05 May Fixing Problems?

You hear it all the time. To get ahead in business be a problem solver. The assumption is that when we solve problems, they go away.

Maybe that was true at some point. But what if we have evolved to a point in time when fixing problems is having the opposite effect. They aren’t going away. In fact we are compounding problems by fixing them.

They are indeed fixed – as in cemented in place. They become dependent upon hiring lots of problem solvers to tend to them. And then there’s this pernicious co-dependency of a revenue stream only existing as long as the problem is sustained.

For example, recently I read a New York Times opinion piece which shocked me by the author’s complete obliviousness to how entangled the problem of end-of-life wishes paperwork has become. The author is an emergency room doctor who was arguing that a living will and a DNR is not enough. If an ambulance team brings you to the emergency room, they have to continue life-saving protocols. She was advising us to get yet another form that must be signed by a Doctor in addition to ourselves.

The unspoken message was that our wishes weren’t enough to protect her from potential litigation. This is an example, in my opinion, of making an already naturally complex situation, more unnecessarily complicated – adding more paper work to fill a loophole left by another document. The problem – a conflicted family who doesn’t know what to do, leaving a Doctor with no clear directive and fearful of a lawsuit – doesn’t go away.
To improve this situation as well as the many complex scenarios in life and business, we need to stop this obsession with fixing problems. We need to shift the focus to recognizing opportunities.

In a world of unnecessary complications, opportunities are hard to find, develop, and sustain. It takes enormous effort to go against the momentum of this problem obsession culture for opportunities to persevere.
Opportunities are ideas, vulnerable from the start, that need a team with the chemistry to hold together against enormous odds to develop them, defend them, and bring them to life. We need to fix opportunity with a better process.

An opportunity needs “parents” – a team with the chemistry to overcome all the challenges, before even hatching ideas. That team needs the time to dig deeper, below all the superficial problems to find the opportunities that are being missed. And that team needs professional help to capitalize on all the communication tools we have to open the eyes of others who have been trained to see nothing but problems.

The team must include all of the stakeholders in the ecosystem so the outcome doesn’t add unnecessary complications. Instead they should strive for ideas with mutual benefit. Inherently, this will simplify the inherent complexities of today’s systems.

Before you say that is way to ambitious – I say aim for an opportunity that can be explored as a project – one that will prove this team can work together to make a real difference. Ultimately it is the team’s chemistry that makes it able to find, develop, defend, and bring to life an opportunity in this entangled world of problems.