7 Ways Teams Can Problem Solve Better Than Individuals
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A problem shared is a problem halved.
Is there any truth to this old expression? According to a Stanford study, the answer is a resounding yes: participants tasked with achieving a goal as a team worked at it for 64 percent longer and were more engaged than those who worked alone.
Further research has found companies that promote collaboration are five times as likely to perform to a higher standard than those that don’t. But how can teams actually solve problems better than individuals in the workplace?
Here are seven ways to get the most from your teams.
1. Create a dedicated space for team collaboration
Every team needs a space in which to work and record ideas. A collaborative platform with a user-friendly visual layout makes coming together as a group far easier and more convenient than crowding into a stuffy meeting room.
Another key benefit of an online collaborative tool is flexibility: teams can work together, share ideas and review progress without being in the same room. This allows you to collaborate on solving problems faster, at any time, any place — rather than needing to check diaries and schedule face-to-face meetings.
But make sure you choose a platform that’s flexible enough for the needs of your team; some team members work best with a visualization board, some are more calendar-based, and others prefer lists with dependencies and sub-tasks.
2. Be open to different viewpoints
One of the core benefits of teamwork is the diversity of perspectives brought to the proverbial table.
Working solo restricts you to one single view: your own. This isn’t much of an issue if you’re an expert in the matter at hand, but what if you’re not?
A mix of viewpoints built from different life experiences, educational backgrounds and training can help you solve problems sooner. Thinking outside the box becomes much easier when you aren’t looking at it from just one angle.
3. Break the problem down into digestible portions
A major advantage of collaborating with colleagues is sharing the burden of problem-solving.
Think about different elements of the challenge and split them between the team: this makes identifying a solution far less intimidating overall and encourages you all to consider smaller fixes rather than striving for one, all-encompassing option. You can then come together and see how the sub-solutions combine to achieve your goal.
If one or more people struggle with their part of the process, they may be able to switch or help someone else with theirs instead. This is far more effective and efficient than an individual trying to make sense of a situation by themselves.
4. Build on each other’s ideas
Everyone in a team should have a valuable contribution to make, no matter how big or small it is. Even the tiniest morsel of an idea can inspire your colleagues and spark an illuminating discussion, setting off a chain reaction that leads your group to your goal.
It’s vital, though, to explore each suggestion as it arises — dismissing ideas too soon increases the likelihood of missing potential solutions. Team-members should respect their colleagues’ efforts and perspectives, rather than shooting them down if they don’t immediately seem worth looking into.
5. Share encouragement and support
It’s easy to become frustrated at your own lack of progress and encounter blocks in your creativity when working alone. Once you start thinking “I can’t do this,” you may find yourself unable to actually follow ideas far enough to find your solution.
With a team, though, you can all encourage and support each other to maintain morale. Congratulate someone when they make a valuable contribution and encourage others to share ideas, no matter how much they doubt them.
6. Foster peer-to-peer development and growth
Working as a team can help colleagues educate each other and promote growth, whether this is through inspiring confidence, teaching them how to perform a specific task or just changing their perspective on something.
Over time, collaboration may make your workforce stronger and boost employees’ individual performance. The lessons they learn and self-esteem boosts they gain through working with others can help them take the initiative more easily too.
As a result, they will be more likely to solve problems and achieve goals faster in the future.
7. Help overcome personality conflicts and divergent viewpoints
Earlier, we mentioned how one of the best things about working together as a team is the different perspectives.
But, sadly, this can also lead to one of the most difficult aspects of teamwork too: disagreements and conflict.
These may occur without warning, over even the most trivial matters. But when you put a number of people together in a room, perhaps if they haven’t met before, it’s unlikely everyone will form an instant bond. In fact, employees spend a staggering 2.8 hours each week dealing with conflict.
Learning to overcome internal difficulties and collaborate in spite of differences is crucial. It may help make individuals easier to work with and more open to people they usually view as different to themselves (whether that’s due to their position within the company, their background, their education, etc.).
Working as a team can be a challenge, but as research shows, an effective group has a far better chance of hitting targets than solo workers.
Follow the tips explored above to enhance collaboration within your business, helping employees unlock their potential and form tighter connections to their colleagues. Over time, you may see wide-ranging improvements across your entire workforce, leading to better problem-solving and a more collaborative company culture.