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7 Easy Problem Solving Activities – How Your Team Benefits From Them

Problem solving activities
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“ Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines.” – Robert Schuller

Let’s face it – we cannot expect life in the workplace (or in general) to be a straightforward, smooth road without any bumps, potholes, and speed breaks. Problems, small or big, will be there while we work. 

The way we react to problems at the workplace says a lot about our problem-solving skills, and this is one area where good teams outshine mediocre teams. We should be confident in our ability to overcome challenges that we encounter in the middle of the small or large tasks and projects. 

Problem-solving and decision-making go hand in hand at work, but the question is – “Do we really know how to be good at problem solving or how many of us have been trained for it? 

Generally, when faced with problems, many employees tend to: get nervous and wish it would go away, they feel they have to create a solution and it has to be the right one, and they look for someone to put all the blame on. 

Guess what happens? Dealing with a problem becomes a problem itself!  

Surely, this is not how you would want problems to be handled within your team. As a leader of the pack, you have to take the initiative to make your team better at generating solutions when things will go haywire.

Problem-solving activities can be a great way to know how team members identify problems, the way they react to them, how quickly they can find potential solutions, and then implement the best one. 

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When working with a team, there is not one but several types of problems that might occur. Move on to the next section to understand some common problems that can crop up while you navigate your team at work. 

Common Problems Faced By Project Teams 

1. Lack of Mutual Trust 

Easy Problem Solving Activities

Trust is the basis of strong relationships. No team can hope to achieve success if members do not want to engage with each other and make that human connection that is so vital for them for better collaboration.

Team members should first know each other well, both professionally and personally, especially before they are assigned a large, complex project where tensions will run high at some point. 

2. Not Having A Central Location For Information Sharing

Information Sharing 

When some team members do not get easy access to crucial information related to a project, it can lead to a dreaded information gap within the team. Scattered information makes matters worse for managers and team members. 

Having all the information stored and organized in a single location, in the form of files and folders, makes information accessibility easy for all team members. Team members can collaborate on them effectively, review, proof, and share feedback at one place, which saves a whole lot of time.  

3. Lack Of Transparency

Transparency

“According to an American Psychological Association Survey that spoke to more than 1,500 workers, it was found that 50% didn’t feel that their employers shared the information they required to be successful within their jobs.”

For any project to be a success, teams, managers, and clients need to be on the same page. Without transparency, the trust will take a backseat within the team and it can lead to a plethora of problems that can spell the doomsday for the company. 

The task of establishing transparency starts at the top. Project managers are responsible for setting a prime example for their team members in terms of the way they conduct themselves. Employees are likely to follow their leader’s behaviors, positive or negative, and it becomes your responsibility to inspire them through positive actions.  

4. Poor Communication 

Poor Communication

“David Grossman reported in “The Cost of Poor Communications” that a survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees each cited an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year because of inadequate communication to and between employees.”

Poor communication happens when it doesn’t happen regularly across the team, and not all members participate in it. It can also occur when team members interrupt one another, maintain silence, indicate problems but fail to formally address them. Some members may nod in agreement, but may not agree in reality. 

Using different communication modes can bridge the gap between team members. At the same time, encouraging members to openly share their ideas and concerns can also help to clear a lot of misunderstandings, doubts, and confusion. 

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5. Lack Of Purpose 

Lack Of Purpose 

“One in two employees report that their jobs lack purpose, and an equal number feel disconnected from their company’s mission.”

If I think about the teams I least enjoyed working with, they were the ones that had a vague understanding of what exactly their purpose was, and how they plan to achieve that goal. It’s hard to put in your best efforts when you don’t know the purpose behind the work you’re doing. The most satisfying teamwork occurs where the purpose is well-defined, and team members are aligned with each other. 

6. Conflict And Tension 

Conflict And Tension

$359 billion in paid hours or the equivalent of 385 million working days are lost each year due to workplace conflict.”  

