Pair Problem Solving in the Workplace

Today cooperation is replacing competition in more and more work situations. We are even seeing a rise in co-creating products with customers. Yet few of us have any training in cooperative thinking or group problem solving. Our typical introduction to teamwork is being picked to be part of a team.

In Agile software development the use of pair programing has been used for many years. They consider that the defects are significantly reduced when there is another developer looking over ones shoulder. Because of this the overall rate of development is increased even though you may consider that efficiency has been decreased.

There have been other gains that have been attributed to pair programming. One is substitution as programming is tiresome, so that the developers together can program for longer hours than a single person. The other gain is knowledge or skill transfer. But maybe the most important, working as a pair or even in a larger setting as a team, assists in taking tacit knowledge and making it explicit.

From the book, Problem Solving & Comprehension, the authors state:

Pair problem solving is also an excellent system for building skills for team thinking, creativity, trouble shooting, and design. Often when a group of people meet to discuss an issue, each individual strives to show off his or her own competence or cut down other people’s ideas. To counter these tendencies a technique known as Brainstorming forbids criticism. But this does not really solve the problem, because criticism is essential to building an effective solution. Pair problem solving encourages constant criticism without degenerating into personal bickering.

Most people, including highly talented people, have very little conscious awareness of how they produce creative new Ideas or how they reach decisions. When you have little understanding of how you think yourself, the conclusions reached by others can be completely baffling In the highly charged, competitive environment of the corporate rat race it is easy to see other people’s ideas In a bad light. Pair problem solving develops both an understanding of your own reasoning processes and an appreciation of those of other people. Furthermore it shows you how working with other people, you can refine ideas and problem solutions so that the end result is better than any single contribution This experience and the experiences of sharing your thought processes create a feeling of intimacy and trust. It establishes the base for a group to move from bickering to brilliance.

We have a significant amount of team building exercises but I believe it can be boiled down to one thing: Respect for people. If your organization has that built into its culture and externalized to its customers and vendors, you may have mastered the most powerful ingredient for success.

As my Friday Video counterpart, Dr. Balle suggests, “As an individual are you taking the time to see how easy you are making someone else’s job.”

A simple exercise that can be interesting is for the rest of the day do not solve a problem without asking someone for an opinion. Knowledge is not created in a vacuum.

Five Dysfunctions of a Team Workshop Deluxe Facilitator’s Guide Package is outstanding and can be a great start for not only sales and marketing but your entire organization.

Related Information:
There is no Team in Kaizen
Improve Communication – Have more meetings?
Quality and Collaboration eBook

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