solve problems. The problem solver is encouraged to reason about, find, accept, reject, compare values, and become responsible for the consequences of the choices grounded on his/her values. Thus, the problem solver could benefit from the 4W framework especially when dealing with issues having crucial consequences.

An educational approach reveals that the 4W framework could enable the development of value-grounded problem solving capability. As problem solving encourages the development of higher-order thinking skills, the consistent inclusion of values enriches them.

The 4W framework requires the educational environments for its enablement. The enablement process of problem solving through values could be based on the perspective of conditions for the acquisition of the required knowledge and capability. Continuous practice of this framework not only encourages reflection, but can also contribute to the creation of the epistemic habit of mind. Applying the 4W framework to specific subjects in the humanities and social sciences might face less challenge than STEM ones. The issue of an educator’s competence to apply such a framework is highly important. The discussed issues present significant challenges for researchers and educators. Caring that the curriculum of different courses should foresee problem solving through values, both practicing and empirical research are necessary.

Declaration of interests

This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Both authors have approved the final article.

  • Argandoña A. Fostering values in organizations. Journal of Business Ethics. 2003; 45 (1–2):15–28. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1023/A:1024164210743.pdf [ Google Scholar ]
  • Barber S. A truly “Transformative” MBA: Executive education for the fourth industrial revolution. Journal of Pedagogic Development. 2018; 8 (2):44–55. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Barnett R. McGraw-Hill Education; UK): 2007. Will to learn: Being a student in an age of uncertainty. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Baron R.A., Zhao H., Miao Q. Personal motives, moral disengagement, and unethical decisions by entrepreneurs: Cognitive mechanisms on the “slippery slope” Journal of Business Ethics. 2015; 128 (1):107–118. doi: 10.1007/s10551-014-2078-y. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Basadur M., Ellspermann S.J., Evans G.W. A new methodology for formulating ill-structured problems. Omega. 1994; 22 (6):627–645. doi: 10.1016/0305-0483(94)90053-1. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Blanco E., Schirmbeck F., Costa C. International Conference on Remote Engineering and Virtual Instrumentation . Springer; Cham: 2018. Vocational Education for the Industrial Revolution; pp. 649–658. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Chua B.L., Tan O.S., Liu W.C. Journey into the problem-solving process: Cognitive functions in a PBL environment. Innovations in Education and Teaching International. 2016; 53 (2):191–202. doi: 10.1080/14703297.2014.961502. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Collins R.H., Sibthorp J., Gookin J. Developing ill-structured problem-solving skills through wilderness education. Journal of Experiential Education. 2016; 39 (2):179–195. doi: 10.1177/1053825916639611. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Csapó B., Funke J., editors. The nature of problem solving: Using research to inspire 21st century learning. OECD Publishing; 2017. The development and assessment of problem solving in 21st-century schools. (Chapter 1). [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Dollinger S.J., Burke P.A., Gump N.W. Creativity and values. Creativity Research Journal. 2007; 19 (2-3):91–103. doi: 10.1080/10400410701395028. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Donovan S.J., Guss C.D., Naslund D. Improving dynamic decision making through training and self-reflection. Judgment and Decision Making. 2015; 10 (4):284–295. http://digitalcommons.unf.edu/apsy_facpub/2 [ Google Scholar ]
  • Dorst K. Design problems and design paradoxes. Design Issues. 2006; 22 (3):4–17. doi: 10.1162/desi.2006.22.3.4. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Dostál J. Theory of problem solving. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences. 2015; 174 :2798–2805. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.01.970. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Fields A.M. Ill-structured problems and the reference consultation: The librarian’s role in developing student expertise. Reference Services Review. 2006; 34 (3):405–420. doi: 10.1108/00907320610701554. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Freire P. Continuum; New York: 1996. Pedagogy of the oppressed (revised) [ Google Scholar ]
  • Funke J. Problem solving: What are the important questions?. Proceedings of the 36th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society; Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society; 2014. pp. 493–498. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Hall D.J., Davis R.A. Engaging multiple perspectives: A value-based decision-making model. Decision Support Systems. 2007; 43 (4):1588–1604. doi: 10.1016/j.dss.2006.03.004. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Hall D.J., Paradice D. Investigating value-based decision bias and mediation: do you do as you think? Communications of the ACM. 2007; 50 (4):81–85. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Halstead J.M. Values and values education in schools. In: Halstead J.M., Taylor M.J., editors. Values in education and education in values. The Falmer Press; London: 1996. pp. 3–14. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Harland T., Pickering N. Routledge; 2010. Values in higher education teaching. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Hester P.T., MacG K. Springer; New York: 2017. Systemic decision making: Fundamentals for addressing problems and messes. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Hetherington L., Wegerif R. Developing a material-dialogic approach to pedagogy to guide science teacher education. Journal of Education for Teaching. 2018; 44 (1):27–43. doi: 10.1080/02607476.2018.1422611. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Huitt W. Problem solving and decision making: Consideration of individual differences using the Myers-Briggs type indicator. Journal of Psychological Type. 1992; 24 (1):33–44. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Ims K.J., Zsolnai L. The future international manager. Palgrave Macmillan; London: 2009. Holistic problem solving; pp. 116–129. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Jonassen D. Supporting problem solving in PBL. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning. 2011; 5 (2):95–119. doi: 10.7771/1541-5015.1256. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Jonassen D.H. Instructional design models for well-structured and III-structured problem-solving learning outcomes. Educational Technology Research and Development. 1997; 45 (1):65–94. doi: 10.1007/BF02299613. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Jucevičienė P. Educational and learning environments as a factor for socioeducational empowering of innovation. Socialiniai mokslai. 2008; 1 :58–70. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Jucevičienė P., Gudaitytė D., Karenauskaitė V., Lipinskienė D., Stanikūnienė B., Tautkevičienė G. Technologija; Kaunas: 2010. Universiteto edukacinė galia: Atsakas XXI amžiaus iššūkiams [The educational power of university: the response to the challenges of the 21st century] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Kasof J., Chen C., Himsel A., Greenberger E. Values and creativity. Creativity Research Journal. 2007; 19 (2–3):105–122. doi: 10.1080/10400410701397164. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Keeney R.L. Creativity in decision making with value-focused thinking. MIT Sloan Management Review. 1994; 35 (4):33–41. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Kirkman R. Problem-based learning in engineering ethics courses. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning. 2017; 11 (1) doi: 10.7771/1541-5015.1610. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Lebedeva N., Schwartz S., Plucker J., Van De Vijver F. Domains of everyday creativity and personal values. Frontiers in Psychology. 2019; 9 :1–16. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02681. [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Linstone H.A. Multiple perspectives: Concept, applications, and user guidelines. Systems Practice. 1989; 2 (3):307–331. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Litzinger T.A., Meter P.V., Firetto C.M., Passmore L.J., Masters C.B., Turns S.R.…Zappe S.E. A cognitive study of problem solving in statics. Journal of Engineering Education. 2010; 99 (4):337–353. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Maslow A.H. Vaga; Vilnius: 2011. Būties psichologija. [Psychology of Being] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Mayer R., Wittrock M. Problem solving. In: Alexander P., Winne P., editors. Handbook of educational psychology. Psychology Press; New York, NY: 2006. pp. 287–303. [ Google Scholar ]
  • McLaughlin T. The educative importance of ethos. British Journal of Educational Studies. 2005; 53 (3):306–325. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8527.2005.00297.x. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • McLaughlin T.H. Technologija; Kaunas: 1997. Šiuolaikinė ugdymo filosofija: demokratiškumas, vertybės, įvairovė [Contemporary philosophy of education: democracy, values, diversity] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Mezirow J. Jossey-Bass Publishers; San Francisco: 1990. Fostering critical reflection in adulthood; pp. 1–12. https://my.liberatedleaders.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/How-Critical-Reflection-triggers-Transformative-Learning-Mezirow.pdf [ Google Scholar ]
  • Mezirow J. Contemporary theories of learning. Routledge; 2009. An overview on transformative learning; pp. 90–105. (Chapter 6) [ Google Scholar ]
  • Mitroff I. Šviesa; Kaunas: 2000. Kaip neklysti šiais beprotiškais laikais: ar mokame spręsti esmines problemas. [How not to get lost in these crazy times: do we know how to solve essential problems] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Morton L. Teaching creative problem solving: A paradigmatic approach. Cal. WL Rev. 1997; 34 :375. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Nadda P. Need for value based education. International Education and Research Journal. 2017; 3 (2) http://ierj.in/journal/index.php/ierj/article/view/690/659 [ Google Scholar ]
  • Newell A., Simon H.A. Prentice-Hall; Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 1972. Human problem solving. [ Google Scholar ]
  • OECD . PISA, OECD Publishing; Paris: 2013. PISA 2012 assessment and analytical framework: Mathematics, reading, science, problem solving and financial literacy . https://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/PISA%202012%20framework%20e-book_final.pdf [ Google Scholar ]
  • OECD . PISA, OECD Publishing; 2018. PISA 2015 results in focus . https://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisa-2015-results-in-focus.pdf [ Google Scholar ]
  • O’Loughlin A., McFadzean E. Toward a holistic theory of strategic problem solving. Team Performance Management: An International Journal. 1999; 5 (3):103–120. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Perkins D.N. Decision making and its development. In: Callan E., Grotzer T., Kagan J., Nisbett R.E., Perkins D.N., Shulman L.S., editors. Education and a civil society: Teaching evidence-based decision making. American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Cambridge, MA: 2009. pp. 1–28. (Chapter 1) [ Google Scholar ]
  • Roccas S., Sagiv L., Navon M. Values and behavior. Cham: Springer; 2017. Methodological issues in studying personal values; pp. 15–50. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Rogers C.R. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Boston: 1995. On becoming a person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Saito M. Amartya Sen’s capability approach to education: A critical exploration. Journal of Philosophy of Education. 2003; 37 (1):17–33. doi: 10.1111/1467-9752.3701002. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Schwartz S.H. Universals in the content and structure of values: Theoretical advances and empirical tests in 20 countries. In: Zanna M.P., editor. Vol. 25. Academic Press; 1992. pp. 1–65. (Advances in experimental social psychology). [ Google Scholar ]
  • Schwartz S.H. Are there universal aspects in the structure and contents of human values? Journal of social issues. 1994; 50 (4):19–45. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Schwartz S.H. An overview of the Schwartz theory of basic values. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture. 2012; 2 (1):1–20. doi: 10.9707/2307-0919.1116. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Sen A. Development as capability expansion. The community development reader. 1990:41–58. http://www.masterhdfs.org/masterHDFS/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Sen-development.pdf [ Google Scholar ]
  • Sheehan N.T., Schmidt J.A. Preparing accounting students for ethical decision making: Developing individual codes of conduct based on personal values. Journal of Accounting Education. 2015; 33 (3):183–197. doi: 10.1016/j.jaccedu.2015.06.001. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Shepherd D.A., Patzelt H., Baron R.A. “I care about nature, but…”: Disengaging values in assessing opportunities that cause harm. The Academy of Management Journal. 2013; 56 (5):1251–1273. doi: 10.5465/amj.2011.0776. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Shin N., Jonassen D.H., McGee S. Predictors of well‐structured and ill‐structured problem solving in an astronomy simulation. Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 2003; 40 (1):6–33. doi: 10.1002/tea.10058. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Slade M.L., Burnham T.J., Catalana S.M., Waters T. The impact of reflective practice on teacher candidates’ learning. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. 2019; 13 (2):15. doi: 10.20429/ijsotl.2019.130215. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Snyder H. Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines. Journal of Business Research. 2019; 104 :333–339. doi: 10.1016/j.jbusres.2019.07.039. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Sternberg R. Teaching for ethical reasoning. International Journal of Educational Psychology. 2012; 1 (1):35–50. doi: 10.4471/ijep.2012.03. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Sternberg R. Speculations on the role of successful intelligence in solving contemporary world problems. Journal of Intelligence. 2017; 6 (1):4. doi: 10.3390/jintelligence6010004. [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Thorne D.M. Environmental ethics in international business education: Descriptive and prescriptive dimensions. Journal of Teaching in International Business. 1994; 5 (1–2):109–122. doi: 10.1300/J066v05n01_08. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Treffinger D.J., Isaksen S.G. Creative problem solving: The history, development, and implications for gifted education and talent development. The Gifted Child Quarterly. 2005; 49 (4):342–353. doi: 10.1177/001698620504900407. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Verplanken B., Holland R.W. Motivated decision making: Effects of activation and self-centrality of values on choices and behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2002; 82 (3):434–447. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.82.3.434. [ PubMed ] [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Webster R.S. Re-enchanting education and spiritual wellbeing. Routledge; 2017. Being spiritually educated; pp. 73–85. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Wegerif R. Towards a dialogic theory of how children learn to think. Thinking Skills and Creativity. 2011; 6 (3):179–190. doi: 10.1016/j.tsc.2011.08.002. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Yang M., Evans S., Vladimirova D., Rana P. Value uncaptured perspective for sustainable business model innovation. Journal of Cleaner Production. 2017; 140 :1794–1804. doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.07.102. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Yazdani S., Akbarilakeh M. The model of value-based curriculum for medicine and surgery education in Iran. Journal of Minimally Invasive Surgical Sciences. 2017; 6 (3) doi: 10.5812/minsurgery.14053. [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Zsolnai L. Transaction Publishers; New Brunswick and London: 2008. Responsible decision making. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Practice task 5
  • Practice task 6
  • Practice task 7
  • Practice task 8
  • Practice task 9
  • Practice task 10
  • Practice task 11
  • Practice task 12