Conflicts and tension can be healthy and trigger useful debates if managed carefully. However, team members can cross the line often. The negative effects of workplace conflict include, but are not limited to poor productivity, absenteeism, work disruptions, project failure, lower retention rates, and termination. Different opinions in the workplace are common, but it’s their mishandling that can spell troubles for an organization.

Team leaders can practice constructive criticism to make employees realize their shortcomings without making them feel humiliated. You can appreciate their strong points, but should not hesitate in pointing out their weaknesses (in performance or conduct) in an affirmative tone.  

7. Uncertainty Of Roles 

roles

This is a common problem, especially among large teams. Some team members are not clear of their roles; what are they supposed to do and when. At the end of the day, the blame game happens. Team members blame their managers and vice versa and it’s all due to poor task management. 

By creating and assigning custom roles, managers can allow team members or clients to do things that fall under their work domain and job responsibilities. 

8. Lack Of Motivation 

Lack Of Motivation 

“When managers recognize employees’ contribution, their engagement increases by 60%”.

Having demotivated employees working for you is probably the biggest misfortune of your organization. However, have you ever tried to find out the reason for some of your employees losing motivation? It can be due to not being appreciated at work, not feeling like the part of the team, personal reasons, etc. 

Whatever the reason may be, a team manager should quickly confront the situation to solve it for good. Having one-on-one discussions with team members can go a long way in helping you to know about the exact reasons behind their below-par performance and come up with effective solutions. 

What Problem Solving Activities Bring To The Table 

But how problem-solving activities are going to help me, my team members, and the organization?” Many readers, especially team managers, must be having this question in mind while reading this article. 

I understand that readers want to know how problem-solving activities can benefit them. So, I have prepared a list of pros of such activities happening at the workplace, which I am sharing with you. Read on to know more about it. 

1. Better Thinking 

think

Problem-solving activities in the workplace help to bring the best out of every team member. Every member enthusiastically puts forth his unique idea of solving the problem. This helps team managers to weigh in different solutions for resolving a problem and then choose the most suitable one. In other words, this process stimulates better thinking. 

For example – A remote team with widely dispersed members was struggling with lack of communication. Emails and texting were just not good enough. Mike was leading the team and he asked all members to suggest ways to improve communication within the remote team

John suggested using online chat software for instant group or individual chat, Sid suggested using video conferencing software for daily team meetings, and Shane suggested using telephonic calls, texting, and emails for official communication. 

As a result of quick thinking and sharing of ideas, Mike and his team benefited greatly by using different communication modes to share information and feedback easily.  

2. Better Risk Handling 

risk handling

Some people can handle a higher amount of risk. It’s because they have successfully dealt with difficult situations before. Team problem-solving activities kind of condition the minds of individuals to respond to stressful situations in a better way as compared to those who are not mentally prepared to deal with the challenge. 

3. Better Communication 

Communication 

Regular communication between team members can help to solve problems efficiently. Problem-solving activities within teams foster mutual cooperation and intra-team communication, which eventually creates a better understanding between team members. 

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4. Improved Productivity Output 

Improved Productivity Output

When a team works as a strong unit, the company or organization experiences improved productivity, which eventually leads to improved profit margins. The involvement of managers and team members in problem-solving activities can have a positive result for the company in terms of overall growth and profitability. 

7 Of The Most Easy And Effective Problem Solving Activities For Teams Of All Sizes 

1. Human Knots

 

Helps With: Collaboration & Communication Skills 

Estimated Time: 15-20 minutes

Things You’ll Need: Nothing 

How To Do It: 

Make your team stand in a small circle. If your team is large then you can divide it into smaller groups and make them stand in multiple circles. Each person should hold the hands of two other people standing in the circle, but not of those who are standing directly beside them. 

This should result in creating a “human knot”. The fun part (also the challenging) begins now. Ask each member of the group to untangle themselves without letting go of each other’s hands. You can set a time limit if you want. You can watch your team members as they work out moves to untangle their bodies. 

This activity gives them a chance to communicate and collaborate with each other to solve the problem quickly. They may or may not fully entangle themselves, but would have started to work together to solve the problem. 

