Tag: Problem Solving

Not everything is a problem that needs to be fixed

When a person dies the attending physician is not allowed to list “natural causes” or “old age” as the cause of death. Rather, there needs to be a diagnosis; a problem.

Craig thinks this is wrong. In this video he explains.

Thanks for holding the camera, Molly!

This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen.

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hey everybody! Hey it’s Craig Freshley here. In Baxter State Park. In February.

I was just having a conversation with a friend of mine. She’s a hospice nurse and we got to talking about end-of-life and how the last time somebody died from “old age” was in the 60’s or something. People aren’t allowed, anymore,to die of that. People aren’t allowed to die of “natural causes.”

In fact, everything tends to be seen as a problem that needs to be fixed.

Well I’m here to say that in group dynamics and group settings, it can really be helpful to not think of everything as a problem that needs to be fixed.

You know what? Stuff dies. Things break. And sometimes the best course of action is to simply accept that that’s the way it’s supposed to be right now. Not everything is a problem that needs to be fixed.

Thanks for listening and I hope this helps your group make good decisions.

Align purpose, technique, attitude

Craig reflects on a recent meeting where some people were very frustrated because they couldn’t solve their problem! Yet problem solving wasn’t the purpose of the meeting.

In this video Craig explains how important it is to align the meeting purpose with facilitation techniques with participant attitudes.

This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen.

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody. Hey it’s Craig Freshley here. I was in a meeting the other day and the purpose of the meeting was to gather input, for us to learn from each other, and for the organizers of the meeting to be able to learn all the different perspectives of the people in the meeting. Think: a Town Hall kind of meeting, or public input meeting. Sometimes corporate managers might have a meeting like this where they want to gather input from their staff.

The thing was, in this meeting, I set up a ground rule. It was something like “Everybody gets to talk once before anybody talks twice.” The idea being that I wanted to hear — we wanted to hear — from everybody in the room; all the different perspectives.

But some people in that meeting were quite frustrated. Somebody would speak and then this person wanted to build on that idea, or somebody else would speak and they wanted to critique that idea, and we had a few people that were chomping at the bit to talk twice before everybody had a chance to talk once! And I got to realizing afterwards that it’s probably because their expectation was mismatched with the meeting purpose.

You see, I think it works well to let people build on each other’s comments or critique each other’s ideas when the purpose is problem-solving. We might call it brainstorming. That’s what we call collaboration, or you might have other names for it. You know, when we let ourselves go and even allow each other to interrupt and we’re just, you know, building on the momentum and energy in solving a problem or making something new.

But when the purpose of the meeting is to collect information and hear all the different perspectives, that’s not the right time for interrupting each other and critiquing each other’s ideas. In fact, I think that the “problem” that those people were trying to solve was: they wanted other people to see things their way. They went to that meeting to try and work on that problem, but that wasn’t the purpose of the meeting.

So I’m just naming that there are different reasons for having a meeting. There are different techniques and ways of calling on people to match the purpose of the meeting. And there are also different attitudes and expectations that we bring to a meeting.

When these three things are aligned — meeting purpose, facilitation techniques, and participant attitude — we have a really good chance of having a great meeting and making good group decisions.

Thanks for listening everybody!

I am the Solution

In this short video Craig explains how to solve your problems! The solution is usually you.

A change in my attitude and/or my behaviors is highly effective for me and highly efficient for my group. It’s the best place to start.

And here is one of Craig’s Good Group Tips called The Best Solutions Begin with Self.

Here’s what Craig says in the video:

Hi everybody. Hey it’s Craig Freshley here, about to start a meeting, but I wanted to share this idea with you: So often we might be upset with our group or upset with another person and we get to thinking that my life would be better only if you would change.

Well, I’m here to tell you that actually I am the best solution to my life getting better, and I am really only the only thing that I have control over.

We spend huge inefficiencies in groups when people try to change something wrong with their life by asking the group to change a policy. Or by asking someone else to change behavior. That works sometimes, but I’m here to say that the first place to turn to make things better is self.

The best question is, “What can I do to make things better?” rather than what should she do, what should he do, what should the group do, what should the government do, to make things better.

