Why you should love the problem before the solution

By nature, we tend to seek solutions to problems.

But in solving often complex business problems, jumping too fast into idea-generation or solution mode may backfire.

There is a good chance that you have been discussing and perhaps arguing with colleagues about how to solve a specific problem. You have brought your idea for a solution, and a colleague brings a very different proposal, and it ends up in a lengthy discussion about which idea is better.

There are several reasons for that, which needs to be understood before proposing what to do about it:


Your never have a 100% perspective

When you struggle with an issue for some time and begin to wonder what you can do about it and how you would improve it, a first risk is actually yourself and your own perspective.

Whether you are low or high in the organisation, a generalist or an expert, the idea you come up with for solving the problem will always reflect your perspective. It is based on the angle from which you observe the problem.

You may be at the centre of it, or it may be an issue sitting in another team – yet no matter where it is located, your ideas will always be influenced by your perception of reality, the angle from which you observe, and by the context in which your work is done.

I am not suggesting that you are wrong in your perspective of things, but only in very rare situations one individual has the combination of a full 360o perspective along with a 100% in-depth understanding of all details impacted by the topic.

And without close to full insight, your idea for solution most probably have consequences only understood by others, eventually making ‘the world's best idea’... less good.


Objective before solution

Even though other colleagues agree to the fact that there is a problem, you want to avoid jumping straight into arguments for and against different solutions from different colleagues.

And this for one reason:

Once people see a solution in their own mind, the journey of proving that this solution is sub-optimal is an up-hill battle. Click To Tweet

People might lose face, and people hate to admit that another idea could be better.


A first step is therefore to align on the objective.


Discussing how high you aim to improve, how much you believe can be improved, and what good looks like in terms of performance brings energy to making a change.

What can we then do in stead of jumping to brain-storming, solution-evaluations and exchange of ideas?

Ideas are like Velcro – they tend to stick to the owner of the idea, no matter if the idea is actually good or not. Click To Tweet

So instead:


Love the problem!

Involve your peers, colleagues, and team-members in understanding the nature of the problem. Is it a problem at all? Why is it a problem? What would ‘good’ look like in terms of performance (not solution, but pure performance)?

And make it clear, that you discuss and investigate on the topic only to understand it even better, and clearly that at this point you are NOT looking for any solutions.

The more you discuss the problem, the clearer the ‘pain’ will become for everyone involved. And when you get into discussing what actually causes the problem to be there, the more clear the real and underlying causes will become.

The more pain people see, the more energy they are willing to put into finding solutions.

It is about finding the tipping point, where you have insight and facts enough to open for discussing solutions. But until that fine point: Focus on the problem.

In focusing on the problem, make sure to hold a clear destinction between symptoms and real problem. The fact that your dishwasher is not working is a symptom. The fact that everything is dry inside after running a full cycle is a symptom. The fact that someone by mistake turned the water supply off is the rootcause to the problem. The Problem is at the very core of what you are working on, it's where you cannot dig deeper to understand what is behind. Everything on top of that are symptoms, helping you to get closer to the real core of the problem.

Resist brain-storming and solution-building until everyone agrees to the nature of the problem. Click To Tweet

And once the problem is recognized, seek agreement to the level of performance you aim to achieve.

Next, discuss the problem from different angles and go into depth with the details, until the key players around the issue share a common understanding of how things interact, how they correlate, and how processes or connections are interacting.

Only when you start sensing that you have some sort of shared 360o perspective with close to 100% depth, you can start considering solutions.

At this point, solution-building becomes less pain-full: No-one can bring their pre-build ideas for solutions without seeing it in the context of the full 360o view and in-depth understanding.

And solution-building becomes valuable: ideas and solutions are build on facts, knowledge and a shared ambition for what you aim to achieve.

It becomes much more holistic, and it’s execution will be helped by the energy coming from more people owning both the problem and the solution.


The more you love the problem, the easier a solution will come.