Career Advice Entrepreneurship

For Our Next Meeting, Let’s Focus on Ideas, Options

I’ve written before about how we should all seek to Be the Solution at work. And I want to expand on that for working within teams.

Work is all about problem solving. Using our unique talents and experiences to find solutions to problems.

And the team players, the ones who understand they are hired for their brains, their talent, their creativity, their assistance toward the greater mission, to solve problems creatively, are the ones who get rewarded well and grow with their companies.

So here’s the scenario that I’ve seen happen far too many times and want to offer some guidance for your own success and the success of the team you work with …

A big hairy problem or incredibly tough challenge is presented or uncovered. These problems or challenges are probably outside of what was expected by members of the group initially.

Immediate discussion (or debate) begins on how the problem is too hard, insolvable, insurmountable, etc etc.

There is often only one scenario discussed. It’s not a good one at all. Yet it’s the one guarded zealously by negativity for the possibility of another option because no one sees one (actually, no one is looking for one).

Other ideas presented are shot down immediately because we’re closed off to anything outside of what we know or what we expected.

And we end up settling for a mediocre, limiting, narrow “solution” because we didn’t seek to try to think about or imagine anything better than the only solution we could see.

Sometimes, it’s simply because we don’t want to do it. We don’t want to put in the hard work to rise to the challenge, yet that’s what we’re paid to do — solve the hard problems with our unique talent and experiences.

Or let’s face it: Most of the time it’s because trying other options or ideas is plan uncomfortable. It forces us to go outside of what we know, feel we are capable of, and into the unknown. And most of us don’t like going outside of our comfort zone.

So we end up spending more time talking about what things that can’t be done instead of finding ways that it CAN be done.

And I don’t like being told it can’t be done. In fact, I hate it. Too many times we retreat and surrender before ever TRYING to solve the problem in different ways, from different perspectives because we’ve got blinders on to our own comfort levels.

We don’t realize how creative and smart we are … and how much potential we have yet to explore inside of ourselves if we only reach out of that comfort zone and stretch ourselves to do more, to be bold, to explore, to simply try and see.

I’ve been very frustrated sitting in a group of insanely smart and creative people when we hit a dead end on a problem or challenge and being the only one offering ideas and options, which are often shot down.

So recently, I’m trying a new approach to these conversations. And it goes something like this:

  • You are were recruited, hired and now paid for your creativity, your intelligence (and brilliance), your knowledge, your experiences, your ideas.
  • And that means doing the tough work and solving the tough problems. Challenging, tough work stretches you. It keeps you sharp. It forces you to go outside of what you think can be done and to grow and be better.
  • You are more than up to the task. You are here because I believe in you. And I know we can do better than this.
  • Don’t tell me it can’t be done … assume, first, it can. And think and dream and imagine and explore.
  • I want your ideas. Crazy, ludicrous, off the wall, good, bad, ugly. So apply your vast talents and creativity to finding more of them to present to the group.
  • We need more of your ideas, options, possibilities to make better informed decisions.
  • For every problem or challenge, I want a minimum of two (and preferably three) ideas, options or possibilities for tackling it. And we’re not leaving until we can come up with a set of options to choose from.
  • If you’re not clear on the problem and the goal … ask. The clearer you are on what we’re seeking to accomplish the better you will be for finding the solution.
  • If you can’t come up with any ideas of your own, take someone else’s new idea, the one you see some merit in, and try it on. Seek to be the advocate for it. (Or better yet, add a “Yes, and …” to someone else’s idea.) Force yourself to offer the pros of other’s ideas. It’ll change and improve your own thinking.
  • Once we’ve got all the ideas and options out, and feel satisfied that, applying our vast talents, knowledge, experiences and creativity, we’ve exhausted all possibilities, ONLY THEN will we start honing in on the one we’ll ultimately go with.
  • But I promise you this … if you’ll try this approach with me … we’ll all go places we never dreamed. Together. And the end result, and the creativity employed, will be innovative, impactful and make people’s lives awesome. It’ll be journey we will be immensely proud of taking together.
  • Now … let’s get back to the tough, awesome work of finding some solutions!


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