You run a business. Problem-solving is a necessary part of your everyday. But do you ever stop to consider how you solve problems?
There are two kinds of problem solvers.
The first focuses on the moment. They like to make small pivots whenever needed to get around an obstacle. They aren’t thinking much about the effect that pivot has on their trajectory, they are just solving the problem for today and will solve tomorrow’s problems for tomorrow. Their aim is to avoid present disruption and they value that outcome more than the path they originally started on.
The second kind of problem solver is one who does whatever is necessary to get through the obstacle while maintaining their chosen path. They are solving a problem so that it never appears again. Their aim is to get to point B and they value that outcome more than avoiding disruption or set back.
The first form of problem-solving is a waste of time. It avoids learning for long-term ROI and leads to habits + behaviors that don’t align with the vision you most-likely have for your business.
If you want your business to be able to bear load — multiple products + tons of happy customers falling over themselves to get at those products, all while you spend less time running around like mad and more time pouring into your relationships + passions — then the foundation must be predictably strong. Your processes, the quality of your products, the way you handle problems when they arise — you need to know without a doubt that it all holds up to the new weight of your growth.
I’m going to walk you through 4 steps of expert-like problem solving. But first, why should you even care?
Problems cause cortisol levels to rise in our blood stream. They stress our system as they introduce uncertainty to our path. Turning uncertainty to knowledge is often a painful experience because it requires new thinking and expanding our comfort zones.
Here’s the thing: every time you decide to deviate around the problem to avoid the mental + emotional pain of understanding, you steal from yourself and your clients. And you increase the likelihood that your business won’t survive in the long-term.
You’ve chosen to be an entrepreneur and you’ve chosen to move past your most-obvious options for revenue in order to serve more people and create the life + space you want. Now it’s time to resolve that you will solve the many problems you face in a way that builds resilience, hope, and a business that really meets the needs of its clients.
Ok, ok, on to those steps:
- Understand the problem — the knowns, the unknowns, the conditions
- Make a plan — do you know a related problem and can you use it here?
- Carry out the plan
- Assess the result
Effective problem-solving is a skill. And like any other skill, it requires practice. You wouldn’t jump onto Adobe Illustrator for the first time and expect to know exactly what to do, would you? How do you even know it’s the best tool for the project? You should know without a doubt how + why it will do the job before you start.
So first you would think about what you need to do for your project, then you would consider the various methods for answering the need, finally you would consider the technology at your disposal.
After you’ve really understood the problem, you would form a plan for how to use the technology to apply the method and solve your problem.
>>>> You now have a process to test-run for solving the problem. (Woohoo!)
Once you’ve carried out your plan, you need to look at the result and determine if it aligns with the need. If it doesn’t, you go back to the first step – did you miss something? What part of the need didn’t translate?
The common response here is to just start fiddling. Not sure why your CSS isn’t coming out correctly? Let’s just add x, y, and z to the code and see what happens.
You’re deviating again – stop it! It’s the old throw spaghetti at the wall and see if it sticks. It’s an attempt to conform a problem to your current understanding — assuming there isn’t anything else to learn. You are capable of more sophisticated + effective forms of problem solving, ok? Ok.
So how does all of this translate to resilience, hope, and a business that really meets the needs of your clients?
Easy. It programs your brain to effectively respond to stress. (Tweet that).
Responding to a rise in cortisol by getting away from the problem as fast as you can programs your brain to disengage from life when thing get tough. You use the energy your brain is giving you to escape the problem instead of solve it. It’s why you think of eating sugary + fatty foods when you get not-so-great-feeling feedback from a client. It’s why you keep clicking over to Facebook when you’re supposed to be writing a blog post but the words aren’t quite coming out right. It’s also why you blindly follow what someone else says (since it sounds close enough) instead of making sure the solution is solid.
Following the above 4 steps to solving a problem keeps you engaged in the present world. It uses the rise in cortisol to your advantage as you channel the surge of endorphins + dopamine to focus on the problem. That in turn reinforces the belief that you can solve the problem, which builds hope + optimism since your brain really likes feeling capable and in control. Those good feelings forge neural connections telling your brain that a great way to feel happy is to focus + solve the problem. That’s resilience.
And all those new habits are what is going to lead you to do only the best things for your business + your clients.
- Pin that infographic (hover over it for the pin it link) for reference when your next problem comes up.
- Leave a comment below with a problem you’re trying to solve right now and I’ll help you come up with a first step using the above method.