Interest-based problem-solving (IBPS) is a collaborative approach to solving problems in the workplace. It can be used to deal with existing workplace disputes and to pre-empt future ones.
The approach aims to resolve problems by focusing on interests. Traditional approaches to workplace issues focus on positions.
Positions are demands or claims for things that a party thinks will make a problem go away.
Interests are the things underlying any request or demand.
Read more about the difference between interests and positions
An interest-based approach involves the people who are affected by the problem. Collaboration between all the stakeholders allows for more perspectives and a fuller picture of the issues at hand and can lead to a more diverse set of possible solutions: overwhelmingly, this leads to better outcomes.
IBPS can help workplaces:
When a goal or issue arises, gather the parties together. This includes anyone affected by the goal or issue as well as any representatives.
Clarify and agree on the problem so that everyone is on the same page.
Identify the interests of the stakeholders.
Brainstorm and come up with possible solutions to the problem.
Test the possible solutions against a set of criteria (for example, is the possible solution affordable, is it legal, is it in keeping with company values, etc.).
Finally, the parties together should choose the outcome that will best achieve the goal or solve the problem.
Our guide to interest-based problem-solving sets out how to adopt an interest-based approach to problem solving in your workplace
Employers and employees who have a good relationship should consider IBPS.
The main requirements for IBPS are creativity and teamwork. IBPS involves a high level of information-sharing and genuine communication, so trust and respect between the parties is important.
IBPS is harder in workplaces where relationships are strained or where there is distrust between management and staff. However, IBPS can be also be a way of improving difficult relationships.
Our interest-based problem-solving guide sets out how to adopt the approach, including our suggested model for how to work through any given issue or problem. You can also read more about how interest-based approaches make for better workplaces.
Once you’ve decided to take an interest-based approach to problem-solving, you can use our:
We also offer support through our Cooperative Workplaces program. The program is for workplaces that want to try interest-based approaches. A Commission Member will work with you to deliver training and help you facilitate the process. They will also offer guidance and advice as you make the change to using an interest-based approach. The program is free.