We are All Problem Solvers By Necessity!

Interview with an IdeaConnection Problem Solver
Shane Mayack has a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences, Program in Immunology, from the University of Massachusetts Medical Center where she studied the role for the kinase Jak3 in effector CD4+ T lymphocyte function. After receiving her Ph.D., she was a postdoctoral fellow for 5 years at Harvard Medical School. During her postdoc, she studied blood forming (hematopoietic) stem cells and how environmental queues regulated stem cell function.

photo of Shane MayackAs life always throws us problems that we must solve, I believe we are all professional problems solvers by necessity! Technically, however, IdeaConnection is my first true experience as a bona fide ‘problem solver’.

I discovered IdeaConnection via an advertisement, and was prompted to sign on because I was generally intrigued by the concept and thought that it was a good way to challenge myself to think and learn about more diverse areas of science.

I have worked on two invited challenges and I have won one—the very first challenge I participated in! The challenges are difficult, which makes them interesting, but they are entirely manageable.

The team didn't have a specific idea of where the solution might lie when we started the the challenge. Arriving at the solution was definitely an evolution that was based on discussions with the rest of the teams that I have participated in.

It’s not important to have an idea of what the solution might be from the start. Part of a problem solvers job is to sufficiently research the problem in order to come up with a viable, winning solution. In fact, it’s better to take the approach that you do not know the answer and thoroughly research all aspects of the seekers problem—otherwise, a team may miss an important point that could lead to a more creative and winning solution!

We narrowed in on our basic principles early on. From there, I’d say we entertained two or three variations on our primary solution before deciding on one uniform strategic solution.

Winning the challenge was such a great feeling, and working with a team of experts is a lot more fun than working alone! It's also a lot more interesting, because you always learn something new interacting with a team of other qualified individuals.

It is interesting that all team members contributed equally—just in different ways. At any given meeting one or two people may have been dominant over the others. But, then at the next meeting, others would step up to the plate as well.

And having a facilitator is helpful to keep everything on track. Also, since the facilitator is typically more experienced in the problem solver and IdeaConnection arena, they often have keen insights that a more novice problem solver would not have.

Using Open Innovation to solve challenges is incredibly interesting, and just an all around great idea—outsourcing problem solving! And working with IdeaConnection has been a very positive experience!

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