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Problem Solving & Conflict Resolution

Table of Contents
Business Plan 1. Problem Solving Getting from existing to desired...................................3 1.1 Characteristics of difficult problems........................................................................3 1.2 Factors that drive corporate problem-solving..........................................................4 2. [Department X] in the crosshairs..................................................................4 3. Problem Solving Techniques From existing to desired..........................9 1.3 Case Study...............................................................................................................9 1.4 Entering the process...............................................................................................11 1.5 Do you have a problem?........................................................................................12 1.6 Make the desired ends clear...................................................................................12 1.7 Defining the problem.............................................................................................12 1.8 Assessing the problem...........................................................................................13 1.9 Digging up the roots...............................................................................................13 Pareto Analysis or the 80 / 20 rule...........................................................................14 1.10 Getting ideas........................................................................................................14 Exercise: How many uses?......................................................................................15 1.11 Narrowing it down...............................................................................................15 1.12 Concluding discussion on case study...................................................................16 4. Conflict Management....................................................................................16 1.13 Basis for conflicts................................................................................................16 1.14 Exercise: Making room for opinion.....................................................................17 1.15 How do we solve conflicts?.................................................................................17 1.16 Values and conflict..............................................................................................18 1.17 Techniques for conflict management...................................................................19 Appendix 1..................................................................................................................19 Metaplan 19 Appendix 2 .................................................................................................................23 Barriers to getting ideas and finding the best solution................................................23 Problem solving blocks............................................................................................23 Perceptual blocks.....................................................................................................23 Intellectual blocks....................................................................................................25 Expressive blocks.....................................................................................................27 Environmental blocks..............................................................................................28 Cultural blocks.........................................................................................................29 Overcoming problem solving blocks.......................................................................31 Appendix 2..................................................................................................................35 Appendix 3..................................................................................................................35 What the Professor has to say about conflict management.........................................35 1.18 Exercise: Bring your conflicts to the table...........................................................38

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Business Plan 1. Problem Solving Getting from existing to desired

1.1 Characteristics of difficult problems


Lack of clarity of the situation Multiple goals Complexity Time considerations

Examples of recent difficult problems The BP oil spill off the US coast The triple tragedy in Japan Can you name others?

The more difficult and urgent the problem is, the easier it is to focus on getting something done. Examples of complex created problems Building the Palm. Dealing with the heat during the World Cup in Qatar. Can you name others?

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1.2 Factors that drive corporate problem-solving


Failure to deliver to standard. Difficulties in attracting or retaining talent. Declining sales. Competition. New laws. Technology. New potential markets. Changes in the economic or physical environment.

2. [Department X] in the crosshairs

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Biggest challenges for Department X 1 Example 2 Example 3 Example Exercise: Write the biggest challenge/s according to you:

Exercise: Our mission In groups, define your mission as you see it. What / who are your Objectives? Stakeholders? Distinctive features and contributions?

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Exercise: Values Values help determine emotions and actions; we feel good and perform better when we do something according to our values. Below is ONE list of values; place a number from 1 to 10 beside the departments/organizations top 10 values. Feel free to add other values that you feel are more important, and include them in your ranking. Pick your ten

