Innovative Team Problem Solving Activities That Work

July 23, 2013

Samantha McDuffee

Team Contributor

Our Podcast brings you ideas, inspiration, and best practices for Team Building from cities around the globe. Learn More

Objections. Judgement. Criticism. Debate can facilitate quite a bit of innovative team problem solving activities.

It’s true. If your team members like to collaborate, you shouldn’t make them competedepending on your goal.  If your goal is to help your team boost innovation and problem solving, it may be best to go “against type” when selecting an event. Criticism creates innovative teams.

“Teams that utilized conflict in their process consistently outperformed teams that focused on cohesion. In a summary of [one] study’s results, the researchers write ‘Our findings show that debate and criticism do not inhibit ideas but, rather, stimulate them relative to every other condition.”

Debate = Innovative Team Problem Solving

Don’t start any fights! It’s important to provide a method of interactive and representational argument for your team. Otherwise, you may descend into chaos and hurt feelings. Nobody wants that.

innovative team problem solving activitiesAs IDEA suggests (and their logo implies), you should create a “participatory learning environment where individuals feel safe to explore ideas and view topics from a variety of perspectives” in order to boost innovation and generate more ideas.

Here’s a few problem solving strategies that work:

(1) Assign a Dissenter or “Devil’s Advocate”

Assign one person to find and present reasons why every idea may not be feasible. Now it’s his or her job to challenge everyone. It’s not personal! Well, as long as everyone sticks to debating rather than arguing.

Debates are typically:

  • Formal and intellectual
  • Concerned with factual events, or theories
  • About persuading an opposing group to an alternate viewpoint

Arguments are typically:

  • Informal and personal
  • Not always concerned with factual correctness
  • About things both parties are aware of, thus no opposing viewpoints are involved

(2) Pixar “Plussing”

Anytime someone comments on another’s work, that comment must contain a “plus” — a way to improve or build on the work. This technique provides a foundation for the criticism. The original idea is something to still build upon rather than dismiss as a whole in this scenario.

Instead of assigning team roles, plussing keeps critiques positive as a whole.

These are both strategies that can be incorporated into events, meetings and even company culture. If you’re trying something new, start with more structure like a team building event.


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