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Guidelines For Problem-Solving Meetings

J. Scott Armstrong

Maier, Norman R. F. (1963), Problem Solving Discussions and Conferences (New York: McGraw-Hill, out of print) still gets my vote as the best book ever published on how to run groups. It contains sane advice for effective meetings. I summarize it here.

•    Be problem-centered. Keep any discussion problem-centered and avoid looking for excuses or seeking to blame others for a problem. Avoid saying things like, "That's a really stupid idea."

•    Explore alternatives. Do not accept the first answer you hear as the answer. Ask, "What else should be considered? "  What else might we do?"

•    Record suggestions. Keep track of all suggestions for solving a problem or making sense of an issue so that each may be explored fully.

•    Explore. Explore a number of suggestions for addressing an issue, then probing and evaluative questions can be asked. These might include:

  • "How would that work out?"
  • "Do I understand the issue or do I need to search out more information?"
  • "Am I mistaken in my assumptions about the issue?"
  • "What are the advantages or disadvantages of each proposal?"
  • "Is there a way to combine suggestions to generate an even better solution?"


•    Protect people. Protect individuals from personal attacks and criticism, especially if they present minority or divergent viewpoints.

•    Understand and resolve differences. Understand differences of opinions in the group and attempt to resolve them.


© Copyright J. Scott Armstrong and Kesten C. Green. All rights are reserved.

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