Solving Problems Using the Three Cs: Creativity, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking

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The old saying about “change being the only constant” has never been truer. To function and succeed, organizations need to be responsive, agile, and innovative. For Federal government organizations and contractors, this need is pressing but made more challenging by inherent and necessary constraints. These organizations can create cultures of innovation with broad structural changes, but the people working within these organizations also need to know and competently use techniques for enacting these changes.

In this workshop, attendees will be faced with the challenge of viewing their work and its inherent challenges in a new light: problems are opportunities and problems require ownership. While many may have heard the oft-repeated message to “bring solutions, not problems,” some may not have the skills to develop solutions or the belief that their ideas will be heard. For this reason, a top-down message of support and openness to new ideas is vital and needs to be communicated before the training is presented.

Velocity Knowledge proposes training and strategic messaging to elicit the problem solving that leadership is seeking. We propose a two-part approach: strategic messaging from leadership followed by hands-on training. Strategic messaging would ensure these important concepts are understood:

  • Managers and supervisors can and should be encouraging problem solving.
  • Efforts to solve problems should be welcomed and rewarded.
  • Leaders, managers, and supervisors can create a safety net for staff who may be tentative about embarking on new solutions.
  • Staff should collaborate with colleagues to ensure solutions are well considered and address all stakeholders.

These key messages will be reinforced during two days of training. We will kick off the course by helping attendees reframe the concept of “problems.” During the first day of training, We will introduce a systematic problem-solving approach with specific job aids and tools to help at each step. For example, at “Problem Definition,” We will share a worksheet on how to define the problem with multiple questions and prompts, followed by a second worksheet aimed at clarifying the problem further (why, who, issues, options, benefits, and risks).

We will also share tools and strategies for developing creative solutions and working collaboratively. She will seek subject matter expertise from within the organization in developing relevant case studies to use during the training.

Course objectives for the first day of training would include the following:

  • Define, analyze, and solve problems (AKA opportunities).
  • Use various creative problem-solving strategies.
  • Apply decision-making models and critical thinking skills to your problem solutions.
  • Work in teams to strengthen collaborative problem-solving skills.
  • Develop a long-term plan for applying these skills to real-world situations.

We recommend that staff attend a second day of training 2-3 weeks after the first day. At the close of the first day of training, we propose that staff be instructed to select a problem (or opportunity) to pursue independently, in pairs, or in small teams. At the start of the second day of training, each person or small team would then discuss the problem, the steps and critical thinking used to study the problem, methods used for generating ideas, and the decision-making analysis used to select a solution or solutions. The individual or team would discuss challenges or surprises encountered and would address any questions or feedback from the rest of the group. As appropriate, the group could help a person or team advance or expand their ideas or solutions. The goal for the second day of training is to create a hands-on, safe, collaborative learning environment led by a skilled facilitator. As time permits, we will create a large-group challenge or small-team challenges and provide additional problem-solving tools.

Project Expectations:

  1. Leadership will communicate to all staff (staff, supervisors, and managers) that they should be actively solving problems—and actively supporting those who are solving problems without retribution. As such, Leadership should create “safety nets” by asking staff to study problems, generate solutions, and share these solutions to their leadership before acting (as appropriate).
  2. The organization will provide resources and subject matter experts to us to develop appropriate case studies for the training program.
  3. The organization will market the course to ensure participation and will allot time to staff to work on their chosen projects between the two training days.
  4. We will sign and abide by a confidentiality agreement to protect the organization and its staff.

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