As a facilitator, I am always pushing my clients to put announcements and reports into a memo and reserve their F2F meeting time for the things that people in groups do best: generate ideas, make decisions, solve problems, plan strategy. So I am always interested in new methods for ideation and problem-solving.

Daniel Pink’s blog alerted me to some  interesting research which found that people are better at solving problems for others than they are for themselves. This makes some intuitive sense – gaining some emotional and psychological distance from your problem can help free up your mind to imagine new possibilities.  Trading problems with someone else, or imagining that your problem is someone else’s, could be a useful strategy in finding solutions.

Harvard Business Review blogger Peter Bregman uses this technique in his consulting practice. Too many executive meetings consist of people boring each other with PowerPoint presentations about their own department’s activities. Instead, he assigns each executive a pre-meeting task: investigate a problem or issue OUTSIDE of his or her area of expertise, and come with some discussion questions and possible solutions.  These discussions form the bulk of the meeting. Not only does more interesting and creative work get done, but it connects people across departments and fosters shared ownership of the solutions.

I’m pondering a way to use this mind-shift with my clients; I’ll keep you posted.