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Whether you work in an office or online, it is important to establish a strong foundation as a team. Good communication and collaboration skills are essential for any successful team, but problem-solving skills are what will help you through the tough times.
Life is unpredictable, which is why problem solving skills are critical to learn, starting at a young age. They help us deal with the curveballs that will inevitably be thrown our way from time to time… without spiraling off course into a panic.
What You Will Learn
- What Are Problem Solving Skills?
- Why Problem Solving Activities Are Important In the Workplace
- 17 Problem Solving Activities
- Activity #1. Brainstorming
- Activity #2. Role-Playing
- Activity #3. Logic Puzzles
- Activity #4. Word Association
- Activity #5. Debate
- Activity #6. Process Mapping
- Activity #7. Mind Mapping
- Activity #8. Fishbone Diagram
- Activity #9. 5 Whys
- Activity #10. Scenario Planning
- Activity #11. SWOT Analysis
- Activity #12. Reverse Brainstorming
- Activity #13. Problem Solving Workshop
- Remote Problem Solving Activities
- Final Thoughts about Problem Solving Activities
What Are Problem Solving Skills?
Problem-solving skills are the ability to identify and solve problems creatively and effectively. They involve analyzing a situation, coming up with a plan of action, and then following through with that plan. These types of skills are important in both personal and professional life.
In your personal life, you will no longer have the same constant helping hand or be able to make excuses as you could in childhood. When something happens, you will need to be able to figure out a way to fix it yourself. In your professional life, being able to solve problems quickly and efficiently will make you an invaluable asset to any team.
Why Problem Solving Activities Are Important In the Workplace
There are many benefits to having strong problem solving skills in the workplace. For one, it can help improve morale among team members. When everyone is working together to solve a problem, it can create a sense of camaraderie and teamwork.
It can also help hold team members accountable for their actions. If a problem arises, everyone will need to work together to solve it instead of placing the blame on one person. This will help create a more cohesive team that is better able to handle difficult situations.
17 Problem Solving Activities
Activity #1. Brainstorming
This is a great activity for getting the creative juices flowing. Get your team together and have them come up with as many ideas as possible for solving the problem at hand. The more ideas, the better!
One way to start may be to ask everyone to write down their ideas individually, then have each person share their idea with the group. Once all the ideas are on the table, you can start to narrow down which ones are the most feasible.
Activity #2. Role-Playing
If you are ready to get the team members to think outside the box, have them take on different roles and come up with solutions from those perspectives. The roles can be anything from a customer to a company CEO.
Write down roles on a piece of paper and put them in a hat or bowl. Have each team member draw a role and then have them work on coming up with solutions from that perspective.
Activity #3. Logic Puzzles
Logic puzzles can be a great team-building activity as they require everyone to work together to find the solution.
Activity #4. Word Association
This is a simple but effective way to get ideas flowing. Write down a list of words or phrases related to the problem and then have your team come up with solutions based on those words.
Let's take the word “online safety” for example. Some potential solutions could be creating strong passwords, using two-factor authentication, or avoiding phishing scams or unnecessary social media use at work.
Activity #5. Debate
This activity will help get the team thinking about the issue from different angles. Have each team member take a side of the debate and then have them argue their points.
After everyone has had a chance to speak, have the team come to a consensus on the best solution.
Activity #6. Process Mapping
This activity is great for visual learners. Get a whiteboard or large piece of paper and map out the steps that need to be taken to solve the problem. This will help the team see the issue as a whole and spot any potential roadblocks.
Activity #7. Mind Mapping
This is similar to process mapping but is more focused on coming up with ideas. Write down the main issue in the center of the paper and then have team members come up with ideas that branch off from that.
Activity #8. Fishbone Diagram
If you are looking for another visual activity that can help a team see the different factors that contribute to a problem, try the fishbone diagram. Draw a large fish skeleton on a whiteboard or piece of paper and then have team members add in the different factors that contribute to the problem.
Activity #9. 5 Whys
Have the team start with the main issue and then each person takes turns asking “why” until you get to the root cause of the problem. Five times is usually sufficient to solve most problems. This is very effective for uncovering hidden problems.
