Problem-solving is an Achilles Heel in many organisations. Involving critical thinking, a versatile thought process, and creativity, advanced problem-solving is a valuable – and often rare - skill.
Nevertheless, an adaptive workplace is grounded in harmonized problem-solving. This is an optimized climate where problem-solving is an entirely natural part of adaptive business systems. This means that the whole team instinctively predicts and prevents issues before they arise, and, if situations do arise, automatically translates them into positive outcomes. In a landscape where change is paramount to success, this mindset can be a powerful asset.
Problem solving begins with climate. Here are four areas of development that can easily be targeted.
1. Embrace Problems
Problem-phobia is a very real presence. This is a relatively recent phenomenon, brought about by a rose-tinted notion that a smooth ride is the delineator of success.
Reality teaches us otherwise.
In classical antiquity, problems were conceptualised as opportunities. A recent academic review of the existing literature reiterated the link between problems and three core mechanisms: opportunity, motivation, and ability. If an organisation recognises that problems open doors rather than close them, the pathway towards adaptability is unlocked.
Reward-based problem-solving is an ideal learning mechanism. However, the real secret is in the climate: an organisational mind-set that refuses to be intimidated by problems cannot be beaten by them. It is arguably one of the most cost-effective ways of achieving productivity, reliability, and flexibility.
2. Create A Climate Of Problem-Solving
There is a widely quoted statement by Einstein in which he makes a startling claim. He argues that if the world were due to end in sixty minutes, he would spend fifty-nine of them thinking about the problem, and one minute acting.
This is often quoted in order to strengthen the argument for promoting problem-solving.
However, there is much more to the statement than this interpretation. Einstein, that most logical and creative of thinkers, was not making a claim that fifty-nine minutes are sufficient for problem solving. Instead, his position is that problem-solving should be a continuous, uninterrupted, constant state of being, right up until the very end.
The moment that organisations embrace the idea that problem-solving is the chemistry of day-to-day success - an adaptive business system that underpins organisational success - the moment the climate starts to shift from neutral into positive.
3. Nurture critical thinking
Critical thinking enables objective reasoning, cognitive readiness, and resilience. These are all traits that are foundational in an adaptable workplace, and which are ingredients in an optimised climate.
The business arena is dynamic. To survive, organisations need to be adaptable. This means that the minds involved have to be able to meet challenges such as ambiguity and uncertainty. Critical thinking enables ‘in the moment’ thought, which brings the problem to the centre so that everyone learns from it.
Critical thinking can be unlocked by professional development, and by experience.
4. Don’t Be Impatient
All organisations need to be able to respond to change. This is why day-to-day problem solving and adaptive business systems are so vital. However, innovation can also be a slow burner, and some problems are best when left to cook for a while.
Successful organisational landscapes nurture innovation. Once the climate is optimised for day-to-day problem solving, broader creativity and development occurs naturally. It’s how some of the most important leaps forward have been made. For instance, it was in the nurturing environment of a problem-solving organisation that the post-it note was invented.
Problem-solving, when encouraged and fuelled by incentive, can produce long-term results that even the greatest strategists could not plan for.
Problem-Solving As An Asset
A problem-solving mind-set is a valuable asset in any organisation. Problem-solving is more than just a skill, it is also a cultural philosophy. Problem-solving is something that can be taught in the same way that people can learn how to complete a cryptic crossword or win a game of chess. However, a pro-problem-solving environment is required in order to translate these basic skills into meaningful results. As the great minds of history have constantly reminded us: problems are not frightening. They are opportunities. Embracing change begins when problems are harnessed.