“No, and I should have listened to my sales-guy,” Rory replied. “We spent a bunch of engineering time creating a perfect solution that the customer didn’t want. We thought the prototype would WOW them to our way of thinking. All it did, was drive them to our competitor.”
“If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?”
“First, I would listen. Before the problem was completely explained, I thought I already had the answer. I missed some key elements in the problem.”
“And, what else?”
“I think,” Rory glanced to the ceiling and back to me, “that I have to suspend my own judgement for a while. I have to see the problem from the customer’s perspective. Until I can see that, I will make the decision according to my criteria, instead of developing criteria from the customer’s perspective.”
The problem you solve is the problem you name. Make sure you name the right problem. -Pat Murray
As a manager, you are often faced with a problem to solve. And, you think, if I could just get my team involved, there are some benefits. Team problem solving –
Communicates the accountability to the team
Brings in a diversity of fresh ideas
Brings in ideas that can be combined with other ideas
Challenges the team to contribute their best thinking
Brings in other perspectives on what the real problem is
Surfaces additional “what if” scenarios
Speeds execution of the solution
So, why don’t we get our team involved more often?
We don’t have time
Our team members are already overworked
Our team members are too busy to attend a problem solving meeting
It’s not their problem
Our objections are just head-trash. Every time the manager solves a problem for the team, it cripples the team from engaging in problem-solving behavior.
The team still needs a guide. And when you float the problem, they will resist, at first they will panic. Your job, as a manager, is to simply outlast the panic. If you want to build a team, give them a real problem to solve. -Tom
The solution to a problem will not be found by the same thinking that created the problem in the first place. – Albert Einstein
Many technology initiatives fail in an attempt to preserve existing methods and processes. Adopting a piece of software supplants existing work. Technology changes the decision making and problem solving of humans. Human work changes.
The point is to determine the best alternative. Not the best alternative that you can imagine, but the best alternative that is possible. Step one requires temporarily suspending judgement, to consider alternatives outside of your own experience or imagination. Without suspending judgement, outside ideas get filtered.
But, why waste time on outside ideas that are likely nonsense?
See, you already filtered those outside ideas as nonsense.
Suspending judgement is difficult, because it requires you might have to admit you were wrong in your assumptions.
Suspending judgement, temporarily requires that you consider ridiculous alternatives. And if you consider ridiculous alternatives, it frees your mind to generate more ridiculous alternatives in a chain of ideas containing many elements, one of which may actually save the day. Idea fluency.
You may never get to the idea that saves the day without the meanderings of ridiculous alternatives. When we temporarily suspend judgement, it gives us permission to consider things run backward, the front end of one idea connected to the back end of another idea, the ridiculous context of one idea as the crucible for the right idea.