Reject Fast Solutions – Solve Problems Slowly
Reject first solutions unless the barn is on fire.
#1. Choose done over working on creative solutions.
Choosing the fast solution restores the status quo.
Creativity is the ability to reject first answers and endure the awkwardness of ignorance.
Rise above, “Just get it done.” Embrace the frustration caused by pursuing creative solutions.
#2. Complain that people don’t think for themselves.
Leaders who solve problems FOR people end up doing all the thinking.
#3. Have low ownership teams.
Make room for teams to own their problems.
“When a team takes ownership of its problems, the problem gets solved.” Jocko Willink
#4. Slow progress.
Everyone learns to wait for your solution when you’re the solution-giving leader.
“A lot of people never use their initiative because no-one told them to.” Bansky
Teach your team to beg forgiveness, rather than ask permission by:
- Embedding organizational values in everyone’s head and heart.
- Honoring responsible failure.
- Taking responsibility when higher ups complain.
- Discussing and establishing boundaries to freedom.
- Ask, “What would you do?” And say, “Go do that.” (Unless it will cause damage.)
The more problems you solve, the more frequently people come to you for solutions.
Before you become a leader, solve every problem YOU can. After you become a leader, help others solve every problem THEY can.
4 ways to solve problems slowly:
- Enter conversations as a curious learner, not a closed knower.
- Realize the pain point might be a symptom, not the problem.
- Explore origins. When did this problem begin? What have we been doing or not doing that brought us to this situation?
- Develop three possible solutions before making decisions. “And what else might we try?”
“Be quick but don’t hurry.” John Wooden
What benefits might result from solving problems slowly?
The coach was so wise; “Be quick but don’t hurry.” John Wooden; His approach to his team and success was an incremental one, building upon scripted training approaches that others never thought of. Too often we see as you note the rush to do something. But being realistic our minds and bodies are not attuned to a rush approach unless it has to do with a life or death situation. And not everything is life or death. A wise supervisor (who had been a medic in Vietnam) once told me, “Roger this is not life or death and trust me I’ve seen life and death situations”. Step thru it he said, analyze the challenge (not problem because a problem is something you see on a math test) and then go forth managing your approach to the situation, the people and goal.
Thanks Roger. I remember staying up late as a kid and watching UCLA play with greats like Lou Alcindor. I was on the East Coast so West Coast time meant staying up past bedtime to watch.
The word incremental stands out to me. Change, evaluate, adapt, and begin again.
I find that the doers on a team get frustrated when a simple quick answer seems obvious and leaders explore options.
Garry, that true story from one of the best most kind supervisors I’ve ever had will always stick with me. He lived that context every day and it helped him (and still helps me) put true context in everything encountered in life.
I really like the story you tell about the Vietnam medic, that is definitely a way to put things into perspective.
What benefits might result from solving problems slowly? Sometimes there are more then 1 solution, taking time to research may give one time for the best solution, economically and timely! The fact still seems to be “haste makes waste”, often happens more times than we like to admit. Been there done that! Experience will lead us to reality were temptation to hurry will bite us more than once!
Thanks Tim. Overall, the bias to action serves organizations well. Lets get out there and do stuff. It can feel disappointing to slow down. But, sometimes, a creative solution is so much better than just getting something done. The problem is we can’t predict when slowing down will result in something better than just getting it done.
In my organization we talk about “slow down to speed up” – the thought being that just solving problems quickly (and thoughtlessly) will create more problems down the road. Taking the time to thoroughly understand a problem and generating options will enable to you to move more quickly once you put a solution in place. Not that the solution will be problem free! But you’ll have a better grasp on what the key issues are, and improve your ability to adapt on the fly.
Thanks Jon. “Slow down to speed up” is a great perspective on finding solutions. In the end, speed and efficiency in a competitive world is important. The courage to take the slow road to going fast is a beautiful thing.
I think that when you slow down–you are more likely to take the time to separate symptoms from underlying problems.
80/20-rule–some things you just need to get done.
Customers are demanding–sometimes you do need to speed up, to put the fire out but then, slow down to fix or improve the process.
Dan, I like your 4 recommendations/ways to solve problems slowly.
Your answer needs to be right, not “right now!”
The issue with “Embedding organizational values in everyone’s head and heart.” is have the right values: Embedding the words “Thou shalt not make a mistake EVER!” won’t help, but that’s often what does get embedded…
This reminds me of the common phrase: let’s go after the low hanging fruit. To me, the low hanging fruit approach often aligns with fast solutions and the idea of quick wins. Yet, oftentimes I have found greater success bypassing the fast-growing fruits, and instead investing in seeding and cultivating the fruits of creativity.
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