Topic 2: Identify and meet ethical responsibilities

Woman reading to a young boy

In this topic you will learn how to:

2A Identify, access and interpret information about ethical responsibilities 

2B Identify the scope and nature of own ethical responsibilities  

2C Meet ethical responsibilities according to workplace policies and protocols 

2D Recognise and discuss potential ethical issues and dilemmas  

2E Recognise own values and attitudes and ensure non-judgemental practice

2F Use problem-solving techniques when exposed to competing value systems

2G Recognise and report unethical conduct 

2H Recognise potential and actual conflicts of interest and take action 

Spiral

CHCLEG001 Release 1, Aspire v1.3 © 2015 Aspire Training & Consulting Ltd trading as Aspire Learning Resources

35 problem-solving techniques and methods for solving complex problems

Problem solving workshop

Design your next session with SessionLab

Join the 150,000+ facilitators 
using SessionLab.

Recommended Articles

A step-by-step guide to planning a workshop, how to create an unforgettable training session in 8 simple steps, 47 useful online tools for workshop planning and meeting facilitation.

All teams and organizations encounter challenges as they grow. There are problems that might occur for teams when it comes to miscommunication or resolving business-critical issues . You may face challenges around growth , design , user engagement, and even team culture and happiness. In short, problem-solving techniques should be part of every team’s skillset.

Problem-solving methods are primarily designed to help a group or team through a process of first identifying problems and challenges , ideating possible solutions , and then evaluating the most suitable .

Finding effective solutions to complex problems isn’t easy, but by using the right process and techniques, you can help your team be more efficient in the process.

So how do you develop strategies that are engaging, and empower your team to solve problems effectively?

In this blog post, we share a series of problem-solving tools you can use in your next workshop or team meeting. You’ll also find some tips for facilitating the process and how to enable others to solve complex problems.

Let’s get started! 

How do you identify problems?

How do you identify the right solution.

  • Tips for more effective problem-solving

Complete problem-solving methods

  • Problem-solving techniques to identify and analyze problems
  • Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions

Problem-solving warm-up activities

Closing activities for a problem-solving process.

Before you can move towards finding the right solution for a given problem, you first need to identify and define the problem you wish to solve. 

Here, you want to clearly articulate what the problem is and allow your group to do the same. Remember that everyone in a group is likely to have differing perspectives and alignment is necessary in order to help the group move forward. 

Identifying a problem accurately also requires that all members of a group are able to contribute their views in an open and safe manner. It can be scary for people to stand up and contribute, especially if the problems or challenges are emotive or personal in nature. Be sure to try and create a psychologically safe space for these kinds of discussions.

Remember that problem analysis and further discussion are also important. Not taking the time to fully analyze and discuss a challenge can result in the development of solutions that are not fit for purpose or do not address the underlying issue.

Successfully identifying and then analyzing a problem means facilitating a group through activities designed to help them clearly and honestly articulate their thoughts and produce usable insight.

With this data, you might then produce a problem statement that clearly describes the problem you wish to be addressed and also state the goal of any process you undertake to tackle this issue.  

Finding solutions is the end goal of any process. Complex organizational challenges can only be solved with an appropriate solution but discovering them requires using the right problem-solving tool.

After you’ve explored a problem and discussed ideas, you need to help a team discuss and choose the right solution. Consensus tools and methods such as those below help a group explore possible solutions before then voting for the best. They’re a great way to tap into the collective intelligence of the group for great results!

Remember that the process is often iterative. Great problem solvers often roadtest a viable solution in a measured way to see what works too. While you might not get the right solution on your first try, the methods below help teams land on the most likely to succeed solution while also holding space for improvement.

Every effective problem solving process begins with an agenda . A well-structured workshop is one of the best methods for successfully guiding a group from exploring a problem to implementing a solution.

In SessionLab, it’s easy to go from an idea to a complete agenda . Start by dragging and dropping your core problem solving activities into place . Add timings, breaks and necessary materials before sharing your agenda with your colleagues.

The resulting agenda will be your guide to an effective and productive problem solving session that will also help you stay organized on the day!

problem solving techniques for competing value systems

Tips for more effective problem solving

Problem-solving activities are only one part of the puzzle. While a great method can help unlock your team’s ability to solve problems, without a thoughtful approach and strong facilitation the solutions may not be fit for purpose.

Let’s take a look at some problem-solving tips you can apply to any process to help it be a success!

Clearly define the problem

Jumping straight to solutions can be tempting, though without first clearly articulating a problem, the solution might not be the right one. Many of the problem-solving activities below include sections where the problem is explored and clearly defined before moving on.

This is a vital part of the problem-solving process and taking the time to fully define an issue can save time and effort later. A clear definition helps identify irrelevant information and it also ensures that your team sets off on the right track.

Don’t jump to conclusions

It’s easy for groups to exhibit cognitive bias or have preconceived ideas about both problems and potential solutions. Be sure to back up any problem statements or potential solutions with facts, research, and adequate forethought.

The best techniques ask participants to be methodical and challenge preconceived notions. Make sure you give the group enough time and space to collect relevant information and consider the problem in a new way. By approaching the process with a clear, rational mindset, you’ll often find that better solutions are more forthcoming.  

Try different approaches  

Problems come in all shapes and sizes and so too should the methods you use to solve them. If you find that one approach isn’t yielding results and your team isn’t finding different solutions, try mixing it up. You’ll be surprised at how using a new creative activity can unblock your team and generate great solutions.

Don’t take it personally 

Depending on the nature of your team or organizational problems, it’s easy for conversations to get heated. While it’s good for participants to be engaged in the discussions, ensure that emotions don’t run too high and that blame isn’t thrown around while finding solutions.

You’re all in it together, and even if your team or area is seeing problems, that isn’t necessarily a disparagement of you personally. Using facilitation skills to manage group dynamics is one effective method of helping conversations be more constructive.

Get the right people in the room

Your problem-solving method is often only as effective as the group using it. Getting the right people on the job and managing the number of people present is important too!

If the group is too small, you may not get enough different perspectives to effectively solve a problem. If the group is too large, you can go round and round during the ideation stages.

Creating the right group makeup is also important in ensuring you have the necessary expertise and skillset to both identify and follow up on potential solutions. Carefully consider who to include at each stage to help ensure your problem-solving method is followed and positioned for success.

Document everything

The best solutions can take refinement, iteration, and reflection to come out. Get into a habit of documenting your process in order to keep all the learnings from the session and to allow ideas to mature and develop. Many of the methods below involve the creation of documents or shared resources. Be sure to keep and share these so everyone can benefit from the work done!

Bring a facilitator 

Facilitation is all about making group processes easier. With a subject as potentially emotive and important as problem-solving, having an impartial third party in the form of a facilitator can make all the difference in finding great solutions and keeping the process moving. Consider bringing a facilitator to your problem-solving session to get better results and generate meaningful solutions!

Develop your problem-solving skills

It takes time and practice to be an effective problem solver. While some roles or participants might more naturally gravitate towards problem-solving, it can take development and planning to help everyone create better solutions.

You might develop a training program, run a problem-solving workshop or simply ask your team to practice using the techniques below. Check out our post on problem-solving skills to see how you and your group can develop the right mental process and be more resilient to issues too!

Design a great agenda

Workshops are a great format for solving problems. With the right approach, you can focus a group and help them find the solutions to their own problems. But designing a process can be time-consuming and finding the right activities can be difficult.

Check out our workshop planning guide to level-up your agenda design and start running more effective workshops. Need inspiration? Check out templates designed by expert facilitators to help you kickstart your process!

In this section, we’ll look at in-depth problem-solving methods that provide a complete end-to-end process for developing effective solutions. These will help guide your team from the discovery and definition of a problem through to delivering the right solution.

If you’re looking for an all-encompassing method or problem-solving model, these processes are a great place to start. They’ll ask your team to challenge preconceived ideas and adopt a mindset for solving problems more effectively.

  • Six Thinking Hats
  • Lightning Decision Jam
  • Problem Definition Process
  • Discovery & Action Dialogue
Design Sprint 2.0
  • Open Space Technology

1. Six Thinking Hats

Individual approaches to solving a problem can be very different based on what team or role an individual holds. It can be easy for existing biases or perspectives to find their way into the mix, or for internal politics to direct a conversation.

Six Thinking Hats is a classic method for identifying the problems that need to be solved and enables your team to consider them from different angles, whether that is by focusing on facts and data, creative solutions, or by considering why a particular solution might not work.

Like all problem-solving frameworks, Six Thinking Hats is effective at helping teams remove roadblocks from a conversation or discussion and come to terms with all the aspects necessary to solve complex problems.

