A Preference for Problem-Solving Personality type influences how people seek to understand problems and come up with appropriate solutions. In many cases, defaulting to one’s own preferences to preclude their opposites results in poor decision-making; after all, they’re missing half of the important perspectives to consider! By first recognizing our inherent starting point for making decisions, we can begin to round out our approach to include previously overlooked – but imperative – points of view. In addition to using these ideas with individuals to encourage more well-rounded problem solving, I really enjoy using them with teams to encourage collaborative, cooperative and comprehensive decisions. I encourage teams to remember the following: Individuals with an extraverted preference tend to do their best problem solving when they can talk things through with others. They quickly throw out ideas without taking much time to think, preferring to analyze the ideas and build a solution with the group. As a result their spoken ideas are just beginning to be formed and should not be taken as their final way to solve the problem. Instead it provides a stepping off point. Question for teams: Before a decision is made, are we allowing enough time for discussion and digestion of what’s in question? Has everyone come prepared to engage? Those with an introverted preference solve problems best when they can take the ideas of others and reflect on them by themselves. They pause and thoroughly consider ideas before sharing their thoughts with others. Their spoken ideas tend to be formed to a much greater extent than extraverts. As a result they are open to minor adjustments but struggle with wholesale changes to ideas which they have already thought out and committed to. Question for teams: In addition to discussion, have we allowed enough time before and after for refinement, consideration and reflection? Sensors deal with problem solving by searching out evidence. They like to gather facts and adopt a practical, hands-on approach. Sensors want to deal with the problem in front of them with what they know to be true from either experience or facts. Question for teams: When making decisions or solving problems, are we always keeping resources, realities and parameters in mind? Do we honour what has been done in the past before moving forward? Those with intuitive preferences on the other hand like global schemes and want to consider all future possibilities and challenges. As a result, they often want to consider the alternatives and implications over and above what exists in front of them; big picture and context is imperative. Question for teams: Are we putting the present realities into a larger context before making a decision? Are we open minded to changes when necessary, and reminding ourselves of the strategic implications of all the solutions before deciding on one? Thinking preferences stay personally removed form the problem-solving process, adopting an intellectually objective and impersonal reasoning style. (This sometimes breaks down when they are trying to solve personal problems.) They like to examine the pros and cons of each alternative and then select what appears to be the best route to follow via this cause-and-effect approach. Question for teams: Are we remaining objective as we gather possible alternatives in our decision making? Are we preserving the deliverable, focusing on efficiency and maximizing benefit versus loss? Those with a feeling preference take into account how the process affects people. They can give very accurate accounts of how the people involved will react. As a result, they tend to act as a good barometer of how people will respond to proposed solutions. Question for teams: Are we also seeking consensus when appropriate, and prioritizing peoples’ needs when the decision heavily impacts those involved? Judging preferences are, by nature, solution-oriented. They desire to bring things to a conclusion and therefore at times this search for closure can limit the number of alternatives that are explored. Judgers can visualize the end, plan towards it and quickly move towards it. Question for teams: When making a decision how do we plan contingencies around its implementation? Are we making a plan and working the plan while keeping ourselves accountable for the solutions? Those with a preference for perceiving tend to deal with problem solving by continually reworking solutions until the best approach is identified. Their strength is using new information and adjusting their solutions appropriately. Often, their focus is not closure but the continual exploration of possibilities. Question for teams: Are we remaining flexible enough in our final decision to adjust for new data? When and how will we check in and follow up to ensure success and – if necessary – who will champion the new plan if necessary? In summary, we all have preferences that do in fact contribute to problem solving and decision making. However, if we only ever DEFAULT to these preferences to the exclusion of other perspectives, not only do we make individual mistakes in our decision making, but our teams also overlook – or steamroll – those with differing viewpoints. In either case, the solution may not be an optimal one. By reminding teams that all perspectives are not only valid but needed, cohesion and cooperation are emphasized and differences are used constructively. And that, my friends, is what it’s all about!