How Communication Is Essential To Problem Solving – When working as a team, no problem is big enough. A bunch of committed individuals can collaborate to overcome even the most difficult of hurdles. When all team members come together and put in a joint effort, the problem is likely to get resolved sooner than later. 

2. A Shrinking Vessel

 Helps With: Adaptability and Fast Thinking 

Estimated Time: 10-15 Minutes 

Things You’ll Need: A rope and a ball of yarn 

How To Do It: 

Take a rope and place it on the floor in a shape in a way that all your team members can stand inside it. If your team is large, you can use multiple ropes and divide your team into smaller groups. 

The challenging part starts when all team members are made to stand inside the rope and you start to shrink the rope slowly. As space reduces, team members will have to make subtle adjustments to maintain their position as well as balance inside the shrinking circle. 

No one should step outside the circle. The challenge before your team is to quickly think together about how to keep everyone inside the circle. 

How Adaptability Is Essential To Problem Solving – This amazingly effective problem-solving activity is for teams who are facing adaptability issues. Adaptability and cognitive diversity go hand in hand, which enables your team to work out things faster. People and organizations that can adapt quickly, usually come out on top because they can condition themselves to changing circumstances and environments and take on board new ideas and concepts.  

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3. Marshmallow Spaghetti Tower 

Helps With: Collaboration 

Estimated Time: 20-30 Minutes 

Things You’ll Need (per team): 

  • 20 sticks of uncooked spaghetti
  • 1 marshmallow
  • A yard of string
  • A single roll of masking tape  

How To Do It: 

Ask your team to utilize all the available materials to construct the tallest tower within a specific time period. The tower must stand on its own and be able to support a marshmallow. 

And the point behind this problem-solving activity is to make the team think quickly while encouraging prototyping and iteration. This activity also helps to promote and build strong camaraderie and leadership. 

How Collaboration Is Essential To Problem Solving – Peter Singe, in the Fifth Discipline, writes “Collectively, we can be more insightful, more intelligent than we can possibly be individually.” This means we can solve problems better when working as a team than we can alone. 

This problem-solving activity puts emphasis on team collaboration, which is crucial for the success of any group, irrespective of its size. It also shows that success is dependent upon close collaboration between team members.

4. Frostbite 

Helps With: Decision Making, Trust, Leadership

Estimated Time: 20-30 Minutes 

Things You’ll Need: 

  • Blindfolds
  • An electric fan 
  • Construction materials (toothpicks, cardstock, rubber bands, sticky notes, etc.)

How To Do It: 

Divide your team into groups of 4-5 people each (applicable for large teams). Each team should have its leader to guide them. Remember, team leaders are not allowed to use their hands in any way to help their respective groups. Now, the fun part of this problem-solving activity is that team members are blindfolded, so they can’t use their hands! 

Every team is given 30 minutes to build a tent. The time is set to create a sense of urgency within the team. For example, give your team a scenario where they have to make a tent to save themselves from approaching thunderstorms. The tent should be able to withstand high winds from the storm.

After the game is over, you can turn on the fan to see which tent is able to stand on its own even after withstanding winds blowing at the high speed. 

This problem-solving activity aims to improve the listening skills of team members in order to execute the task as per the leader’s instructions. 

How Decision Making Is Essential To Problem Solving – When managing teams and projects, the team managers have to take a lot of decisions. Decision making is essential to problem-solving because if the right decision is taken at the right time, then it could lead to resolving the problem, which eventually benefits the entire team and the organization. 

5. Egg Drop

Helps You With: Decision Making and Collaboration 

Estimated Time: 10-15 Minutes 

Things You’ll Need: 

  • A carton of eggs
  • Construction materials (balloons, rubber bands, straws, tape, plastic wrap, etc.)
  • A place where you can let things get messy! 

How to Do It: 

Give a single egg to each team and let it choose randomly from different construction materials. The task that is to be assigned to each team is that it has to create a carrier for an egg that prevents it from breaking. 