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Who will survive? The nuclear catastrophe is just around the corner. Only five persons can be saved, and you have been appointed to choose those five. You will be given nine persons and your job is to suggest which five should be saved, which should not, and why, first by yourself, then in a group and finally in the large group. Youre to think only of the best possible survival of humanity. Here is the list of possible survivors. They have been elected based on skills, knowledge and proven procreative abilities. Their families have consented. Anders Johansson, Swedish, 37, biology teacher and environmental activist, married with two underage children. Speaks Swedish, English and French. Chosen for his passion for the environment, his in-depth knowledge of sustainable living and his excellent teaching skills. Possible weak points: Anders has expressed fear of a prolonged life underground. Some in the committee fear that he might leave or lead the others to venture outside prematurely. Ecevit Kemal, Turkish, 43, renowned diarist, journalist and author, married with two grown children. Speaks Turkish, English and Arabic. Chosen for his ability to capture and explain everyday struggles so that it makes sense to a large number of people and his knowledge in using different means of communication; radio, shortwave radio, print and electronic. Has long been engaged in the green movement in Turkey and built his own solar power plant on his balcony. Possible weak points: Ecevit suffered from two prolonged depressions; once in his early twenties and one when he turned 35. He now uses meditation instead of medication, and believes that he could conquer any depression coming his way. The committee is concerned with the impact of another bout of depression. Malol Bakso, Iraqi, 35, mountaineer and survival expert, coach and inspirational speaker, married with one underage child. Speaks Arabic, Kurdish, English and Nepalese. Chosen for his proven mental strength and survival skills. Has led numerous expeditions and is known for his careful leadership and people skills. Possible weak points: Malol lacks hands-on experience with building and maintaining survival systems. 7
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Vladimir Blotski, Russia, 38, specialist on green technology, married with two underage children. Speaks Russian, English and German. Chosen for his Business Plan knowledge on how to harness energy from a variety of sources with minimum interference with nature. Possible weak points: Vladimir is not a people person. There is a fear that he might alienate others. Veronica Dolan, UK, 32, water treatment specialist and endurance runner, married with two underage children. Speaks English. Chosen for her knowledge in different kinds of water treatment and her mental strength. Possible weak points: Veronica tends to expect others to be as strong as she is, mentally and physically, which can cause disappointment and conflict. Kiku Yoshida, Japan, 28, innovative construction engineer, married with one small child. Speaks Japanese, Korean and English. Chosen for her brilliant approach to new engineering challenges. Comes highly recommended by her former university and current workplace. Possible weak points: Might not be assertive enough, which could cost the whole team in terms of solutions. Ihitha Gahlot, India, 33, medical doctor with midwifery training, married with one child. Speaks Hindi, Malayalam and English. Chosen for her extensive experience in fieldwork and environmental activism. Dr. Ihitha has traveled across India, giving pre-natal and post-natal care to villagers, and helped them set up their own clinics, powered by solar and water energy. Possible weak points: Dr. Ihitha readily assumes the leadership role, but is reluctant to give it up. Might cause friction in the group. Fatima Jbadi, Morocco, 30, sociologist and active environmentalist, author of two books on group dynamics and change on the political scene, from a green perspective, married with one child. Speaks Arabic, French and English. Chosen for her proved ability to mobilize and galvanize people around an idea and need. Possible weak points: Fatima is excessively worried about hygiene and civilized circumstances. There is a worry that the situation underground will overwhelm her. Yara Perreira, Brazil, 30, specialist on forestry and wilderness survival, works as a guide and community service provider in the rainforest, married with two children. Speaks Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and English. Chosen for her knowledge about the ancient rainforest, and her organizational and survival skills. Possible weak points: Yara has a tendency to become negative in face of adversity. Her realistic approach must be matched by someone upbeat and positive.

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3. Problem Solving Techniques From existing to desired


1.3 Case Study
You are the HR Department for an old, renowned publishing house, whose corner product has been a subscription-based morning paper. The paper has a solid name among competitors and critics, but readership has been sliding for a while, and with them the revenue from ads. You have already lost a few journalists to other papers / news outlets, or who have started freelancing, and you hear rumors about more people leaving. Theres not much you can do to keep people, given your constrained budget and the uncertain circumstances for the paper. The papers owner could apply for governmental funding, but hesitates to do so because she feels that might undermine the papers independence. A substantial bid on the paper has come from a prominent, international medial mogul, who is known for being heavily involved in all editorial output in his papers. The general trend is not yet clear some of the competitors seem to be riding out the storm well, whilst others have already gone online or tabloid. The owner is passionate about journalism and has been around for a long time. The editors sometimes complain about her being too old to go with the necessary changes. The journalists, on the other hand, feel that only certain writing gets noticed and other pieces are declined or given a poor placement 9
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without reason. Quite a few of those who have left have been given better stories in their new papers. Others, though, have disappeared without a trace. Business Plan

The owner and editors have invited HR to a meeting, in which HR is tasked with: Helping create a credible, trustworthy and sustainable news outlet with a devoted and expanding readership, populated by enthusiastic and creative professionals. To have completed this task, you should: Be able to say what information you lacked and how and where youd be able to get hold of it. Define the main problems. Have three suggestions on how to solve those problems. Make a list on the required characteristics of the journalists you will be looking to recruit. What you can do right now to make sure that you keep as many of your staff as you can.

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1.4 Entering the process

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Implementing the solution


Smarter goals Action plan Preparation

1.5 Do you have a problem?


There are numerous ways of detecting or determining that you have a problem: Checking results against set targets. Struggling with a lot of negativity at the workplace and/or high turnover. Competition gaining on or overtaking you. Falling sales or users. Increasing complaints. Playing around with alternative scenarios.

