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Why Problem Solving Is a Team Sport

Just like in any A-league team, there are certain players who are celebrated for their amazing gifts. Beckham. Nash. Halladay. These guys are superheroes – able to personally achieve incredible feats. But take away their team members and what can they achieve?

In business, we have a tendency to recognize rock stars – the ‘go to’ people who always seem to get results. What interests me more is how they’re achieving them. Are they including others in their process? Are they listening to a variety of opinions and perspectives before formulating their recommendations? Or are they turning inwards and producing only what feels right and comfortable to them?

In the Combustion process, we recognize and value what we call ThinkStyles – four unique thinking and ideation style preferences that can dramatically influence how we problem solve and what results we get. Combine this with everything else that makes us unique – from biases to agendas to experience – and you can’t deny that more brains will likely produce more interesting and more creative results.

For example, my ThinkStyle™ is Machine Gun. This means I dig rapid ideation. I’m comfortable shooting hundreds of ideas around, regardless of whether they’re particularly on point because I know I’ve got hundreds more in the chamber. While I’m great fun to have in ideation sessions because my energy stays high and my interest last longs, there’s no guarantee I’ll hit the mark. To the untrained eye, I’m likely to come across as a rock star ideator just based on pure output. But combine me with a Detective, who on the surface may come across as stubborn and pedantic due to their need for clarity and focus, and we’re going to get some real action going.

The Detective acts like a kind of scope on my rifle, carefully lining me up to make sure that as many of my bullets hit the idea or solution bulls eye as possible. (OK – now this has turned into a riflery analogy but you get the idea). In addition, the Detective’s perspective will warp and color the kinds of questions he or she asks which will only add to the potential uniqueness of our collective solutions. Because, like with any team, we desperately need each other to win. The Detective sets me up for the shots that I can take again and again. Without that focus, I’m just madly running around, kicking, swinging and praying for a win.

So next time you’re in a group problem solving or ideation situation and someone very different from you is royally pissing you off due to a stylistic or perspective conflict, take a breath. Look at why this person is making you so crazy. Are they asking ‘too many questions’? Too few? Are they forcing you to look at things in ways that hurt your brain? Do you think their points are irrelevant? Regardless of the answer, your frustration is likely due to their being different from you. But you have to ask yourself whether any idea that’s only come from your singular perspective will be truly better than one that springs from the collective? (In my humble opinion, if your answer is yes, you could probably use a little humility).

In my eyes and experience, our differences is what can make the critical distinction between myopic solutions and universal ones. So open your mind for a second and let them in. Try and identify their thinking style for yourself and ask what value their perspective might provide. They may only be a second string player out of left field, but they may ultimately be the key player to set you all up for the win.

To learn more about ThinkStyles™, check out a sample report.

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