Collaborative Problem Solving

Organizations & People

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”
– Henry David Thoreau


Professionals Discuss Workplace Collaboration

When it comes to effective problem solving in the workplace, collaboration among dedicated professionals is paramount. Each team member brings valuable perspectives, experience, and feedback to the table as they communicate to identify the best solution. Here, local executives share how they lead their team in a culture of collaborative problem solving.

jim vaughn

Jim Vaughn

Partner in Charge, Mauldin & Jenkins

I think the best way to solve a problem is just to get everyone in the same room and talk about the positives related to the problem and the negatives. After that discussion, there is usually some common ground discovered. Everyone might not get their way, but you walk away with the best solution available and make sure everyone supports the decision in public even if they originally disagreed.

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wade hinton

Wade Hinton

CEO & Founder, Hinton & Company

At Hinton & Company, collaborative problem solving is essential to achieving exceptional results for our clients. As CEO, I am committed to fostering a culture that embraces innovative ideas and constructive feedback. That’s why we purposefully implement these practical practices:

  1. Focusing on what matters by establishing clear objectives and avoiding distractions. Doing this helps us build a foundation of trust.
  2. Encouraging idea sharing and welcoming challenges to foster open collaboration among team members, regardless of their roles.
  3. Actively seeking diverse perspectives by appreciating different viewpoints and seeking feedback from team members, clients, and industry experts. This approach helps us explore all possibilities.
  4. Prioritizing collaboration by providing opportunities for team members to work together on projects and dedicating time to brainstorming sessions.
  5. Lastly, recognizing and rewarding collaborative efforts, celebrating wins, and praising team members’ contributions.

In my humble opinion, these practices can help any organization create a culture of collaborative problem solving and empower teams to achieve exceptional outcomes.

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pablo di si

Pablo Di Si

President and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America

Fostering a collaborative, problem-solving team starts with an egalitarian mindset. I’ve seen teams with rigid hierarchies and large egos within management struggle to flag problems or concerns early, share good ideas, and create a team spirit among their members. In my early career at Abbot Laboratories, a senior executive at the company would occasionally invite team members to play soccer together. Playing soccer with my colleagues really forced everyone to see each other as equals since the team is always greater than the individual in soccer. I remember this helped our team work more collaboratively to solve problems in the office as we had practice operating as a real team in a low-risk soccer match. This simple, yet ingenious practice had a lasting impact on me and is why I’ve brought it to Volkswagen. When I visit team members at our locations across the continent, I often work a casual soccer match into the schedule to show we function best as a team. I always encourage leaders to find a way to foster team spirit outside the office in order to replicate it in the office!

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r. steve hunt

R. Steve Hunt

Owner/Principal Broker, Hunt Commercial Real Estate, LLC

As a full-service commercial real estate firm, we routinely interact with our clients’ other advisors, be it their accountants, lawyers, and/or bankers. As efficient as emailing and texting are, nothing beats an “all-hands” conference call, Zoom, or Teams meeting. And those are trumped by in-person meetings. It may be “old school,” but Hunt Commercial Real Estate still prefers to meet folks in person. We believe the best solutions come when all the brain power is tapped and focused simultaneously. A collaborative process always yields better results in our profession. This is especially true since our efforts are increasingly focused on development projects these days. We work with engineers, architects, landowners, governmental agencies, and others that are spread across the Southeast. Zoom and Teams allow us to tap into those individual talents and collaborate real-time for the best solutions to keep a project moving forward.

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karen hutton

Karen Hutton

President & CEO, Hutton

I love problem solving, and finding the right team to pull together at one time is key. I think about which people need to be in the conversation, both inside and outside the company. Have a meeting all together to solve a problem and be prepared to ask questions that get to the best possible outcome. No is not acceptable, so thought-provoking questions can lead to a yes and problem solving with a variety of suggestions and options that were not previously considered.

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terry hart

Terry Hart

CEO, Chattanooga Airport

Over the years, I have always led organizations, big or small, utilizing simple practices. A leader will always be faced with problems. Some require immediate attention, while others can be thought through. Establishing the premise that it is not about me, but we, is paramount. With that in place, building trust and faith within your team will foster a collaborative workplace, one that allows everyone to feel comfortable in contributing. That also helps in breaking down the silo culture, which limits everyone’s participation. Once you have that, and everyone understands no answer is wrong, your team will want to participate in solving problems.

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todd womack

Todd Womack

President & CEO, Bridge Public Affairs

The Bridge Public Affairs team all come to their work after long careers in local and federal public service at the highest levels. That background teaches tremendous collaboration and a proven track record of working well as a team under pressure and regularly communicating with members of the general public. The Bridge team is spread across multiple cities so ensuring we stay well connected, coordinated, and cohesive requires intentional effort. We start most mornings with a team call where we plan out the day, the week, and in some cases much further out. We also approach our work with clients in a collaborative fashion. It is not uncommon for multiple members of our team to be on a call with a congressional office or client, bringing our various expertise and perspectives to each problem we are working to solve. Finally, we work to find ways to interact in person. Fostering opportunities for us to be together and in casual settings is important to our culture and our collaboration. Although time and travel schedules don’t allow that to occur as often as we’d like, we always look forward to our time together as a team.

Waldrep Construction

tasia malakasis

Tasia Malakasis


I believe very strongly in a team working together to not only solve problems but to create and sustain new programs, products, and growth. The same techniques apply whether it’s to solve a problem or create something new. I tend to think of it as being a five-pronged approach.

  1. Encourage open communication. This is critical in my mind. If the team isn’t fully open then it’s hard (if not impossible) to create positive momentum.
  2. Create a shared vision. Same with the above. Enthusiasm, buy-in, and passion for “the cause” is critical. And with that piece in place, nothing will stop a strong team.
  3. Promote teamwork. Having a team get comfortable working together and sharing inter-departmental strengths is key.
  4. Provide feedback. Providing feedback, both positive and constructively negative, helps the team to grow stronger.
  5. Celebrate success. The fun part! But just as crucial as any of the other key elements.
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