“There are two certainties in life, death and taxes” said Brad Pitt in the 1998 movie “Meet Joe Black”. Actually I believe there is a third certainty, problems.
Problems are part of the journey of life, we cannot move forward without dealing with some sort of problem from the most primordial of finding food and shelter, to the most trivial of choosing the right colour tie for your next meeting.
The fact is that problems are very deceiving, in so many ways they are also similar to illnesses in that we despise them deeply. Like illnesses we become aware of them only when they hurt, by which time it is probably already too late to stop them doing some damage. Once we become aware of a problem and feel its pain we tend to treat the symptoms rather than truly tackling the causes. And again, like illnesses if we leave serious problems untreated and only tend to their symptoms they generally turn into even bigger problems and sometimes far to advance to be able to fix them.
Are you feeling the pain yet?
If you are, don’t panic just quite yet. Most problems can be resolved quite easily by simply understanding them and exploring them from different angles. We often believe there is only one right solution to a problem, in reality the solution to every problem doesn’t depend on its symptoms but on its desired outcome.
Exploring a problem from different angles allows us to gain clarity on what is going on and provide us with the opportunity to formulate a number of options and alternatives to focus on achieving what is truly important.
Do you feel as healthy as a fish?
If you don’t then perhaps you should question why? Problems become serious only if we ignore smaller issues that don’t seem to mean much when they surface. Because they are so trivial and don’t seem to have an impact on the overall big picture such small issues tend to go unchecked until they become big enough. Then this requires all hands on deck to resolve and will distract everyone from performing the way they could.
It is important to question the potential impact of small issues. What can happen if you don’t tackle them? What are they the symptoms of? What critical values are they eroding in your organisation?
Have you had these symptoms before?
If you have then it doesn’t mean what is happening right now is the same as what you have experienced before. It might be the same problem but almost certainly the conditions in which its presenting itself are very different and the solution that worked before might not work this time.
Experience forms connections in our brain between situations and actions. This is very useful when we operate under pressure but most often it causes us to make rushed decision and bad choices. It is always important to understand: What is different this time? How different are the causes from my previous experience? Which new conditions are causing the problem this time?
Googling won’t make it better, it will almost certainly make you feel worse!
Today it’s easy to “Google” any problem and find ready made solutions very quickly. The internet is indeed a powerful resource to find interesting answers and ideas but remember your problem has very unique characteristics and to be able to solve it effectively it is important to involve the people around you that are connected with it.
Most of the time fresh eyes help finding new and innovative solutions but before throwing all your energy on any external solution it is important to be candid and open up with what is really going on internally.
Fabio Grassi is the Programme Director for Innovative Problem Solving, a two day programme which runs on the 26th & 27th of November 2015. Fabio is a specialist in the development of team performance, collaboration and motivation.