Group Problem
Solving Skills
Margaret J. Kupferle, PhD, PE
Summer REU 2014
June 18, 2014
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
• Based on work of Carl Jung
• First personality inventory developed by
Isabelle Briggs Myers and her mother
Katherine Briggs to help place women in
jobs vacated by men in WWII
• MBTI in current form 1st published in 1962
• Widely used business tool – ~2 million
assessments administered annually
On Myer-Briggs Type Indicator ...
Four categories (dichotomies) considered for
how one:
• Gains/uses energy (Extraversion or
• Gathers information (Sensing or Intuition)
• Makes decisions (Thinking or Feeling)
• Structures process (Judging or Perceiving)
The Sixteen Types:
Estimated Percentages in the U.S.
The table organizing the sixteen types was created by Isabel Myers (an INFP).
Based on info from, accessed 01/04/11
Field Marshall
You might be an extravert if you …
• feel comfortable taking a visible role
• like to tackle issues as they arise
• like to talk about it rather than read about it
• tend to act first, think later
• develop ideas “out loud”
• state thoughts (may be misconstrued as
• delegate liberally
You might be an introvert if you …
• feel comfortable working behind the scenes
• like to have advanced warning of issues
• do not like to be interrupted when deep in
• tend to think first, act later
• express conclusions after developing ideas
• stay silent (may be misconstrued as
• delegate sparingly
You might favor sensing if you …
• look for facts
• acquire details first, then build an overview
• focus on attaining tangible goals
• prefer precise instructions to general
• feel motivated by connecting current actions
to immediate benefits
You might favor intuition if you …
• look for possibilities
• acquire overview first, then fit in facts
• focus on attaining conceptual goals
• prefer general guidelines to precise
• feel motivated by connecting current actions
to future possibilities
You might have a thinking preference if
you …
• prefer a businesslike approach
• seek efficiency first
• focus first on areas of disagreement and flaws
• support the decision maker by supporting the
decision making process
• are tough when necessary to keep things on
You might have a feeling preference if
you …
• prefer a friendly approach
• seek cooperation first
• focus first on areas of agreement and positives
• support the decision making process by
supporting the decision maker
• are encouraging when necessary to keep
things on track
You might have a judging preference if
you …
• are goal-oriented, enjoy closure
• establish time frames and identify milestones
• expect to follow through and stick to the plan
• minimize interruptions and diversions in the
interest of achieving the outcome
You might have a perceiving
preference if you …
• are process-oriented, maintaining openness
• introduce broad parameters and suggest
optimal outcomes
• expect to adapt and make adjustments to the
• respond to interruptions and diversions in the
interest of enriching the outcome
Type-Oriented Goal Setting Tips
• Extraverts: Put it in writing and circulate it
ahead of time if possible. Practice your
listening skills, balance tendency to dominate
discussions, solicit input from introverts once
they have had some time to think about the
• Introverts: Give extraverts “out-loud thinking
space” and do not assume every word out of
their mouth is a final conclusion.
Type-Oriented Goal Setting Tips
• Sensors: Don’t immediately dismiss “fanciful”
ideas – may contain seeds of a creative
solution! Try to see the “big picture” ...
• iNtuitives: Pay attention to pitfalls, sensors
may have important input wrt feasibility. Also,
don’t ignore the present while looking into
future possibilities ...
Type-Oriented Goal Setting Tips
• Thinkers: Consider the “people” side of the
equation – the most elegant rational solution
may not be implemented due to the human
• Feelers: Don’t be afraid to “bite the bullet”
and take an unpopular stand – disagreement is
sometimes unavoidable and may be healthy.
Don’t take things personally!
Type-Oriented Goal Setting Tips
• Judgers: Listen to alternatives – be aware of
the need to budget time for exploration before
driving straight for a solution.