2. Lightning Decision Jam

Featured courtesy of Jonathan Courtney of AJ&Smart Berlin, Lightning Decision Jam is one of those strategies that should be in every facilitation toolbox. Exploring problems and finding solutions is often creative in nature, though as with any creative process, there is the potential to lose focus and get lost.

Unstructured discussions might get you there in the end, but it’s much more effective to use a method that creates a clear process and team focus.

In Lightning Decision Jam, participants are invited to begin by writing challenges, concerns, or mistakes on post-its without discussing them before then being invited by the moderator to present them to the group.

From there, the team vote on which problems to solve and are guided through steps that will allow them to reframe those problems, create solutions and then decide what to execute on. 

By deciding the problems that need to be solved as a team before moving on, this group process is great for ensuring the whole team is aligned and can take ownership over the next stages. 

Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ)   #action   #decision making   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #innovation   #design   #remote-friendly   The problem with anything that requires creative thinking is that it’s easy to get lost—lose focus and fall into the trap of having useless, open-ended, unstructured discussions. Here’s the most effective solution I’ve found: Replace all open, unstructured discussion with a clear process. What to use this exercise for: Anything which requires a group of people to make decisions, solve problems or discuss challenges. It’s always good to frame an LDJ session with a broad topic, here are some examples: The conversion flow of our checkout Our internal design process How we organise events Keeping up with our competition Improving sales flow

3. Problem Definition Process

While problems can be complex, the problem-solving methods you use to identify and solve those problems can often be simple in design. 

By taking the time to truly identify and define a problem before asking the group to reframe the challenge as an opportunity, this method is a great way to enable change.

Begin by identifying a focus question and exploring the ways in which it manifests before splitting into five teams who will each consider the problem using a different method: escape, reversal, exaggeration, distortion or wishful. Teams develop a problem objective and create ideas in line with their method before then feeding them back to the group.

This method is great for enabling in-depth discussions while also creating space for finding creative solutions too!

Problem Definition   #problem solving   #idea generation   #creativity   #online   #remote-friendly   A problem solving technique to define a problem, challenge or opportunity and to generate ideas.

4. The 5 Whys 

Sometimes, a group needs to go further with their strategies and analyze the root cause at the heart of organizational issues. An RCA or root cause analysis is the process of identifying what is at the heart of business problems or recurring challenges. 

The 5 Whys is a simple and effective method of helping a group go find the root cause of any problem or challenge and conduct analysis that will deliver results. 

By beginning with the creation of a problem statement and going through five stages to refine it, The 5 Whys provides everything you need to truly discover the cause of an issue.

The 5 Whys   #hyperisland   #innovation   This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. As the title suggests, the group defines a problems, then asks the question “why” five times, often using the resulting explanation as a starting point for creative problem solving.

5. World Cafe

World Cafe is a simple but powerful facilitation technique to help bigger groups to focus their energy and attention on solving complex problems.

World Cafe enables this approach by creating a relaxed atmosphere where participants are able to self-organize and explore topics relevant and important to them which are themed around a central problem-solving purpose. Create the right atmosphere by modeling your space after a cafe and after guiding the group through the method, let them take the lead!

Making problem-solving a part of your organization’s culture in the long term can be a difficult undertaking. More approachable formats like World Cafe can be especially effective in bringing people unfamiliar with workshops into the fold. 

World Cafe   #hyperisland   #innovation   #issue analysis   World Café is a simple yet powerful method, originated by Juanita Brown, for enabling meaningful conversations driven completely by participants and the topics that are relevant and important to them. Facilitators create a cafe-style space and provide simple guidelines. Participants then self-organize and explore a set of relevant topics or questions for conversation.

6. Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)

One of the best approaches is to create a safe space for a group to share and discover practices and behaviors that can help them find their own solutions.

With DAD, you can help a group choose which problems they wish to solve and which approaches they will take to do so. It’s great at helping remove resistance to change and can help get buy-in at every level too!

This process of enabling frontline ownership is great in ensuring follow-through and is one of the methods you will want in your toolbox as a facilitator.

Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)   #idea generation   #liberating structures   #action   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   DADs make it easy for a group or community to discover practices and behaviors that enable some individuals (without access to special resources and facing the same constraints) to find better solutions than their peers to common problems. These are called positive deviant (PD) behaviors and practices. DADs make it possible for people in the group, unit, or community to discover by themselves these PD practices. DADs also create favorable conditions for stimulating participants’ creativity in spaces where they can feel safe to invent new and more effective practices. Resistance to change evaporates as participants are unleashed to choose freely which practices they will adopt or try and which problems they will tackle. DADs make it possible to achieve frontline ownership of solutions.

7. Design Sprint 2.0

Want to see how a team can solve big problems and move forward with prototyping and testing solutions in a few days? The Design Sprint 2.0 template from Jake Knapp, author of Sprint, is a complete agenda for a with proven results.

Developing the right agenda can involve difficult but necessary planning. Ensuring all the correct steps are followed can also be stressful or time-consuming depending on your level of experience.

Use this complete 4-day workshop template if you are finding there is no obvious solution to your challenge and want to focus your team around a specific problem that might require a shortcut to launching a minimum viable product or waiting for the organization-wide implementation of a solution.

8. Open space technology

Open space technology- developed by Harrison Owen – creates a space where large groups are invited to take ownership of their problem solving and lead individual sessions. Open space technology is a great format when you have a great deal of expertise and insight in the room and want to allow for different takes and approaches on a particular theme or problem you need to be solved.

Start by bringing your participants together to align around a central theme and focus their efforts. Explain the ground rules to help guide the problem-solving process and then invite members to identify any issue connecting to the central theme that they are interested in and are prepared to take responsibility for.

Once participants have decided on their approach to the core theme, they write their issue on a piece of paper, announce it to the group, pick a session time and place, and post the paper on the wall. As the wall fills up with sessions, the group is then invited to join the sessions that interest them the most and which they can contribute to, then you’re ready to begin!

Everyone joins the problem-solving group they’ve signed up to, record the discussion and if appropriate, findings can then be shared with the rest of the group afterward.

Open Space Technology   #action plan   #idea generation   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #large group   #online   #remote-friendly   Open Space is a methodology for large groups to create their agenda discerning important topics for discussion, suitable for conferences, community gatherings and whole system facilitation

Techniques to identify and analyze problems

Using a problem-solving method to help a team identify and analyze a problem can be a quick and effective addition to any workshop or meeting.

While further actions are always necessary, you can generate momentum and alignment easily, and these activities are a great place to get started.

We’ve put together this list of techniques to help you and your team with problem identification, analysis, and discussion that sets the foundation for developing effective solutions.

Let’s take a look!

  • The Creativity Dice
  • Fishbone Analysis
  • Problem Tree
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Agreement-Certainty Matrix
  • The Journalistic Six
  • LEGO Challenge
  • What, So What, Now What?
  • Journalists

Individual and group perspectives are incredibly important, but what happens if people are set in their minds and need a change of perspective in order to approach a problem more effectively?

Flip It is a method we love because it is both simple to understand and run, and allows groups to understand how their perspectives and biases are formed. 

Participants in Flip It are first invited to consider concerns, issues, or problems from a perspective of fear and write them on a flip chart. Then, the group is asked to consider those same issues from a perspective of hope and flip their understanding.  

No problem and solution is free from existing bias and by changing perspectives with Flip It, you can then develop a problem solving model quickly and effectively.

Flip It!   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   Often, a change in a problem or situation comes simply from a change in our perspectives. Flip It! is a quick game designed to show players that perspectives are made, not born.

10. The Creativity Dice

One of the most useful problem solving skills you can teach your team is of approaching challenges with creativity, flexibility, and openness. Games like The Creativity Dice allow teams to overcome the potential hurdle of too much linear thinking and approach the process with a sense of fun and speed. 

In The Creativity Dice, participants are organized around a topic and roll a dice to determine what they will work on for a period of 3 minutes at a time. They might roll a 3 and work on investigating factual information on the chosen topic. They might roll a 1 and work on identifying the specific goals, standards, or criteria for the session.

Encouraging rapid work and iteration while asking participants to be flexible are great skills to cultivate. Having a stage for idea incubation in this game is also important. Moments of pause can help ensure the ideas that are put forward are the most suitable. 

The Creativity Dice   #creativity   #problem solving   #thiagi   #issue analysis   Too much linear thinking is hazardous to creative problem solving. To be creative, you should approach the problem (or the opportunity) from different points of view. You should leave a thought hanging in mid-air and move to another. This skipping around prevents premature closure and lets your brain incubate one line of thought while you consciously pursue another.

11. Fishbone Analysis

Organizational or team challenges are rarely simple, and it’s important to remember that one problem can be an indication of something that goes deeper and may require further consideration to be solved.

Fishbone Analysis helps groups to dig deeper and understand the origins of a problem. It’s a great example of a root cause analysis method that is simple for everyone on a team to get their head around. 

Participants in this activity are asked to annotate a diagram of a fish, first adding the problem or issue to be worked on at the head of a fish before then brainstorming the root causes of the problem and adding them as bones on the fish. 

Using abstractions such as a diagram of a fish can really help a team break out of their regular thinking and develop a creative approach.

Fishbone Analysis   #problem solving   ##root cause analysis   #decision making   #online facilitation   A process to help identify and understand the origins of problems, issues or observations.

12. Problem Tree 

Encouraging visual thinking can be an essential part of many strategies. By simply reframing and clarifying problems, a group can move towards developing a problem solving model that works for them. 

In Problem Tree, groups are asked to first brainstorm a list of problems – these can be design problems, team problems or larger business problems – and then organize them into a hierarchy. The hierarchy could be from most important to least important or abstract to practical, though the key thing with problem solving games that involve this aspect is that your group has some way of managing and sorting all the issues that are raised.

Once you have a list of problems that need to be solved and have organized them accordingly, you’re then well-positioned for the next problem solving steps.

Problem tree   #define intentions   #create   #design   #issue analysis   A problem tree is a tool to clarify the hierarchy of problems addressed by the team within a design project; it represents high level problems or related sublevel problems.

13. SWOT Analysis

Chances are you’ve heard of the SWOT Analysis before. This problem-solving method focuses on identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is a tried and tested method for both individuals and teams.

Start by creating a desired end state or outcome and bare this in mind – any process solving model is made more effective by knowing what you are moving towards. Create a quadrant made up of the four categories of a SWOT analysis and ask participants to generate ideas based on each of those quadrants.

Once you have those ideas assembled in their quadrants, cluster them together based on their affinity with other ideas. These clusters are then used to facilitate group conversations and move things forward. 

SWOT analysis   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   #meeting facilitation   The SWOT Analysis is a long-standing technique of looking at what we have, with respect to the desired end state, as well as what we could improve on. It gives us an opportunity to gauge approaching opportunities and dangers, and assess the seriousness of the conditions that affect our future. When we understand those conditions, we can influence what comes next.

14. Agreement-Certainty Matrix

Not every problem-solving approach is right for every challenge, and deciding on the right method for the challenge at hand is a key part of being an effective team.

