Problem solving is a skill. You’ve got to learn how to solve problems. I’ve told my partners many times, the reason why my check has an extra zero in it is because of my ability to solve problems.
Write Down the Problem
I love this quote by Albert Einstein:
If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend fifty-five minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.
1. Articulate the Problem
What do we tend to do? We tend to rush to try to answer the problem or get rid of it. We spend very little bit of time thinking about it. So the first thing you need to do is put it on paper. Practice the discipline of putting your problems on paper and thinking about it. That exercise of putting it on paper alone will help give you clarity and focus.
2. List Out the Options
Entrepreneurs love options, leaders love options. I want my staff to give me options. I will choose the direction we may go, and it may be a hybrid of a few different things, but you have to start with that. Think about the problem, and think about what your options are.
3. List Out the Downsides
Goe through all the scenarios. You want to know all your downside, what are your losses, and what is the potential collateral damage. If we do this… this can happen.
4. Find Advisors You can Get Advice from
Do I have any advisors who I can get some advice from that have maybe been in the situation?
5. Break the Problem into Little Pieces
Another thing that I find to be very helpful is I break it into bite-sized pieces and then I delegate it to people. It makes the problem not quite as heavy for an individual and it creates a team atmosphere for solving it.
Pieces of Action
1. No Blame Game
When you are in fire, don’t ask how you got there. This is a tendency. It’s not the time to start blaming people, criticizing people. Get out of the fire first, then you can look back and figure out how you got into it and who got you into it. It’s just so common for us to try to do that. First we want to make policies and all that to get out of the fire, then spend some time thinking about it.
2. Don’t Rush Any Systemic Changes
Don’t make any systemic changes because of a problem. Make sure it’s not an outlier. Don’t reinvent your whole policy based on an outlier. So a problem doesn’t mean necessarily that you’re going to change how you do everything.
3. Make Sure the Problem DOESN’T Become Systemic
If it were systemic, it would happen multiple times over. If it does occur, then you need to spend time looking in how to prevent the problem in the future.
4. Problems Don’t Always Need to Be Solved Immediately
It’s not like Jeopardy, where somebody asks you the question, you have to answer it a few seconds. Ninety-percent of the time, you don’t have to solve it that second. There are certainly times that you do.
I used to think that any problem I had had, I needed to solve it that hour, that day. Now I will tell a client that I’m aware of the problem and we’re going to take care of the problem, but I’d like to have a few hours or to the end of the day to think on it.
5. Learn from Your Problems
Make a problem pay for itself with additional knowledge and experience. I want to get a return on investment from every problem I go through