How to Problem-Solve as a Team Using the Zig-Zag Method

This blog post is part of our Truity at Work series for those who are new to people management. In these posts, we’re creating useful content for managers and teams alike, helping you to understand personality, improve communication, and navigate conflict and change with ease. For an overview of the series, start with our introductory post here.

When faced with a new challenge, the solution that seems obvious is the one that aligns with our personality's preferences. Sensors will be quick to see what has worked before and want to do it that way again. Intuitives will be quick to see something they haven't tried before and want to go down that path. And that is fine when we are solving problems alone, but in a group it can lead to conflict.

If we aren’t able to step back and see a problem from different views and be open to others’ perspectives, we can quickly get stuck at loggerheads. Or, alternative views can be overlooked altogether. 

Yet, almost invariably, the best solutions will factor in different perspectives, even the ones we don’t value as much. 

That is one of the reasons I like the Zig Zag model so much. It provides a process for seeing and experiencing various perspectives and how they contribute to the whole.  Since it provides a framework for gathering different viewpoints, it doesn't feel as random as the ideas people throw out and the positions they take. 

Your team can complete the process individually or as a group. But it will be a bit easier to pair up with someone of that preference when discussing each step (i.e. pair up with a Sensor for the Sensing section, and so on). 

And it's not a big deal what order you complete the steps in, as long as you give each base its fair due. No skipping over the ones you don’t like. And you can apply this process to different problems; just adapt the prompt questions for each particular situation. 

Step 1: What are the facts?

Let's start with Sensing. Here we are looking for what we know to be true right now based on facts and past experience. Avoid jumping to conclusions or reading between the lines. Be on the lookout for facts that are actually assumptions or expectations. 

Prompt questions:

  • What is the current situation?
  • What do we know for sure?
  • What facts or data is verifiable?
  • Where have we seen this before?
  • What has worked in the past?
  • What steps have already been taken?
  • What hasn’t worked?
  • What resources do we have?

Step 2: What are our options?

When we focus on Intuition, we are looking for options, alternatives and future trends and predictions. Allow everyone to brainstorm freely, and make space for the random ideas, not just the realistic ones. 

Prompt questions:

  • What can we interpret from the facts?
  • What haven't we tried before?
  • What’s our hunch about this?
  • What might happen in the future if nothing changes?
  • What trends are we seeing?
  • What if time and money were no object?
  • What alternatives exist?

Step 3: What is logical?

When we move into Thinking, we analyze each of the options against the facts and other principles, and we see which stand out. 

Prompt questions:

  • What are the pros and cons of each option?
  • What are the costs of each option (not just financial)?
  • What criteria need to be satisfied?
  • What are the logical consequences of each option?
  • What other objective factors need to be considered?

Step 4: How does this impact people?

When we factor in Feeling, we are considering how each option will affect people personally, how it will make them feel and impact their lives. This includes the team as well as any other employees, customers and the community. 

Prompt questions:

  • Who is impacted by this?
  • How will each group be impacted?
  • What do I like or dislike about each?
  • How will others react?
  • How does it align with my values? The organization's values?
  • Is this something I can commit to?
  • Who will commit to delivering the solution?

By now you will have a much fuller picture of the situation the team is tackling and the different paths to a solution. If you completed this process alone, it's now time to talk through your findings with people (Extraversion). If you completed it with people, it's time to reflect on what you discussed and learnt (Introversion). 

Throughout the process, avoid jumping to conclusions and making a decision too quickly. Try to stay open to new information (Perceiving). When a single path becomes clear that everyone is committed to, then it's time to create a deadline, make a plan and start implementation (Judging). 

What’s next?

The Zig Zag is a very simple framework to use with your team, no matter the decision they are debating or the problem they are solving. And if you know your team’s blinsdspots, you will know which of these steps they find more uncomfortable and naturally try to skip over. 

Want to get your team working in harmony? Head over to the Truity at Work Platform. Here, you’ll find a range of personality assessments that can help your team understand their habits, overcome blindspots and work better together to drive your business forward. 

Samantha Mackay

Samantha is the Lead Trainer at Truity and will shortly be a certified Enneagram Coach. She believes our personality is the key to navigating life's strangest hurdles. Despite her best efforts Samantha is an ENTP and Enneagram 7, who is always surrounded by a pile of books, a steaming cup of tea and a block of her favourite chocolate. Samantha is currently studying with Beatrice Chestnut and Uranio Paes of CP Enneagram Academy undertaking their Professional Enneagram Certification. Currently located in Auckland, New Zealand. Find her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/samanthamackay/. Check out her course "Unlocking the Power of Your Personality" at www.truity.com/training

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