4 Activities for Group Problem Solving

We recently wrapped the first round of beta on our new presentation creation tool, Soapbox. A piece of feedback that we received quite often was that people were excited about all of the fresh activities that Soapbox provides. Beta users were energized at the prospect of trying out new activities suggested by Soapbox to add depth and engagement to their training. Chances are that if you’re tired of your learning activities then your learners are too. Here are four application activities straight out of Soapbox to try as your next problem-solving activity. 

Solve the Problem

This activity works best in situations where you have multiple barriers that need to be overcome that are prohibiting your team from reaching their goal. This is a group activity with a small competitive flair and works well for both small (less than 10) and large (75+) group sizes.

Materials: Flipchart, markers, paper, pens.

Advanced Preparation:

  • Prepare three flip charts with headings: Easy (1 point), Medium (3 points), Difficult (5 points).
  • Prepare a list of problems/barriers to be overcome and decide what category (easy, medium, hard) each problem should be assigned to.

Instructions:

  1. Arrange participants into small groups.
  2. Set a timer for 10 minutes and have group members brainstorm REALISTIC plans to mitigate as many barriers as possible.
  3. At the end of 10 minutes, have group members tally their scores.
  4. Ask groups to share their scores. The team that mitigated problems and totalled the highest score wins. 
  5. Spend time circling the room having each group share the problems they selected and their applicable solutions.
  6. As solutions are shared, ask some or all of the following questions:
    • What risks accompany your solution?
    • Do we have the resources to carry out the solution that you are proposing?
    • How does this compare to another solution proposed by a different group?

Visual Problem Solving

This activity allows participants to create a visual picture to help them sort through data to solve a problem. It is best suited to situations where there is a lot of data to be sorted through which influences both the problem as well as the solution. It is important to keep in mind that this is an activity that is best suited for smaller groups where you want participants to brainstorm their thoughts independently.

Materials: Piece of flipchart paper for each participant, markers, data (specific to your situation), timer.

Advanced Preparation:

  • Identify your problem and gather all relevant data that participants will need.
  • Arrange the room so that each participant will have a workspace.

Instructions:

  1. Have each participant write the problem to be solved somewhere on their flipchart paper. 
    • This could be something like, “What is killing customer service?” or “Why is employee satisfaction dropping?”
  2. Tell participants that they have 10 minutes to try to solve this problem given the data that you are providing. 
  3. Ask participants to use pictures, charts, words, or any visual representation that makes sense to them. 
  4. Tell participants that like a detective solving a murder, they are only to use facts and to not assumptions. 
  5. Start a timer and allow participants to begin their work. 
  6. At the end of the given time, call attention back to the large group.
  7. Ask for each participant to explain some of the highlights from their posters.
  8. Ask each participant some or all of the following questions:
    • Do you believe you have solved the problem?
    • Do you feel that you have reached a dead-end?
    • What poster from the group stands out to you? Why?

Doctor

In this activity, participants assume the role of a doctor to diagnose the sickness (aka: problem) in a given situation. It is ideal for situations where you may have multiple factors contributing to your problem. This activity is best suited to groups of less than 50 participants.

Materials: Patient Chart worksheet, data (custom to your situation), pens.

 
Advanced Preparation:
  • Gather data that is relevant to your situation and make enough copies for each participant.
  • Make enough copies of the Patient Chart worksheet for each participant to have their own.

Instructions:

  1. Tell participants that they have just graduated from medical school and are now doctors. Today they will be examining a patient and will need to diagnose their problem and provide a remedy. 
  2. Pass out the Patient Chart worksheet to each participant. 
  3. Point out the information that participants will need to fill out on the Patient Chart worksheet to diagnose the sickness. 
    • Patient: Who or what are you examining?
    • Symptoms: What is the data showing? 
    • Diagnosis: What is wrong/What’s the problem?
    • Remedy: What solution do you suggest? 
  4. Provide participants with the data they will need to examine and ask them to begin working. 
  5. At the end of the designated time, ask each participant to share their Patient Chart with the group. 
  6. Summarize the findings by identifying trends and connecting the participants’ comments to the topic at hand.
  7. Answer any questions that may be outstanding.

Voting Dots

This activity allows participants to quickly brainstorm solutions to a problem and to vote on the best solution. It is best suited for situations where you have a single problem and there are a variety of potential solutions. This activity can accommodate a small or large group up to 75 people.

Materials: Flipchart, markers, voting dots (those colorful dot stickers sold in the office supply section).

Advanced Preparation:

  • Create a two-column table on a flipchart. Title the left column “Solutions”, and the right column “Votes”.

Instructions:

  1. Distribute yellow and green voting dot stickers to participants.
  2. Ask participants to call out 8-10 solutions to the problem. List these solutions on individual rows in the left column of your chart.
  3. Ask participants to review the items on the flipchart.
  4. In the voting column (the right-hand column), ask participants to place a:
    • Green voting dot next to the solution that is their first choice.
    • Yellow voting dot next to the solution that is their second choice. 
  5. Note any trends that emerge. For example, you may see clusters of a particular colored dot.
  6. Ask some or all of the following questions:
    • Is the most popular solution realistic and feasible given our time and resources?
    • Is there reason to believe that the most popular solution could yield negative results or unintended consequences?
  7. Determine the solution that was the most favored and one or two solutions that would make a strong backup plan. 

Love what you’re seeing? Soapbox is packed full of activities just like these to add creativity and ingenuity to your training. Sign up today to join our next round of beta.

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