- Knowledge Centre

Problem Solving with Solution Focused Thinking

How demoralizing can it be when you're in a meeting with colleagues, full of brilliant ideas, and someone puts a sharp stop to your creative genius? You know who I mean, you've met them at some point. Here are a few approaches you can apply to help a perceived negative colleague to move beyond negativity.

So, here's how it goes for some. 'That won't work because...', 'That's a good idea, but the problem with it is....(reasons).

Some people seem to be so focused on spotting problems that they don't take the opportunity to consider any solutions before they speak. So how can you tackle this situation effectively whilst appreciating the contribution the apparently negative person is making? They really are aiming to contribute; just not in the way you'd like them to.

Pre-frame your dialogue and outcome

Set a clear context for your dialogue and for the desired outcome, whether one-to-one or as part of a large meeting. Context creates meaning, and when we have some parameters to work within, we know what is and isn't acceptable. Send a properly titled email or agenda for your meeting at least 48 hours in advance, and try this approach:

'The purpose of our discussion/meeting is to develop a structured way forward to ensure the smooth implementation of the new computer system to be launched on 1st October 2009. It is important that concerns regarding potential pitfalls are raised, and also, that each of us takes responsibility for developing practical solutions in/at this forum.'

The main message here is, if you anticipate a problem, share it along with your solution. Other ways to overcome negatives on why something can't happen or won't work are:

Objection -'This won't work because of.....'

Response - 'Good, now we know what won't work, please share with us 3 of your ideas on how it could work'

Objection - 'It's impossible to do this by the time-scale stated'

Response - 'Which part is impossible? To deliver any of the project successfully, all of it successfully or something else?'

Objection - 'Each time I've been involved in a project like this, they've failed. This will be no different.'

Response - 'It's good that you've had such experience in similar projects. Help me understand, what steps did you repeat in each project that contributed to the failure to deliver the outcome/s required?'

When we invite someone to share 3 ideas on how something could work, this can feel alien to them because it's the exact opposite to how they were thinking just moments ago.

I always ask for a minimum of 3:

To interrupt the thinking pattern Because they may say 'I can only come up with two', which is brilliant anyway as it's 2 more than they had a moment ago Because they may just want someone to shut up and listen to them, whilst they think for themselves Put your own mark on questions such as these, use them ethically and see for yourself how thinking can change in a few minutes.

it all starts with a chat.

When will be good for you?