The Agreement Certainty matrix helps teams align on the nature of the challenges facing them. By sorting problems from simple to chaotic, your team can understand what methods are suitable for each problem and what they can do to ensure effective results. 

If you are already using Liberating Structures techniques as part of your problem-solving strategy, the Agreement-Certainty Matrix can be an invaluable addition to your process. We’ve found it particularly if you are having issues with recurring problems in your organization and want to go deeper in understanding the root cause. 

Agreement-Certainty Matrix   #issue analysis   #liberating structures   #problem solving   You can help individuals or groups avoid the frequent mistake of trying to solve a problem with methods that are not adapted to the nature of their challenge. The combination of two questions makes it possible to easily sort challenges into four categories: simple, complicated, complex , and chaotic .  A problem is simple when it can be solved reliably with practices that are easy to duplicate.  It is complicated when experts are required to devise a sophisticated solution that will yield the desired results predictably.  A problem is complex when there are several valid ways to proceed but outcomes are not predictable in detail.  Chaotic is when the context is too turbulent to identify a path forward.  A loose analogy may be used to describe these differences: simple is like following a recipe, complicated like sending a rocket to the moon, complex like raising a child, and chaotic is like the game “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”  The Liberating Structures Matching Matrix in Chapter 5 can be used as the first step to clarify the nature of a challenge and avoid the mismatches between problems and solutions that are frequently at the root of chronic, recurring problems.

Organizing and charting a team’s progress can be important in ensuring its success. SQUID (Sequential Question and Insight Diagram) is a great model that allows a team to effectively switch between giving questions and answers and develop the skills they need to stay on track throughout the process. 

Begin with two different colored sticky notes – one for questions and one for answers – and with your central topic (the head of the squid) on the board. Ask the group to first come up with a series of questions connected to their best guess of how to approach the topic. Ask the group to come up with answers to those questions, fix them to the board and connect them with a line. After some discussion, go back to question mode by responding to the generated answers or other points on the board.

It’s rewarding to see a diagram grow throughout the exercise, and a completed SQUID can provide a visual resource for future effort and as an example for other teams.

SQUID   #gamestorming   #project planning   #issue analysis   #problem solving   When exploring an information space, it’s important for a group to know where they are at any given time. By using SQUID, a group charts out the territory as they go and can navigate accordingly. SQUID stands for Sequential Question and Insight Diagram.

16. Speed Boat

To continue with our nautical theme, Speed Boat is a short and sweet activity that can help a team quickly identify what employees, clients or service users might have a problem with and analyze what might be standing in the way of achieving a solution.

Methods that allow for a group to make observations, have insights and obtain those eureka moments quickly are invaluable when trying to solve complex problems.

In Speed Boat, the approach is to first consider what anchors and challenges might be holding an organization (or boat) back. Bonus points if you are able to identify any sharks in the water and develop ideas that can also deal with competitors!   

Speed Boat   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   Speedboat is a short and sweet way to identify what your employees or clients don’t like about your product/service or what’s standing in the way of a desired goal.

17. The Journalistic Six

Some of the most effective ways of solving problems is by encouraging teams to be more inclusive and diverse in their thinking.

Based on the six key questions journalism students are taught to answer in articles and news stories, The Journalistic Six helps create teams to see the whole picture. By using who, what, when, where, why, and how to facilitate the conversation and encourage creative thinking, your team can make sure that the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the are covered exhaustively and thoughtfully. Reporter’s notebook and dictaphone optional.

The Journalistic Six – Who What When Where Why How   #idea generation   #issue analysis   #problem solving   #online   #creative thinking   #remote-friendly   A questioning method for generating, explaining, investigating ideas.

18. LEGO Challenge

Now for an activity that is a little out of the (toy) box. LEGO Serious Play is a facilitation methodology that can be used to improve creative thinking and problem-solving skills. 

The LEGO Challenge includes giving each member of the team an assignment that is hidden from the rest of the group while they create a structure without speaking.

What the LEGO challenge brings to the table is a fun working example of working with stakeholders who might not be on the same page to solve problems. Also, it’s LEGO! Who doesn’t love LEGO! 

LEGO Challenge   #hyperisland   #team   A team-building activity in which groups must work together to build a structure out of LEGO, but each individual has a secret “assignment” which makes the collaborative process more challenging. It emphasizes group communication, leadership dynamics, conflict, cooperation, patience and problem solving strategy.

19. What, So What, Now What?

If not carefully managed, the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the problem-solving process can actually create more problems and misunderstandings.

The What, So What, Now What? problem-solving activity is designed to help collect insights and move forward while also eliminating the possibility of disagreement when it comes to identifying, clarifying, and analyzing organizational or work problems. 

Facilitation is all about bringing groups together so that might work on a shared goal and the best problem-solving strategies ensure that teams are aligned in purpose, if not initially in opinion or insight.

Throughout the three steps of this game, you give everyone on a team to reflect on a problem by asking what happened, why it is important, and what actions should then be taken. 

This can be a great activity for bringing our individual perceptions about a problem or challenge and contextualizing it in a larger group setting. This is one of the most important problem-solving skills you can bring to your organization.

W³ – What, So What, Now What?   #issue analysis   #innovation   #liberating structures   You can help groups reflect on a shared experience in a way that builds understanding and spurs coordinated action while avoiding unproductive conflict. It is possible for every voice to be heard while simultaneously sifting for insights and shaping new direction. Progressing in stages makes this practical—from collecting facts about What Happened to making sense of these facts with So What and finally to what actions logically follow with Now What . The shared progression eliminates most of the misunderstandings that otherwise fuel disagreements about what to do. Voila!

20. Journalists  

Problem analysis can be one of the most important and decisive stages of all problem-solving tools. Sometimes, a team can become bogged down in the details and are unable to move forward.

Journalists is an activity that can avoid a group from getting stuck in the problem identification or problem analysis stages of the process.

In Journalists, the group is invited to draft the front page of a fictional newspaper and figure out what stories deserve to be on the cover and what headlines those stories will have. By reframing how your problems and challenges are approached, you can help a team move productively through the process and be better prepared for the steps to follow.

Journalists   #vision   #big picture   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   This is an exercise to use when the group gets stuck in details and struggles to see the big picture. Also good for defining a vision.

Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions 

The success of any problem-solving process can be measured by the solutions it produces. After you’ve defined the issue, explored existing ideas, and ideated, it’s time to narrow down to the correct solution.

Use these problem-solving techniques when you want to help your team find consensus, compare possible solutions, and move towards taking action on a particular problem.

  • Improved Solutions
  • Four-Step Sketch
  • 15% Solutions
  • How-Now-Wow matrix
  • Impact Effort Matrix

21. Mindspin  

Brainstorming is part of the bread and butter of the problem-solving process and all problem-solving strategies benefit from getting ideas out and challenging a team to generate solutions quickly. 

With Mindspin, participants are encouraged not only to generate ideas but to do so under time constraints and by slamming down cards and passing them on. By doing multiple rounds, your team can begin with a free generation of possible solutions before moving on to developing those solutions and encouraging further ideation. 

This is one of our favorite problem-solving activities and can be great for keeping the energy up throughout the workshop. Remember the importance of helping people become engaged in the process – energizing problem-solving techniques like Mindspin can help ensure your team stays engaged and happy, even when the problems they’re coming together to solve are complex. 

MindSpin   #teampedia   #idea generation   #problem solving   #action   A fast and loud method to enhance brainstorming within a team. Since this activity has more than round ideas that are repetitive can be ruled out leaving more creative and innovative answers to the challenge.

22. Improved Solutions

After a team has successfully identified a problem and come up with a few solutions, it can be tempting to call the work of the problem-solving process complete. That said, the first solution is not necessarily the best, and by including a further review and reflection activity into your problem-solving model, you can ensure your group reaches the best possible result. 

One of a number of problem-solving games from Thiagi Group, Improved Solutions helps you go the extra mile and develop suggested solutions with close consideration and peer review. By supporting the discussion of several problems at once and by shifting team roles throughout, this problem-solving technique is a dynamic way of finding the best solution. 

Improved Solutions   #creativity   #thiagi   #problem solving   #action   #team   You can improve any solution by objectively reviewing its strengths and weaknesses and making suitable adjustments. In this creativity framegame, you improve the solutions to several problems. To maintain objective detachment, you deal with a different problem during each of six rounds and assume different roles (problem owner, consultant, basher, booster, enhancer, and evaluator) during each round. At the conclusion of the activity, each player ends up with two solutions to her problem.

23. Four Step Sketch

Creative thinking and visual ideation does not need to be confined to the opening stages of your problem-solving strategies. Exercises that include sketching and prototyping on paper can be effective at the solution finding and development stage of the process, and can be great for keeping a team engaged. 

By going from simple notes to a crazy 8s round that involves rapidly sketching 8 variations on their ideas before then producing a final solution sketch, the group is able to iterate quickly and visually. Problem-solving techniques like Four-Step Sketch are great if you have a group of different thinkers and want to change things up from a more textual or discussion-based approach.

Four-Step Sketch   #design sprint   #innovation   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   The four-step sketch is an exercise that helps people to create well-formed concepts through a structured process that includes: Review key information Start design work on paper,  Consider multiple variations , Create a detailed solution . This exercise is preceded by a set of other activities allowing the group to clarify the challenge they want to solve. See how the Four Step Sketch exercise fits into a Design Sprint

24. 15% Solutions

Some problems are simpler than others and with the right problem-solving activities, you can empower people to take immediate actions that can help create organizational change. 

Part of the liberating structures toolkit, 15% solutions is a problem-solving technique that focuses on finding and implementing solutions quickly. A process of iterating and making small changes quickly can help generate momentum and an appetite for solving complex problems.

Problem-solving strategies can live and die on whether people are onboard. Getting some quick wins is a great way of getting people behind the process.   

It can be extremely empowering for a team to realize that problem-solving techniques can be deployed quickly and easily and delineate between things they can positively impact and those things they cannot change. 

15% Solutions   #action   #liberating structures   #remote-friendly   You can reveal the actions, however small, that everyone can do immediately. At a minimum, these will create momentum, and that may make a BIG difference.  15% Solutions show that there is no reason to wait around, feel powerless, or fearful. They help people pick it up a level. They get individuals and the group to focus on what is within their discretion instead of what they cannot change.  With a very simple question, you can flip the conversation to what can be done and find solutions to big problems that are often distributed widely in places not known in advance. Shifting a few grains of sand may trigger a landslide and change the whole landscape.

25. How-Now-Wow Matrix

The problem-solving process is often creative, as complex problems usually require a change of thinking and creative response in order to find the best solutions. While it’s common for the first stages to encourage creative thinking, groups can often gravitate to familiar solutions when it comes to the end of the process. 

When selecting solutions, you don’t want to lose your creative energy! The How-Now-Wow Matrix from Gamestorming is a great problem-solving activity that enables a group to stay creative and think out of the box when it comes to selecting the right solution for a given problem.

Problem-solving techniques that encourage creative thinking and the ideation and selection of new solutions can be the most effective in organisational change. Give the How-Now-Wow Matrix a go, and not just for how pleasant it is to say out loud. 

