One of the key things we do as facilitators working with clients of all types, is to widen and sometimes shift the way a problem or challenge is viewed and then approached.  This is a vital ‘divergent’ thinking step in your thinking, and deserves the time it needs to be done well.  Let’s look at an example…

Say the starting problem is ‘Sales are slumping’ – not uncommon in recent days.

While this may seem reasonably clear and worthy of some brainstorming to find ways to increase sales, we find that it is too high level, even vague, and the thinking that follows is all over the place, and can be quite shallow.  If this was your starting problem, the first step is to ask how else you might look at the problem.  For example – Sales are Slumping could be said like…

1.       The customers aren’t buying as much as they use to

2.       The sales reps aren’t making as many sales as they use to

3.       The competition may be beating us more than they use to

4.       Perhaps the market is declining

5.       Etc, etc…

The key here is to write the problem down in as many different ways as you can think of.  But be careful not to get off topic.

So what do you have by doing this?  Well consider your focus for 1 above.  If this was how you looked at the problem, your focus would be on your customers and how to get them to buy more.

If it was on 2, your focus is on the sales reps and how to get them selling more.  And so it goes.

Doing this allows you to explore the challenge in different ways and you will find that some ways are more useful than others.  You will also get more targeted and valuable ideas later in your thinking.  The key is to select those focus statements that best suit whoever is doing the thinking and the time available.

One word of warning – just because you write a problem down does not mean it is real.  For instance, saying ‘perhaps the market is declining’ does not mean it actually is.  You need to check if this is the case, and if it isn’t, do not hesitate to switch your focus to something more useful.

This technique of focusing can take some extra time upfront, and there is a lot more we could tell you about it, but it really is worth the effort.  We have seen significant problems almost disappear when they are considered in different ways.  Try it yourself and good luck.