Don’t Try Harder, Try Differently

Business Analysis Training - Critical Thinking

Back in my days as an operations manager, I used to watch some of my team members drive themselves insane on a completing a task while others simply just glided through to completion with barely any effort.  Why do some people glide through problems and others bang their heads on their desks?  I have always been impressed with people who have this gift of solving problems with the greatest of ease.

Yesterday I joined a teleconference on a significant issue we were having with our website and email.  The problem was clearly complicated and immense in nature with all the technical folks in the room clearly frustrated with finding a solution.  A new techie joined the call a little late, jumped in with a brilliant approach and our problem was resolved quickly.  I couldn't resist asking the question to her, "Why was this so easy for you to resolve?".  She laughed and said "I think a little different".  

She had a great point.  There were many times I was involved in a problem or issue where it just seemed we would never resolve it.  When I shifted by thinking a bit thing became more clear.  It wasn't about discovery of a fancy work around; it was the discovery of viewing the problem from a different perspective that gave me the solution.  You can stare at a pile of rocks all day wondering how you are going to move them out of the way.  Standing with a shovel in your hand wondering how long it's going to take to shovel them.  We get so focused on the problem we forget about our options.  Instead of the shovel, I put on gloves, pushed the rocks on to a tarp (just like my dog digs holes in my back yard) and drug the tarp away.  Viola.  Done easier and far more quickly.  Plus, my dogs clearly have more respect for my digging skills.

Don’t try harder, try differently.

Many times we get in the middle of resolving an issue or moving a project forward with the mentality "It Just Has To Get Done".  What we are doing isn't working and it's full of quality defects but we still keep moving forward thinking it will all work out.  We put the horse blinders on and could only see one way forward.  Just a little more pain and it will all be over soon.

If you're putting a solution in place and it's not working, it's time to try something new.  It's just so hard to stand up and say "Well we tried that - let's try something else".  I've said exactly that in many a meeting to watch the hair on the back of a room full of people stand on end.  People get frustrated and angry when direction needs to change.  Change doesn't feel like adapting to the situation, it feels like things are out of control.  If you ask everyone in the room "Do you think this will work if we continue?" overwhelmingly the answer is "Of course".  No one wants to be seen as a nay-sayer.  

So I put my big boy pants on and take the heat.  The solution we are trying to implement may not be the best approach.  Let's get creative and adapt to these new circumstances.  It's not blame-storming.  The famously fun game where a room full of people try to figure out who to kick off the island.  Okay guys it's time to think about this differently.  Challenge appropriately and politely.  If the challenge to think different is not heard, it says more about the folks in the room then it does you.  Toot the horn, but than salute.  If the group is unwilling to change or adapt, then you will need to support that decision. 

Take a step back from the solution and the problems you are are having.  Get a different perspective.  I had a boss who would literally stand on her head to see things upside down to figure things out.  She claimed it got more energy to her thinking.  I just found it hilarious a 60 year old woman was willing to stand on her head to solve a problem.  Changing perspective is important to looking at things in a new way.  You might even need to bring in different people to look at the problems you are having - going outside your organization for help.  Fearlessly looking for a new perspective helps see new approaches you couldn't see previously because you were too close to the problem to see the entire situation.  

There is a great blog on this by Thomas Oppong on medium.com.  It's a 6 minute read that gets the little brain cells moving around.  Hit me up with your comments - I would love to hear them.  Keep coming back to Bob the BA's blog for more good stuff.