The Problem with Problems & No Solution

Early in my career, I would take a problem to my boss and say, “We’ve got a problem. What do you want me to do?”

It didn’t take long for him to train me to stop bringing problems to his office without also bringing at least one potential solution. He explained that I was actually much closer to the problem itself than he was, which meant I was much more likely to be able to generate potential solutions than he would have been…sitting in the corner office, quite a ways away from my department’s issues.

Shift Your Thinking

I can’t thank him enough for forcing me to think through the details of those scenarios and develop an eye for spotting multiple solutions. Over time, I started going to his office with, “Here’s the situation. I’m thinking this would be our best route, but have also considered these other options. Here’s why… What are your thoughts?”

Can’t Do It on Your Own?

Now, don’t get me wrong. There were plenty of times when I wasn’t able to come up with the solution on my own, either because I didn’t have enough information, didn’t know the players/politics, or just hadn’t been in a situation like the one I was experiencing. But more often than not, I was able to at least bring some points to discuss into the corner office, which my boss greatly appreciated and respected.

Stand Out Among the Crowd

Bringing solutions to the table is a great way to stand out among other young professionals, because it requires initiative, innovation, intelligence and determination. In fact, that unique skill my boss developed in me was the reason I got a promotion a year later – after three other people had failed to meet the needs of a department down the hall.

Amazon Agrees!
Another great article describing the levels of problem solving. What number are you?
http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/12/amazon-turned-a-flaw-into-gold-with-advanced-problem-solving/

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