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11.5 Summary

PLEASE NOTE: This book is currently in draft form; material is not final.

In this chapter we have explored problem-solving in groups. We have identified steps which groups can use to attack and solve problems, as well as several methods of reaching decisions. We have considered the nature of group creativity and reviewed how brainstorming may contribute to creative problem-solving and decision-making. Finally, we have identified methods which can be used to facilitate the problem-solving and decision-making behavior or task-oriented groups. Following systematic, sequential processes can help groups communicate in ways which resolve problems and lead to appropriate decisions.

Review Questions

Interpretive Questions

  1. In what 2–3 ways has your view of problem-solving or decision-making changed as a result of reading this chapter?
  2. Under what circumstances, or with what kinds of group members, do you feel brainstorming is most likely to produce better results than other methods of generating creative ideas?

Application Questions

  1. Call the office of a state senator or representative. Ask the person who answers the phone to provide you with a list of five creative ideas the legislator has put forth to solve problems facing his or her constituency. If you wanted to expand on the list, who else would you consult, and what process would you use to generate more ideas?
  2. Pick two historical figures who you believe made it easy for people they lived or worked with to achieve shared goals. Find two or three descriptions of episodes in which those figures took action demonstrating that capacity. Identify someone leading a group of which you’re now a member and share the information about the historical figures with that person. What is the person’s reaction? What do you feel might have made the leader’s response more positive?
  3. Look up the phrase “group decision support system” on line and locate 4–5 software programs meant to assist groups with decisions. List advantages and disadvantages of each and share your conclusions with your classmates.

Additional Resources Bernard “Bernie” De Koven’s blog. A source of provocative ideas on why and how to indulge in creative fun as part of a group. A YouTube video describing the “6-3-5 method,” which offers an alternative to traditional brainstorming that attempts to draw and expand upon more ideas from a group of six people. An article in the Minnesota Daily describing how groups of students, faculty members, and community leaders envisioned problems facing higher education and developed pragmatic proposals for solving them. (“How to Make a Decision Without Making a Decision”): An article describing how guided “non-decision-making” can be used by groups to discover what the author refers to as “big obvious truths.” The website of Dynamic Facilitation Associates, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching groups how to create choices through intentional facilitation. One of the site’s pages,, describes “Co-Counseling” and compassionate communication as further facilitation tools.