IAF Methods

Problem Solving Unit

by for . Last edit was almost 2 years ago
2880 - 4320 5 - 15

The Problem Solving Unit (PSU) is a small group of people dedicated to creating a solution to a problem.

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The PSU creates their own procedures for solving the problem and then goes through the process they agreed to solve the problem.


You will be able to upload attachments once after you create the method.


  • Standard facilitation materials: flipchart
  • markers
  • computers
  • paper
  • etc.



Setting: The space should be large enough to give lots of space to individuals. Breakout rooms are often needed.

Types of participants: The participants need to be committed to solving the problem, have some knowledge about facilitation and of the dynamics of the problem

Pre-Work Required: The problem needs to be clearly stated. Relevant information about the problem should be collected and made available in the room(s). The participants need to be carefully selected for their content expertise, experience with the problem, knowledge of facilitation and influence.



1. State the problem.

2. Get a diverse group of people committed to work on it for a definite time (3 - 44 hours).

3. Look at what has been done in the past on this problem. Look at any relevant information about the problem.

4. Describe the product you want at the end of this definite time.

5. Write procedures to get that product. They may include brainstorming, gestalting or clustering ideas, small group work, plenary sessions, making charts, interviews, corporate writing, spinning, wild imaginings and role plays.

6.  Work through the procedures to arrive at the described product.


Usually, we would dedicate two or three days to solve the problem. As I remember it the problem was stated and the group committed before the session (steps 1 and 2).
The first session would be dedicated to writing the procedures, (steps 3-5).

Gestalting = clustering but implies creating a whole picture, a gestalt;

Spinning = someone, in a narrative form stating the issue or challenge or possibility or a proposed direction.


Follow-Up Required: Implementation of the solution

Usual or Expected Outcomes: A concrete solution to a problem


Source: Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA)

History of Development: The ICA developed in the 1960's a number of group problem- solving methods. This one was used a number of times for specific problems with some success.

Jon Jenkins wrote up this version of the process for the GRP-FACL List Serve

Alternative names: PSU

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  • This process assumes that the group can create the process to get to its specific results. Use with a group that understands group process.

    about 3 years ago