Problem solving is part of day-to-day life, whether at home or at work. Finding a solution is not generally the challenge, but sometimes identifying the problem you’re trying to solve can be.
Read on in this Thrive in Five to learn how to find the best solution by reframing the problem.
Reframing the Problem
Often times, defining the problem involves asking the right questions. If someone says, “I don’t like the presentation,” it could mean a multitude of things. Like Einstein implied, the majority of your effort should be put towards finding the root cause of the issue.
Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg’s article in the Harvard Business Review titled “Are You Solving the Right Problems?” speaks about the slow elevator problem. People complain that the elevator is slow, but when the problem is reframed into “the wait is annoying,” the building managers suggest putting mirrors up in elevator to distract those riding the elevator so the wait doesn’t seem as long. This reduces complaints, and saves the managers a lot of money since they didn’t have to do any major adjustments like install a new, stronger motor in the elevator.
When reframing the problem, ask yourself, “What else could this mean?” Some examples of reframing common problems are:
- “I don’t like my job” could mean “I have no work-life balance” or “The work I do is boring”.
- “Our team doesn’t get along” could mean “Our communication styles are different” or “We’re working towards different objectives”.
- “Our company isn’t growing anymore” could mean “There’s no marketplace demand” or “We don’t have a clear corporate direction”.
Reframing the problem helps you determine what questions to ask so you can solve the issue in the simplest and most effective way.
Apply the Five!
For this edition:
- Identify one problem (small or big) in your life that’s been on your mind recently or you know needs to be addressed.
- Write down a one-sentence problem statement that summarizes the issue.
- Next, write as many different perspectives of the problem statement as you can think of. If it helps, ask other people to reframe the problem from their perspective.
- Identify questions that will help you get to the root cause of the issue.
You can use these questions to continue searching for the true cause of the problem and then identify simple and effective solutions that best address it. Remember not to over-complicate things, and stick to the most simple solution that effectively solves the problem.
Learn How Evans Thrives
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Meet Jessica Zucal!
Have you ever sat in meetings and felt like the conversation was in the weeds or going around in circles? It’s easy to get caught up in the details while explaining a problem and even easier to go down the rabbit hole and end up 3-4 issues removed from where the meeting started. In meetings like these, I find myself asking about purpose and outcome – what are we trying to do here and what outcome are we looking to achieve?
Often times, the problem or pain point we’re trying to address is a symptom, not the root. So how do we know if we’re solving the right problem? One way is to stop focusing on the problem and shift your attention to defining the desired state or outcome. By defining the outcome or change you’d like to see, you’ve created criteria upon which to bounce your solutions off of, and that helps to focus your efforts and actions. You may find that the desired state addresses something different than what was originally stated, but what’s more important is that you’ve scoped the direction in which to follow.
Until Next Time…
The Evans Thrive Team
(Nicole, Kaitlin, Laura, Bob, and Sean)
(This image was adapted from a commonly shared internet image.)