I have control over my own attitudes and behaviors. And while I wish that other people would change and I wish institutions would change — and I can work for those things — the surefire way to make things better, for me, is to change my attitude and my behavior. I am the first solution to most problems in my life.

A problem defined is half-solved

Defining a problem before trying to solve it is really important if you want to actually solve it and if you want to be efficient. In this two-minute video, Craig explains.

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody. Hey it’s Craig Freshley here. I’m about to start a meeting but I wanted to share with you this notion that a problem well-defined is half-solved. Mostly, making group decisions is about solving problems. But so often groups set off to solve a problem with the problem ill defined. And then the solution that you end up with is not well-matched to the problem, it doesn’t work as intended, it unravels later, and the group has to go back and redefine the problem and come up with a new solution.

I think that actually defining the problem is half the work for two reasons. One, actually defining the problem requires us to understand the problem. It makes us apply some discipline to the problem; ask some tough questions. I am a big advocate of actually writing a problem statement. Push yourself to writing down: “The problem is that _________.”

Secondly, when you’ve got a problem statement or the thing well defined, you can keep your group on track when you’re working on solutions. You can’t keep a group on track if you don’t have a track. The problem statement or the problem definition serves as that track.

I have seen hundreds, thousands of groups develop great solutions to the wrong problem. Get your problem right from the start and you have a much better chance of getting your solution right in the end.

Thanks for listening, here’s hoping that you help your group make good group decisions.

Fast or Good?

Is it better to make a fast decision or a good decision?

Well what do you think Craig would say? His company is not called Fast Group Decisions!

In this video Craig argues that “fast” is often the enemy of “good;” way too often actually. We get seduced into thinking that we MUST make decision fast but it’s usually a false seduction. Fast decisions are only sometimes good decisions. Craig explains in the video.

And here are a couple related one-page Good Group Tips: Incrementally and Last Minute Decision Making.


Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hey Everybody. Hey it’s Craig Freshley here.

I think that making decisions fast is overrated. We have this idea, quite often, that in order for it to be a good decision we have to do it quickly. We have to decide now or our opportunity will be missed or bad things will happen. But yet I have seen, especially when we’re talking about group decisions, that groups get seduced into thinking that they have to make a fast decision. They do make a fast decision but then that causes unintended negative consequences later. It requires that the decision be revisited or even unraveled and totally redone.

I have seen many situations where, when a group slows down and decides only as much as they absolutely have to, better decisions end up getting made! And there’s actually greater efficiency over the long run.

Let’s think about those situations when we think we have to make a fast decision. Maybe there is impending doom, maybe there is a golden opportunity, maybe we feel like we need to get it settled.

Impending doom. I’m the administrator of a school. I’ve just gotten a phone call that a tornado is coming. I have a quick decision to make. I need to either shelter the kids in place or move them to a safer location. If I don’t make a fast decision really bad things might happen. In this situation it seems pretty critical that a fast decision is also a good decision.

Golden opportunity. “If we don’t do this now, if we don’t decide this quick, the opportunity will evaporate!” Well for one thing, I think that we get tricked into thinking that opportunities are fleeting much more so than they really are. Secondly, the circumstances that resulted in as a getting that opportunity are probably not going away and if we say no to this opportunity there’s a good chance that another opportunity will arise. In fact, if we say yes to this opportunity we might be taking ourselves out of the running for an even better opportunity that will come along later. This is really seductive and one reason it’s seductive is because we want to believe in a positive future. We want to believe that it’s a golden opportunity and so in our minds the scales are tipped a little bit. But from an objective logical perspective — golden opportunities that are going to disappear if we don’t act on them right away — those are actually quite rare in my experience.

Third. We just need to get this settled. And this I think is actually the largest contributor to us thinking that we have to make fast decisions. “We’ve been talking about this so long. It’s so frustrating. There are so many things in play. I can’t stand that things are unsettled. Let’s just get this decided.” And when we make a fast decision for that reason, it’s really rare that it’s going to be a good decision.

So I am calling for patience. I am calling for going against human nature!

With impending doom, okay a fast decision is likely to be a good decision. But with these two [golden opportunity and need to get it settled] what’s really in the way of a good decision is our human nature; to think that we have to be fast.

