Einstein is believed to have said that if he had one hour to save the world he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution. Hmmmmm five minutes is a bit tough, even Flash Gordon had 14 hours to save the earth. However, the point Einstein was making is that spending time on understanding the problem helps you to arrive at a better solution. You may not have to save the world but if you are an entrepreneur, solo operator or small business enterprise at some point you are going to be faced with a problem and the solution you come up with could have a huge impact on the future success of your business. So what do you do?
Rephrase the problem and you will find a breakthrough solution. When a problem is defined too narrowly the solutions become very limited and lead to small changes. If you define the problem too broadly your solutions may be irrelevant in relation to your business strategy. As a simple example of the importance of rephrasing, if your business has a problem with increasing sales, replace the word ‘increasing’ with developing, repeating, attracting. Suddenly the problem is seen in a different light and alternative solutions can be arrived at.
Challenge the problem because problems come with a set of assumptions or as I like to call it ‘best guesses’ and when you know that your problem could just be a set of guesses it makes you want to challenge the problem. Don’t be afraid to carry out research to help identify and define the issues your products, services or business may be facing.
Looking at the problem through a different lens is a great way to get a different perspective on the issue. A useful tool to help get this perspective is one I have often used in coaching when a client needs to have a difficult conversation with someone. The client sits opposite the coach and imagines that the coach is the person they want to have the difficult conversation with and begins to explain what the issues are. The client then physically swaps places with the coach and becomes the person who has just heard the conversation. The client then responds to what was previously said as if they were the other person and they give their views and opinions as if they were the other person. Looking at your business challenges through the eyes of different people, e.g. clients, employees, business colleagues or journalists garners new insights. Imagine the different people you might need to seek opinion from on your business challenges, now find those spare chairs.
Often when we are eager to arrive at a business solution we forget that we need to define the problem first. When you define the problem you get a clear answer to the problem in hand. Above are just three of the steps we recommend you take in getting the clarity you need.
If you have any suggestions or recommendations to add we would love to hear from you.