How-Now-Wow Matrix   #gamestorming   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   When people want to develop new ideas, they most often think out of the box in the brainstorming or divergent phase. However, when it comes to convergence, people often end up picking ideas that are most familiar to them. This is called a ‘creative paradox’ or a ‘creadox’. The How-Now-Wow matrix is an idea selection tool that breaks the creadox by forcing people to weigh each idea on 2 parameters.

26. Impact and Effort Matrix

All problem-solving techniques hope to not only find solutions to a given problem or challenge but to find the best solution. When it comes to finding a solution, groups are invited to put on their decision-making hats and really think about how a proposed idea would work in practice. 

The Impact and Effort Matrix is one of the problem-solving techniques that fall into this camp, empowering participants to first generate ideas and then categorize them into a 2×2 matrix based on impact and effort.

Activities that invite critical thinking while remaining simple are invaluable. Use the Impact and Effort Matrix to move from ideation and towards evaluating potential solutions before then committing to them. 

Impact and Effort Matrix   #gamestorming   #decision making   #action   #remote-friendly   In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.

27. Dotmocracy

If you’ve followed each of the problem-solving steps with your group successfully, you should move towards the end of your process with heaps of possible solutions developed with a specific problem in mind. But how do you help a group go from ideation to putting a solution into action? 

Dotmocracy – or Dot Voting -is a tried and tested method of helping a team in the problem-solving process make decisions and put actions in place with a degree of oversight and consensus. 

One of the problem-solving techniques that should be in every facilitator’s toolbox, Dot Voting is fast and effective and can help identify the most popular and best solutions and help bring a group to a decision effectively. 

Dotmocracy   #action   #decision making   #group prioritization   #hyperisland   #remote-friendly   Dotmocracy is a simple method for group prioritization or decision-making. It is not an activity on its own, but a method to use in processes where prioritization or decision-making is the aim. The method supports a group to quickly see which options are most popular or relevant. The options or ideas are written on post-its and stuck up on a wall for the whole group to see. Each person votes for the options they think are the strongest, and that information is used to inform a decision.

All facilitators know that warm-ups and icebreakers are useful for any workshop or group process. Problem-solving workshops are no different.

Use these problem-solving techniques to warm up a group and prepare them for the rest of the process. Activating your group by tapping into some of the top problem-solving skills can be one of the best ways to see great outcomes from your session.

  • Check-in/Check-out
  • Doodling Together
  • Show and Tell
  • Constellations
  • Draw a Tree

28. Check-in / Check-out

Solid processes are planned from beginning to end, and the best facilitators know that setting the tone and establishing a safe, open environment can be integral to a successful problem-solving process.

Check-in / Check-out is a great way to begin and/or bookend a problem-solving workshop. Checking in to a session emphasizes that everyone will be seen, heard, and expected to contribute. 

If you are running a series of meetings, setting a consistent pattern of checking in and checking out can really help your team get into a groove. We recommend this opening-closing activity for small to medium-sized groups though it can work with large groups if they’re disciplined!

Check-in / Check-out   #team   #opening   #closing   #hyperisland   #remote-friendly   Either checking-in or checking-out is a simple way for a team to open or close a process, symbolically and in a collaborative way. Checking-in/out invites each member in a group to be present, seen and heard, and to express a reflection or a feeling. Checking-in emphasizes presence, focus and group commitment; checking-out emphasizes reflection and symbolic closure.

29. Doodling Together  

Thinking creatively and not being afraid to make suggestions are important problem-solving skills for any group or team, and warming up by encouraging these behaviors is a great way to start. 

Doodling Together is one of our favorite creative ice breaker games – it’s quick, effective, and fun and can make all following problem-solving steps easier by encouraging a group to collaborate visually. By passing cards and adding additional items as they go, the workshop group gets into a groove of co-creation and idea development that is crucial to finding solutions to problems. 

Doodling Together   #collaboration   #creativity   #teamwork   #fun   #team   #visual methods   #energiser   #icebreaker   #remote-friendly   Create wild, weird and often funny postcards together & establish a group’s creative confidence.

30. Show and Tell

You might remember some version of Show and Tell from being a kid in school and it’s a great problem-solving activity to kick off a session.

Asking participants to prepare a little something before a workshop by bringing an object for show and tell can help them warm up before the session has even begun! Games that include a physical object can also help encourage early engagement before moving onto more big-picture thinking.

By asking your participants to tell stories about why they chose to bring a particular item to the group, you can help teams see things from new perspectives and see both differences and similarities in the way they approach a topic. Great groundwork for approaching a problem-solving process as a team! 

Show and Tell   #gamestorming   #action   #opening   #meeting facilitation   Show and Tell taps into the power of metaphors to reveal players’ underlying assumptions and associations around a topic The aim of the game is to get a deeper understanding of stakeholders’ perspectives on anything—a new project, an organizational restructuring, a shift in the company’s vision or team dynamic.

31. Constellations

Who doesn’t love stars? Constellations is a great warm-up activity for any workshop as it gets people up off their feet, energized, and ready to engage in new ways with established topics. It’s also great for showing existing beliefs, biases, and patterns that can come into play as part of your session.

Using warm-up games that help build trust and connection while also allowing for non-verbal responses can be great for easing people into the problem-solving process and encouraging engagement from everyone in the group. Constellations is great in large spaces that allow for movement and is definitely a practical exercise to allow the group to see patterns that are otherwise invisible. 

Constellations   #trust   #connection   #opening   #coaching   #patterns   #system   Individuals express their response to a statement or idea by standing closer or further from a central object. Used with teams to reveal system, hidden patterns, perspectives.

32. Draw a Tree

Problem-solving games that help raise group awareness through a central, unifying metaphor can be effective ways to warm-up a group in any problem-solving model.

Draw a Tree is a simple warm-up activity you can use in any group and which can provide a quick jolt of energy. Start by asking your participants to draw a tree in just 45 seconds – they can choose whether it will be abstract or realistic. 

Once the timer is up, ask the group how many people included the roots of the tree and use this as a means to discuss how we can ignore important parts of any system simply because they are not visible.

All problem-solving strategies are made more effective by thinking of problems critically and by exposing things that may not normally come to light. Warm-up games like Draw a Tree are great in that they quickly demonstrate some key problem-solving skills in an accessible and effective way.

Draw a Tree   #thiagi   #opening   #perspectives   #remote-friendly   With this game you can raise awarness about being more mindful, and aware of the environment we live in.

Each step of the problem-solving workshop benefits from an intelligent deployment of activities, games, and techniques. Bringing your session to an effective close helps ensure that solutions are followed through on and that you also celebrate what has been achieved.

Here are some problem-solving activities you can use to effectively close a workshop or meeting and ensure the great work you’ve done can continue afterward.

  • One Breath Feedback
  • Who What When Matrix
  • Response Cards

How do I conclude a problem-solving process?

All good things must come to an end. With the bulk of the work done, it can be tempting to conclude your workshop swiftly and without a moment to debrief and align. This can be problematic in that it doesn’t allow your team to fully process the results or reflect on the process.

At the end of an effective session, your team will have gone through a process that, while productive, can be exhausting. It’s important to give your group a moment to take a breath, ensure that they are clear on future actions, and provide short feedback before leaving the space. 

The primary purpose of any problem-solving method is to generate solutions and then implement them. Be sure to take the opportunity to ensure everyone is aligned and ready to effectively implement the solutions you produced in the workshop.

Remember that every process can be improved and by giving a short moment to collect feedback in the session, you can further refine your problem-solving methods and see further success in the future too.

33. One Breath Feedback

Maintaining attention and focus during the closing stages of a problem-solving workshop can be tricky and so being concise when giving feedback can be important. It’s easy to incur “death by feedback” should some team members go on for too long sharing their perspectives in a quick feedback round. 

One Breath Feedback is a great closing activity for workshops. You give everyone an opportunity to provide feedback on what they’ve done but only in the space of a single breath. This keeps feedback short and to the point and means that everyone is encouraged to provide the most important piece of feedback to them. 

One breath feedback   #closing   #feedback   #action   This is a feedback round in just one breath that excels in maintaining attention: each participants is able to speak during just one breath … for most people that’s around 20 to 25 seconds … unless of course you’ve been a deep sea diver in which case you’ll be able to do it for longer.

34. Who What When Matrix 

Matrices feature as part of many effective problem-solving strategies and with good reason. They are easily recognizable, simple to use, and generate results.

The Who What When Matrix is a great tool to use when closing your problem-solving session by attributing a who, what and when to the actions and solutions you have decided upon. The resulting matrix is a simple, easy-to-follow way of ensuring your team can move forward. 

Great solutions can’t be enacted without action and ownership. Your problem-solving process should include a stage for allocating tasks to individuals or teams and creating a realistic timeframe for those solutions to be implemented or checked out. Use this method to keep the solution implementation process clear and simple for all involved. 

Who/What/When Matrix   #gamestorming   #action   #project planning   With Who/What/When matrix, you can connect people with clear actions they have defined and have committed to.

35. Response cards

Group discussion can comprise the bulk of most problem-solving activities and by the end of the process, you might find that your team is talked out! 

Providing a means for your team to give feedback with short written notes can ensure everyone is head and can contribute without the need to stand up and talk. Depending on the needs of the group, giving an alternative can help ensure everyone can contribute to your problem-solving model in the way that makes the most sense for them.

Response Cards is a great way to close a workshop if you are looking for a gentle warm-down and want to get some swift discussion around some of the feedback that is raised. 

Response Cards   #debriefing   #closing   #structured sharing   #questions and answers   #thiagi   #action   It can be hard to involve everyone during a closing of a session. Some might stay in the background or get unheard because of louder participants. However, with the use of Response Cards, everyone will be involved in providing feedback or clarify questions at the end of a session.

Save time and effort discovering the right solutions

A structured problem solving process is a surefire way of solving tough problems, discovering creative solutions and driving organizational change. But how can you design for successful outcomes?

With SessionLab, it’s easy to design engaging workshops that deliver results. Drag, drop and reorder blocks  to build your agenda. When you make changes or update your agenda, your session  timing   adjusts automatically , saving you time on manual adjustments.

Collaborating with stakeholders or clients? Share your agenda with a single click and collaborate in real-time. No more sending documents back and forth over email.

Explore  how to use SessionLab  to design effective problem solving workshops or  watch this five minute video  to see the planner in action!

problem solving techniques for competing value systems

Over to you

The problem-solving process can often be as complicated and multifaceted as the problems they are set-up to solve. With the right problem-solving techniques and a mix of creative exercises designed to guide discussion and generate purposeful ideas, we hope we’ve given you the tools to find the best solutions as simply and easily as possible.

Is there a problem-solving technique that you are missing here? Do you have a favorite activity or method you use when facilitating? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you! 

' src=

thank you very much for these excellent techniques

' src=

Certainly wonderful article, very detailed. Shared!

