“No problem can be solved until it is reduced to some simple form. The changing of a vague difficulty into a specific, concrete form is a very essential element of thinking.” –J.P. Morgan
One task that binds every business leader together is problem solving. We are the Ann Landerses of our respective fields, expected to be the silver bullet to slay difficulties. The sheer number of problems we solve in a day takes a mental toll, even if simple answers are sufficient. One method to reduce the mental fatigue is to ask that every problem that is dropped in your lap is explained to you as if you were a five-year-old. Those who have been around small children for more than ten minutes have been forced to explain complex ideas in simple terms. We also encapsulate our explanations to the wee ones as succinctly as possible, because the attention span of a five year- old is on par with that of a busy executive.
This simplification process can initially feel silly and perhaps even maddening, but a funny thing happens when you break any problem or idea down into its elemental or fundamental components. The momentous bogeyman of a problem becomes smaller and more manageable. The moving parts of the problem can then be triaged to focus on groups of smaller solutions that will form the basis of the plan.
Those that have come to you for a solution are forced to reexamine the problem in a different context as well. The act of simplifying the problem and presenting it to you in that form will often guide the team member into formulating their own solution. At that point, if no additional guidance is needed, your mental energy is spared. Your team member has been taught a skill that will eventually lead to fewer problems being laid at your feet. In that case, everyone wins!
Simple is Powerful and Effective: Accelerators
- What problems are “sitting on your desk” currently that need to be addressed?
- How can you simplify those problems down to their fundamental elements so that they can be more easily understood and solved?
- Bring your team together and engage them in the process of problem simplification and solution design.
- Create a regular forum (weekly, monthly, etc.) to bring your team together to simplify and solve the problems at hand.
Dr. Jeff D. Standridge is the best-selling author of “The Innovator’s Field Guide” and “The Top Performer’s Field Guide.” He serves as Managing Director for the Conductor and Innovation Junkie, and teaches in the College of Business at the University of Central Arkansas. Jeff helps organizations and their leaders generate sustained results in the areas of innovation, strategy, profit growth, organizational effectiveness and leadership. Learn more at InnovationJunkie.com.