1.6 Make the desired ends clear


A problem cannot be solved unless you have established what the desired situation looks like. Your team cannot deliver unless they know what the end result should be. The clearer the goals, the more flexible you can be on means.

1.7 Defining the problem


The six big questions: What is the problem? (sliding sales, for instance) Where is the problem? (which department, location) When? (daily, weekly, monthly, cyclical, seasonal) How? (measure the change; rapid, slow, gradual) Who? (is involved and affected?) Why? (why is this a problem? Why is it happening?)
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1.8 Assessing the problem


Decide how important or big the problem is and how much/many it affects. Decide its relative importance with the following grid:
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1.9 Digging up the roots


Make sure youve separated the symptom from the problem. Determine which of the causes are the main culprits, and which could be left alone without harm. Remember the five ps: processes, policy, people, products and pricing. Challenge every assumption!

Example

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Business Plan

Pareto Analysis or the 80 / 20 rule


In the late 1940s quality management guru Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of income in Italy went to 20% of the population. Pareto later carried out surveys on a number of other countries and found to his surprise that a similar distribution applied. The 80/20 rule can be applied to almost anything: 80% of customer complaints arise from 20% of your products or services. 80% of delays in schedule arise from 20% of the possible causes of the delays. 20% of your products or services account for 80% of your profit. 20% of your sales-force produces 80% of your company revenues. 20% of a systems defects cause 80% of its problems.
How to use Pareto:

Step 1: Identify and list problems Step 2: Identify the root cause of each problem Step 3: Score problems Step 4: Group problems together by root cause Step 5: Add up the scores for each group Step 6: Take action

1.10 Getting ideas


Brainstorming Using metaplans

Avoid the barriers!


Barriers to idea formation: 14
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o Perceptual o Emotional Business Plan o Intellectual o Expressive o Environmental o Cultural

Exercise: How many uses?


In groups, choose one item from inside the room and list as many uses as possible for that. When your group has exhausted one item, choose another. The group with the highest number of items and creative uses wins.

1.11 Narrowing it down


Once you start sifting through your possible solutions, you keep three questions constantly in mind: Does it meet the target? Is it feasible? Is it desirable? Is it suitable?

Narrowing it down further When you have a preliminary list of possible, suitable, desirable solutions that appear to lead to the desired state, you: Make a comparative pro- and con-list Do a cost and benefit analysis Make sure it is compatible with other vital interests. Go with your gut!

Implementing the decision:


Smarter goals Action plans Follow-up and feedback Prepare the organization and its people for changes.

SMARTER Goals Specific Measurable Achievable 15


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Realistic Time-bound Plan Business Exciting Recorded

WWWWWH Goals Whats to be done? Where and by when? Why? By whom? And how do you know it has been done?

1.12 Concluding discussion on case study


What should be done and how?

4. Conflict Management
1.13 Basis for conflicts
Conflict revolves around resources, values or wellbeing.
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Different opinions might lead to but do not in themselves signal conflict unless the prevailing atmosphere at the workplace makes Business Plan it a conflict to differ or when emotional attachment to ideas and thoughts makes it difficult to accept other points of views.

1.14 Exercise: Making room for opinion

Growing through conflict or? Bargaining, negotiating, standing up for oneself, becoming aware of and solving problems are all part of conflict. But so are becoming shy, insecure and uncertain. Badly managed conflicts hurt the parties involved and the organization itself.

1.15 How do we solve conflicts?


Group discussions: How do we solve problems at home?

How do we solve problems at work?

Who is the best problem solver you know? What makes him or her so special? Can we use his or her methods?

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How would you like to manage conflicts at work?


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To engage or not to engage

1.16 Values and conflict


Look at the values that you defined for yourself, your department and your organization, what kind of conflict management do they support? 18
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The big five


Business Plan An excessive workload Concerns about managements ability to lead the company forward successfully Anxiety about the future, particular longer-term job, income and retirement security Lack of challenge in their work, with boredom intensifying existing frustration about workload Insufficient recognition for the level of contribution and effort provided, and concerns that pay isnt commensurate with performance.

