It seems to be a consistent pattern that people jump into solution mode prematurely. Often it’s important for us to go from a problem to a solution quickly. If we’re crossing the road and a car is coming towards you at high speed, the solution is obvious – RUN!
But in the complex enterprises we work in, the solution may not be as obvious as that. When a problem presents itself, we’re inclined to try and match that problem to others we’ve already experienced and so we quickly start building out a solution that solves that problem. Too often we find out too late that we’re not solving the right problem. Usually we’re solving the symptom and not the cause, using a band-aid when we need to be performing surgery.
Taking time to understand the problem properly is extremely valuable. It helps you avoid wasting time and money building the wrong system, process or tool. It allows you to get a better grasp of the overall system in which the problem exists: the environment, the people, the systems, the market, the geography, etc.
Taking time also allows you to bring more perspectives in on the problem solving process. A large organisation has many people with unique and valuable knowledge and that knowledge should be harnessed properly, not only at the stage when you’re building a solution, but also to help conceptualize in the ideation phase. Too often we pidgeon-hole people into their traditional roles – think for instance how often developers are only brought in once the solution has been designed!
The next time you’re faced with an problem, hold back a bit. Get comfortable with the problem first. Stand back from it and view it from all angles. It might feel uncomfortable to sit in that space, but you’ll find it’s beneficial.