At its heart, Interest Based Problem Solving is inherently simple.  There are four steps.

Step 1: Defining the Problem – The Opportunity Statement

This step leads a team to develop an Opportunity Statement.  An opportunity statement creates the boundaries for the problem solving, usually begins with “What can/might we do to …”, is open-ended and lends itself to multiple solutions. 

There is an art to making sure the opportunity statement is not too broad to avoid “boiling the ocean” and not too narrow to limit the solutions.  The opportunity statement may change in later steps as the problem is understood in more depth.

Step 2: Determine the Interests

In a fast-paced world, it is common for us to go straight to a solution.  When a particular solution has a strong emotional attachment, it becomes a position.  Competing positions cause compromise and usually result in a win/lose, lose/win or lose/lose situation.  Behind every position is an interest or a need that requires satisfaction. 

By discovering the interests relating to an opportunity statement and identifying common interests, a foundation for a win/win situation is created.

Learn more about Interests and Positions – A Tale of Two Chefs

An essential aspect of understanding the interests is first identifying the key stakeholders.

Step 3:  Develop Options

There are many ways to develop options for satisfying interests.  Engaging subject matter experts, seeking out best practices, brainstorming, straw design, and a pre-requisite tree can all assist with developing a range of options that can be used to craft a solution.

Step 4: Craft a Solution

Crafting a solution involves bringing appropriate options from step 3 together to satisfy as many interests as possible in relation to the issue statement.  This involves identifying the dependency between options, screening, testing and resourcing options.  A complex problem usually requires a complex solution with many options being combined to develop a full solution, and because it is interest-based, consensus that it is the best solution is highly probable.

It is impossible to predict all new problems that could turn up as you implement your solution to solve your problem.  At this stage, it is more important to focus on achieving the result than getting a perfect plan.

Practice brings speed:

While the process is inherently simple, for most teams, it takes a bit of getting used to.  Traditional problem solving will often lead a team straight to Steps 3 and 4.  With interest-based problem solving, most of the time is spent in Steps 1 and 2.

With practice, a team can become proficient in the process and guide themselves through it without needing a facilitator. When it becomes the standard way of working, breakthrough results become the norm.

The results:

  • Higher staff engagement – because everyone can be part of the decision-making process. 
  • Productivity improvements – because those closest to business issues have great ideas on how to solve these.
  • Stronger results – because the solutions are more robust.
  • Sustainable results – because new knowledge and solutions belong to and stay inside the business.
  • Cost efficiency – because the most expensive thing in your business is workplace conflict.

Learn more about IBPS and workplace conflict.

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