1.17 Techniques for conflict management


Defining the root cause. Relational Structural. Environmental. Conflicting interests between departments. Lack of sufficient information in times of uncertainty. Lack of leadership skills at management level. Lack of clarity in terms of roles, expectations and goals. Control that necessary data has been gathered and that you have the structural wherewithal to solve the conflict. Invite the conflicting parties to explain their positions, on the same occasion. Focus on the issue, and the possible solutions. Seek the common interest. Suggest and have the parties suggest as many solutions as possible. Have the parties agree to one measurable, objective solution.

The bigger the conflict, the harder it is to get something done about it. The earlier you deal with it, the easier it will be.

Appendix 1 Metaplan
What is it? 19
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Metaplan is a powerful technique for running constructive problemBusiness Plan solving meetings and group planning sessions. Metaplan encourages those involved with a problem or opportunity to share their ideas and expertise in a structured, semi-anonymous and non-threatening way. Metaplan meetings use different shaped cards, marker pens, blu-tack, brown paper, stickers and carefully worded propositions and questions to create visual records of a group's problem analysis, decision-making and action-planning processes.

Why use it? Metaplan channels the energies within a group in a systematic way to achieve focus, clarity and a common understanding of the task. It helps groups improve the quality of their decision-making, and then convert their conclusions into commonly agreed actions and commitments. Metaplan also streamlines upward and downward communications, especially in organisations undergoing radical change. It improves the efficiency of managers' meetings, project groups, quality improvement teams and task-forces. Metaplan is one of the safest ways to elicit uninhibited feedback from people. It encourages active participation. The quietest participant has the same degree of influence on the results of a metaplan meeting as the most aggressive or eloquent participant. Finally, metaplan results in fun meetings with high levels of energy, satisfaction and commitment from those attending.

When to use it? Metaplan can be used for : Identifying problems and setting priorities for improvement Finding the root causes of problems Identifying alternative solutions and selecting the best Project planning Identifying training needs Identifying the needs of internal and external customers Preparing specifications for new computer systems 20
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Market research (qualitative and quantitative) Total Quality Management Business Plan Customer care initiatives Business Process Re-engineering

How to use it? 1. 2. A pre-meeting is held with the "problem owner" to identify the issues to be covered during the metaplan session. Once the issues are clear, a series of un-ambiguous propositions and questions are prepared. These will be used to elicit the ideas, experiences and preferences of the meeting participants. The propositions and questions are written with black marker pens onto white cards. These cards are then positioned on the walls (or on large sheets of brown paper attached to pinboards). Example propositions are : o The quality of output from our department is - very low, low, satisfactory, high, very high (rate on scale of 1 - 10) o Staff involvement in the improvement of quality is - very low, low, satisfactory, high, very high (rate on scale of 1 - 10) The propositions are anonymously rated by participants (using black stickers). Example questions are : o What should be the characteristics of excellence of the XYZ department? o What are the root causes of delays in processing ABC transactions? o What specific actions could be taken to improve the processing of ABC transactions? Metaplan participants write their answers on small cards, using : o A new card for each idea or comment o No more than seven words per card o Small letters - not joined up After about 10 minutes, the cards are collected and shuffled. The Metaplan session facilitator pins the cards to the pinboards, (or blu-tacks them to the walls), grouping similar ideas together. 21
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3.

4.

5. 6.

7.

8.

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9.

After all the cards have been positioned, header cards are prepared and the Business Plan asked to vote for their preferences (using black participants are stickers). The final arrangement of cards and voted preferences are then recorded, (either by photography or transcribing). The problem owner and each participant receive a copy of the output of the metaplan session. Metaplan sessions normally require between 1 and 3 hours depending upon the number of propositions, questions and the size of the group. Key factors for successful metaplan sessions include : o A neutral facilitator, (subject expertise is not essential) o Careful wording of questions and propositions o Accurate estimation and control of timing o Avoiding over-use of the metaplan technique

10.

11. 12.

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Appendix 2

Business Plan

Barriers to getting ideas and finding the best solution Problem solving blocks
A block is anything which prevents us finding an effective solution to a problem. We all experience them, but of different types and intensities. The blocks can be grouped according to their cause : Perceptual Emotional Intellectual Expressive Environmental Cultural

It is important to recognise when blocks are hindering your problem solving so that appropriate action can be taken to overcome them.

