One of this blog’s most commonly viewed articles is on problem-solving. A well-defined problem is half solved.
So far, it has been visited about 7,500 times. I have not checked to see if it is the most visited, but I am sure it is in the top ten. Since it first appeared in November 2012, I have done about a dozen more on the same topic, but from different angles. This is another in that scheme.
That creates problems of its own. People jump to problem-solving too soon. Solving poorly defined problems is weak. People ignore fuzzy or unpleasant variables in their definitions and underestimate how long the solution will take and how much it will cost. Essentially they adjust the problem to fit the solution they prefer.
As you can appreciate, solving a poorly defined problem seldom generates the desired outcome. No matter how good the solution is if it doesn’t competently address the real problem, it fails. I recall a public relations committee meeting at The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario where we were to deal with a million-dollar-plus advertising proposal. My fellow committee member Lyman MacInnis listened carefully to the proposal and summed it up this way. “What you are proposing is an elegant solution to no known problem.”
That is a hard objection to overcome.
Good problem solvers often fit the solution to the problem they wish to see. That is not usually the same problem the client has. The real problem may never be fully developed if the client relies on them. Possibly never known at all.
“It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem.” G.K. Chesterton
That benefits no one. If you want to be able to deliver solutions that work and last, you must first help the client develop their view of the problem and the ramifications if it is not solved.
Once that is clear, solutions make sense and are easier to accept and implement.
From then on, it is just a question of keeping in touch and addressing changing contexts.
Exploiting opportunities is the same as solving problems. Don’t overvalue the projected future.
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