Problem Solving for Business

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in ParisChange Your Thinking and Improve Your Odds of Success.

A few weeks ago, I met with a client, whom we’ll call “Jack.”  Jack built a career on developing ideas for technology products based on patterns in user data.  As you can imagine with the tech boom in San Francisco, Jack had been incredibly successful.

However, Jack’s “hot streak” (as he called it) had gone ice cold.  He was frustrated and out of ideas.  No matter what he did, it didn’t seem to work.  Moreover, his CEO was becoming ill tempered with Jack’s missteps.  So, what threw ice water on his fire?

Change Your Thinking

One of my favorite Einstein quotes is:  “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”  Meaning – change your thinking to find your solution.

Jack had walked me through his approach and methodology.  What I saw was he was so immersed in his process he couldn’t see anything else.  And, there was the source of the problem.

Improving Your Odds of Success

To help Jack, I helped him think about the issue in a different way.   I asked Jack to look at his role through the eyes of his team.  What he saw was so wrapped up in his research that he was simply handing off ideas to his team and expecting them to understand his thinking.  And that’s where the breakdown was occurring.

As I shared with Jack and many, many, many business leaders, clairvoyance is a pretty rare in business.  (Just ask Miss Cleo.)  It’s the leader’s responsibility to communicate his/her thinking, ideas, new product, new policy, etc.  Ideally, this is done through a dialogue (meaning a two way conversation) with the other person.

Jack and I had a subsequent meeting with team members.  The team confirmed that they were struggling to keep up with Jack and understand his thinking.  Moreover, they were afraid to say something.

By the end of the meeting, Jack and his team had agreements on how they were going to work together moving forward.  Jack also fully empowered his team to speak up when he wasn’t being clear.

The Outcome

I spoke with Jack yesterday.  By shifting his thinking, he solved his problem.  The best thing he said was – WE are on fire.  That’s the first time I’ve heard him say “we” instead of “me.”

Way to go team!


How have you shifted your thinking to solve a business challenge?

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