Wednesday, May 17, 2023

6 Approaches To Problem-Solving From Today’s Leaders

https://patina.photoAll the business leaders I know have noticed that the problems we all face today are becoming more complex, multifaceted, and our customers are more demanding. Everyone wants to know how to become a better and more timely problem solver, as well as a more creative solution provider. The challenges for every business are now more global and multi-cultural than ever.

We are all jealous of the few leaders who seem to get it right more often than not, amassing multiple business successes, such as Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson, while the rest of us struggle to keep up with our smaller domains.

In my consulting practice, I seem to struggle the most with those of you who are perfectionists, so I was pleased with the guidance I found in a new book, “The Imperfectionists: Strategic Mindsets for Uncertain Times,” by Robert McLean and Charles Conn. These authors speak from a wealth of experience as investors, entrepreneurs, and environmentalists.

I particularly like and agree with their characterization of six mindsets that facilitate effective problems solving under today’s uncertainty and time constraints. I will summarize these here, adding insights from my own experience in business:

  1. Great questions generate the best insights. The best business leaders are ever curious about every element of every problem. You as a leader must be able to suspend your natural pattern recognition impulses long enough to see evolving challenges in a fresh light. Asking the right questions reduces uncertainty and provides new answers.

    Of course, you have to stop talking and start really listening if you want to learn anything from questions. That means also that you have to suspend your biases, forget your leading questions, and do the follow-up required to confirm what you think you heard.

  2. Look at the problem through multiple lenses. By changing your lens or widening the aperture, you can identify threats and opportunities beyond the periphery of conventional vision. Also, you can zoom in and zoom out to be sure you are seeing the real structure of the problem, rather than imposing an old solution or addressing only one surface.

    In the trade, this approach is sometimes called “dragonfly eye,” referring to the fact that dragonflies have huge compound eyes, with hundreds of lenses that gather much more data than our human eyes, giving them a survival advantage in a complex world.

  3. Constantly experimenting through trial and error. To be a great problem solver, you must go beyond conventional data to explore tomorrow’s evidence from experiments to test hypotheses. The internet and instant global communication have made this kind of direct experimentation possible and cost effective, leading to early pivots and retries.

    Jeff Bezos at Amazon credits much of their growth and success to conducting regular change experiments. Bezos believes that if you double the number of experiments you do per year, you’re going to double your innovation, and thus outpace your competitors.

  4. Enlist the collective intelligence of the crowd. With the pace of change today, it is unlikely that all the best people to solve any given challenge are inside your four walls. Clever leaders now cast their nets more broadly, reaching out to the crowd on the internet, as well as industry organizations, governments, and even competitors.

    Of course, this requires that you bring together highly functioning groups of diverse people, which means you have to be willing to share your challenges. That may be a new mindset for you, but in my experience, the payback is well worth the time and effort.

  5. Don’t demand risk elimination by perfectionism. Great problem solving under uncertainty requires assessing and betting on the odds through trial and error, leading with low cost minimum viable prototypes, and accepting that some initiatives will fail. You must embrace humility about what you can learn, and what is knowable at any time.

  6. Use the show and tell mindset to compel action. This enables you to connect an audience, constituents and customers with the solution, and then use combinations of logic and persuasion to get buy-in. Storytelling will present the case emotionally as well as logically, connect with the values of the audience and the balance of risk vs reward.

In all cases, problem solving is a wager on the future, so you need to understand the stakes, or costs, of playing the game. This means assessing the price of each strategic move, including the costs of doing nothing, or finding a perfect solution, and weighing the payoffs of each potential outcome. Now is the time to hone your problem-solving skills if you expect to survive and thrive.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on on 05/02/2023 ***



No comments:

Post a Comment