Agree On Problems First Then Solutions

by on August 19, 2013
in book, design

An Excerpt taken from, The Value of The Finite
‘The formulation of the problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill.’ ― Albert Einstein

It sounds so simple, but it’s very common. How often have you been sitting in a large meeting, where people will jump right into the issue of the day. There will be a very brief mention of the issue, it’s significance, and then the room will jump right into discussion about how to solve the problem.

Often times you will have many people with diverse roles with equally diverse perspectives on the issue. Some folks may not even agree that “the issue” of the moment, is a problem at all. This can be very detrimental in meetings, because if the issue isn’t of any interest you get people opening laptops, picking up phones, or otherwise checking out of your meeting. If this evolves into a pattern, pretty soon no one will even show up for your next meeting.

Even if you are lucky and maintain the involvement of people’s attention, you will still have the issue of mismatches perception and understanding. People will interrupt one another, talk over each other, all eager to share their perspective on the issue. In this situation folks will talk past one another, likely saying the same thing in a slightly different way, but because there is no agreement, no one is listening to each other.

This is when meetings feel heated and escalate, but it’s not clear at all why. It’s because everyone is racing to be the first one to solve the problem, no one is listening to each other, and no one has agreed on what problem needs to be solved.

Because many folks prefer to be the individual with “the idea” or “the solution” instead of the individual pointing out the challenges ahead many folks will jump right to solutions which is great although slightly premature.

Until the patient has been diagnosed there is no way to know what medicine is required. Identify and agree on the issue at hand, then discuss solutions.

To move past this you need to clarify the problem statement, the open issue, and get everyone to see it the same way, agree on the issue, and then solve it. This removes all of the tension, frustration, and focuses the group one cooperating to collaboratively problem solve.

It may feel silly but while in a group, you will want to say it outlook even, something like “so it sounds as though we agree the issue is wiz bang,” great now let’s talk about how to solve the problem.

This becomes even more effective when you have multiple interrelated compound issues. Start with an agenda of open issues. Agree on the agenda. Make sure you are solving the right problems!! Then solve them! Now go on do it. Destroy!

It sounds so simple.

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