Leave a Comment Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

cycle of workshop planning steps

Going from a mere idea to a workshop that delivers results for your clients can feel like a daunting task. In this piece, we will shine a light on all the work behind the scenes and help you learn how to plan a workshop from start to finish. On a good day, facilitation can feel like effortless magic, but that is mostly the result of backstage work, foresight, and a lot of careful planning. Read on to learn a step-by-step approach to breaking the process of planning a workshop into small, manageable chunks.  The flow starts with the first meeting with a client to define the purposes of a workshop.…

problem solving techniques for competing value systems

How does learning work? A clever 9-year-old once told me: “I know I am learning something new when I am surprised.” The science of adult learning tells us that, in order to learn new skills (which, unsurprisingly, is harder for adults to do than kids) grown-ups need to first get into a specific headspace.  In a business, this approach is often employed in a training session where employees learn new skills or work on professional development. But how do you ensure your training is effective? In this guide, we'll explore how to create an effective training session plan and run engaging training sessions. As team leader, project manager, or consultant,…

problem solving techniques for competing value systems

Effective online tools are a necessity for smooth and engaging virtual workshops and meetings. But how do you choose the right ones? Do you sometimes feel that the good old pen and paper or MS Office toolkit and email leaves you struggling to stay on top of managing and delivering your workshop? Fortunately, there are plenty of online tools to make your life easier when you need to facilitate a meeting and lead workshops. In this post, we’ll share our favorite online tools you can use to make your job as a facilitator easier. In fact, there are plenty of free online workshop tools and meeting facilitation software you can…

Design your next workshop with SessionLab

Join the 150,000 facilitators using SessionLab

Sign up for free

  • Soft skills
  • What is a credential?
  • Why do a credential?
  • How do credentials work?
  • Selecting your level
  • How will I be assessed?
  • Benefits for professionals
  • Benefits for organisations
  • Benefits for postgraduates

Problem solving techniques: Steps and methods

problem solving techniques for competing value systems

Posted on May 29, 2019

Constant disruption has become a hallmark of the modern workforce and organisations want problem solving skills to combat this. Employers need people who can respond to change – be that evolving technology, new competitors, different models for doing business, or any of the other transformations that have taken place in recent years.

In addition, problem solving techniques encompass many of the other top skills employers seek . For example, LinkedIn’s list of the most in-demand soft skills of 2019 includes creativity, collaboration and adaptability, all of which fall under the problem-solving umbrella.

Despite its importance, many employees misunderstand what the problem solving method really involves.

What constitutes effective problem solving?

Effective problem solving doesn’t mean going away and coming up with an answer immediately. In fact, this isn’t good problem solving at all, because you’ll be running with the first solution that comes into your mind, which often isn’t the best.

Instead, you should look at problem solving more as a process with several steps involved that will help you reach the best outcome. Those steps are:

  • Define the problem
  • List all the possible solutions
  • Evaluate the options
  • Select the best solution
  • Create an implementation plan
  • Communicate your solution

Let’s look at each step in a little more detail.

It's important you take the time to brainstorm and consider all your options when solving problems.

1. Define the problem

The first step to solving a problem is defining what the problem actually is – sounds simple, right? Well no. An effective problem solver will take the thoughts of everyone involved into account, but different people might have different ideas on what the root cause of the issue really is. It’s up to you to actively listen to everyone without bringing any of your own preconceived notions to the conversation. Learning to differentiate facts from opinion is an essential part of this process.

An effective problem solver will take the opinions of everyone involved into account

The same can be said of data. Depending on what the problem is, there will be varying amounts of information available that will help you work out what’s gone wrong. There should be at least some data involved in any problem, and it’s up to you to gather as much as possible and analyse it objectively.

2. List all the possible solutions

Once you’ve identified what the real issue is, it’s time to think of solutions. Brainstorming as many solutions as possible will help you arrive at the best answer because you’ll be considering all potential options and scenarios. You should take everyone’s thoughts into account when you’re brainstorming these ideas, as well as all the insights you’ve gleaned from your data analysis. It also helps to seek input from others at this stage, as they may come up with solutions you haven’t thought of.

Depending on the type of problem, it can be useful to think of both short-term and long-term solutions, as some of your options may take a while to implement.

One of the best problem solving techniques is brainstorming a number of different solutions and involving affected parties in this process.

3. Evaluate the options

Each option will have pros and cons, and it’s important you list all of these, as well as how each solution could impact key stakeholders. Once you’ve narrowed down your options to three or four, it’s often a good idea to go to other employees for feedback just in case you’ve missed something. You should also work out how each option ties in with the broader goals of the business.

There may be a way to merge two options together in order to satisfy more people.

4. Select an option

Only now should you choose which solution you’re going to go with. What you decide should be whatever solves the problem most effectively while also taking the interests of everyone involved into account. There may be a way to merge two options together in order to satisfy more people.

5. Create an implementation plan

At this point you might be thinking it’s time to sit back and relax – problem solved, right? There are actually two more steps involved if you want your problem solving method to be truly effective. The first is to create an implementation plan. After all, if you don’t carry out your solution effectively, you’re not really solving the problem at all. 

Create an implementation plan on how you will put your solution into practice. One problem solving technique that many use here is to introduce a testing and feedback phase just to make sure the option you’ve selected really is the most viable. You’ll also want to include any changes to your solution that may occur in your implementation plan, as well as how you’ll monitor compliance and success.

6. Communicate your solution

There’s one last step to consider as part of the problem solving methodology, and that’s communicating your solution . Without this crucial part of the process, how is anyone going to know what you’ve decided? Make sure you communicate your decision to all the people who might be impacted by it. Not everyone is going to be 100 per cent happy with it, so when you communicate you must give them context. Explain exactly why you’ve made that decision and how the pros mean it’s better than any of the other options you came up with.

Prove your problem solving skills with Deakin

Employers are increasingly seeking soft skills, but unfortunately, while you can show that you’ve got a degree in a subject, it’s much harder to prove you’ve got proficiency in things like problem solving skills. But this is changing thanks to Deakin’s micro-credentials. These are university-level micro-credentials that provide an authoritative and third-party assessment of your capabilities in a range of areas, including problem solving. Reach out today for more information .

training.gov.au - logo

Unit of competency details

Chccs400c - work within a relevant legal and ethical framework (release 1), training packages that include this unit, qualifications that include this unit, skill sets that include this unit, accredited courses that have this unit in the completion mapping, classifications, classification history.

  • Download Unit of competency in Word format. Unit of competency (442.5 KB)
  • Download Unit of competency in PDF format. Unit of competency (189.25 KB)

Modification History

Unit descriptor, application of the unit, licensing/regulatory information, pre-requisites, employability skills information, elements and performance criteria pre-content, elements and performance criteria, required skills and knowledge.

  • Distinction between ethical and legal problems
  • Importance of ethics in practice
  • Importance of principles and practices to enhance sustainability in the workplace, including environmental, economic, workforce and social sustainability
  • Work health and safety (WHS) requirements
  • Outline of common legal issues relevant to the workplace
  • Overview of relevant legislation in the sector and jurisdictions
  • Principles and practices for upholding the rights of the client
  • Principles and practices of confidentiality
  • Relevant standards and codes of practice in the sector
  • Rights and responsibilities of clients
  • Rights and responsibilities of workers
  • Specific principles underpinning duty of care and associated legal requirements
  • Strategies for addressing common ethical issues
  • Strategies for contributing to the review and development of policies and protocols
  • Strategies for managing complaints
  • Overview of the legal system
  • Principles and practices for upholding the rights of the children and young people
  • Principles of ethical decision-making
  • Reporting mechanisms for suspected abuse of a client
  • Strategies for managing abuse of a client
  • Types of abuse experienced by client (including systems abuse)
  • Types of law
  • Demonstrate understanding of and adherence to own work role and responsibilities
  • Follow organisation policies, protocols and procedures
  • Work within legal and ethical frameworks
  • Apply reading and writing skills required to fulfil work role in a safe manner and as specified by the organisation
  • Apply oral communication skills required to fulfil work role in a safe manner and as specified by the organisation
  • Apply problem solving skills that require negotiation to resolve problems of a difficult nature within organisation protocols
  • Consult with a variety of stakeholders in order to achieve service objectives

Evidence Guide

  • The individual being assessed must provide evidence of specified essential knowledge as well as skills
  • This unit will be most appropriately assessed in the workplace or in a simulated workplace and under the normal range of workplace conditions
  • It is recommended that assessment or information for assessment will be conducted or gathered over a period of time and cover the normal range of workplace situations and settings
  • All workers in community services should be aware of access, equity and human rights issues in relation to their own area of work
  • All workers should develop their ability to work in a culturally diverse environment
  • In recognition of particular issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, workers should be aware of cultural, historical and current issues impacting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • Assessors and trainers must take into account relevant access and equity issues, in particular relating to factors impacting on Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander clients and communities
  • This unit can be assessed independently, however holistic assessment practice with other community services units of competency is encouraged
  • Resources required for assessment include access to:
  • An appropriate workplace and/or simulation of realistic workplace setting where assessment can take place
  • Relevant organisation policy, protocols and procedures
  • Observation in the workplace
  • Written assignments/projects
  • Case study and scenario analysis
  • Questioning
  • Role play simulation

Range Statement

  • Children and families using children's services
  • Children and young people
  • Individuals living in government funded services and/or institutions to 'clients'
  • Individuals living in residential aged care environments
  • Individuals living in residential disability environments
  • Individuals living in the community
  • Job seekers
  • People seeking advice and assistance
  • Prospective individuals to the service or services
  • Work undertaken in:
  • client's own dwelling
  • independent living accommodation
  • residential aged care facilities
  • residential disability facilities
  • community centres
  • children's services centres
  • carer's home
  • Work in the context of:
  • community, government or private agency or organisation
  • services delivered as a sole trader
  • providing telephone advice and assistance
  • Guidelines and practices developed to address legal, ethical and regulatory requirements, including:
  • formal, documented guidelines of an organisation
  • informal practices used by a small organisation or individual owner/operator
  • Aged care standards
  • Building standards
  • Care and education of young children
  • Child protection and guardianship legislation
  • Criminal acts
  • Disability standards
  • Discrimination and harassment
  • Equal employment opportunities
  • Freedom of information
  • Health records legislation
  • International and national standards
  • Mental health legislation
  • Pharmaceutical benefits
  • Poisons and therapeutics
  • Privacy legislation
  • Public health
  • Registration and practice of health professionals
  • Residential and community services
  • Restrictive practices
  • face-to-face
  • Non-verbal (written):
  • progress reports
  • incident reports
  • Access to services
  • Confidentiality
  • Freedom of association
  • Informed choice
  • Right to express ideas and opinions
  • To an agreed standard of care
  • To lodge a complaint
  • Accreditation standards
  • Industry and organisation codes of conduct, practice and ethics
  • Industry and organisation service standards
  • International and national charters
  • Legislation
  • Creation of a client orientated culture
  • Non-discriminatory approach to all individuals using or accessing the service
  • Respect for individual differences
  • Advocates/family members
  • External agencies (complaints and advocacy services. professional registering authorities, child protection authorities)
  • Health professionals
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Legally appointed guardian
  • Member of senior management

Unit Sector(s)

  • Accredited course Reports
  • Classification reports
  • Qualification reports
  • RTO reports
  • Taxonomy reports
  • Training package reports
  • Australian Government Bodies
  • Training Package Developers
  • Regulatory Authorities
  • State and Territory Government Training Departments
  • National VET Websites
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Using training.gov.au

  • Terms of use
  • Privacy policy

Acknowledgement of Country

  • We acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of country throughout Australia and acknowledge their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay our respects to the people, the cultures and the elders past, present and emerging.

