Pass the Problems

I was speaking at a joint meeting of two professional societies on the subject of Creativity.  The boisterous crowd was enjoying the subject and the group participation activities.  I invited each participant to take a sheet of paper and write down a problem they were having at work, providing enough information so that a person reading it would understand the issue.  They were seated at round tables.  When all the pens were down, I asked them to pass their problem one person to the right. They were to read their neighbor's problem and write down their advice, reactions or comments.  I only gave them one minute to respond.  At the end of the one minute, I asked them to pass the problem one person to the right and begin writing again.  As the problems circled the table you could hear giggles and see smiles as people read the comments of the writers before them.  I continued the timing process until the problems made their way completely around each table, providing everyone with the chance to respond to all of their tablemates' problems.  When their problem came back to them, they reviewed all of the comments.  The noise level in the room arose as they perused their papers.  The responses ranged from the ridiculous and hopeless (i.e. "give up", "quit that job") to real practical solutions.  One woman came up to me as the event ended jumping for joy as she shared that she ended up with a real solution for a work problem that had been bugging her for weeks.  

It really helps to get a fresh perspective on your problems when you've been wrapped up in them for awhile.  Invite creativity and new ideas by asking others for their opinions.