A tough day in the office can test any person’s resolve and question often what they are doing in that environment. Challenging and confronting situations cause a person to “go limbic” and heightened emotion can often cause people to lose sensibility. The collective organisation or business can also face days or periods in its lifecycle where the mood of the entire team or organisation is the same as an individual having a bad day at the office.  

Take a colleague of mine who has a significant problem in his business.  He thought he was onto a money-spinner with a new product concept. All market research has indicated it was a winning proposition, but in the end operating costs and staff turnover were high and productivity was low. Then inspiration struck, when my colleague discovered an article about how thinking outside of the box and using innovative problem solving, things can be turned around before doom hits.  He intuitively understood the value of taking a number of different approaches simultaneously to solving difficult problems. This is called “flex thinking”. 

 In today’s business environment, particularly competitive environments, we find that this mind-set is ever more important. Business leaders are operating in an era when forces such as technological change and global economic activity have made the problems increasingly complex.  The number of variables at play can be enormous, and all this free and free-flowing information encourages competition, placing an ever-greater premium on developing innovative solutions.  

 A recent article published in the McKinsey Quarterly presents an approach for doing just that. By using what we call flexible objects for generating novel solutions, which provide a way of shaping difficult problems to reveal innovative solutions that would otherwise remain hidden. This approach can be useful in a wide range of situations and at any level of the organisation or for the individual.   

To help with your organisational problem solving, here are some steps to consider: 

  • Identify the problem, what are the stressors or constraints and options. 
  • Use creative brainstorming action, what can people “do” –mind mapping is a great tool for this 
  • Shared decision making – six thinking hats, doing it together 
  • Manage conflicts – repair hurts and misunderstandings 
  • Focus on goals- taking concrete steps, focus on the positive end result.
  • Building on success – what can you learn from failure and mistakes. 
  • Take a proactive stance – prepare for any event. 
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