According to Systems Thinking, organizations are systems where it is the interaction between the parts that define the system itself. This means that the organization (the system) is a product of the interaction of its parts, not just the sum of them. This way of looking at organizations leads us to explore human problems, and its solutions, in interactional terms (who does what, when, and with whom), instead of in psychological terms (what’s the reason behind a behavior).
This approach is at the core of a solution-oriented mind where we avoid a deep analysis of the problem or situation and directly move towards a possible solution. Focusing on the conflict or difficult situation and knowing why things are the way they are and having detailed explanations of the root cause, is very often not helpful in finding the solution.
Switching perspective is a great way to empower people towards a solution-oriented mindset. When someone has made a mistake, for example, do not blame or look for the causes: ask how they plan to made corrections and help them to learn as much as possible from the times when they don’t make mistakes.
Avoiding Problem talk helps as well to optimize time and invest it in finding the solution. Solution-focused people tend in fact to solve problems in a much shorter time.
How to move towards a Solution Focused approach?
Stephen Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People said: “The way we see the problem is the problem.” How can we start looking at problems in a different way, with fresh new thinking?
- Start by asking a different Why. Avoid focusing on the reason why something happened but clarify the reasons why you want this situation to be solved or to change. “Why is it important to solve this problem?” and then, as the next step: “How do I want this situation to be instead?”
- Be mindful of your thoughts. Pay attention to the way you talk and the questions you ask yourself and the people around you. Be clear on how you want the situation to be instead and which small steps you can start making towards that preferable future outcome you have just defined.
- Stop doing the things that don’t work and try something else. Look for an alternative solution or a new next step. Look around and see what is already working and use more of it. Spot helpful situations and resources that can help you to move towards the solution and use them as much as you can. Often you do not have to re-invent the wheel, parts of the solution can be already available, easy to grab.
We often look for the right and perfect solution and stay in inertia for too long. We underestimate the power of tiny steps, especially in problem-solving.. or better said, in solution searching. Aim therefore for small actions that can be taken today. It is also easier to come up and implement ideas for smaller actions rather than bigger ones.
But most of all: remember to start today!
- When facing a problem: “How do I want this situation to be instead?” Describe it in detail.
- What’s the first step I can take towards this desired situation?
- What am I already doing that is helping to make the problem better and smaller? What else? What else? What else?