Bring me solutions, not problems

by | Jun 12, 2017

I’m sure it makes you cringe inside when you hear the solutions not problems adage used. It’s fallen into the same pit of disgust which also has “Run it up a flagpole…”, “Ducks in a row…” and the stupid box we’re meant to think outside of.

Well what if I could convince you that it should be returned to favour? We can add a dose of kitsch so it can be friends with arctic rolls, Star Wars and the ever-enduring wedge heel. And we can make sure it doesn’t come back like the 2003 re-launch of Crossroads, minidiscs which only lasted about two years or crocheted clothing, which never should have existed. Ever!

Both me and Trusty pride ourselves on our solution finding abilities and our decision-making prowess, but we’ve spent time and effort learning these because we knew they were important. Even when it’s just the two of us (cue Dr Evil and Mini Me montage) we make sure we pull together all the info we need to understand a problem. We’re also great advocates of ‘no idea is a bad idea’ although sometimes our mouths run quicker than our brains; but that’s human nature – no one should be ridiculed or made to feel stupid for a freedom of thinking or speech. Some of our best solutions have started off as a bonkers idea that we’ve refined.

However, we’ve found over the last couple of years the ability to present a problem and a solution seems to be missing.

As an example, I’ve given you a job and you’ve worked on it but come across a problem. At this point I would expect you, the person who has worked on the task, to have a greater understanding of its mechanics than I, therefore better placed to suggest possible solutions. What I usually get though is the proclamation that a problem has occurred, scant effort given to breaking that problem down and understanding the cause and usually no attempt to offer anything to help sort it out.

Imagine if doctors saw a rash and gave you some cream. The same cream for every rash regardless of whether it was meningitis, heat rash or the start of an allergic reaction that is going to turn into anaphylaxis.

When you put it in this context you can see how dangerous it is to ignore the problem and be blasé about the solution.

I appreciate it’s a skill but it’s an important one. How long do you think Nick and Margaret would have lasted as Suh Alan’s Trusties (note to self: get an extra Trusty, I must have two!). Imagine his response if they kept going “Uh! Suh Alan, there’s a problem with XYZ Company, we don’t know what it is or have any idea how to fix it we thought you could uh…sort it out.” Those crazy kids would have been well and truly fired.

The best people we work with are solution finders – all of them understand its importance. But it really is a dying art. So, going back to my original point, I think that, much like the campaign to save Salad Cream from being culled from the Heinz stable, we should bring back Solutions, not problems, dust it off and make aspiring business people study it, understand it and learn how to use it.

It’s something we’re going to make sure we train all our apprentices and young ‘uns in, because it’ll be a skill they can use wherever they go. Unlike the breadth of language me and Trusty can teach them, and the ability to drink vast quantities of tea – both important skills here at PtG central, but not so much anywhere else.

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