“The solution to many organizational problems lie within the company – itself – with its own people. If you create an environment that encourages people to communicate their perceptions about problems and issues that prevent the company from being as effective as it can possibly be, and then solicit their input about what can be done, you tap a reservoir of talent that is more than adequate”
(Andrew O Manzini – Organizational Diagnosis- a Practical Approach to Company Problem Solving and Growth)
Footnote: This quote illustrates why internal communication processes are crucial to prevent reputation risk and employee stakeholder uprisings. Many years ago whilst still in Corporate, myself and a colleague wrote an internal report that Management discarded. Months later they employed an international consulting group whose findings were 80% plus similar to our findings and recommendations. Be careful – never ignore the internal prophets.
(This comes from a South African male – working with multiple audiences including women across many industries for 17 years (Who many years ago trained SA Armed Forces in Buddy Aid – how to use everyday materials to render first aid when you do not have specialised equipment MacGyver style, who has facilitated hundreds of Health & Safety & Crisis Management workshops)
People often feel helpless and fearful in some difficult situations. The reason – Lack of Knowledge. Some become arrogant in order to hide their lack of knowledge.
The antidote to fear is knowledge. Knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses and ignorance. Knowledge of what to do in difficult situations.
Example – Scared of being hijacked by kidnappers. Attend courses facilitated by your local Police or Defence Agency. They often do this as Community Outreaches – for free.
Example – Danger of a loved one dying. Empower yourself with knowledge. Attend First Aid Training. You never know when you may need to save a life.
The point I am making is that often we are afraid because we have not made the effort to analyse a situation and equip ourselves with knowledge and skills. I mean do you know how to use a fire extinguisher, or do you even have one at home?
So here is a tip. Before you do anything, free yourself from the shackles holding you back. Attend some creativity workshops – These will enable you to think outside of the box, and is in fact some of the most important learning experiences you can ever attend.
As George Bernard Shaw said: “Some people said why, but I said why not”
PR and Advertising agencies are supposed to be creative greenhouses. Yet,
the old “Internal editor” in all of us, raises it’s head so easy. (The “internal editor” I believe is our internal voice , our conscience, our left brain that can sometimes stop us from progressing. Years ago I worked with a consultant, a retired CEO who said the following : “The danger with gut feel is that it SOMETIMES can cause indigestion”).
Evaluate the following statements and ask yourself : ” How often you have used these statements?”.Did they prove to be correct?
- We tried that before.
- Where’d you dig that one up?
- Our business is different.
- It costs too much.
- It’s never been tried before.
- That’s not my job.
- Let’s put that one on the back burner for now.
- Let’s form a committee.
- We don’t have the time.
- I don’t see the connection.
- It won’t work in our department or business.
- It’s too radical a change.
- The Board of Directors would never go for it.
- The staff will never buy it.
- It’s against company policy.
- It can’t be done.
- It’s impossible.
- Let’s get back to reality.
- That’s not our problem.
- We’ve always done it this way.
- I don’t like the idea.
- You’re right, but…
- You’re two years ahead of your time.
- Don’t rock the boat.
- It isn’t in the budget.
- Has anyone else ever tried it?
- Good thought, but impractical.
- Let’s give it more thought. If not, or if they did!
What is the lesson for your consultancy or team? Please let me know!
For me personally, travelling to other countries and reading outside my discipline helps. That’s why once a week I try and visit a local bookshop, with the aim of just browsing through those areas that I seldom visit.
It is when this happens that new ideas are blooded.
Like the following story, which by the way comes via the book Power Yoga by Beryl Birch.
The poor frog – always in stories, even used in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche.
“Confined in the dark, narrow cage of our own making which we take for the whole universe, very few of us can even begin to imagine another dimension of reality. Patrul Kinpoche tells the story of an old frog who had lived all his life in a dank well.
One day a frog from the sea paid him a visit.
“Where do you come from?” asked the frog from in the well.
“From the great ocean,” he replied.
“How big is your ocean?”
“You mean about a quarter the size of my well here?”
“Bigger? You mean half as big?”
“No, even bigger.”
“Is it . . . as big as this well?”
‘There’s no comparison.”
“That’s impossible! I’ve got to see this for myself”
They set off together. When the frog from the well saw the ocean, it was such a shock that his head just exploded into pieces.
The moment we change someone’s worldview – be it through knowledge sharing or direct confrontation things happen!
In the book A Whack on the side of the Head, Dr Roger von Oech says that sometimes we all need a whack on the side of the head.
What will you do to change your own world view BEFORE someone has to hit you over the head?
Sometimes we get so technical in trying to effect change in a company. Sometimes a simple small change, (those things that system thinking experts call leverage points – those small, well-focused actions that can, when used at the right time and in the right place, produce significant, lasting benefits exponentially beyond the effort required to take the action step itself), can make all the difference.