TGA Logo stepping stones

  • Content Marketing
  • Marketing Automation
  • Productivity
  • Recurring Income

problem solving techniques for competing value systems

Problem solving techniques (a 5 step process)

Problem-solving techniques (a 5 step process).

How do you go about solving a problem effectively?

There are five key steps in solving a problem

Defining the problem

You need to define the problem clearly BEFORE you jump into solution mode. One of the biggest obstacles to problem-solving is not getting clear on what exactly problem is. What are the boundaries of that problem? How did it arise? Which brings us to our next point

Understanding the context of the problem

What caused the problem to arise? When did it arise? What situation or event triggered the problem? Is it likely to happen again? What’s likely to trigger it next time?

Answering these questions gives you an important perspective and context. It helps you understand the problem in it’s wider context and how it impacts the business.

Generating alternatives

Having defined the problem and understood its context, you can now embark on creating a solution. But before you jump into solution mode you need to put all the solutions on the table. So you can assess which solution is likely to work best.

One common mistake is not to list the option of “Do nothing” as an alternative. You might not always decide to do nothing but it’s important to have that option on the table. In some cases doing nothing might be the best decision.

Evaluating and selecting alternatives

So now that you have all the options on the table, you can spend some time evaluating the options.  If I chose option A how would that play out over the next few weeks? What’s likely to happen next? And then after that?

If I chose option B how would that play out?

It’s useful to ‘wander’ down the path of each alternative and follow it to its natural conclusion.

Implementing solutions

After having gone through all the previous steps (and only then) do you pick the best alternative and go about implementing that alternative.

avatar

RELATED ARTICLES

  • Business Essentials
  • Leadership & Management
  • Credential of Leadership, Impact, and Management in Business (CLIMB)
  • Entrepreneurship & Innovation
  • *New* Digital Transformation
  • Finance & Accounting
  • Business in Society
  • For Organizations
  • Support Portal
  • Media Coverage
  • Founding Donors
  • Leadership Team

problem solving techniques for competing value systems

  • Harvard Business School →
  • HBS Online →
  • Business Insights →

Business Insights

Harvard Business School Online's Business Insights Blog provides the career insights you need to achieve your goals and gain confidence in your business skills.

  • Career Development
  • Communication
  • Decision-Making
  • Earning Your MBA
  • Negotiation
  • News & Events
  • Productivity
  • Staff Spotlight
  • Student Profiles
  • Work-Life Balance
  • Alternative Investments
  • Business Analytics
  • Business Strategy
  • Business and Climate Change
  • Design Thinking and Innovation
  • Digital Marketing Strategy
  • Disruptive Strategy
  • Economics for Managers
  • Entrepreneurship Essentials
  • Financial Accounting
  • Global Business
  • Launching Tech Ventures
  • Leadership Principles
  • Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability
  • Leading with Finance
  • Management Essentials
  • Negotiation Mastery
  • Organizational Leadership
  • Power and Influence for Positive Impact
  • Strategy Execution
  • Sustainable Business Strategy
  • Sustainable Investing
  • Winning with Digital Platforms

5 Strategies for Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

Business leader resolving workplace conflict

  • 07 Sep 2023

Any scenario in which you live, work, and collaborate with others is susceptible to conflict. Because workplaces are made up of employees with different backgrounds, personalities, opinions, and daily lives, discord is bound to occur. To navigate it, it’s crucial to understand why it arises and your options for resolving it.

Common reasons for workplace conflict include:

  • Misunderstandings or poor communication skills
  • Differing opinions, viewpoints, or personalities
  • Biases or stereotypes
  • Variations in learning or processing styles
  • Perceptions of unfairness

Although conflict is common, many don’t feel comfortable handling it—especially with colleagues. As a business leader, you’ll likely clash with other managers and need to help your team work through disputes.

Here’s why conflict resolution is important and five strategies for approaching it.

Access your free e-book today.

Why Is Addressing Workplace Conflict Important?

Pretending conflict doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away. Ignoring issues can lead to missed deadlines, festering resentment, and unsuccessful initiatives.

Yet, according to coaching and training firm Bravely , 53 percent of employees handle “toxic” situations by avoiding them. Worse still, averting a difficult conversation can cost an organization $7,500 and more than seven workdays.

That adds up quickly: American businesses lose $359 billion yearly due to the impact of unresolved conflict.

As a leader, you have a responsibility to foster healthy conflict resolution and create a safe, productive work environment for employees.

“Some rights, such as the right to safe working conditions or the right against sexual harassment, are fundamental to the employment relationship,” says Harvard Business School Professor Nien-hê Hsieh in the course Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability . “These rights are things that employees should be entitled to no matter what. They’re often written into the law, but even when they aren’t, they’re central to the ethical treatment of others, which involves respecting the inherent dignity and intrinsic worth of each individual.”

Effectively resolving disputes as they arise benefits your employees’ well-being and your company’s financial health. The first step is learning about five conflict resolution strategies at your disposal.

Related: How to Navigate Difficult Conversations with Employees

While there are several approaches to conflict, some can be more effective than others. The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Model —developed by Dr. Kenneth W. Thomas and Dr. Ralph H. Kilmann—outlines five strategies for conflict resolution:

  • Accommodating
  • Compromising
  • Collaborating

These fall on a graph, with assertiveness on the y-axis and cooperativeness on the x-axis. In the Thomas-Kilmann model, “assertiveness” refers to the extent to which you try to reach your own goal, and “cooperativeness” is the extent to which you try to satisfy the other party’s goal.

Alternatively, you can think of these axis labels as the “importance of my goal” and the “importance of this relationship.” If your assertiveness is high, you aim to achieve your own goal. If your cooperativeness is high, you strive to help the other person reach theirs to maintain the relationship.

Here’s a breakdown of the five strategies and when to use each.

1. Avoiding

Avoiding is a strategy best suited for situations in which the relationship’s importance and goal are both low.

While you’re unlikely to encounter these scenarios at work, they may occur in daily life. For instance, imagine you’re on a public bus and the passenger next to you is loudly playing music. You’ll likely never bump into that person again, and your goal of a pleasant bus ride isn’t extremely pressing. Avoiding conflict by ignoring the music is a valid option.

In workplace conflicts—where your goals are typically important and you care about maintaining a lasting relationship with colleagues—avoidance can be detrimental.

Remember: Some situations require avoiding conflict, but you’re unlikely to encounter them in the workplace.

2. Competing

Competing is another strategy that, while not often suited for workplace conflict, can be useful in some situations.

This conflict style is for scenarios in which you place high importance on your goal and low importance on your relationships with others. It’s high in assertiveness and low in cooperation.

You may choose a competing style in a crisis. For instance, if someone is unconscious and people are arguing about what to do, asserting yourself and taking charge can help the person get medical attention quicker.

You can also use it when standing up for yourself and in instances where you feel unsafe. In those cases, asserting yourself and reaching safety is more critical than your relationships with others.

When using a competing style in situations where your relationships do matter (for instance, with a colleague), you risk impeding trust—along with collaboration, creativity, and productivity.

3. Accommodating

The third conflict resolution strategy is accommodation, in which you acquiesce to the other party’s needs. Use accommodating in instances where the relationship matters more than your goal.

For example, if you pitch an idea for a future project in a meeting, and one of your colleagues says they believe it will have a negative impact, you could resolve the conflict by rescinding your original thought.

This is useful if the other person is angry or hostile or you don’t have a strong opinion on the matter. It immediately deescalates conflict by removing your goal from the equation.

While accommodation has its place within organizational settings, question whether you use it to avoid conflict. If someone disagrees with you, simply acquiescing can snuff out opportunities for innovation and creative problem-solving .

As a leader, notice whether your employees frequently fall back on accommodation. If the setting is safe, encouraging healthy debate can lead to greater collaboration.

Related: How to Create a Culture of Ethics and Accountability in the Workplace

4. Compromising

Compromising is a conflict resolution strategy in which you and the other party willingly forfeit some of your needs to reach an agreement. It’s known as a “lose-lose” strategy, since neither of you achieve your full goal.

This strategy works well when your care for your goal and the relationship are both moderate. You value the relationship, but not so much that you abandon your goal, like in accommodation.

For example, maybe you and a peer express interest in leading an upcoming project. You could compromise by co-leading it or deciding one of you leads this one and the other the next one.

Compromising requires big-picture thinking and swallowing your pride, knowing you won’t get all your needs fulfilled. The benefits are that you and the other party value your relationship and make sacrifices to reach a mutually beneficial resolution.

5. Collaborating

Where compromise is a lose-lose strategy, collaboration is a win-win. In instances of collaboration, your goal and the relationship are equally important, motivating both you and the other party to work together to find an outcome that meets all needs.

An example of a situation where collaboration is necessary is if one of your employees isn’t performing well in their role—to the point that they’re negatively impacting the business. While maintaining a strong, positive relationship is important, so is finding a solution to their poor performance. Framing the conflict as a collaboration can open doors to help each other discover its cause and what you can do to improve performance and the business’s health.

Collaboration is ideal for most workplace conflicts. Goals are important, but so is maintaining positive relationships with co-workers. Promote collaboration whenever possible to find creative solutions to problems . If you can’t generate a win-win idea, you can always fall back on compromise.

How to Become a More Effective Leader | Access Your Free E-Book | Download Now

Considering Your Responsibilities as a Leader

As a leader, not only must you address your own conflicts but help your employees work through theirs. When doing so, remember your responsibilities to your employees—whether ethical, legal, or economic.

Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability groups your ethical responsibilities to employees into five categories:

  • Well-being: What’s ultimately good for the person
  • Rights: Entitlement to receive certain treatment
  • Duties: A moral obligation to behave in a specific way
  • Best practices: Aspirational standards not required by law or cultural norms
  • Fairness: Impartial and just treatment

In the course, Hsieh outlines three types of fairness you can use when helping employees solve conflicts:

  • Legitimate expectations: Employees reasonably expect certain practices or behaviors to continue based on experiences with the organization and explicit promises.
  • Procedural fairness: Managers must resolve issues impartially and consistently.
  • Distributive fairness: Your company equitably allocates opportunities, benefits, and burdens.

Particularly with procedural fairness, ensure you don’t take sides when mediating conflict. Treat both parties equally, allowing them time to speak and share their perspectives. Guide your team toward collaboration or compromise, and work toward a solution that achieves the goal while maintaining—and even strengthening—relationships.

