Problems! Problems!™ | Problem-Solving Training Activity

Identify and evaluate a range of problem-solving techniques with this fun, hands-on activity.

Learning Objectives

  • to define a problem clearly before trying to solve it
  • to use a structured approach
  • to avoid making assumptions
  • to utilise some common problem-solving techniques
  • to be logical and objective

Five-Year Repeat Use Licence

This Northgate training activity comes with a five-year licence for repeat use with up to 24 participants per training session within the licence-holding organisation. Please ask for a discount on multiple licences to use with larger groups. Also includes access to the Northgate Trainerhub (see below for details).

  • Participants

    3-24 (up to 4 teams of 3-6 per team)

  • Timing

    1 hour + debrief

  • Uses a computer?

    Not required

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  • UK delivery

    (normally next working day)


  • Europe delivery

    (1-2 working days)


  • World delivery

    (1-5 working days)



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The Activity

Ten problems and 60 minutes means teams have just six minutes per problem. They are a mixture of work-based issues and conventional conundrums that together highlight some key approaches to problem solving.

For each problem teams identify a specific problem solving approach or rule: lateral thinking, brainstorming, step-by-step logic and ‘fish-boning’ can all be used.

  • Do teams assess the difficulty of each problem?
  • Do they use special skills within the group?
  • Do they have a strategy?
  • Do they complete all ten problems?

And do they make the best use of the limited time? The lessons at the end – fully laid out in the Trainer’s Guide (along with all the solutions and explanations) - can all be related to what happens at work when problems arise.

Observer’s Forms and Team Assessment Forms provide for in-depth assessment of the problem solving competencies. Handouts on Key Points give participants something tangible to use for reference back at work.

Problems! Problems! provides a valuable opportunity to think about different theories of problem solving and put them to the test.

Trainer's Role

  • Introduce the activity.
  • Issue Team Briefs and Solutions Sheets.
  • Allow 60 minutes for teams to try and accomplish their objective of solving all ten problems.
  • Observe the teams in action. Observer’s Forms are included.
  • Lead a Debrief on the issues raised and relate back to the workplace.
  • Trainer’s Notes provide full guidance.

Pack Contents

  • Trainer’s Notes
  • Team Briefs
  • Solutions Sheet
  • Handout 1: Initial Ideas
  • Handout 2: Observer's Form
  • Handout 3: Observer's Review Form
  • Handout 4: Team Review Form
  • Handout 5: Key Points
  • Handout 6: Action Plan

This activity is for face-to-face classroom use. It is supplied as a hard copy pack and the digital files are supplied via the Northgate Trainerhub.

Northgate Trainerhub

Benefits of the online Northgate Trainerhub include:

  • Easy-to-access resource library which stores all the digital files for the activity in one place
  • Immediate access to upgrades made to the activity over the five-year licence term
  • Access to an online Trainer Forum where you can post questions, share experiences & network with other Trainers
  • Access to free activities and icebreakers
  • Option to send information to team leaders digitally via the hub using Team Access Codes
  • Unlimited Trainer logins for all Trainers based at the licence-holding site

A well constructed and presented exercise to develop team problem-solving skills in a fun and interesting way. Can be used flexibly to allow other learning skills such as teamworking and communication.

D. Hopkins, KBR Ltd

'Problems! Problems!' is a very good catalyst to incorporate into existing problem-solving programmes.

Patrick Harlington, ANSA Business Development

Enjoyable, worthwhile exercise – and feedback from delegates was great. All in all, an excellent experience.

Steve Laing, Consultant, QC Training International

I have used 'Problems! Problems!' as an icebreaker and the activity has been well received. I can also use it to reinforce that a team/group is made up of diverse individuals who bring their individual skills and strengths to the team.

Rachel Clayton, Consultant, Oman

'Problems! Problems!' is an excellent activity to promote creative thinking and a structured approach to problem definition.

Dr Evangelos Kitsos, Senior Teaching Fellow, WMG, University of Warwick

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