Problem-Solving & Research: Are you Solutions or Advice Driven?

Got problems? Who doesn’t.
Got answers? Same response.

Got solutions? … Maybe

Problem-Solving Qualities: An Enduring Fallacy

Nowadays not a job description out there fails to include “problem-solving” as a desired trait… and with good reason. The world is nowhere near as simple –or even as complicated–as a few decades ago. The world (and ergo projects, products, and people) is evermore complex and problem-solving is an invaluable skill to bring to the workplace.

But often we consider problem-solvers to be loud individuals with story upon story about how they “fixed” a situation and how their “fix” would be the perfect fit for your company. These “problem-solvers” appear to know all. They have swallowed the pre-approved prescriptions offered in books or by others and are insistent that, within just a few weeks … or even days…., they can bring great solutions to your company.

They can’t. Anyone promising this is promising you a prescription that is probably as ill-fit to treat your company’s unique situation as penicillin is to treat a viral infection.

Worthless — with damaging side effects.

Drivers of Advice

Dating nowadays is unbelievably weird. (A weird topic to bring into a professional post, but I have a point–promise.)

I hail from a small town and have always established relationships through years of interactions at community or social centers. Therefore, anyone I dated prior to the pandemic was someone who knew me well enough to understand my independence, self-reliance, and creativity. But as good old Bob would say, The Times They Are A-Changin’ … and so is the dating world. Basically, dating nowadays involves getting to know people from the ground up… zero prior foundation or the human, their networks, etc. It is essentially Research 101. After a foundation of trust and respect is built over time, it can evolve into Problem-Solving-for-Partnered-Solutions 101. Dating however is not, and I repeat NOT, ground-zero Advice-Time-301. (Please send this to all men holding up dead fish in their featured profile photo.)

I discontinued a relationship just over a month ago because, after two dates, he had All The Answers. Any sort of situation that I conveyed, he had to advise on how to “fix.” Did he understand the situation? HA. No. Usually, mid-sentence he was able to slap on the pre-prescribed advice. I’ve faced this often with former partners and even friends. A lot of times the forceful advice comes from a need to be helpful and feelings of inadequacy. Sometimes it’s a desire for control and an arrogance that not following the Golden Advice means the advice-recipient simply wants the issue to continue. (Major red flag if you’re on the dating market.) But when this pre-prescribed advice comes from an employee or consultant, know that this is not problem-solving. This is not someone who brings forth actionable solutions. This is advice, plain and simple, and it is poorly conceived advice.

Providing Solutions Using Data and Research for Problem Solving

Providing tailored solutions takes time; it involves understanding the foundation of the situation and digging around the plot to identify the root of the problems. It’s not as if a full needs assessment is required to garner actionable solutions, but some understanding of the situation is necessary.

On the other hand, shooting off advice like a firecracker takes seconds. It makes a big bang … but leaves a whole lot of debris.

Developing solutions requires a full dataset. Solutions are just an-ill-advised-shot-in-the-dark if the dataset is partial. Or daresay, if the data are corrupted by gatherers who are simply looking for information to support their pre-prescribed idea (advice) … well, then solutions will be brought about by someone attempting to fix a problem that does not actually exist. Using inadequate or corrupted data to push a personal Advice-Agenda is providing a solution for a problem that does not exist for a company that does. And, like the penicillin used for a viral infection, that company will suffer the side effects.

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