Problem Solving Master

Later this week I’ll be presenting at our monthly 8 Minute Ripple (in Austin) about the concept of problem solving. I’m actually having some fun thinking about this topic as it’s something that interests me.

We all have problems, it’s part of life. It’s how people deal with the problems that fascinates me. As I began preparing my remarks for my presentation I started looking at some of the great problem solvers I know from my personal life and professional network. It was fun to compare and contrast the problem solvers with some people I know who aren’t quite as good at solving problems.

Let me give you a sneak preview of what I’ll be sharing later this week.

I was reminded of a quote that I loved from one of my heroes, Albert Einstein.  “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

YodaSome of the great problem solvers I know spend time what seems like a ridiculous amount of time “thinking” about the problem at hand. They focus on whatever lay before them. They examine it from all sides, like a fan appreciating their favorite artist’s sculpture. One friend in particular refuses to consider any solutions until he’s examined all aspects of the problem, has it in hand and spends some significant time just “sitting with the problem.”

I call what these masters do as noodling. They noodle over the problem and make sure they fully understand it before they allow themselves to even begin to consider possible solutions.

Something else that I discovered is that many of my problem solver masters had to get up and moving when they were noodling on their problem. There’s tons of research, including some great information by my friend Kevin Leahy aka The Brain Trainer on the benefits of body movement. Kevin believes that movement is the key to getting your brain activated and focused. Getting up and taking a simple walk can help tremendously when you’re trying to wrap your head around a problem. It’s even more critical when you try and find a solution to the problem.

So many of my problem solving masters don’t literally sit on a problem, they walk over it. They get up. They take a walk around the office building. They change their scenery. They get outside and listen to the birds and absorb the sunshine. It’s amazing what sunshine can do to a problem – think Dracula and you’ll get the point.

One last aspect is many of the great problem solvers I know don’t just depend on their own brain to come up with the solution, they tap their problem solving posse. It’s amazing how many of the people I spoke to have anywhere from 1-6 people they rely on to help them solve a problem. Like the Cowboy Gangs of the Old West, these problem solvers saddle up the old gang and ask for help. They ask them for individual advice and collective wisdom. The combination of different opinions, ideas, thoughts help them see things differently because, more often than not, they are too close to the problem. Like the shootout at the OK Coral, the problem solving posse has their back and they take ownership to helping solve the problem as if it were their own. Who couldn’t use more six shooters in a pinch?

So my problem solving masters have their “go to” people they can utilize in a pinch. They carefully select and assemble their problem solving peeps so that when the big problems attack they’ve got extra firepower at the ready. There’s strength in numbers in any fight, especially when it comes to problem solving.

These last few weeks have been quite an adventure. I’ve realized that I emulate some of the same techniques and strategies that many of my problem solving masters suggested but not all of them. Before embarking on this little project I thought I was a pretty good problem solver but have come to realize that I have a long, long way to go to be a real problem solving master.

What about you? How do you go about solving your problems?

Post a link to this BLOG post on Google Plus, Facebook or LinkedIn and let me know! Or as always, feel free to drop me a line. My email is steve@ripplecentral.com

Until next time…..

Ripple On!!!

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