As Einstein put it, ‘The problem is to know what the problem is’. Being resilient and forward-looking is an infallible way to push your organisation forward in an attempt to reach your goals. However, there are times when charging head-first into challenges is a no-go; indeed, to do so can prove rather catastrophic for any endeavour. There are occasions where, no matter how hard you try, the obstacle appears to be unmovable. On these occasions, it’s imperative that decision makers create some breathing space and reflect on the situation. Stop whatever objective you have in mind, and refrain from further action with regard to the matter that’s holding you up. Often, problems are like dice – multi-faceted and malleable. So what looked like a ‘six’ when seen from above can easily become a ‘two’, just by changing perspective. Maybe it’s the rules that stop us from doing just that? In that case, it’s probably worth considering changing the rules, or better yet, the playing field.
Here are some ways to shake up the problem by looking at it from different perspectives:
Rename the problem
Without it losing its meaning, giving another name to the issue at hand can generate new connections and help unclog what was previously stuck. Is it high staff turnover that’s affecting your business, or rather retention difficulties?
Reformulate it on the reverse
You could also attempt to tackle the issue from the core outwards. Are you trying to prevent something from happening? How about going for the opposite reaction? Let’s say you need to de-incentivise a specific behaviour in your employees; for instance, reduced productivity derived from the frequent use of social media during working hours. Perhaps, as opposed to imposing an outright ban, which could eventually lead to overall dissatisfaction, you might go ahead and incentivise higher productivity with bonuses.
Open your mind
Solutions are often a two-way street. What some may regard as a solution may be the initial root of the problem for others, and vice versa. Considering a wider frame of view has the potential to generate previously unseen perspectives and resolutions. Understanding how a specific decision could affect others is key to understanding its full extent. If what apparently came off as a major inconvenience to you turns out to be highly beneficial for your employees, it may well be worth you considering incurring it as an expense.
Put stuff into boxes
It might be worth trying to compartmentalise the problem into smaller elements. Dealing with one piece of the issue at a time will help ease the workload and, in turn, help speed things up. A logistical issue? Try distilling the various components down to their basic expressions (for instance, the different supply chains, the added value, etc.) in order to better pinpoint where the faulty process lies.
Seek a helping hand
If everything else fails, you should try to run the problem through circles outside the issue at hand. A fresh, new perspective into the matter is bound to shake things up just enough to clear the fog. Bringing in people with other areas of expertise can complement the knowledge that’s already on the table, providing you with the final piece of the puzzle. For instance, if you’re a programmer trying to develop a website, bringing a 3D designer along may prove useful, as it can help you better visualise your end product.
Reverse-engineer the issue
Try going directly to the worst-case scenario (where the problem has become all too prevalent) so that you’ve all but solved it. Moving from a perspective of defeat could prove the key to not only better navigating the issue, but rather to deconstruct it from its final expression backwards, right up to its origin. As an example, if your business is facing economic hardship, try picturing what would it be like to go bankrupt. By understanding how every single element played against you so as to lead you there, you may learn how to effectively counteract these emerging problems.
Knowing the environment where the problem first started brewing is not an easy task. However, it could allow us to further point to the underlying causes and develop more sophisticated methods of dealing with it. If your business model focuses on reversing climate change, then it’s imperative you know the circumstances under which the greenhouse effect came to be in the first place.
See the benefits of it all
By illuminating the problem in a positive light, it’s possible to realise that in spite of its many potential pitfalls, there can also be benefits to it. Sometimes the reward may surpass the initial damage, and sometimes the latter does the same thing. A power outage at the office? Use the spare time to engage in some bonding activities with your co-workers/employees and get to know them!
These eight tips on how to approach a problem from different perspectives will prove of great value for decision makers and social innovators when tackling specific problems, and will better equip them to confront upcoming challenges in the not-so-distant future.
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