How to Leverage Problem Solvers’ Strengths in Innovation Research

How to Leverage Problem Solvers’ Strengths in Innovation Research

Last week, I ran a little experiment. I was leading a workshop at FEI in Boston, a conference dedicated to the Front End of Innovation, showcasing how we can use TeamBuilder to better leverage consumers in innovation research. As participants came by our booth, I had them take our TeamBuilder assessment. It didn’t take long for us to notice a trend: nearly all the attendees (mostly innovation professionals and R&D teams) were Creatives and Problem Solvers. The crazy part? Only 25% of the general population is made up of those two archetypes.

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. People self-select into careers in innovation because they’re interested in creating new products that solve problems. If you didn’t guess it already, I’m a Problem Solver, too.

Let’s take a deeper look at Problem Solvers. They’re the exact opposite of the Storytellers, which I described in my last post, which means it takes a very different approach in order to gain good feedback from them in innovation research.

Problem Solver Characteristics

Problem Solvers rely on their intuition to understand the world and are comfortable with highly conceptual information. If you ask them how they came to a particular conclusion or insight, they’ll likely have a hard time articulating the steps that led them there. They are generative thinkers but may not be very good observers. They’re so busy thinking of new solutions that they miss what’s right in front of them.

Problem Solvers make decisions based on facts and logic rather than the effects on other people. That doesn’t mean they’re cold-hearted – they just don’t like exceptions. They may have a harder time articulating emotions or empathizing with others.

So, how do you use Problem Solvers’ natural strengths to your advantage in the innovation process?

How to Leverage Problem Solvers’ Strengths

  • Focus on the facts – Spending too much time on emotions and beliefs might seem like a waste of time to Problem Solvers. They’re much more interested in the issue at hand. However, if you need this archetype to articulate emotions, be prepared to spend more time peeling back the onion.
  • Give them context – Problem Solvers tend to be big picture thinkers. They may be able to go without step-by-step instructions, but they need to understand the end goal or purpose of an activity to feel engaged.
  • Ask them to solve a problem – These individuals are perfect candidates for consumer ideation or co-creation exercises. They’re likely already thinking of solutions to the pain points and inconveniences of their lives, so only a little bit of priming is needed to get them to suggest new ideas.

If you want to learn more about how you can use this knowledge to further your organization’s innovation goals, reach out to me at

­­­­­­­­­­Other Happenings

Want to learn more about how using these archetypes can give you better, deeper, insights? Tune in to my Revamping the Traditional Focus Group for Greater Sharing of Emotional Drivers webinar at Noon (Eastern) on May 22. I’ll be talking more about a recent case study (utilizing Storytellers) we presented at FEI, demonstrating how our unique We Group methodology delivered insights compared to standard focus groups. If you’re interested in listening, register here!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *