Problem-Solving Styles Report

Just as our personalities can be analyzed by tracking our binary choices across different traits, our Problem-Solving Style can be deduced by how we typically acquire knowledge and use that information. When it comes to knowledge, we know some people prefer to gain it directly via hands-on study (Practical) while others would rather consider it indirectly via analysis (Theoretical). Once they’ve obtained this knowledge, some prefer to use it creatively to generate new ideas (Ideation), while others would rather improve ideas that already exist (Assessment).

This report identifies how you and your team prefer to acquire knowledge and what you like to do with the information once you’ve attained it. Based on these results, you’ll be matched with one of four possible Problem-Solving Styles. Each style has strengths that are appropriate to different stages of the problem-solving process, meaning that a well-rounded team will be composed of individuals with strengths in all four stages of the process.

  • Initiators (Practical Ideation) like to observe the world directly and use all that data to generate new ideas. They’re vital at the beginning when their information-gathering skills allow them to tag problems, identify opportunities, and brainstorm next steps.

    You have 2 Initiators in your team.

  • Strategists (Theoretical Ideation) take the mass of information generated by Initiators, use their powers of abstract reasoning to sort the “signal” from the “noise,” and then generate grand, creative (though not necessarily practical) solutions to the underlying issues they’ve identified.

    You have no Strategists in your team.

  • Tacticians (Theoretical Assessment) appreciate big ideas but are more comfortable as critics than creatives. They’re happy to inherit bold, messy concepts and use their analytical skills to transform them into streamlined, actionable plans.

    You have 1 Tactician in your team.

  • Operatives (Practical Assessment) are the ones who must take plans that seem perfect in theory and make them work in the real world. Their analytical mindset and hands-on approach help them turn beautiful but impossible theories into a messy but effective reality.

    You have 4 Operatives in your team.

Your Individual Results

You are an Operative.

You prefer to take a hands-on approach, and you would rather assess and implement the ideas of others than generate your own plans and solutions. These traits are perfectly suited for the final role in the problem-solving process: inheriting the plan that was hashed out in committee and doing what's necessary to turn it into a concrete reality.

While you appreciate abstract documents like blueprints and strategy papers because they give you a plan and a set of goals to guide your work, you don’t put much faith in grand ideas, and you don’t trust in anything you haven't seen operate effectively. You tend to solve problems sequentially and are curious about the big picture only when it helps you solve an issue with whatever task you have at hand.

You’re happy to let your more visionary and theoretical teammates know when their plans and strategies are unrealistic, impractical, or not as effective as they could be. You understand trial-and-error is a necessary part of the process and it's very rare for abstract propositions to work out perfectly in real-world conditions. But you’ll get frustrated if the same errors get made over and over, suggesting that your point of view is being ignored or even disrespected.

You aren't afraid to try and fail, and you would rather dive right in and tinker with something than sit back and plan it all out in advance (which often strikes you as a waste of time). Your ideal plan offers the guidance you need to fulfill the objective precisely, as well as the time and flexibility to experiment with different options and work out the optimal solution. One of your biggest pet peeves is when a practical and effective way of doing things is rejected due to an abstract or unrealistic goal handed down from on high.

When it comes to problem-solving, you don’t like to delegate and prefer to handle things directly – whether the issues are mechanical or personal. But this doesn't mean you’re not a team player. You may very well be a program manager whose most important skill is the ability to convince your team to adopt new plans and techniques.

You’re dogged and dependable, and you’ll do what it takes to make something work. Put simply, you’re the closer: the one who transforms ideas into reality. Others may see themselves as more visionary or important. But, without you, their work would be for nothing.

Team Results

Mostly Practical

Your team has a lot of strength in hands-on program management. Things probably tend to run fairly smoothly and efficiently. When operational problems pop up, they’re dealt with quite effectively. However, there is a risk that less obvious long-term or strategic problems may receive less focus and go unaddressed.

In the interest of solving immediate problems and keeping operations running smoothly, the team may be resistant to changes that would offer long-term benefits but create short-term disruptions. The team may be suspicious of unproven strategies or unfamiliar methods. This certainly doesn't mean the team should adopt change for the sake of change, but it would be a good idea to be aware of a potential bias toward prioritizing the short-term over the long-term and the day-to-day over the big picture.

Mostly Assessing

This team is excellent at assessing a plan of action, foreseeing its flaws and weaknesses, and revising to improve it. Creating that plan in the first place is probably the most difficult challenge. Because this team is reflexively judgmental, people probably hesitate to put forward ideas, whether its due to their own pre-judgment or the daunting prospect of facing the group's considerable critical firepower. Without the ability to suspend judgment, brainstorming will usually feel like a chore or a failure.

It's important to remember that no solution or idea is perfect at the start. Even the most elegant and obvious plan or explanation probably came into the world as a half-baked suggestion. This group should push itself to encourage and embrace even the wackiest and most unlikely ideas. While those may never become a reality, they’ll open the door for stronger ones to emerge.

Missing Styles

No Strategists

Without Strategists, your team is at risk of missing the forest by focusing on every tree. Strategists are expert at stepping back for a broader perspective that allows all the details to resolve into one big picture. Your team may struggle to define problems and formulate new plans, so it would be wise to create a process that encourages your most creative members to brainstorm with your most theoretical thinkers, pushing one another to formulate bold ideas.

Dominated by Operatives

A team with a critical mass of Operatives will place a premium on the smooth, effective functioning of its procedures. Consumed with solving day-to-day logistical issues, they may treat a paradigm shift as if it were a series of technical issues that can be solved one by one. While this may work in the short term, it can cause disaster in the long run. The team may grow frustrated with those who call for major changes that will disrupt their hard-won operating efficiency. And if they do agree that change is needed, they may struggle to translate their detailed knowledge into generalized guidance for a planning document.

Problem-Solving Process Roles

Each problem-solving effort has four main stages:

  • Preparation stage – gathering information about what’s going on and exploring the problem in-depth;
  • Engagement stage – settling on one definition of the problem and generating potential solutions;
  • Development stage – coming up with a strategic approach and devising a plan of action;
  • Execution stage – putting the plan to work and resolving any issues as they arise.

The chart below shows how different problem-solving styles fit into these 4 stages. Generally speaking, each style shows its true strengths in one of the stages, and produces the best results in that part of the process. The number of team members who prefer a particular style is also shown in the chart.

If any of the quadrants are empty, that means the team currently doesn’t have any members who are comfortable using that style. To cover that stage appropriately, consider adding another team member who prefers the missing style, or finding a volunteer among current members who will “act“ that style once the stage comes around.