A Model for Collaborative Problem Solving
1. Share Perspectives – The process of perspective sharing allows each party to gain a clear understanding of the others PERCEPTION of the problem situation, for this is at the heart of collaborative problem solving as Fisher and Ury write in ‘Getting to Yes.’
2. Define the Issues – Distilling the issues out of an excess of information can be a difficult task and requires frequent summarizing and checking for understanding
3. Identify the Interests – Once the issues have been framed, the parties are ready to figure out the interests that they need to have satisfied in order to reach agreement. * Look for the common ground between all parties
4. Generate Options – By this stage in the process, parties have had an opportunity to share, listen and develop an understanding of their interests as well as the interests of the other side. They have moved from an adversarial, entrenched posture to a problem solving, interest-based mode and are ready to brainstorm potential options and solutions.
5. Develop a Fair Standard or Objective Criteria for Deciding – Without an objective standard or criteria, the decision process may end up as a contest of wills. An objective criteria allows everyone to focus on solutions and standards rather than on defending a particular option. It also allows people to be able to change their minds without losing face.
6. Evaluate Options and Reach Agreement – With a comprehensive list of brainstormed ideas and a mutually agreeable objective criteria, you are ready to evaluate the options and move toward creating agreements that will meet as many of your collective needs and interests as possible.
As we develop our skills in problem solving, we will find that collaborative problem solving is not a linear process that proceeds methodically through prescribed steps. Identifying all of the interests of the parties must be accomplished before generating options. However, in order to do this effectively, we may need to move back and forth through the first steps, i.e., sharing information, defining issues, sharing more information, etc. in order to develop a clear picture of the interests. Reaching agreement often proceeds in a series of baby steps. One’s best ‘next step’ is the step that will take us most effectively in that direction