How to make your people think


This is a question I’m asked frequently: “Is is ok to let everybody propose anything during a problem solving session?” Mmm, absolutely! After some seconds, I typically get this other question: “But, isn’t it better to select the best ideas and concentrate only in those?”. Mmm, absolutely, again!

How is that? Because our brain thinks and develops ideas in a very special way. This is how it works:


Our brain benefits from this 2-phase process:

  • Start promoting creative and divergent thinking. Everything is valid. No idea is forbidden (just for the records, this phase does not have to be a brainstorming session necessarily, there are multiple other ways of doing this and brainstorming might not be the best one). The intent here is to break the psychological or cognitive inertia: our brain feels comfortable and likes following common patterns and solutions that have worked in the past.
  • Finish promoting practical and convergent thinking. Keep your feet on the ground. Calculate needed resources and evaluate possible barriers. The purpose here is to concentrate in those ideas that have the best effort/benefit ratio.

Like almost anything in life, a problem solving session is half technique and half art. A winning strategy in most cases is to use questions to facilitate the meeting (very similar to the coaching style). In all cases be sure that you follow the basic 3 rules of facilitation:

  • Be challenging
  • Be clear
  • Be honest

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