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The Solutions Room Model for Effective Problem-Solving in Small Groups

In the realm of problem-solving, the old adage “two heads are better than one” often rings true. When minds come together to tackle challenges, new solutions can emerge that might have been elusive to us when we were alone, working, and thinking in isolation.

The Solutions Room model is a structured, yet flexible approach that offers a dynamic way to harness collective thought partnership in groups. When facilitating this type of collaborative space, it is important to keep groups on the smaller side so that every one can participate equitably. We usually keep our groups to 7 or less, but 5 is an ideal number.

Let’s explore how this model can transform your ideating sessions into hubs of creativity and collaboration.

Step 1: Setting the Stage

Begin by creating community agreements and explaining the process to ensure everyone understands the parameters of the space they are sharing with one another. The goal is to collectively address each person’s challenge in both a supportive as well as solution-oriented environment. 

If you have a facilitator: make sure they understand their role is to both keep time and record notes in a shared document, like Google Docs.

If you are self-facilitating: make sure to request volunteers to take turns time-keeping and note-taking as you work through each person in your group.

Step 2: Sharing Challenges (3 minutes each)

Give each participant 3 minutes to present their challenge. This brief time frame encourages them to focus on the essentials and communicate their challenge clearly. Keep in mind that brevity is key here; it’s about conveying the core issue rather than delving into all the minutiae.

Step 3: Asking Clarifying Questions (2 minutes for the group)

Following each presentation, the group gets 2 minutes to ask clarifying questions. These questions should aim to uncover additional context, nuances, or details that might not have been covered during the initial challenge presentation. This step ensures that everyone comprehends the challenge fully before diving into solution ideation. It is also an opportunity for the participant who is sharing to see what details needed clarification and is the first step in uncovering a new way of thinking about the framed challenge.

Step 4: Ideating Solutions (5-10 minutes for the group)

Once the clarifying questions are addressed, transition into the ideating phase. This is where the magic happens! Encourage every participant to contribute ideas, no matter how wild or unconventional they may seem. Remember, the goal is quantity over quality at this stage. Embrace the diversity of perspectives within the group to foster a range of solutions. Depending on the size of the group, keep this step to between 5 and 10 minutes. You want to make sure everyone has a chance to share and get help with their challenge before the group begins to feel fatigue.

Step 5: Taking Turns

Now that the first person has gotten help with their challenge move through the group one at a time. Make sure if you are self-facilitating the whoever is taking notes and keeping time gets a break once in a while.  🙂 

Step 6: Sharing Solutions and Insights

After the ideation sessions, invite each participant to share the most promising or intriguing solutions that emerged during their turn. This fosters a sense of ownership and commitment to the ideas generated. Furthermore, the cross-pollination of ideas can lead to the emergence of hybrid solutions that blend concepts from different challenges.

Step 6: Reflection and Next Steps

As you wrap up the Solutions Room session, take a moment to reflect on the process. Discuss what insights were gained, any common themes that emerged, and how the group dynamics influenced the quality of solutions. If appropriate, identify actionable next steps to implement some of the ideas generated.

The Solutions Room model provides a structured framework while allowing for organic collaboration and creativity to flourish. By respecting time limits, focusing on understanding challenges, and embracing diverse perspectives, this model transforms problem-solving into a collective journey. 

looking to start a solution room style event?

rootid holds regular public community events and designs community convenings for nonprofits. connect to get resources and advice on where to start.