“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
I remember reading a book many years ago, I believe it was published somewhere within Stanford University. The book was about problem solving. It’s probably been 25 years since reading it but two things remain a part of my approach to life:
- Identify the problem before you start trying to solve it. One of the keys here is that most people try to solve symptoms of the problem and not the problem itself. If you have a headache you take an aspirin, right? How about stopping what started the headache? Maybe you need new glasses, you’re a bit dehydrated or your hat is too tight. Sure, take an aspirin too but don’t expect it to make a new pair of glasses suddenly appear. In business I see this all the time. I think there’s a related effect here… in an earlier blog entry, “Don’t confuse confidence with competence or education with experience“, overly confident people assume to be too smart to not get the problem at hand and charge a company to go in the wrong direction.
- There was a great story about the process of trying to build a machine delicate enough to pick tomatoes. Long story short, the problem was the tomato… after spending years and millions, some of the original machinery would have sufficed… they grew a hybrid tomato that had a more resilient skin.
Back to Albert’s quote… brilliance, simplicity. My lesson learned today… if my current trajectory becomes problematic, I need to stop and reconsider how I got to this point. Identify the root cause of the problem and then reshape how I came to the conclusions that caused it… think differently.
A departure today… this is actually a quote I came up with many years ago. I bring it up because I just read a quote from Steve Jobs and thought it similar…
“A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem.”
He is speaking to the second half of what I point to in my quote, and does an excellent job of describing the impact of a lack of experience… too few dots to connect, end up with very linear solutions. Frankly, I don’t really see myself as an intellect but secretly hope that people reflect on my interactions with them as being smart. Connecting dots, innovating outside of the normal bounds.
I’ve always found competent people with a wealth of experience to be a breath of fresh air. Recently, I had the great fortune of meeting a person who epitomizes this, oddly enough he also has a PhD from MIT… proving a limited number of great people also have confidence and education:-)
Some people don’t get this… It’s OK to not know everything… it’s not OK to present that you know something when you really don’t. Find the things that you know, and then the things that you don’t know but would like to learn. Don’t dabble in what you don’t know and don’t need to know. Let it go… have some focus!
Whether competitive intelligence or personal relationships, consider this quote. It’s easy to get wrapped up in trying to figure out why people do or say something… flip the equation and first figure out if they actually knew enough to have intentionality.
Attribution – http://twitter.com/marksimoneny