9 Behaviors of Great Problem Solvers

solve complex problems

Dealing with Problems

Problems.

We deal with them all day. Whether at work or at home, they seem to chase us down.

What if our problem-solving efforts could be radically improved?

What if you could increase your confidence in solving hard problems?

What if you could stop wasting time and money and implement the right solution?

Serial entrepreneur Nat Greene, author of Stop Guessing: The 9 Behaviors of Great Problem Solvers , says that we are trained to solve easy problems by guessing, and we often only learn to work around problems rather than tackle them.

Great problem-solvers don’t guess. They use different methods and behaviors than most of us. And anyone can learn to improve their problem-solving ability.

 

“A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.” -Charles Kettering

 

The Hidden Costs of Bad Problem Solving

How would you describe the hidden cost of bad problem solving?

Most people understand the basic notion that when problems don’t get solved, value is lost—value to your business and life, and to society. These problems are legion. They affect our health and safety, our happiness. If you think of the toughest problems the world needs to solve, or your business needs to solve, I’m sure you’ll come up with many of them. And you’ll have a very clear understanding that solving these could make a huge difference.

These problems persist simply because we’re not solving them. However, bad problem solving is far more nefarious. Bat problem solving means poor solutions—solutions that are wasteful, painful, or make things even worse than the problem. You may know the proverb, “the medicine is worse than the disease.” Think of examples where a famous business or large government has thrown massive amounts of resources at a problem without a real strategy. Or when a major asset wasn’t working, and instead of solving the root cause of the problem, the organization just bought a new one and hurt its debt position.

Such bad problem solving is worse than the problems themselves for two reasons. First, when a problem is badly solved, people stop trying to come up with a better solution. They may have fooled themselves into thinking they had a good solution or decided the bad solution was “good enough” or even realized that by “solving” the problem, they lost political permission to keep working on it. So unlike an unsolved problem, a bad solution is something you’re likely to be stuck with.

The second issue is that we begin to believe these bad solutions are all that is possible. It’s so common for people to work around an issue, patch it, throw money at it, or learn to live with it, that if we are not vigilant, we will begin to believe this is just a harsh reality we must accept. Through their lives, many people will just lower their expectations about what’s possible. They’ll stop trying so hard to come up with great solutions to the world’s hardest problems because they’ve been taught by example that it can’t be done.

 

Why are people unable to solve hard problems?

The most basic answer is that nobody taught them how, and actually taught them how to solve easy problems instead. Easy problems have few likely root causes—perhaps 2 or 3—and guessing can be an effective way of quickly getting to the root cause. Say your light bulb is out—the bulb is probably burnt and you should replace it. If that doesn’t work, try the breaker switch. If that doesn’t work… well, maybe you just forgot to flip the switch in the first place. That’s easy stuff, and guessing works just fine.

We’ve learned to guess at problems because it’s worked for us, but it’s also reinforced everywhere. In school, if a teacher asks a question, we’re expected to shoot up our hand with a guess. If we’re wrong, we’re still rewarded—“good try!” In work, when there’s a serious problem, people get together and brainstorm “ideas” (that’s code for “guesses”) about what to do next. In the haste to solve the problem as quickly as possible, there’s such an urge to act that people want ideas they can try out immediately rather than good problem solving. Even our evolution teaches us to guess: we simply lacked the technical skills to reason out what to do about the saber-toothed tiger that jumped out from behind a bush; thinking too hard about it was pruned from our family tree a long time ago.

Such guessing doesn’t work with hard problems because by their nature they have hundreds or thousands of potential root causes. The true root cause of your particular problem is likely to be hidden or obscure, and you simply won’t be able to guess it. Finding the root cause requires rigor and patience. It requires focusing on understanding the problem and the process itself rather than attempting to come up with solutions right away. What works to solve hard problems is essentially the opposite of what solves easy ones.

 

“I never guess. It’s a shocking habit, destructive to the logical faculty.” -Sherlock Holmes

Establishing Yourself as an Expert in Your Niche

This is a guest post by Ivan Serrano, who has his very own niche blog of his own on 1800NumberNow.com, is a writer who is constantly finding new ways to be the voice of business communications, globalization and future tech. He hopes that these tips will help you in your own venture of becoming an expert in your niche.

When it comes to choosing a business to patronize, customers are more likely to choose the better-regarded, better-informed professional. The obvious challenge to being considered an expert in your niche, however, is publicity. Some of the best-regarded minds in any field aren’t well-known in their field, and certainly not by the general public. Establishing oneself as an expert in a particular field can be tricky to do, but there are media options to do so.

 

“Expert: Someone who brings confusion to simplicity.” Gregory Nunn

 

1) Start a professional blog.

A cheap and easy way to announce to the world that you know what you’re talking about is by simply starting a blog— a consistent blog with the most relevant content, of course. Many will agree that blogs are designed to be a bit informal, so it’ll be acceptable at times to allow your blog to let readers know that there is a real person behind all of that content.

On the business side of things, this can be the blog on your company website, but the company would be better-served should the experts start a completely different site to discuss their field, and their understanding of the work. This will drive traffic back to the professional site, while still appearing to be impartial.

Having an online presence is one thing– being an authority in your niche is another. Personality is a big thing, and it plays a huge role in your blog’s voice. Regardless of whether you’re starting a blog for your business or for your own enjoyment, blogging has certainly become a viable marketing tool for both options, and it’s a great way to gain exposure.

It probably won’t hit the ground running right away, but if you remain committed, you’ll reach a strong readership in due time. Don’t forget to add those social sharing buttons as well!

 

“What is an expert? Someone who is twenty miles from home.” American Proverb

 

2) Guest-blog for an established professional blog

Writing for a professional blog that is already established in a particular field can garner more visitors for your newly-founded professional blog, as well as your own website. Building relationships in your networks will take time, therefore, you should be consistent in your activities (i.e. a single post won’t do much, especially when trying to forge a relationship with a certain site).

The more in-depth, well-researched posts you are able to produce on authoritative blogs, the more often you will have the opportunity of communicating and interacting with people.

The purpose is to get your name circulated among the people who can trust what you have to say. If you’re managing a business, guest blogging can also be a great way to promote your services and products. If you conduct a Q&A or dispense information regarding a particular topic, viewers are more likely to want to know more about you and why you are an expert. That’s what you are looking for.

3) Host a podcast

Long reserved for those with spare money to rent out a recording studio, hire a producer and then spend on advertising for the show, podcasting is actually quite easy to do.

Using a simple microphone (in a pinch you can use the microphone built into laptops, but an external microphone provides better quality), and free audio editing software like Audacity, anyone can record, edit and export audio to an mP3. Post it on your blog and website, and now visitors can put a voice to the name, as well as listening to you display your expertise on the matter.

 

“Expert: a man who makes three correct guesses consecutively.” –Dr. Laurence Peter

 

4) Guest-speak to classes