BrainTrust Query: Does ‘problem-solving’ solve problems?
By Ian Percy, President, The Ian Percy Corporation
RetailWire has downright brilliant people offering their insights and solutions to problem after problem… problems with growth strategies, employees, competition, pricing, sales, customer service, technology, manufacturing you name it. Each day brings another retail “hot issue.” You’d think we’d have figured most everything out by now, wouldn’t you? How long do we have to keep hitting our heads with the hammer?
Here’s the problem: fixing problems isn’t going to fix the problem. Not really. And it’s certainly not going to deliver a highly profitable joy-filled leading-edge transformed purpose-driven organization. We’ve got to rid ourselves of this insane, stress-filled, money-losing firefighting mentality before it does us all in. I swear, we keep doing it because we literally don’t know what else to do. Trust me – retail will feel good when you stop.
Instead, I’m suggesting, we need to step back and take a whole-system look at what we’re doing and at the flow (or lack thereof) within that whole-system. As the quantum gurus are telling us, it’s all energy – everything is all part of one big flow of energy. Well if that’s the way the world works, why don’t retailers work the world that way? What if the ‘answer’ we seek really is a matter of going with the flow? What if a profitable retail business could be almost effortless? (If you listen carefully you can hear some people’s minds shut even at the prospect that this could be true! They’d rather be problem-solving.)
To those still with me, I want to offer three things to think about. There’s much more to whole-system thinking but this will get us started.
- The problem you think you have is never the problem you have.
Anyone who has ever repaired a roof knows that the leak isn’t where the water
is dripping down. What you really need to change may be upstream or downstream
from where the pain is. Avoid knee-jerk solutions and look at the whole-system
- It’s not about what you think; it’s about how you think.
The sheer fact you’re looking for the next big idea means that idea is outside
your current mind-set or you wouldn’t be looking for it. The more experienced
and expert we are, the more our minds have been programmed to think in certain
limiting ways. What we need around us are ‘positive deviants’ who can expand
our thinking. (Check out BrainTrust Panelist Ryan Matthews’ remarkable work
- You need ask only ONE question before you make any decision. And
that question is: Will this enable or disable flow in this organization?
Most current policies and procedures disable flow. So does a great
deal of management behavior. Decrease your disablers and increase your enablers
and you won’t believe the energy that will flow – right into your bank account!
I’ve been enabling organizations for 35 years and nothing has been more difficult than getting senior leaders to take a whole-system approach to profitable transformation. Unfortunately, from our first day of school, we’ve been taught to problem-solve one problem after another. It really is time to change that thinking.
Discussion Questions: Do you agree that retailers need to change from ‘problem-solving’ to a ‘whole-system’ approach if they want profitable transformation? Why is it so hard to convince people to change how they think?