Is there even a dinner table anymore? Could this be one of the reasons our kids have difficulty with creative problem-solving? Never mind our kids…I’m hearing from employers that their employees, especially in the 18-to-30 age range, lack creative ideas and have poor decision-making, and problem-solving skills. Ironically, this is the age range that should be second-best in the area of having creative ideas, with kids under the age of 6 being the most-open to creativity.

A Washington Post article prompted me to think about how to teach young people what they seldom learn in school…how to solve problems, make decisions, and develop creative ideas. I realized that the same conversational skills of which the author spoke also develop the critical thinking skills we need to make decisions and solve problems creatively. These happen to be some of the top skills employers seek and entrepreneurs need for business success.

“Despite all the emphasis in the news about the need for computer software and programming skills, the most important qualities employers seek are basic teamwork, problem-solving and the ability to plan and prioritize.

“Here are the 10 skills employers say they seek, in order of importance:
1. Ability to work in a team
2. Ability to make decisions and solve problems
3. Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
4. Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization
5. Ability to obtain and process information
6. Ability to analyze quantitative data
7. Technical knowledge related to the job
8. Proficiency with computer software programs
9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports
10. Ability to sell and influence others”

Source: “The 10 Skills Employers Most Want In 20-Something Employees”.
Author: Susan Adams, Forbes Staff

So how do we develop these skills that are so critical in a world where ideas are crucial determinants of success? Bring back – or initiate – dinner table conversation! I know…everyone has a busy schedule. Your business or work is unpredictable. The kids have a million things they have to do for school and extra-curricular activities. You need time as a couple to get in touch with each other. Technology beckons. Stop!!

Start with one day every other week, then gradually increase the frequency to the limit of what everyone can accommodate. Put the date on your calendar and make the commitment that everyone involved will be there for dinner that day. Stop by your favorite take-out restaurant for food and bring it home if cooking is anathema to you. Ban any form of technology at the table for that one meal. Then start a conversation. But not just any “How are things going with you?” conversation.

Initiate a game where everyone around the table must participate. Initiate a game comprising questions that challenge thinking or perspectives, opens possibilities, or presents problems (real or imagined) that everyone at the table can contribute and collaborate to solve. Encourage ideas – crazy ones, serious ones, ridiculous ones. Celebrate the contributions and the engagement. Suggest actually putting into action some of the ideas that may come up. You could turn dinner table conversation into actual projects that continue the group connection.

Mind you: this is something that is not just a family thing. You can hold breakfast or lunch table ideation sessions at work. You can gather together several solo entrepreneurs for the same. The way to develop and hone ideation, decision-making, and problem-solving skills is to pull people together and get them to think freely and talk with each other. Come to think of it, this is the basis of my IMPACT© process – to work with someone else to pull what’s in your head out.

Bring back dinner table conversations to open and expand thinking. Practice making decisions, coming up with ideas that solve problems, and “selling” ideas to each other by communicating through debate, listening, and conversation.

Author's Bio: 

Sylvia Henderson's clients call her the "Clarity Queen of Implementation. She helps entrepreneurs and business teams get their ideas out of their heads and into action for profits and purpose. With Sylvia you get 25 years' corporate training, management, and non-profit leadership experience implementing and leading others to implement ideas. Services include strategy sessions, workshops (online and in-person), retreats, follow-up accountability, and a resource site. Contact Sylvia and sign up for her Idea Success Notes at