We have a choice. We can target what is going wrong in our organization or what is going right. Many leaders concentrate on fixing problems, assuming that only minor tweaks are needed. After all, putting out a fire produces a benefit, and it builds a reputation as a 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 cannot be found by narrowing fixing problems. A “fix it” mentality limits our thinking, rather than expanding it. And the practice probably focuses on only a slice of the real issue. It certainly accentuates the problem and may also encourage blaming a person or unit. Traditional problem solving rarely results in a leap forward.
Think about a person trying to fix the problems reported by those who use a two-wheeled suitcase. The easy fix is to add two more wheels for easier handling. But is that all that can be done? What about options to adjust the handles, change materials, improve internal compartments, add a tracking device, or alter the weight. Restricted thinking fails to surface new alternatives. It just fixes what is broken. I am not advocating that we end the practice problem solving; we need it. But established practices should not be considered optimal. We need to advance out thinking beyond the ordinary. 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/