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It is easy to find problems. They occur every day, some big, some small, some noticed, some not noticed, with most begging for creative solutions that will prevent them from recurring.

And that’s where the real struggle often begins…in searching for solutions that will work.

While I firmly believe that defining the real problem is the most critical part of the solution, it is equally important to define and evaluate alternative solutions in a manner that allows you to make the best decision given the available information.

But how do you come up with possible solutions?

Here’s a simple tactic that works very well.

1. Define the problem that you are experiencing. Probe deep enough to get to the root cause if possible, but at a minimum discuss the impacts and identify the desired outcome from a solution.

2. Engage your team in a brainstorming exercise to come up with solutions

3. Use the “How can we…” approach. Have everyone share their suggested solutions starting their sentences with “How can we…” It makes them think at a deeper level about the problem and the challenges that will be faced in solving it, and sometimes it gets you even closer to the root cause of the symptom you are experiencing.

4. Once you have created a list of “How can we…” ideas, discuss them and develop alternative solutions to the real problem you are experiencing.

5. Evaluate the options and choose the one that serves you best at this point in time, being sure to identify next steps and future actions that will be required to prevent the problem from recurring.

ACTION ADVICE: Try this approach the next time you are seeking better ideas. You’ll be amazed at how many more ideas this technique produces than the traditional brainstorming approaches you’ve used in the past, and even moreso with the quality and depth of the ideas…when you give people permission to dream, they open their minds and allow the new ideas to push out the old, and that is exactly what you want!