We have a choice. We can target what is going wrong in our organization or what is going right. Many leaders, assuming that only a minor correction is needed, concentrate on fixing problems. After all, putting out a fire produces a benefit, and it also generates recognition for the successful “firefighter.” However, in reality, problem solving merely adjusts the status quo. In our dynamic world tweaks cannot keep pace with the market or opportunities. G K Chesterton captured this choice when he wrote: “What is wrong is that we do not ask what is right.”
Significant advances are not generated by fixing problems. It confines our concentration, rather than amplifying it. And the practice might focus on the wrong issue or result in an inappropriate solution. It certainly accentuates the problem may assign blame to a person or unit. Problem solving does rarely results in leap forward, since it is goal oriented and deadline focused.
Suitcase problem solving solutions centered on durability and constraints. Confining thinking to those constraints would never surface the idea of adding two wheels, and later four, to the standard suitcase. I am not advocating ending the practice problem solving, we need it. But it should not be celebrated as a pinnacle practice. We need to support thinking that goes beyond the ordinary whether those thoughts occur in the office or in the shower. We must do the right thing instead of doing things right.
Dr. Mary Lippitt, an award-winning author, consultant, and speaker, founded Enterprise Management Ltd. to help leaders with critical analysis. Her new book, Situational Mindsets: Targeting What Matters When It Matters was published last year with a Foreword from Daivd Covey. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or https://www.linkedin.com/in/marylippitt/