The most impactful and lasting learning happens in the real world, not in the classroom. The basic requirements for a truly effective learning experience simply cannot be engaged through “let’s-pretend” exercises; and the more entrenched a personal challenge is, the more impossible it is to address through simulations. Outwardly, Integrated Problem-Solving is simply a process framework for solving specific, difficult problems. As such, it stands among the most comprehensive and effective decision-making approaches available. But it is because the IPS process also engages participants at a “core learning” level that it is so important. And it is because it teaches through an engaging experiential learning process that it is so effective.
The most obvious take-away is the training received by all participants in a problem-solving technique that they can use forever. But the personal and team development that accompanies it goes far beyond mere skills training. The process of learning to bring a wider array of tools to problem-solving is also a powerful growth experience. Making choices is something that we all do constantly. From subconscious decisions like which socks to wear or what words to use when talking to coworkers, to weighty decisions like committing resources to a project, our decisions are so much a part of our daily activities that they shape the course of our lives and help define who we are.
Because it is used to address a relevant and important problem, the IPS approach draws participants into actively experiencing new ways of seeing the world and making choices. They explore the recesses of their personal “toolbox,” to discover and practice using new problem-solving tools as individuals and as a team. The experience becomes far more than a purely intellectual exercise. The learning is experiential, deeper, gut-level —like the “muscle memory” that results from practicing a dance step or self-defense move. In a single training session, participants can take a meaningful step into greater personal balance, maturity, and competence. Personal growth is the most far-reaching level of learning in the IPS experience because the personalities of individuals underlie and shape everything they do.
At the same time that individuals are expanding their personal toolkit, the team itself is developing as a unit. As members become aware of approaches to taking in information and making choices beyond their own habitual ones, they identify and experience their own natural strengths and their shortcomings. They also witness other team members’ skills and see how the right contributions from different people can result in more balanced and effective results for the team as a whole. Aside from resolving the targeted problem, the development of the team is often the most immediate and visible improvement after an IPS session.