• Perceivers: Focus on closure – decisions
must often be made even though you do not
have all the information – pay more attention to
Type-Oriented Time Management Tips
• Extraverts: Avoid having to share every
thought out loud
• Introverts: Don’t hold back your contributions,
even if you see things very differently
• Sensors: Avoid “nitpicking” and remember
there is more to time than minutes and
seconds – think history and vision
• iNtuitives: Be realistic about how much you
can get done in a given amount of time
Type-Oriented Time Management Tips
• Thinkers: Consider others’ time, allow time in
the schedule for the needs of others
• Feelers: Define your boundaries to set aside
blocks of time to accomplish tasks
• Judgers: Keep in mind that time is not always
of the essence – may jeopardize project quality
if do not allow enough time to evaluate
alternative solutions
• Perceivers: Try to focus – limit number of
projects and complete them before moving on
Conflict Resolution Skills
• Skills to prevent conflict
• when conflict is unnecessary
or inappropriate
• when costs too high
• Ability to identify covert
• when there is considerable
power disparity between
• Skills for negotiating an
• when conflict should be
Skills to Prevent Conflict (1)
• Developing procedures to increase group
responsiveness to members
• Group develops procedures, not leader alone
• Include all group members in process
• Constructive criticism only – avoid disrespectful or
personal remarks
Skills to Prevent Conflict (2)
• Early identification of potential conflicts
• Discuss competition issues (i.e. for group
leadership role) early in process
• Ventilate negative feelings to group decision to
group, not to individuals
Skills to Prevent Conflict (3)
• Using direct communication to avoid
escalation of misunderstandings
• Seek clarification face-to-face in group
• Use lunch meetings or telephone to discuss
outside of group rather than email
Skills to Prevent Conflict (4)
• Formalizing the dissenter role
• Group can elect a group dissenter (can rotate
role each week)
• Dissenter responsible for
• articulating objections to options and
• bringing up disadvantages for discussion
• Useful when unequal power structure in group
or discussion is not readily generated among
Skills to Prevent Conflict (5)
• Exposing differences
• Note hesitations or puzzled looks from group
members when stating tentative agreement
• Indicates possibility of divergent views
Skills to Prevent Conflict (6)
• Increasing conflict resolution skills
• Knowledge of methods for conflict resolution can
prevent unnecessary conflict
• Conscious practice helps even more!
Ability to Identify Covert Conflict
• Use is most likely when unequal power
between adversaries
• Powerful party uses to contain weaker party
without cost of overt conflict
• Less powerful uses
• when resources for overt conflict inadequate
• when costs of direct confrontation unacceptably
Covert Conflict Strategies (1)
• Negativism
• Appearance, body language, terseness may
indicate disagreement, hurt or aggressiveness
• May generate retaliatory responses – isolation,
ignoring, circumventing, dismissing
• Non compliance
• Simple non-cooperation
• Sabotage of group by inadequate
Covert Conflict Strategies (2)
• Stonewalling
• Adamant refusal to comment about
• Deceit
• Ranges from mild distortion to dishonesty
and lying
• Includes misrepresentation, providing false
information, withholding material
Covert Conflict Strategies (3)
• Disadvantaging
• Unfair arrangements of group meeting which
put one of parties in weaker, more vulnerable
• Seduction
• Use of enticements to influence outcome of
Covert Conflict Strategies (4)
• Emotional extortion
• Threat of withdrawing from relationship as
means of extorting compliance
• Divide and conquer
• Split solidarity of membership of opposing
Skills for Negotiating an Agreement (1)
• Establishing issues
• List and order issues
• Gaining acceptance of one’s own definition of
issues is key part of process
Skills for Negotiating an Agreement (2)
• Constructing the agenda
• Start with simple and tangible issue that will lead
to mutually satisfactory outcome
• Early success
• builds confidence
• Generates positive momentum
Skills for Negotiating an Agreement (3)
• Establishing position
• Each side puts forth position
• Opening bid sets negotiating range
• Too high
• may discourage further negotiations
• create impression of incompetence
• Too low
• Concede too much initially
Skills for Negotiating an Agreement (4)
• Find underlying interest behind
• Be clear in presenting own side’s position
• Identify interests of opponent
• Ask selves “Why are our opponents taking
certain positions and rejecting others?”
