Small Shifts in Thinking Have Massive Positive Impact
By Michele Ahlman
Step off your platform and take a look at a situation from a different angle. A fresh perspective can completely change your approach to solving problems.
Problems. If you are still breathing, you’ve had one or two to deal with. We all have them. What separates the successful from the mediocre is how we solve our problems. One problem-solving technique you should master is changing perspectives to redefine the problem.
The way you define a problem is often the key to solving it. Take a current problem that you’re having difficulty solving. Then ask yourself: How can this problem be redefined? If you are looking at a challenge and defining it as a competition problem, consider re-defining it. Change your perspective. Could it be re-defined as a financial problem? A time management problem? A human resource or staffing problem? A technology problem? A prioritization problem? A communication problem? An education problem?
So, here’s a simple and fun example. Let’s say you’re a guy who really wants to have a girlfriend, but you’re becoming frustrated by a lack of progress in this area. How have you been defining the problem? As a problem meeting the right person? How else could you define it? Maybe your real problem is your career, which forces you to work in a male dominated industry — might the problem be a lot easier to solve if you worked in a female-dominated industry? Maybe your hobbies keep you homebound and alone, so you have to go out of your way to meet new people instead of naturally encountering them in the course of your normal life. Maybe your communication skills are poor, turning people away before they get a chance to know you. Maybe you’re putting everything else first in your life, and you’re not giving this problem the attention it requires. Maybe your finances are so poor you can’t afford to go out much.
Ok, this problem most likely does not apply to you.
Let’s consider a business problem. Let’s say you are an independent hearing practice with a Costco Hearing Center in your community that is taking market share from you. You might have defined this problem as a hearing aid manufacturer loyalty problem, or possibly a competition problem. What if you re-define this to see it differently. How about defining this as a story-telling problem?
Consider how the problem would change if you were to tackle it via this alternate definition. What would happen to the problem if…you were a masterful and confident communicator? What if you approached this problem by looking at your business as an emotional transportation business rather than a hearing aid business? People take action based on emotion. How would this problem change if you looked at your marketing and advertising platforms as opportunities to create and tell compelling stories about your practice rather than as a place to offer a cheaper price?
A simple perspective change can open up a whole new world of possible solutions. When you consider only one perspective — one limited way of defining the problem — you automatically rule out an enormous number of potentially viable solutions. But blanket the problem with a multi-perspective attack, and your odds of success increase dramatically.
Often we fall into a pattern of being stuck with a single favorite perspective. For example, if all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. When we look at problems only in black and white, we often miss a better approach to solving them. It’s hard to break the favorite-perspective addiction, but when you start thinking through what it costs in terms of overall effectiveness, that helps provide the push needed to branch out.
Sometimes you’ll find that a multi-perspective solution is best. You may see that there are two or three perspectives which individually aren’t sufficient, but together they can provide a complete solution.
Pull out one of your big hairy problems, and try it for yourself. See what the problem looks like from different angles. What would happen if you threw storytelling at your marketing problem by crafting community engagement programs based on your personal small business story? What if you threw people and brainpower at your financial difficulties by forming a mastermind group? What about throwing education at your spiritual troubles by studying the lives of people you admire?
The way to define a problem is often the key to solving it. Instead of coming up with the right answer, you can change the problem!