There are two fun parts in a conversation with problem-solving topics.
The first part is the problem discovery process. It is essential to get everyone’s understanding of what the problems are, and hear where they came from. With different levels of expertise and relevant knowledge, people’s understanding can vary so much. It’s important to encourage everyone to put their opinions on the table and get them heard. This helps with discovering underlying factors and identify the problems from a more holistic view.
What even more fun is the second part. Only talking about problems can be depressing, and it fills negative energy in the room. A problem can be too big, too difficult to solve, or take too much manpower beyond the existing resources. Therefore, a more positive and optimistic creative thinking process needs to be brought in and direct people to refocus on “how might we do” next. Think “what we can do to move this forward”, instead of “oh my goodness, this problem is never going to be solved. Let’s go home.” It’s very important to stay optimistic and keep an eye on possible solutions.
One of the many great ways to do this is bumping ideas. Ask everyone to spend some quiet time writing down a bunch of ideas on paper. Post-its are great because it’s easy to move around and stick to a smooth surface that everyone can see. Let them go wild, not within existing constraints. Post the ideas together and let people explain their own favorite ones. Get everyone’s ideas heard, understood and considered. You never know what can come up in this collaborative process. Chances are you’ll spot one or two brilliant directions to move towards the next step :)