Skills for Negotiating an Agreement (5)
• Exploring issues further
• Summarize opponent’s interests in a
positive manner
• Identify areas of agreement
• Examine areas of disagreement
• Formulate options addressing areas of
disagreement that provide gains for
both sides – generating (vs. judging)
• Broaden options on table before
Skills for Negotiating an Agreement (6)
• Working out a final agreement
• Discuss options until
• recognize satisfactory result for all parties,
• believe other party has made all concessions
possible or
• external pressure exists to arrive at a
Skills for Negotiating an Agreement (7)
• Working out a final agreement
• If agreement not reached, have these
• Settle for partial agreement on some of points
rather than overall solution
• Threaten to withdraw if final inclusive agreement
not reached
• Coax opponents “we’ve come so far …”
• Use re-opener provision – adjourn and
reexamine after set time period
Skills for Negotiating an Agreement (7)
• Accepting final agreement
• If problematic, consider consequences of
reaching no agreement
• Each party identify best alternative if
proposed agreement is not accepted
Group Problem Solving
The process in detail ..
• Defining a problem
• Measuring the magnitude of the problem
• Developing a conceptual framework and vision
• Identifying and developing strategies
• Setting priorities and making recommendations
• Implementing recommendations and
evaluating results
• Developing a communication strategy
The mechanics of conducting a group session
are given in the following slides …
Mechanics of an
ideal session (1a of 7)
Choose leader, scribe/reporter, and timekeeper
• Leader
• Directs flow of group
• Responsible for
obtaining a balanced
solution with input from
all group members
Mechanics of an
ideal session (1b of 7)
Choose leader, scribe/reporter, and timekeeper
• Scribe/reporter
• Records key points and writes out
the final solution to problem
agreed upon by group
• Organizes/records notes at end of
session and posts to Bb
• Presents final solution in next
class discussion session
Mechanics of an
ideal session (1c of 7)
Choose leader, scribe/reporter, and timekeeper
• Timekeeper
• Keeps track of time in context of
session plan agreed upon by
group (next slide)
• Notifies group when time to
move forward or revise session
plan at consensus of leader and
Mechanics of an
ideal session (2 of 7)
• Clarify purpose of session
• Leader briefly states purpose of assignment
• Leader proposes steps to meet requirements
• Plan session
• Leader asks groups for suggestions on
• steps for group process and amount of time per step
• Group
• revises steps and sets time limit per step
Mechanics of an
ideal session (3 of 7)
• Conduct session
• Create equal opportunities for participation
• Each group member has opportunity to participate –
facilitated by leader
• Leader monitors group member participation and
intervenes to increase participation by quiet or
disenfranchised members
• Promote a wide range of options
Mechanics of an
ideal session (4 of 7)
• Conduct session
• Reach consensus
• Leader and group members place similar options together
under broad categories
• Determine level of agreement for each option
• Examine areas of disagreement
• Leader facilitates a discussion of the various positions
about a given option – pros and cons
Mechanics of an
ideal session (5 of 7)
• Reach “Creative Consensus”
• Group combines and compromises on options to
arrive at a solution satisfactory to group
• Iterative process may be required – go back to
generating more options if necessary
• If group cannot agree in time allocated, the area of
disagreement should be noted and majority/minority
views should be identified
Mechanics of an
ideal session (6 of 7)
• Summarize/evaluate outcome
• At conclusion of session, leader states
• Group solution to problem
• Rationale for the solution
• Group revises solution and rationale as needed
• Group discusses quality of solution to problem
Mechanics of an
ideal session (7 of 7)
• Evaluate the process
• Leader asks individual group members to take a
few minutes to write notes on their observations of
process (for individual assignments and to gather
• Leader asks group to discuss process – what
worked and what did not
• Group identifies strategies to improve process in
next group session
• Materials for this lecture were adapted from class
materials for a Problem Solving in Public Health
course prepared by Dr. Lisa Werthamer-Larsson at
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,
June 5-16, 2006.
• Dr. Werthamer-Larsson’s notes her materials were
adapted from materials provided by Michael B.
Kammerdiener, Consultant, Training & Organization