Monday, May 31, 2021


When solving the wrong problems, it’s no surprise that you are going nowhere, causing more issues or getting stuck at the state of problem-solving impasse.

It’s a world with all sorts of problems; a problem is a difference between an expectation (vision or intention) and the actual situation (current reality) coupled with a negative feeling. Many problems exist because they are either ill-defined or the concept cannot be adequately captured contextually. 

To quote Einstein: "The significant problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them…” Why do companies continue to resist looking at new ways to analyze, frame, and solve problems so that they can find better solutions?

Thinking “Inside The Box”: The problem actually arises before the trouble begins. Too many people are either stuck in the mud of the old ways of doing things, or are delighted with the amorphous - unlimited and imponderable options. Most of the time, the issue isn't that people are staring at the problem too long, it is that the problem isn't really clear in the first place. Everyone has a different interpretation of what the problem is, therefore staring at an unclear problem goes nowhere. Also don't jump too quickly into solution mode, and make sure everyone is really clear on what the problem is. An objective, systematic approach is a great way of forming the right problems. It requires an introspective or retrospective understanding of context and intangible variables, so you can truly dig into the root cause, rather than just pick the symptom. Otherwise, fixing the wrong cause of a problem leads to even more serious problems later on.

Framing the right problem is a half way to solve it. Collectively, business leaders should take a holistic look at the variety of business relationships and interconnectivity, continuing to break down the old box with outdated knowledge or concepts, and shape the new thinking box to understand the issues thoroughly. Then, to solve it creatively, it’s important to leave negative thoughts and conventional wisdom, and to seek additional knowledge and experience, see alternatives and solve complex problems with creativity. Thus, inclusiveness and interdisciplinarity are extremely important to bridge cognitive difference and knowledge deficiency. The result of collaborative problem-solving can be surprising as sometimes diametrically opposed parties sometimes end up working together on a solution that suits both.

Illogical & irrational: People are often both the cause and the center of problem-solving. Humans are "Predictably Irrational" in face of “VUCA'' new normal. Some problems seem irrational as they are caused by people’s emotional reaction to a set of circumstances or events. Other problems become even worse due to improper problem-solving. Often, the apparent “illogical” nature of our original perception of the problem may be masking a rationale that we just cannot comprehend. Irrational mentality and illogical solutions are reality, creating more gaps, wasting time and energy, and even generating more wicked problems.

Thus, one of the most crucial management disciplines is to put the right people with the right mentality and capability to solve the right problems at the right time. Every leader and professional should be self-aware of their role in problems and show professional maturity to understand they could be part of the problem if they lack the right problem-solving mentality and skills. Keep in mind, with complex digital new normal, there isn’t always a right or wrong choice in any situation. To overcome the “problem-solving” impasse, it’s critical to challenge, debate, and open the dialogues to close blind spots, take the logical scenario, show versatility and flexibility in creating multiple choices to formulate premium solutions. High-quality leaders or employees have a winning mixture composed of character, and creative intelligence, they can think and work independently, develop their creativity, and have excellent problem-solving skills.

Manipulating numbers only: There are both strategic problems and tactical problems, transformative effort and incremental improvement. Many people or organizations perhaps overly focus on quantitative measurement to assess problem-solving results for the short-term, but cause long term concerns which intimidate the business’s survival. The pervasive obsession for purely numerical success indicators sweeps aside much of the softer, more qualitative information that is crucial in the understanding of the health and well-being of the firm's efforts to bring up long term solutions. At the strategic level, there is a story behind numbers, quality over quantity. Every strategic problem-solving initiative, either at a functional level or corporate scope, has to make sure the business as a whole is superior to the sum of pieces.

Analytical problem-solving is not just about manipulating numbers, but about fully understanding sequence and consequence. It is very encouraging to see people using both quantitative and qualitative approaches to diagnosing and solving problems, inclined to a 'digging into' systematic approach rather than 'debate challenge' due to investigative depth. It is important to define the strategic level performance indicators which take into consideration the possible implication on the organization as a whole and the future orientation, trying to fix root causes, not just symptoms.

When solving the wrong problems, it’s no surprise that you are going nowhere, causing more issues or getting stuck at the state of problem-solving impasse. It’s critical for digital leaders and professionals to wear a bigger thinking box, becoming highly visible, proactive, and innovative, conforming to a sequence, a focus or a goal, a motivation to explore proposals, a willingness to imaginatively explore, to tackle great challenges, with grand consequences over long time spans.


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