One example may involve sales:
The problem is that our sales are down:
Activity #10. Scenario Planning
Think ahead and prepare for potential problems in the future. Have the team come up with different scenarios that could happen and then brainstorm solutions for each one. A perfect example may be different ways to escape the building in the event of an emergency.
One approach can involve escape routes, another can focus on the steps needed to shelter in place, and the last can highlight who is responsible for what during an evacuation.
Activity #11. SWOT Analysis
Before coming up with solutions, it is important to understand the different factors that could impact them.
The SWOT analysis activity will help the team identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats associated with the problem. This will help them come up with more informed solutions and deeper thinking.
Activity #12. Reverse Brainstorming
To prevent boredom, do what you can to get the team to think outside the box. Instead of brainstorming ways to solve the problem, have them come up with ways to make it worse. It may sound counter-productive but it can help the team see the issue from a different perspective and come up with more creative solutions.
Reverse brainstorming works by having the team come up with as many bad ideas as possible. Once they have exhausted all the ways to make the problem worse, they can then start thinking of ways to fix it.
Activity #13. Problem Solving Workshop
This is a more structured way of approaching problem solving as a team. It involves breaking the team into small groups and having each group come up with solutions to various specific problems.
Once all the groups have had a chance to share their ideas, the team can then vote on the best solution. You may want to start with a problem not directly related to the job and have the teams solve it. Next, ask them how the same approach can be used at the job. An example of this may include the team solving a Rubik’s Cube and then asking them how they can apply that same level of critical thinking to their work.
Now let's think about how to do team building and problem solving for the increasing number of people working remotely. Team building remotely may have its unique challenges but it is not impossible.
Remote Problem Solving Activities
Activity #14. Coffee Chat
This is a great way to get everyone on the team introduced to each other, especially if you have new members coming on board. Set up a time for everyone to jump on a video call and chat over coffee (or tea!). This can be done weekly or monthly, depending on the size of the team. It is a great way to informally chat about issues and concerns and can get the ball rolling on real solutions.
During the early days of the pandemic, my writing group set aside the writing topic for a session and decided to do an online happy hour with great success. We got to chat about other issues not directly related to writing and we all got useful insights.
Activity #15. Show and Tell
Who says team building problem solving activities can't be fun? This is a nice way for everyone to get to know each other on a personal level. Have each team member choose an item from their home that has special meaning to them and do a “show and tell”. Ask if each person can find an object related to helping them do their job or something completely unrelated. This is a great way to build rapport, get to know each other on a personal level, and of course – solve certain problems.
For example, someone may demonstrate hand exercises or stretching techniques to help with issues that stem from sitting at a desk or typing all day.
Maybe people in the group struggle to use a certain design program or add attachments to emails. Someone can use screen share to show an easier way to do something that has stumbled their colleagues.
Activity #16. Virtual Office Tour
Another way to get everyone acquainted with each other and the idea of working from home is to do a virtual office tour. This can be done by having each team member give a quick tour of their home office (or workspace). This is also a great way to get everyone comfortable with using video conferencing if they are not already. The reality is, everyone is not accustomed to working from home yet and a virtual tour from someone more experienced may help ease anxiety and provide peer-to-peer teaching. I
Activity #17. Scavenger Hunt
A scavenger hunt can either be done in person or online. If you are doing it remotely, you can use a program like Zoom to break everyone into small groups. Give each group a list of items they need to find and set a time limit. The first team to find all the items (or the team with the most items) wins.
You can make the scavenger hunt related to work or you can make it more general. If you want to make it work-related, you can have teams find things like “a picture of someone wearing a hard hat” or “an item that starts with the letter E”. If you want to make it more general, you can have teams find items like “a picture of a pet” or “an item that is green”.
Final Thoughts about Problem Solving Activities
There are many benefits in the workplace to executing problem solving activities, whether in person or remotely. You can even conduct team building activities outdoors for a nice change of pace.
Team building exercises like these can help build rapport, provide peer-to-peer teaching opportunities, and help with critical thinking skills.
The most important thing is to find something that works for your team and that everyone is comfortable with. And with a little creativity, you can find ways to build your team no matter where they are located. You don’t need to be in close proximity to grow closer.