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Collaboration.2 -- Understanding the weakness : Collaborative problem-solving


Have you heard about "Collaborative Problem Solving?"

PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), started by OECD countries, arrange examinations worldwide to measure the quality and effectiveness of education. PISA has measured individual problem-solving (PS) skills before 2012 because developing these skills has been the objective of education worldwide.

On the other hand, today's problems are too complex for individuals to solve without effective collaboration. Singapore implemented the first curriculum in the year 2000 towards making the synthesis of learned knowledge, solving real-life problems through critical thinking, and collaboration. Later, a few countries made similar revisions in their education systems. PISA started to measure the Collaborative PS skills of the students in 2015. PISA 2015 defined the collaborative PS competency as:

"the capacity of an individual to effectively engage in a process whereby two or more agents attempt to solve a problem by sharing the understanding and effort required to come to a solution and pooling their knowledge, skills, and efforts to reach that solution."


Click here for details and here for the results. The scores differ from country to country, with a striking outcome: An average of only 8% of students are competent in collaborative PS. This ratio is 20%, even in the top-performing country, Singapore. This brings a critical question: Does education prepare us for real-life problems?


Is it too late for us, who are not educated in Collaborative Problem Solving?

Just a little late :) Experience helps to make up for the lost time.

Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience.



On the one hand, we need to make fewer mistakes to achieve our potential without wasting time. On the other, we need mistakes to get experience on how to avoid them. The cost of experience is time lost.

Experience is valuable because it is gained at such a high cost, and is vital because it's the only reliable bridge between knowing and doing.

We learned how to solve problems at schools. I don't want to be offensive, but all these problems that we solved with pride were already solved by tons of people before. The number of unknowns in all those equations was always in the right amounts to solve them. We, as humans, were outside the problems as problem-solvers. After school, we suddenly dived into the problems of work-life as new unknowns. We are now parts of real-life problems with all that we do, and we don't.

If we are lucky enough, our superiors teach us to solve real-life problems. If not, we have two options: The first is to leave ourselves in the warm hands of group psychology. Nonetheless, developing our PS skills is not the priority of group psychology. It dictates its way. The second option is to build our individual PS skills and look for collaboration with others.

Do you know that collaborative problem-solving is the business practice for Toyota? Developing PS skills is a life-long activity in Japanese companies, whereas it is mostly a one-day training in other parts of the world. It is not easy to grasp the essence of this difference at a glance. You can see the gap if you compare the current condition of your complex PS process and how it could have been with very effective teamwork (collaboration).

The gap is potential. There are always barriers to achieving the potential, and we can't see them quickly because the barriers are located not in front of our eyes, but behind them, in our brains.

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At LeanOpex, we provide analysis and mentoring services for high-performance culture development. Our approach conforms to Toyota Way principles and practices.

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