Once teams are done with creating carriers, place an egg in them and drop them (from over a ledge or a balcony), one by one. The purpose is to find which team’s carrier (s) can save an egg from breaking.  

If multiple eggs remain unbroken, you can keep increasing the height of the fall to find out the last egg that survives even after falling from more height. The winning team is the one that created the most durable carrier that survived until the last.  

The idea behind this problem-solving activity is to encourage all members of the team to work together towards achieving the common goal. 

How Teamwork Is Essential To Problem Solving – Joint efforts by a group of individuals to achieve the set target by utilizing limited resources can save valuable time, money, and resources of the organization. 

6. Dumbest Idea First 

How It Helps: Critical Thinking, Creative Problem Solving 

Estimated Time: 15-20 minutes 

Things You’ll Need: A piece of paper, pen, and pencil 

How To Do It: 

As the name of this problem-solving activity suggests, the idea is to present a problem to your team and ask them to quickly come up with dumbest ideas to the problem at hand. This could be a real-world problem that your team is facing or it could be an imagined scenario. 

Once all team members have written down the dumbest ideas they could think of, evaluate every idea to determine which ones are most likely to work, and which ones are least likely to be seen as a viable solution that can work. 

How Critical Thinking Is Essential To Problem Solving – There are some problems that need to be solved by out-of-the-box thinking. Creative problem-solving ideas might sound unorthodox to work, but these give you additional options to consider. You can discover some solutions that might not be obvious to start with, but can be incredibly effective in delivering expected results. 

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7. Escape

How It Helps: Boost skills in communication, project management, problem solving, and dealing with complex challenges.

Estimated Time: 20-30 Minutes 

Things You’ll Need: 

  • A lockable room
  • One rope
  • One key 
  • 5-10 puzzles or clue 

How To Do It: 

Hike the key and a list of clues around the room. Ask team members to solve all the clues to find the key and unlock the room to escape within the allotted time. Clues and the key should be hidden around the room. 

Ask all team members to enter the room and lock the door. Give them 30 minutes or 1 hour to find the key using the clues hidden in the room. This problem solving activity can really get your team going up and running as they race against the time to find a solution to the problem in hand. 

How Putting Intensive Efforts Is Essential To Problem Solving – Complex problems require intensive team effort. Your team can achieve specific, time-bound goals by collaborating closely with each other and thinking quickly under pressure.

And Some Team Collaboration Problems Are Sorted With The Help Of The Right Software

Even though the aforementioned problem-solving activities can be amazingly effective to enhance collaboration and communication within your team, there’s no denying the fact that using a top-rated team collaboration and project management software like ProofHub can help team managers solve quite a few problems efficiently. 

Whether you’re having trouble with delayed communication, poor organization of files and folders, poor time management, inadequate task management, or low control over teams and projects, ProofHub is your all-in-one solution to put an end to your managerial woes and help you and your team achieve more in less. 

Some Powerful Features of ProofHub Include: 

  • Workflows and Kanban Boards
  • Online Proofing
  • Gantt Charts
  • Group Chat
  • Online Discussions
  • Custom Reports
  • Timer and Timesheets
  • Third-party Integrations
  • Announcements
  • IP Restrictions 

Pricing – Simple, flat pricing. No per-user fee. The Ultimate Control plan is priced at $89 per month, billed annually. 

The Final Thought 

Many organizations face a plethora of problems that haunt their teams consistently. These problems have a rippling effect on the team’s performance, which hamper its productivity as well as cause delay in the organizational goals. 

However, problem solving activities can bring all members closer as a team and encourage them to contribute in resolving problems effectively while having fun. These easy problem solving activities can improve your team’s solutions-generating capabilities, which will eventually benefit everyone. 

 Sandeep Kashyap
Sandeep Kashyap

Sandeep Kashyap is the Founder and CEO of ProofHub — a leading project management and collaboration software. He’s one person always on a lookout for innovative ideas about filling the communication gap between groups, teams, and organizations. You’ll find him saying, "Let’s go!" instead of "Go!" many times a day. That’s what makes him write about leadership in a way people are inspired to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.


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