Are you interested in learning how to navigate difficult decisions as a leader? Explore Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability —one of our online leadership and management courses —and download our free guide to becoming a more effective leader.

problem solving techniques for competing value systems

About the Author

Aussie Childcare Network

CHCCS502C - Solve Problems From Dealing With Value Systems

Post by shelley hammerstein » Sat Nov 01, 2014 3:33 am

Re: CHCCS502C - Solve Problems From Dealing With Value Systems

Post by flysn1 » Sat Nov 01, 2014 8:01 am

Return to “Diploma of Children’s Services - Assignments Support”

  • Childcare Forums
  • ↳   Childcare Wages
  • ↳   Childcare Interviews
  • ↳   Programming and Planning In Childcare
  • ↳   Supporting Educators At Work
  • ↳   Ratios In Childcare
  • ↳   Experiences In Childcare
  • ↳   Career In Childcare
  • ↳   Working As Casual
  • ↳   Traineeships In Childcare
  • ↳   Teaching Children
  • ↳   Children's Behaviour
  • ↳   Kids Games & Activities
  • Student Forums
  • ↳   Work Placement
  • ↳   Certificate 3 & Certificate 4 - General Discussions
  • ↳   Certificate 3 in Children’s Services - Assignments Support
  • ↳   Diploma & Advanced Diploma - General Discussions
  • ↳   Diploma of Children’s Services - Assignments Support
  • ↳   Bachelor Degree - General Discussions
  • ↳   Bachelor of Early Childhood Studies - Assignments Support
  • ↳   Forum Rules / How to Post Questions / FAQs
  • ↳   General Discussions
  • ↳   Parenting FAQ
  • ↳   Advertising Forum
  • ↳   EYLF Templates Support Forum

Child Care Documentation App

  • Childcare Articles
  • Childcare Programming
  • Student Articles
  • Teaching Children
  • Child Development
  • Child Behaviour
  • Parenting Articles
  • Pregnancy Articles
  • Child Health & Safety
  • Games and Activities
  • Art and Craft
  • Rhymes and Songs
  • Cooking Activities
  • Cutting Worksheets
  • Pre Writing Worksheets
  • Alphabet Worksheets
  • Number Worksheets
  • Colours Worksheets
  • Shapes Worksheets
  • Vocabulary Worksheets
  • Phonics Worksheets
  • Reading Worksheets
  • Writing Worksheets
  • Math Worksheets
  • English Worksheets
  • Classroom Displays
  • Colouring Pages
  • All EYLF Templates
  • Learning Stories
  • Reflections
  • Child Observations
  • Child Portfolios
  • Curriculum Plans
  • Forms and Checklists
  • FAQs and Troubleshoot
  • Childcare News
  • Childcare Events
  • Forum Index
  • Active Topics
  • Parent Forums
  • General Discussions
  • General News
  • Articles News
  • Activities News
  • Printables News
  • EYLF Templates News

Subscription

  • Subscription Plans
  • Edit Profile
  • Newsletter Settings
  • Forum Settings

Appsessment

  • Terms & Conditions
  • Copyright & Disclaimer
  • Privacy Policy

© 2009-2024 Aussie Childcare Network Pty Ltd. All Rights Reserved .

IMAGES

  1. Problem-Solving Strategies: Definition and 5 Techniques to Try

    problem solving techniques for competing value systems

  2. four steps of problem solving process

    problem solving techniques for competing value systems

  3. The 5 Steps of Problem Solving

    problem solving techniques for competing value systems

  4. Definitive Guide to Problem Solving Techniques

    problem solving techniques for competing value systems

  5. What Is Problem-Solving? Steps, Processes, Exercises to do it Right

    problem solving techniques for competing value systems

  6. 7 Steps to Improve Your Problem Solving Skills

    problem solving techniques for competing value systems

VIDEO

  1. |Costs According to Behaviour|Important|

  2. Problem Solving IQ Pedestal

  3. Customer Support Specialist :Problem-Solving Techniques: Mastering Strategies 9

  4. rms

  5. ।। how to solve the problem ।। find the value of a and b ।। #radicalequations #rationalization

  6. [🤔 Want to Improve Problem-Solving Skills? Discover How!💡🧠] #SkillDevelopment

COMMENTS

  1. CHCLEG001 Work legally and ethically

    2F Use problem-solving techniques when exposed to competing value systems. When beliefs and value systems differ, there is the potential for conflict and misunderstanding. When this does occur, it is important to know how to deal with conflict that may arise and to use problem-solving techniques to ensure any issues are dealt with. Being able ...

  2. PDF Teaching the Competing Values Framework (handout)

    Traditional units maintain their focus on refining operations, improving products, and serving customers. Nine times more likely to create breakthrough products and processes while sustaining or even improving existing businesses. 1. Use breakout groups to divide and conquer by thinking around the four perspectives.

  3. CHCCS400A: Topc 3.6

    utilise appropriate problem-solving techniques when facing competing value systems, and discuss potential ethical issues with appropriate personnel; and; recognise and report unethical conduct to appropriate personnel. Section 3.6 Resolving ethical dilemmas or problems 3.6.1 Principles of ethical decision making ...

  4. Definitive Guide to Problem Solving Techniques

    Defer or suspend judgement. Focus on "Yes, and…" rather than "No, but…". According to Carella, "Creative problem solving is the mental process used for generating innovative and imaginative ideas as a solution to a problem or a challenge. Creative problem solving techniques can be pursued by individuals or groups.".

  5. Understanding the competing values framework

    The Competing Values Framework (CVF) is a model used to assess and understand organizational culture. It categorizes organizational cultures into four major types: Clan, Adhocracy, Hierarchy, and Market, each characterized by unique values, beliefs, and behaviors. - Identify and categorize organizational cultures into one of the four CVF types.

  6. A Practical Guide to Problem-Solving Techniques in Systems Engineering

    Brainstorming. Brainstorming is perhaps one of the most commonly used creative problem-solving techniques. It involves gathering a group of people and encouraging them to freely share their thoughts and ideas related to a specific problem. The key is to refrain from any judgment or criticism during the brainstorming process to encourage free ...

  7. What is Problem Solving? Steps, Process & Techniques

    Finding a suitable solution for issues can be accomplished by following the basic four-step problem-solving process and methodology outlined below. Step. Characteristics. 1. Define the problem. Differentiate fact from opinion. Specify underlying causes. Consult each faction involved for information. State the problem specifically.

  8. The Competing Values Framework

    Understanding the Tool. The Competing Values Framework (CVF) was first published in 1983 by R.E. Quinn and J. Rohrbaugh, as a result of their research into organizational culture and leadership. The CVF was created to help an organization understand its culture, and to determine what makes it truly effective.

  9. PDF An Introduction to the Competing Values Framework

    four core values is that they represent opposite or competing assumptions. Each dimension highlights a core value that is opposite from the value on the other end of the continuum--i.e., flexibility versus stability, internal versus external. The dimensions, therefore, produce quadrants that are also contradictory or competing on the diagonal.

  10. Competing Values Framework and Approach with Examples

    Values define the culture of an organization. Its philosophy, mission and vision are all a part of this. While large businesses might have a culture of their own—in most organizations—the leadership is what drives it. And its importance can't be overestimated. According to the competing values framework, the culture of an organization is ...

  11. 5.2 Conflict Management

    The Theory of Conflict. Conflict is inevitable, especially for leaders. Effective nurse leaders invest time understanding the causes of conflict and learn how to manage and resolve it. The first step to managing conflict is to reflect on your own experiences and understand your personal approach to conflict. After learning their own preferred ...

  12. The 7 Timeless Steps to Guide You Through Complex Problem Solving

    While some individuals possess a natural aptitude for complex problem-solving, these skills can be developed and improved over time. Here are some tips to help you develop complex problem-solving skills: 3.2.1 Build Your Knowledge Base. Developing complex problem-solving skills requires a strong foundation of knowledge in your area of expertise ...

  13. Legal and Ethical Issues of Information Service Delivery and Library

    to apply effective problem solving techniques when exposed to competing value systems, and ensuring that legal and ethical dilemmas are recognised and discussed appropriately. Studies on legal and ethical considerations of information provision and services have focused extensively on responsibilities, principles, professionalism but less on ...

  14. Problem solving through values: A challenge for thinking and capability

    Abstract. The paper aims to introduce the conceptual framework of problem solving through values. The framework consists of problem analysis, selection of value (s) as a background for the solution, the search for alternative ways of the solution, and the rationale for the solution. This framework reveals when, how, and why is important to ...

  15. CHCLEG001 Work legally and ethically

    2B Identify the scope and nature of own ethical responsibilities. 2C Meet ethical responsibilities according to workplace policies and protocols. 2D Recognise and discuss potential ethical issues and dilemmas. 2E Recognise own values and attitudes and ensure non-judgemental practice. 2F Use problem-solving techniques when exposed to competing ...

  16. 35 problem-solving techniques and methods for solving complex problems

    Use these problem-solving techniques to warm up a group and prepare them for the rest of the process. Activating your group by tapping into some of the top problem-solving skills can be one of the best ways to see great outcomes from your session. Check-in/Check-out; Doodling Together; Show and Tell; Constellations; Draw a Tree; 28. Check-in ...

  17. Problem solving techniques: Steps and methods

    Evaluate the options. Select the best solution. Create an implementation plan. Communicate your solution. Let's look at each step in a little more detail. The first solution you come up with won't always be the best - taking the time to consider your options is an essential problem solving technique. 1.

  18. Use Effective Problem Solving Techniques When Exposed to Competing

    USE EFFECTIVE PROBLEM SOLVING TECHNIQUES WHEN EXPOSED TO COMPETING VALUE SYSTEMS When working in any community service, including the childcare sector, workers may at times be exposed to competing value systems which differ from their own values, ideas and beliefs. Furthermore, the worker may also find themselves exposed to conflicts of interest. . Because the worker is in a trusting ...

  19. CHCCS400C

    3.2 Use effective problem solving techniques when exposed to competing value systems . 3.3 Ensure services are available to all clients regardless of personal values, beliefs, attitudes and culture. 3.4 Recognise potential ethical issues and ethical dilemmas in the workplace and discuss with an appropriate person

  20. Problem solving techniques (a 5 step process)

    Generating alternatives. Having defined the problem and understood its context, you can now embark on creating a solution. But before you jump into solution mode you need to put all the solutions on the table. So you can assess which solution is likely to work best. One common mistake is not to list the option of "Do nothing" as an alternative.

  21. 5 Strategies for Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

    Here's a breakdown of the five strategies and when to use each. 1. Avoiding. Avoiding is a strategy best suited for situations in which the relationship's importance and goal are both low. While you're unlikely to encounter these scenarios at work, they may occur in daily life.

  22. CHCCS502C

    Summarise three techniques which staff members could use to help them solve problems arising from having to deal with competing value systems. ... would these be individual, personal and family values and the way you would help someone to solve a problem they have? Description and Message: TIA. Last edited by Lorina on Sat Nov 01, ...

  23. Use effective problem solving techniques when exposed to competing

    prabinmaharjan30. 3/15/2020. Use effective problem solving techniques when exposed to competing value systems. In the space provided below describe what the strategy for making an ethical decision is. How to make ethical decisions 1. Identify the dilemma - you need to gather as much information as you can to clarify where the problem lies.