Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Answers ... or Solutions?

Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of working with a fantastic group of supervisors at a not-for-profit organization and one of the topics of our conversation was problem solving.

My theory, thanks to ideas from Peter Block in his book Community: The Structure of Belonging, is that as we as leaders focus mostly on problem-solving, we end up with our heads down, looking at that one specific problem until we solve it. Nothing wrong with that. Until we solve that problem. Then what? We've become conditioned to be problem-solvers, and without problems, who are we? When we are looking only for problems to solve, we will become great reactors, waiting for problems to happen so we can solve them.

The other side of that coin is to become possibility seekers, so that we don't have to be reacting to things that have already happened. As possibility seekers we create opportunities to live into instead of standards to live up to, which, when we fail, require our problem-solving abilities.

So we were talking yesterday about the distinction between answers and solutions. Perhaps our training and traditional education has prepared us very well to be problem-solvers because it is assumed, in most cases, that there is that one right answer. Our report cards, and later our performance reviews, will reflect our ability to find that right answer and recite it in the proper context.

A more creative approach to altering circumstances where we see room for improvement, whether within ourselves or with our teams, might be developing solutions or seeking possibilities. Where the previous approach would imply that there is one right answer, a solution or possibility approach implies that there may be several options, each of which may provide varying degrees of workability.

A solutions or possibility approach does require that one knows the desired outcome, so we will know whether or not we've improved the situation. And that may be the most difficult part. We have been so conditioned to look outside ourselves for "the answer" that we can't even fathom that we could possess a solution by really thinking through the possibilities for ourselves.

If you're looking for solutions to situations rather than answers to problems, you will probably find that an objective outside view can be very helpful. I find that's the case when I work with individuals and teams. Almost all the time a fresh outside perspective can provide solutions much, much more quickly than trying to slog through the situation with all of our conditioning intact.

It's true for each of us, really. I find that most people really are doing the best they can with what they have. Me included. But Einstein really was right: we can't solve the current problems with the same thinking that got us here. In fact, I might suggest that we really can't solve the problems at all unless we shift into possibility-seeking mode and change the way we've been thinking about them.

Ready to shift into new possibilities? Ready to create new solutions instead of seek for practical answers? When would NOW be the right time to do that? Giddy-up!

For more information about shifting your thinking into higher awareness and creating solution-focused outcomes, contact Jodee ( at Bock's Office for a complimentary brainstorming session.


At 1:11 AM, Anonymous nisha said...

Admiring the time and effort you put into your blog and detailed information you offer!

At 7:58 AM, Blogger Jodee Bock said...

Thank you, Nisha! Glad you found some value here!


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