The Underrated Problem Solving Tool

Problem solving is a normal part of leadership and life. Challenges are inevitable and how we deal with them always becomes a part of our legacy. People are paid to solve problems.

If we act wisely, when we cannot solve them we seek out those who can. We all approach problem solving based on worldview, education, experience and the list goes on. There is often more than one way of solving a particular problem.

If you think about some of the times you were stuck in solving a problem you may discover that you were locked in one line of thought. Many heads are often necessary in solving complex problems.

not every solution needs to be complicated

The wise King Solomon also said, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. You cannot have success without solving problems.

You can never be a successful leader if your strategy is problem avoidance instead of problem solving. Problems can be success enablers or killers depending on your approach.

People often fail in problem solving because they do not have the skill set for the particular problem, lack of resources, pride (in the form of a self-sufficiency front).

Another reason people fail is that they complicate their approach to the problem. Complex problems can be solved by simple solutions.

The sign above is what actually inspired this post. Instead of them making five signs to warn motorists they made one and simply put “X5” to tell the motorists there are five speed bumps. Putting up one sign like that saved them time and money yet did the job.

We tend to complicate the problem solving process by ignoring the obvious. You may feel stupid but the best place to start solving any problems is by asking the obvious questions.

In coming up with the solutions, start by exploring your solutions in a vacuum. What would you do if you had to make the decisions without all the pressure of the moment?

Complications arise when you add more pressure in addition to that of the challenge. You may need an inclined plane instead of a crane. Start with the simple things.

Which “What If?”

Projects, initiatives, causes and ideas all have a life span. The ultimate determinant of the life span is with those that bear them; the ones who drive the project or idea. A project or idea has no longevity apart from a champion.

One can easily be both the champion and undertaker of a dream or an idea. This happens when there are many “what ifs”. The challenge is in establishing which “what if?” to entertain.

Many have started pursued causes with great passion and gave up. When something ‘dies out’ it doesn’t necessarily mean it became irrelevant. Sometimes what sees many pursuits to their death is a change in perception.

A project or idea has no longevity apart from a champion.

When perceptions become negative the cause or idea will be perceived as such, ensuring a sure ‘death’. The reason you must pursue something is that value it will add to humanity or change lives.

What gives life and initial energy to pursuit of an idea or cause is usually how it will change things for the better. It is the possibility for change that inspires us to expend our time and energy. It is seeing how much better the world around us can be.

The supposition, “What if?” is what fuels our passion as we think about the endless possibilities borne by pursuit. We wonder how the world has survived without our idea. We get to work and then, sometimes, nothing…

“What if” is what can get us fired up at the start. When explore the same question in the face of adversity our answers can change. Instead of the hope and passion that was stirred at the beginning we can walk away with discouragement.

After asking the same question in adversity we can walk away beaten. Why? The answer is simple. The question is, “Which what if?”

One “What if?” is the one the seeks possibility. It is one that tells us that the world would be worse without our cause or idea. It is that one that sees how change can be created and how lives can be impacted for the better.

This “What if” is one that challenges to investigate why something must be done and not why it cannot be done. It is focused on the reason for doing something. It is outward looking and causes people to change lives or adds value. This “What if?” is the mother of innovation and the father of momentum.

On the other hand, the other “What if?” is a cowardly one that has never changed anything for the better. This “What if?” is not focused on why something must be done but why it cannot be done. It is focused on obstacles instead of the goals. It is inward looking and the only thing it changes for the worse is the magnitude of fear.

The second “What if?” is the momentum undertaker. It is the one the “What if?” that undermines purpose. It is the one that does not encourage innovation. It is beaten and does not look for creative ways of solving problems or going around obstacles. It is the one that will see you stagnate or regress.

Before you brainstorm or start dreaming. Before you throw in the towel… In the midst of adversity when you ask, “What if?” be sure you have carefully considered which “What if?” you have explored and are committing to. Always ask  “Which what if?”

image: pasukaru76, flickr (cc)

On Learning

“the important thing is not to stop questioning. curiosity has its own reason for existence. one cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality.

it is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. never lose a holy curiosity” – Albert Einstein

Which Battle?

I’ve discovered that many people participate in competitions for different reasons. Not everyone is competing for the same prize. Some were willing to settle with making it to certain stages of the tournament.

I think it is sad that while all could aspire to win the main prize, some were only glad to settle for what I think was the lesser. However diverse, every team that competes has some [ultimate] goal in mind. Every effort in preparation and in actual games are centered on an ultimate goal of sort. The prize is why teams [should] compete.

the battle you choose to fight determines the prize you’ll win

Goals give purpose to effort. Imagine an athlete setting out on a race with no end or finish line! It would be wasted effort, energy and time. Without clear objectives it is easy to waste and even abuse resources.

Goals can help us measure or place value on our efforts as we review our advance toward them against time. Clear goals also help us in determining what resources are needed and or how to apportion them.

Clear goals will dictate to us what our focus should be. There are many ‘battles’ that will seek our attention and one of the keys to our effectiveness is in choosing our ‘battles’ wisely.

Don’t fight a battle if you don’t gain anything by winning – Erwin Rommel

It would be of great benefit for us to consider the ‘battles’ we’re engaged in at the moment and the potential results of our engagements and whether they are worthwhile. I think now would be a good time us to give thought to what we are going to give of ourselves and resources AND why.

I don’t run without a goal. And I don’t box by beating my fists in the air – Apostle Paul

Are your pursuits clear? Are they worthwhile?