Perceptual blocks
Perceptual blocks exist when we are unable to clearly perceive a problem or the information needed to solve it effectively. They include : Seeing only what you expect to see To recognise situations we look for patterns of key features which we have learnt by experience represent a particular situation. If the key features 'fit', we assume the situations are the same. This often obscures the true nature of a problem, either because we exclude relevant information (because it isn't a key feature or didn't occur in the past), or include information simply because we assume it is there. Stereotyping In recognising situations we automatically apply labels (like door, machine, laziness) which can prevent us seeing all the features of the situation. Often we don't look beyond the obvious. For example, if someone isn't working as hard as we would like and we apply the label 'lazy' to that person, we might overlook the possibility that boredom with monotonous work is the problem, and not laziness. 23
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Not recognising problems Business Plan A surprising number of problems go unnoticed or are recognised only when the effects have become severe and emergency action is required. Not seeing the problem in perspective This is related to some of the previous blocks, and results from : taking too narrow a view of the situation, so that we recognise only part of the problem or the information required to solve it failing to recognise how different parts of the problem are related seeing only superficial aspects of the problem, so that the solution is inadequate failing to see the problem from the point of view of other people who are involved.

Mistaking cause and effect Many problems are recognised by their effects or the absence of expected results. If cause and effect are confused then we are unlikely to find an effective solution. For example, if goods do not arrive and we assume that the supplier is late in despatching them, when in fact our ordering department has failed to send out the order, then our search for solutions will be misdirected. In this situation, the late despatch of the goods is an effect of the problem and not a cause. Emotional blocks exist when we perceive a threat to our emotional needs. These needs differ in type and strength from person to person but include needs for achievement, recognition, order, belonging and self-esteem. The emotional blocks include : Fear of making mistakes or looking foolish This is the most significant emotional block because it affects most of us and is difficult to overcome. As a result of traditional schooling, the expected reaction when we make a mistake or suggest radically different ideas is laughter and ridicule. No one likes being laughed at and as a result we learn to fear making mistakes and to avoid suggesting ideas which are different. 24
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This block becomes more severe in the presence of colleagues of a different rank to our own. With those who are more senior we imagine that we will be Business Plan thought inexperienced or immature. With those more junior we want to protect our image as being knowledgeable and experienced. Impatience Being impatient to solve a problem may be due either to a desire to succeed quickly or to end the discomfort or loss caused by the problem. This has two major consequences. We tend to grab the first solution which comes along, without adequate analysis of the problem, and we evaluate ideas too fast, almost instinctively rejecting unusual ideas. Either way, our solution is unlikely to be the most effective available. Avoiding anxiety This is another common block. Some of us are more susceptible to anxiety and also find it more unpleasant than others. Many factors can cause anxiety, including high risk, disorder and ambiguity, long-term stress, and fear for our security. The effects of problem solving include avoiding risks, indecision in situations which are not 'black and white', excessive reliance on others' judgement, and avoiding challenging the status quo. Fear of taking risks This leads to the avoidance of situations where the outcome is uncertain or could be unpleasant. A major cause is our desire for security. The consequences include setting objectives within easy reach, so that there is no risk of failure, and accepting known solutions in preference to the unusual because their value is certain. A liking for taking risks and over-confidence in being able to avoid unpleasant consequences are more dangerous blocks. Need for order This is related to avoiding anxiety. It can lead to an inability to cope with the frustration of situations which are not clear cut or where ambiguities exist.

Intellectual blocks
Lack of challenge This may arise when the problem is routine or the benefits / losses are not significant to us. The result is that either we don't tackle the problem or we take the easiest, quickest route to the solution. 25
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Intellectual blocks exist when we don't have the necessary thinking skills to find a successful solution,Plan unable to use them effectively. Business or are They include : Lack of knowledge or skill in the problem solving process This is one of the most common blocks. It includes : inadequate skills in analytical and creative thinking; an inflexible strategy, using one approach for every type of problem; the inability to use the various problem solving techniques. They can all lead to ineffective solutions. Lack of creative thinking This is always caused by an inability to use the skills rather than their absence, resulting from the dominance of analytical thinking in our day-to-day lives and a lack of practice. Inflexible thinking This is a difficulty in switching from one type of thinking skill to another, such as from analysis to idea generation or from verbal to visual thinking. Not being methodical This is perhaps the most common block. A step-by-step approach is essential to solving problems effectively. Lack of knowledge or skill in using the 'language' of the problem If a problem involves a language that we cannot understand or cannot use, such as specialist jargon or statistical analysis, we will not be able to tackle the problem effectively. Similarly, we may use an inappropriate language, such as trying to find an error in accounts by describing the situation verbally rather than analysing it mathematically. Using inadequate information This happens when we do not make sufficient effort to collect the relevant information, or do not understand what information is relevant, where to find it, or how it relates to the problem. Similarly, using inaccurate information can lead us to the wrong conclusions. 26
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Business Plan Expressive blocks Expressive blocks exist when we do not have the knowledge or skills necessary to communicate or record ideas in the ways required. They are caused by an inability to use 'languages' effectively, such as words, drawings, mathematics, scientific symbols, and so on. They include : Using the wrong language Some problems are more effectively solved or communicated using one language rather than another. For example, we are unlikely to get very far if we record data only verbally when the problem requires quantitative analysis. Similarly, people may find it hard to grasp our meaning if we try to explain our feelings about a situation using mathematics instead of words. Unfamiliarity with a particular application of a language The most obvious example is the difficulty many people have making a speech, even though they can write their ideas effectively on paper. Inadequate explanations These can result from a real lack of information about what you are trying to convey, or from assuming that your audience already has some of the information when they don't. A passive management style A situation where we are reluctant to or find it difficult to exert influence may prevent us communicating our ideas effectively. This is particularly important when people need to be convinced of the validity of ideas.

