When you have to find ninja problem solving skills
You’re right in the middle of a presentation to some new, important clients, and your computer freezes. You get a call from an existing client who is going to a competitor. This month’s absence figures indicate your company has been hit by a plague and when you get home from this hellish day, your teenager has had their nose pierced. It’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but it doesn’t have to be.
We have all had one of those days where it doesn’t matter what you touch it breaks. My previous articles have looked at handling problems of different sizes and importance but sometimes it becomes overwhelming. Every now and then you’ll get a complete mish mash of all sorts of problems happening all at the same time. Little irritants, bigger problems that do need dealing with and threatening walls trying to stop progress. Or the smaller problems becoming larger and then becoming major headaches. This is when problem solving requires ninja skills.
On those chaos days, it takes all your willpower not to throw the laptop through the window; take a duvet day for yourself; write rude comments on your competitors’ feedback forms and ground your teenager for a month.
This is the time where you need to be flexible enough to adopt all 3 problem solving strategies, mentioned in my previous articles, all at the same time.
- Molehills are not mountains- breathe, reflect, deflect…allocate just enough attention to this that it deserves
- Roadblocks in your way – divide and conquer, go around, divert some resources to handle them.
- Major Setbacks – find another way- going through or round probably won’t work. So alternative strategies are needed and your course may change
Expend the least amount of effort on the first, engage and consider options with the second and start hunting for a new way on the third. Interweave them like a plaited rope and then unleash them together.
There is no single “Right way” to problem solve
However, there is a strategic way to set yourself up to be a problem solver. If you can learn to differentiate between molehills and mountains, your response will be more effective. This is hardest when the challenges come in waves and mixed up; some significant, some less worrying. It can be all too easy to respond the same way to all of them.
There is a great quote from Einstein
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Next time you are faced with a challenge, ask yourself, “Is this a mountain or a molehill?” “Is there a way through or around this obstacle?” If not, then some lateral thinking Is required. If you have dealt with challenges before and not got the desired result, change the way that you problem solve.
One way is not the only way. Stay open to changing tack when circumstances dictate and duck and dive like a champion boxer releasing your jabs when you can see the target. You may come out battered and bruised with some scars to show for it but ultimately you will win.