More times than not, we don’t have to make that decision as fast as it seems like. I am simply asking you to consider: “Do we really have to make that decision fast? Is the opportunity really going to disappear and no other one is going to come up?” Or, “Is it really important that I get it settled just for my own peace of mind?”

I have learned that if I can go to bed at night with lots of of things undone, that actually helps me in the long run. If I, as a participant in the group decision making, can learn to be comfortable with lots of balls in the air — with things undecided for now — that actually makes for better group decisions over the long run.

I’m calling for patience. I’m calling to make a distinction between what we really have to decide fast and what would be better if we decided slow. Our ultimate goal is to make good decisions. Only rarely is a good decision a fast decision.

Thanks for listening everybody. I hope you help your group make good decisions.

Every Problem Has At Least Two Solutions

In this spontaneous video Craig explains that when we see challenges as “misalignments” rather than as “problems” we are more likely to find creative solutions. In fact, when we withhold judgement we find that there is always more than one solution. And one of them might be me!

In the video Craig references some of his related Good Group Tips: At least two ways, Alternative solutions, What’s the problem?, and Best solutions begin with self.


Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hey everybody, It’s Craig Freshley here. I am all about Good Group Decisions. You can learn about my view of how to make good group decisions at my website: GoodGroupDecisions.com.

Every problem has at least two solutions. And if we really believe that it has some pretty interesting implications. So for instance let’s imagine this statement, “We don’t have enough money!” And I might follow that up with, “And it’s because you spend too much!”

Let’s look at this a little closer. So maybe “We don’t have enough money” is the problem, but look how I have made an immediate judgment about the cause of the problem. The reason we have this problem is because “You spend too much!” When I do that, I limit the solutions to this particular problem to, what do you think, its going to be: “Don’t spend so much money!” That becomes really the only solution.

But if I look at this problem without judgment and I see it not so much as a problem but just as a misalignment between two things, I might say, “We don’t have enough money.” And the reason we don’t have enough money is because there’s a misalignment between revenues and expenses. It’s not necessarily that too much money is being spent. It might be that not enough revenue is being earned. There’s a misalignment between revenues and expenses, that’s why we don’t have enough money.

When I see the problem that way, without immediate judgment about the cause, I open myself up to more possible solutions. One solution is, “Don’t spend so much money.” But another solution is, “I need to earn more money.” And if I take this apart further, there’s probably more solutions.

Let’s look at another problem. I’m sitting in class or maybe in a lecture hall and I can’t hear the speaker. I might raise my hand and interrupt and say, “Excuse me! I can’t hear you, could you talk a little louder please!” That is one characterization of the problem and one solution.

My solution is based on a judgment that the reason I can’t hear well enough is because the speaker isn’t talking loud enough. I have made a judgment. But what if the problem is “I can’t hear the speaker,” and I think that it’s not necessarily the speaker’s fault. It’s just a problem. Something is misaligned here and I start to think creatively about all the potential solutions and pretty quickly I stumble on the solution: “Hmm, maybe I could move closer.” Not enough sound is getting to me. It might be because the speaker is not projecting enough sound or it might be because I’m too far away to hear the sound. There are at least two solutions to every problem. And in this case perhaps the best solution is, rather than me interrupting the class and asking that person to change their behavior, maybe I should change my behavior and move closer.

And this is the real magic of this belief that there are at least two solutions to every problem. The magic is that one of the solutions probably has to do with me. When I am quick to make a judgment about the cause of the problem, 9 times out of 10 I am judging against someone else. You are spending too much money. You are not speaking loud enough. And I have limited the potential solutions. And I have conveniently written myself out of the solution. I have avoided indicting myself. But this approach is not helpful for good group decisions. It causes conflict and it works against peace.

If I want to work towards a peaceful solution I do well to see problems not as judgments against other people, but as simple misalignments. And when I’m looking for solutions, I consider all the solutions that might fix the misalignment. And I am sure to consider solutions that involve a change in my behavior.

Look, you can learn a lot more about this at my website. I have written at least three Good Group Tips that touch on this topic. One of them is called: At Least Two Ways. Another one is called: Alternative Solutions. I think I’ve written a tip called: What’s The Problem?. You can look for that one. And a fourth tip related to this topic is called: Best Solutions Begin With Self.

Thanks for listening. Again, I’m Craig Freshley. All about good group decisions. Have a great day!