A principal of a small middle school had a problem with a few of the older girls starting to use lipstick. When applying it in the bathroom they would then press their lips to the mirror and leave lip prints.
Before it got out of hand he thought of a way to stop it. He gathered all the girls together that wore lipstick and told them he wanted to meet with them in the ladies room at 2pm.
They gathered at 2pm and found the principal and the school cleaner waiting for them. The principal explained that it was becoming a problem for the cleaner to clean the mirror every night. He said he felt the ladies did not fully understand just how much of a problem it was and he wanted them to witness just how hard it was to clean.
The cleaner then demonstrated. He took a long brush on a handle out of a box. He then dipped the brush in the nearest toilet, moved to the mirror and proceeded to remove the lipstick.
That was the last day the girls pressed their lips on the mirror.
Your choice should depend on the situation, whether you are exchanging information, seeking the solution to a problem, interviewing or counselling.
But before we speak about questions, we need to take a step backward. I believe that we need to first understand the DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PROBLEM AND A DECISION.
A problem is a "train off a track". Something has not gone the way it was planned or expected to. Problem solving is finding out the reasons why and the possibility of getting things back on track. Decisions are about deciding which alternative is best.
To become adept at solving problems you need to master both analytical and creative problem solving techniques, so that you can ask the relevant questions. For instance there are times when you need to ask objective questions – these are to ask for specific information. "What evidence do you have for that conclusion?" "How have you been handling this process?" "What factors are necessary to raise your Customer Satisfaction Index?"
Problem Solving questions – ask these when you want action ideas. "What should you do next?" "How would you implement the steps we just discussed?"
"Why are we so much better at answering questions than at answering the right questions? Is it because we are trained at school and university to answer questions that others have asked? If so, should we be trained to ask questions?" [Or trained to ask the complete set of right questions in the right way?] Trevor Kletz (Analog Science Fiction, January 1994, p195)
One of the problems with looking for solutions to problems is that we always come to a problem with our years of experience behind us. This can sometimes direct our thinking down certain familiar paths, and we can miss other paths which might lead to better solutions.
When people do this, always tell them this quote – In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few — Shunryu Suzuki
One way to help overcome this tendency is to force yourself to approach a problem from a completely different point of view. Alex Osborn in his pioneering book Applied Imagination talks about "Questions as spurs to ideation", and outlines about 75 idea-spurring questions in his book.
The simplest set of questions comes from the six basic questions:
- Why is it necessary?
- Where should it be done?
- When should it be done?
- Who should do it?
- What should be done?
- How should it be done?
Osborn went on with the following questions:
Adapt? Modify? Substitute? Magnify/Maximise? Minimise/Eliminate? Rearrange? Reversal? Combine?
Start applying these questions to your problems and see what ideas come forth.
In your quest for learning to ask different questions, you should read Michael Michalko’s book Thinkertoys in which he describes the rearrangement of the above questions into the mnemonic SCAMPER (Substitute, Combine Adapt, Modify, Put to other uses, Eliminate, Reverse)
You should also consider the 7s Mckinsey Framework. My own perspective is that the type of decision isn’t as important, as knowing the questions to consider, or having a good model which shows different considerations to explore.
- What’s the impact on people?
- What’s the impact on process?
- Impact on Technology?
- Impact on the marketplace?
- Impact on the business?
- Impact on Reputation, Trust & Integrity?
The best I believe is a combination of a systematic and creative approach to problem solving and decision-making. Understanding different models of thinking will enable you to look different at every situation or to apply the right question to the right problem.
As someone once said: "Solutions often lies in the question not asked".
PR and Advertising agencies are supposed to be creative greenhouses. Yet, the old "Internal editor" in all of us, raises it’s head so easy. The "internal editor" I believe is our internal voice , our conscience, our left brain that can sometimes stop us from progressing.
Years ago I worked with a consultant, a retired CEO who said the following : “ The danger with gut feel is that it SOMETIMES can cause indigestion”.
Evaluate the following statements and ask yourself : " How often you have used these statements?" Did they prove to be correct?
- We tried that before
- Where’d you dig that one up?
- Our business is different
- It costs too much
- It’s never been tried before
- That’s not my job
- Let’s put that one on the back burner for now
- Let’s form a committee
- We don’t have the time
- I don’t see the connection
- It won’t work in our department or business
- It’s too radical a change
- The Board of Directors would never go for it
- The staff will never buy it
- It’s against company policy
- It can’t be done
- It’s impossible
- Let’s get back to reality
- That’s not our problem
- We’ve always done it this way
- I don’t like the idea
- You’re right, but…
- You’re two years ahead of your time
- Don’t rock the boat
- It isn’t in the budget
- Has anyone else ever tried it?
- Good thought, but impractical
- Let’s give it more thought
If not, or if they did! What is the lesson for your consultancy or team? Please let me know!