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A dominant management style Business Plan This is when we exert oppressive control, either deliberately or unconsciously, and can make those we are communicating with automatically reluctant to accept what we say or hostile to our ideas.

Environmental blocks
Environmental blocks, which exist when the social or physical environment hinders our problem solving, include : Management style The way in which we are managed can influence both our attitude to problem solving and the freedom we have to create and implement ideas. For example, if our ideas are dismissed constantly with comments such as "No, it wouldn't work because . . .", or "No, we've tried it before and it didn't work", we soon give up trying. Distractions Due to excessive noise and interruptions, these affect some people more than others, but in general, they have a detrimental effect on problem solving. Physical discomfort This can create a distraction as well as resulting in stress or lethargy depending on the circumstances. For example, poorly designed chairs may create a distraction by giving us backache which, in turn, can make us irritable and less interested in any type of work. Lack of support This comes in many forms. For example, we may need specialist information, advice, skills or other resources, or authority to take action. A more pervasive aspect of this block is a lack of encouragement and the necessary organisational structure to support and exploit people's ideas. Stress Stress due to pressure of work and deadlines, affects people differently. For those who are susceptible to stress, it can be a powerful block, hindering creative thinking in particular. 28
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Lack of communication Business Plan This has a number of effects, including inability to get the information you require and a lack of encouragement. Monotonous work This can dull enthusiasm for solving problems and put us on to 'automatic pilot', making us blind to problems when they occur. Expectations of others These can influence both our general performance in problem solving and the objectives we set ourselves. For example, if our peers and superiors are happy with a regular solution to a problem we may feel that it is a waste of time looking for a new, more effective solution. On the other hand, if we are expected to find an innovative solution we are likely to make a greater effort.

Cultural blocks
Cultural blocks exist when our problem solving is hindered by accepting that some things are good or right and are done, while others are bad or wrong and are not done, so that we become bound by custom. They include : Unquestioning acceptance of the status quo There is a tendency to conform to established ideas and methods of working and not to question them or express ideas which depart from them. If something is not normally done, we tend to look for the reasons why it can't be done or why it wouldn't work, rather than looking for the reasons why it should be done or why it could work. Dislike of change The attitude that tradition is preferable to change can arise from the need for security. If a situation is acceptable as it is, any change, which must involve some uncertainty, is felt to be threatening by some people. However, as we become more and more accustomed to change, this block is becoming less common, but there must be reasons for change. Change for change's sake can be dangerous. 29
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Fantasy and humour are not productive Business Plan There is still a widespread belief that fantasy and humour have no place in the serious business of problem solving. Subjective reports from innovators suggest otherwise. Fantasy and humour are connected by one common feature - the unlikely combination of ideas (think about it next time you hear a good joke - the punch line is always unexpected). Innovative solutions to problems arise in the same way - by making a link between apparently unrelated ideas. Feelings, intuition and subjective judgements are unreliable There is a strong bias towards reason, logic and quantitative judgements because they can be measured and communicated in accurate terms. Feelings, intuition and subjective judgements, which cannot be measured or communicated as effectively, are seen as unreliable and are mistrusted. Even in mathematics, one of the most logical of sciences, intuition is often reported as playing a key role in problem solving. A good problem solver needs to be able to use both objective, logical methods and subjective, intuitive methods in the search for solutions. Over-emphasis on competition or co-operation A strongly competitive environment (for recognition, promotion, and so on) can make people unwilling to listen to the ideas of those with whom they are competing. Similarly, in a strongly co-operative environment we may avoid expressing new ideas because we don't want to stand out from the crowd. Taboos Some actions and ideas are excluded from problem solving because they are regarded as distasteful, or are harmful, or contravene accepted moral codes. For example, in a test of creativity a group of students were given a problem to solve using calculus. They had to follow certain rules and the objective was to see who produced the largest number of different routes to the correct solution. A few students produced a lot more than the others because they chose to break the rules they were told to follow. Although eventually we may not decide to break a taboo, there is no harm in breaking them in thought. This can often lead to new perspectives on a problem. The labels given to all of these blocks only serve to help explain them. There is considerable overlap between some of the blocks and this can make it hard to recognise them if you look for labels. The most effective way to recognise 30
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blocks is to examine your thinking when you are solving problems and be aware constantly for factors which are hindering your progress. Business Plan

