Every organization tries to tackle problems that inhibit growth, steal productivity and rob profitability. Governments spend billions of dollars trying to solve problems. There are thousands of non-profit organizations whose entire existence is to help people and society solve problems locally, regionally, nationally and globally. Problem solving is a big business. How can we improve the process?
Historically the approach to solving problems has been to form diverse teams to look at ideas and initiatives that help solve the problem. Organizations have formed internal teams to study processes, customer satisfaction, competition and innovation. The process has typically been governed by internal agendas and wishes of those in command.
Leaders tend to lack the wisdom to approach problems with a systemic understanding of the problem – thus only seeing the problem that lies directly in front of them and blocking the possibilities that lie within the problem itself. As such, they never see the totality of what the problem represents; that it can actually serve as a window into a bigger problem that needs to be addressed. They never realize that, in the end, solving a problem without a systemic understanding of the problem can actually create more problems.
Who Solves The Problem?
Men want to solve problems. Women want to understand a problem before they try to solve it. The difference is in listening and understanding before acting. One shoots and the other aims. So which gender is better at solving problems?
Evidence suggests that the number of women on a given team drastically increases that teams ability to solve complex problems. The researchers, led by Anita Williams Wooley of Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, were initially examining the concept of collective intelligence – the idea that effective groups tap into a separate intelligence that is different from merely average of the personal intelligence of team members.
Most of the expected predictors of team performance failed to correlate with actual collective intelligence. When they dug deeper into what explained performance, however, they discovered a few surprising predictors.
The first was that groups that took turns more often in discussions tended to do better. The teams that shared information more freely and kept one or two people from dominating the process scored better across the board.
The second was that higher performance was found in teams with higher social sensitivity – how much each member paid attention to other members and asked questions instead of assuming opinions or compliance.
The final finding was that the more women on the team, the smarter it was.