We recently worked with a group recently that was dealing with a significant problem facing their organization. It quickly became clear they were falling into one of the major pitfalls of problem solving.
Some members of the group came into the room with their minds made up. They already had their solution to the problem in mind, and were only interested in seeing it prevail. When this happens, problem solving comes to a halt. Objectivity is replaced by the desire to see their solutions prevail.
When people have a single solution in mind before the process begins, problem solving becomes a win-lose game. They will spend time and energy defending their ideas and refuting others. As they dig in, tempers and egos can become inflamed. The likelihood the group will find an acceptable solution is small.
If groups are to be effective at solving problem, members must suspend judgment until they have heard all relevant information and options for solution. They must come to the meetings with a focus on problem solving and a commitment to finding the best possible solution for the entire group.
There is always more than one possible solution to every problem. To find the best alternative groups must first list all possible solutions, consider the possible outcomes of each, then make a selection based on clear, measurable criteria.
Suspending judgment is not easy. It is normal human nature to take a position on an issue. It takes time to explore all options and establish criteria. What will emerge are stronger solutions that are acceptable to everyone. These outcomes are more likely to be successfully implemented. The extra effort is clearly worth it.