Overcoming problem solving blocks

Because they arise in different ways, the various blocks require different techniques to overcome them : Perceptual blocks These are relatively easy to overcome by using a step-by-step approach : having systems to warn of the occurrence of problems defining and analysing problems adequately collecting all the relevant information questioning whether you have used inaccurate information or made assumptions about what is and isn't relevant asking for other people's points of view using models to represent the relationships between different aspects of the problem.

Emotional blocks These can be difficult to overcome because they require a change in attitude, which may take some time to learn. The following methods help to achieve this change : accept that if you are looking for new, better ways of doing something, some mistakes are almost inevitable remember that many great thinkers have been ridiculed for what turned out to be great inventions, e.g. the heavier-than-air flying machine if you still fear looking foolish, try to develop your ideas into a practical form before you show them to anyone, or develop a logical argument to prove that they will work following a impatience strictly methodical approach will automatically curb

to avoid anxiety tackle problems in small, easily manageable steps; if necessary, put the problem aside and come back to it later if you don't want to take risks, identify the worse possible consequences, and how likely they are to occur, and then try to find ways of preventing them 31
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If aBusiness Plan problem doesn't seem challenging, try to imagine the greatest benefits that could be achieved if it was solved.

Intellectual blocks To overcome the intellectual blocks, you need to : learn to be methodical practise using different types of 'language' to tackle problems practise using various analytical and creative techniques.

Expressive blocks Overcoming these blocks involves learning to : identify which 'language' is most likely to help you solve a particular problem use languages in different ways, e.g. diagrams to represent problems normally described verbally ensure that when you explain ideas you have all the relevant information, it is accurate, and that you convey it all clearly develop a style of working with others which is not too forceful (so that people are more willing to listen to you) and not too passive (so that you learn how to influence people); showing enthusiasm for your ideas can help by infecting others with enthusiasm.

Environmental blocks These are some of the methods you can use : if there is a climate of criticism, develop the strengths of your ideas and ways to overcome their weaknesses before you propose them; being careful how you describe it to others will also help to avoid premature criticism conduct your problem solving in an environment which suits you, i.e. comfortable and free of distractions likely to hinder you; this may mean setting aside some time when you can move away from your normal working environment if you feel people may not provide the help you need, try to identify the benefits to them of solving the problem before you ask for their help 32
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if pressure of work hinders you, set aside some time when you are free from other work to tackle the problem Business Plan if your work is monotonous, introduce some variety by looking for different ways of doing the job; alternatively, look for varied tasks that could be delegated to you.

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Cultural blocks Business Plan The following methods can be used to help overcome the various cultural blocks : critically question existing ideas and methods, looking for areas for improvement identify constraints and question their validity if you dislike change, do some 'wishful thinking' to see what benefits change would bring; ask yourself what would be the consequences of taking a new approach if you think fantasy and humour have no place in problem solving, practise using your day-dreams to develop your ideas; next time someone cracks a joke about a situation, think about what new perspectives it creates if you think intuition is unreliable, think back over recent problems you have solved; did that first 'hunch' turn out to be close to your final solution? if you are in a very competitive environment, be careful how you explain your ideas to people competing with you; emphasis the likely benefits to them if there is a strong climate of co-operation, ask members of your group for their ideas and comments; share the problem with them.

