Advancing Your Career with Solutions-Based Thinking

Business, Ideation, Leadership Comments (0)

“Here’s what the problem is…”

It’s commonplace for people in the workplace to point out the various problems and obstacles that are in their way of accomplishing the goals of their respective companies or organizations.

I do it. You do it. The person sitting next to you does it.

In fact, this is in part a good thing. The ability to clarify a problem is a core skill we all need in the work of innovation. It’s the first step towards finding solutions that work.

Unfortunately, our ability to identify problems is not enough.

In fact, it can become a great detriment to our career advancement. Here’s why:

  • Managers, Directors, and Executives are generally less interested in our ability to identify and articulate the problems. In most cases, they are already aware of the deficiencies and obstacles in a situation. They are far more interested in our ability to provide solutions that could potential work to get the company to a better place.
  • Managers, Directors, and Executives are already carrying a lot on their plate and adding more weighty thoughts about why things don’t work usually does not help the cause. In fact, this type of one-way build up will often lead to frustration (for everyone involved) and potential unfair venting by supervisors.
  • Managers, Directors, and Executives are often insecure (yes, insecure) and may become unnecessarily defensive about their work. In turn, they may begin to pigeonhole us as individuals who only “complain” even if that is not our intent.

In light of this reality, it might be a better approach to work hard towards becoming a solutions-based team member. Here are some practical tips on how to build your credibility and value within your company:

  • Talk Less + Write More – It’s far easier to spend time verbalizing an issue than it is writing the problem down on paper. While the former might be more enjoyable, it usually doesn’t generate progress. Spend some time writing your thoughts out on paper and try to identity the core issues and presuppositions driving the dilemma.
  • One Problem + Two Solutions – When approaching your supervisor with a problem or obstacle, be ready to share at least two potential solutions. You will have a far better outcome with your supervisor when you walk into a meeting with potential solutions already thought out. It will speak volumes of your thought process and commitment to improve the company’s work.
  • Ideas + Follow Up – Upon agreement of a solutions path, be sure to map out execution with milestones, tasks, and further update meetings with your supervisor. Remember, ideas are impotent without action. Start small and keep things moving along. It’s amazing what can be accomplished if we work on something every day even when it’s a small allocation of time.

The world is full of people who can sense or see the problem. These individuals are a dime-a-dozen. If you want to stand out, focus your energies on becoming solutions-based. I promise that you’ll enjoy your life a lot more in the years to come if you do.


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On July 29, 2014
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