Can we solve problems without understanding?

In an ever-changing world where everything moves so rapidly, our reactions to the problems we may face in business or life are often to jump to a solution that can solve the problem as fast as possible.

We are all guilty of “solution jumping” before we understand the root cause of a problem. And since we don’t understand the cause, our proposed solution does not actually solve our problem. It only creates a temporary fix.

Furthermore, we sometimes create solutions out of convenience in order to explain and even justify the problems we face. This provides a form of psychological reassurance that we have solved something. But the truth is, we have not identified where and what our actual problem is. Sometimes, we are completely unaware about where our problems come from.

In the same manner, we often jump into innovation without understanding the real problem. The results become a disappointment. But innovation is not just about problem solving, it also about truly understanding what the problem is and what its root cause might be.

So, why is it so difficult to identify yourself as the problem?

The irony is that what you perceive as a problem might have its roots in your very own mindset. So, the answer to the question above is that you might find yourself on one of the three levels of denial that render you blind to what the true problem is.

The first stage is when you have no idea if you might be the centre of a problem. The fact is that everyone wants to be a problem solver, not the one that causes the problems. But sometimes, the problem begins within our own selves.

The second stage is when you start to realise that the problem might stem from your own self but you try to negotiate. There’s always somebody else or some other external factor that you can blame, if you choose to do so.

The quickest and easiest way to solve a problem, or at least get rid of it for the time being, is to put it on someone else’s shoulders or simply put it down to uncontrollable factors.

The third stage is when you realise that your mindset is a big problem, yet you refuse to accept it because you do not have the heart to speak the truth and face the repercussions.

Accepting that you are wrong and admitting your mistakes might cause you to lose some opportunities as it could change the impression people have of you. So, when it comes to your reputation, you may choose to defend it at any cost.

These are the harsh realities of problem solving. Oftentimes, we refuse to look at ourselves first. So, how do we begin to find the true cause of a problem?

First, stop doing the three things mentioned above. It is clear that everything begins with our mindset no matter what we are facing, and problem solving is no exception.

Second, be honest with yourself and about finding solutions — not for the sake of doing it to prove your ability, but with genuine passion to bring about real change.

Maybe it is time we start looking at ourselves as one of the puzzles that needs to be solved. Maybe it’s time we put all our honest confusion and weaknesses on the table and realise how similar we all are in every aspect.

We need to accept where we fall short individually, uncover the causes, and personally start resolving problems from there.

Until we find the humility and courage to be honest about how we feel and about the problems within us, no external solution can ever subdue the turmoil and turbulence we perceive in the world outside. No person can change the world with one big solution, but everybody can change themselves at any given time — it’s never too early or too late to change.

In sum, when you immediately assume there is a problem without truly understanding it, the problem solving process will not truly answer the problem in the end. So, the best way to approach problem solving is to constantly check with your own self and your own mindset, before diving into the problem itself.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) Southeast Asia’s leading executive, leadership and innovation capability development centre. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@seasiacenter.com or www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa

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