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Why choose a Solution Focused Approach?

Solutions (c) olivierLeMoal- GettyImages
Published on
16 November 2020

A Solution Focused Approach builds on a resilient management perspective that offers a systemic approach to changing our management perspectives, postures and tendencies. The goal is to enable practitioners to handle critical situations by identifying and mobilizing individual and group ressources.

As a teacher and trainer, Agnès Muir-Poulle, builds on her experience as a practitioner of positive psychologie, and more specifically, the Solution Focused Approach and group intelligence. She is also the co-managing editor of the review "Envies de changer !", which is published by the Economic Peace, Mindfulness and Well-Being at Work Chair, at Grenoble Ecole de Management.

What is your definition of a Solution Focused Approach?

The Solution Focused Approach is a practical process to co-create solutions that help identify and mobilize the skills and resources needed to achieve observable changes. The approach was created in the USA during the 80s by Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer. It has since been developed around the world. This approach helps us explore what we already know in order to find the means to deal with limitations in the best manner possible.

On one hand, a problem would be a difficulty that we can overcome by finding a solution. On the other hand, a limitation refers to a phenomena that is beyond our control. For example, the current health crisis is a limitation we must all deal with. Covid-19 is something that for the moment remains outside of our control. Luckily, since our childhood, we have all experienced limitations and learned how to deal with them.

In management, a limitation can refer to a situation where one might have to implement a national or european regulation. It could also mean having to work with a skilled but disabled person. Our natural reflex can be to fight the situation, but the risk of this approach is to exhaust ourselves. What helps is to learn how to accept limitations and deal with them. This opens the door to many possibilities and boosts our creativity.

The Solution Focused Approach builds on changes in terms of our posture and attitude towards ourselves and others. It encourages the implementation of supportive and resilient management practices. This approach aims to connect individual and collective resources, skills and values. As a result, it nourishes confidence in one's own abilities as well as those of the organization and resulting relationships.

What is the foundation of this approach?

The end goal is to reinforce our ability to act and decide as well as expand our perspectives and increase our hope. The founding principle is that each individual is the expert on him or herself. Each individual has resources and skills, and change is unavoidable. The guide simply has the role of creating a positive relationship context in order to foster a search for appropriate solutions. The approach builds on the fundamental theory of self-determination developed by Deci & Ryan: the role of a teacher or manager is not to motivate an individual as motivation is intrinsic to each person and not mechanical. Instead the role is to create a "motivational context" that fulfills three fundamental needs:

  • To feel that we have the ability.
  • To perceive that we have the autonomy and freedom to choose within a given framework.
  • To satisfy a need for social proximity in order to feel connected to others and develop reassuring ties to people around us.

The Solution Focused Approach enables us to leave behind a mechanical approach to solving problems by finding the cause. This approach can be good for mechanical problems, but it's often not right for human-related problems! As a result, the Solution Focused Approach favors description instead of explanation in order to highlight what supports a given situation.

What are the advantages expected in our context?

The Solution Focused Approach is a paradigm changer that focuses on what already works and needs to be amplified, all the while accepting the existence of real difficulties. The approach invites us to think about three questions: What supports us on the personal level? On the relationship level? At the organizational level? Changing paradigms also means changing what doesn't work by finding possible and realistic solutions. It's a pragmatic approach: if it works, we continue.

People who participate in this process express feelings of greater optimism, confidence and energy. Those who focus on a problem-solving approach express feelings of guilt, frustration, criticism, and fatigue. The Solution Focused Approach helps us better understand various paradigm changes and learn a process that can support individuals as well as the group. Adopting a Solution Focused Management Approach means adopting a philosophy about what it means to be human. Reality is relative: we can't know in place of someone else. It's a change that requires some effort as we have to leave behind the idea that we know better and can always offer advice based on our deep knowledge.

Practicing a Solution Focused Approach means training managers. How can this be achieved?

In order to facilitate how we deal with the current difficult situation, the Economic Peace chair has partnered with the association Alternatives in order to publish a free guide to the Solution Focused Approach. For a first glimpse at this approach, a management article was also published by a group of practitioners and researchers during the lockdown last Spring. It was published in "Le Virus de la Recherche" (Presses Universitaires Grenoble).

Envies de changer !

Envies de changer !, a review published by the Economic Peace, Mindfulness and Well-Being at Work Chair, has recently increased its value offer. The publication has launched a new format that is no longer freely accessible. It is published by Presses Universitaires de Grenoble (PUG) in both digital and paper formats. The review aims to raise awareness around the subject of economic peace in various organizations: private and public, small and large, associations and regional authorities, etc. PUG is a leading French publisher in the field of human and social sciences.

The new format is a 17cm x 24cm magazin that is easy to carry and share. In addition, its content has been expanded thanks to research articles that explore concrete cases in order to encourage a better comprehension of what can foster economic peace in organizations. The magazin costs 12 euros for the digital version and 15 euros for the print version. A 28 euro yearly subscription is also available in order to receive the bi-annual publication. By subscribing you can help build a future around economic peace.

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