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Monday, August 12, 2019

5 Ways to Cultivate a Problem Solving Culture

Organizations cannot improve unless they consistently seek out and solve their problems. For most, that means undertaking a profound cultural change— which must begin from the top. So how can leaders unlock their organization’s problem-solving capacity? From my experience with many companies, there are 5 ways to cultivate a problem solving culture.

Teach problem solving skills in ALL areas! Problem solving skills do not necessarily develop naturally; they need to be explicitly taught in a way that can be transferred across multiple settings and contexts. This skill can be applied in everything we do. Let your employees see this and understand that problem solving is a life long skill. It is something that they will continue to use at work in their professional lives and at home their personal lives.

Model… Model… Model! Problem solving is not an easy task. It is challenging, can be time consuming, requires employees to be flexible and to persevere. {It is not for the faint of heart… LOL} In your daily classroom routines show your students that you can be patient when solving problems. Share your thinking aloud with them so that they are able to make connections between your actions and each of the 5 steps previously mentioned.

Help employees verbalize and record their problems. Make sure that their ideas are clear and concise and that they have listed some sort of goal that they have in mind. In order for employees to be able to solve problems, they first must be able to identify what the problem is. And although this sounds easy, it is actually a difficult task. You can begin by asking employees “What?” and “Why?” questions. Have them work through their own problem and come up with possible solutions. Encouraging employees to take an active role in the decision making process can be quite empowering.

Take your time! This is not something that will happen overnight! Employees are going to need ample time to think, collaborate, come up with and test solutions, correct mistakes, and reflect. Begin with whole company discussions where you model the steps of problem solving. Then you can move on to small groups, peers, and eventually independent problem solving.  Don’t give up! Start small…

Don’t do it for them. Ask questions and make suggestions, but be careful NOT TO TAKE CONTROL! Whenever an employee comes up to you with a problem don’t give them the answer. (Trust me this is going to be hard at first! Instead try “What do you think?”, “Do you have any suggestions?”, “Tell me about this…”) Try encouraging them to ask other before you. Have employees ask their peers when they have a question. This will promote collaboration and problem solving. 

Our role as leaders is to support our employees and to encourage questioning and deep thinking. We must demonstrate to them that it is okay to make mistakes and that we believe that mistakes are a natural part of the learning process.  Mistakes are useful and should not be discouraged! We should also aim to create a culture in our company in which everyone’s ideas are valued and respected. We are to foster collaboration and open discussions in which employees feel comfortable enough to share their ideas and opinions freely.

Now it’s time for you to put all of this into practice…

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