If you fail to solve a problem effectively, look back over your thoughts and actions to see if a block hindered you. If it did, next time you can prepare to avoid it. By being constantly aware of the blocks that can occur and using the techniques described above to overcome them when they hinder your problem solving, you will find that gradually fewer and fewer blocks occur.

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Appendix 2 Appendix 3
Business Plan

What the Professor has to say about conflict management I can't say that every conflict resolution course is wrong, but in my experience, this is what works best:

Be yourself. If you've worked on learning conflict resolution, you've heard the advice to elicit a response by saying things like "tell me how that makes you feel" or "I hear what you're saying". In my opinion, that's terrible advice. Anybody's BS meter will go off the chart when they here that type of phase. They'll immediately think, "oh boy, here comes some of his dime store psychology". The idea is solid - figure out what the person is feeling, figure out what their issues are, demonstrate concern about what they want, and keep them talking. However you HAVE to use your own words and your own style. Nothing shuts down a person like the perception that you're either phony or trying to "workshop" them. It IS critical to elicit responses and give the person a forum to speak their mind - but learn to do it by being yourself.

Figure out the real problem. Why do people get into fierce battles over the dumbest things? I've seen people yell and scream and come to tears battling over desk positioning. If you're wise, you'll figure out what the real problem is. Sure, sometimes people have little things that they really care about. But nine times out of ten the real problem is deeper. What it often comes down to is, "why does HE get his way all the time?". Or "why do I always have to sacrifice when no when else does?". You might be surprised to find that when push comes to shove the reason someone won't move their desk is a deep feeling that person A ALWAYS gets the breaks, and person B is simply putting their foot down. A conflict often means somebody thinks they are getting taken advantage of. Just like a two kids who argue endlessly over who's piece of pie is bigger the bottom line is often really how bit the pie is, but who's getting an unfair advantage and who's getting the short end of the stick.
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Get people talking. How do you figure out the real problems? Talk to people. I suggest NOT doing it in a group. Go one on one. In a group people tend to modulate their feelings or get defensive. One on one you can talk to a person and see what's really getting at them. Groups also tend to cause trouble when people really let it rip and end up causing more hurt than existed in the first place. Once you've talked to people one on one and really felt them out, then you might want to bring them together and come to a common conclusion - work on modulating conflict and not dredging dirt.

Business Plan

If you're management, do it yourself. Nothing is easier than delegating inter-worker conflicts off to one of the workers. Bad move. If they are bad at it, the problem will stay or get worse. If they are good at it, you've undermined your own credibility. Face the issue and deal with it.

Getting peoples feelings out means nothing without follow through. The whole process is meaningless if you're not committed to trying to come to solid conclusions. Don't treat conflict resolution like something to get past for one moment in time. A conflict generally represents something that's been festering a while. Get it out, deal with it, and come to solid conclusion everyone can live with over the long term. Otherwise you'll be right back where you started. And in fact, nothing can ferment future problems like having everyone speak their mind without reaching any conclusions.

If you're a manager, carefully think through the legitimacy of what you're enforcing. Conflict arises when a person doesn't want to accept what is going on around them. Often that is the result of a coworker, but it is also often the result of management rules. Make sure your rules aren't arbitrary. If a worker(s) has a serious and long standing complaint about an issue, tell them you'll think it over. And then do so. Ask why they think the policy is unfair and then consider alternatives. Ask them in good faith to come up with viable
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alternatives, making sure, however, that they understand that your Business Plan consideration doesn't mean you'll necessarily change the policy. Don't compromise the principles of your organization. It makes a lot of sense to compromise and to seek the middle ground. However, you need to make it clear that some things are non-negotiable. Don't compromise the long-term health of your organization. If you've considered everything and believe that some things must stay the way they are, explain your reasons and then stick with it. This applies both to a situation between management and workers and between workers themselves. Not every rule or every situation will be loved by all. Trying to please everyone is both impossible and unhealthy.

Don't play favorites. Of course you have favorites. But don't let that change how you deal with people in these situations As a professor, I had students I liked more than others. Period. But I tried never to treat them differently from the others and when it came time to grade them, I made it clear to everyone that love you or hate you, you'll be graded on the basis of your results. Don't let personal favoritism color your impartiality. It's not wrong to like some people more. It's wrong to act on that in an unfair way.

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1.18 Exercise: Bring your conflicts to the table


Business Plan In groups, decide on one workplace conflict that you have experienced, without naming names or departments, and see how you now would approach that conflict to try and solve it.

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