Are you solving the right problem?

Having earned my spurs in the business world of the 80s & 90s, I love solving a problem as much as the next person. Back then, we didn’t have problems, we had ‘solution opportunities’ and we were expected to ‘bring solutions, not problems’. In that environment, you learned quickly not to piss off the boss, so you came with solutions.

And until about 7 or 8 years ago, that’s what I still believed we should be doing. Then I was introduced to the world of design thinking.

In design, we don’t accept that the problem is the right problem that we should be trying to solve. Often it’s not, and if we dive in and solve what we think the problem is, we might just be putting a sticking plaster over things.

It took me a few years for this to become second nature. After all, 20 years of management education is hard to just forget. However, slowly but surely I learned not to dive in to solution mode. To take my time; to share what I saw as the problem with others; to explore and research the problem from all sides and then to define what the problem we should be solving really was.

So now I don’t expect people to come with solutions. I want them to bring problems! The difference nowadays is that once we’ve identified a problem, we’ll work together to understand and then solve it.

What a difference this approach makes! We now solve the right problems, often in ways that we couldn’t have imagined at the outset, working collaboratively.

Try it, you’ll be amazed at the results!

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