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Moving away from Problem Talk to Solutions Talk

How facilitators can move away from problem talk to solutions talk

When developing an agenda for a government-backed think-tank event on innovation, in climate risk insurance practices, we were wondering what would make for stimulating activities between facilitating heavy rounds of technical discussions.

Breaking up proceedings with a ‘two-minute chat-to-your-neighbour’ break seemed ideal, but we had to make a careful choice of topics.

A first thought was to ask for a brainstorm of ‘barriers’ – all the things that might make pursuing the solutions that were emerging from the discussion difficult to achieve. Of course, it’s easy enough to find what will stand in your way, if that’s what you are looking for.  And we know this is a regular topic at project meetings – the equivalent of exploring ‘weaknesses’ and ‘threats’ in a SWOT analysis, for example.

We realised that switching metaphors to ‘Avenues of greatest promise so far’ could be much more productive. For one, it makes for a more optimistic conversation, which sustains mood and energy into the next session. However, it also helps identify what to prioritise among a bunch of suggestions, while listing ingredients in what will be needed for any ‘recipe for success’, if any of the possibilities are to be turned into practical initiatives.

Add a few flip charts around the room to give everyone a break from sitting in static table groups, and we have a really fruitful energiser.

What ways have you shifted groups from Problem Talk to Solutions Talk to help achieve more when time together is so precious?


If you’re looking to expand your range and shape events towards productive outcomes then take a look at our Inspirational Facilitator course. If you have any questions or would like to discuss something specific please feel free to contact Paul: paul@impro.org.uk

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