The Problem With Problem Solving
Solving a problem works really well when you need specific information. If your computer isn’t working, you need concrete information about how to get it working again. If you have the wrong address for an appointment, that’s a problem. You need the correct address.
Life and relationships are far more complex. When it comes to how you relate to yourself, your life experience and to others, approaching what you want to create as a problem to fix will often end up creating more problems. The unintended consequences of being a great problem solver can be very subtle.
To illustrate, think of a time when you were immersed into a problem. Let’s say it is a project at work that went sideways and you and several coworkers are talking about how to fix it. Most conversations start with describing what’s wrong and looking at what happened.
When conversations start with debriefing the past, it is common for people to get stuck in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT). The Persecutors and Victims say, “We didn’t have a big enough budget,” “Management didn’t support us” or “We had too much on our plate.” The Rescuers agree to take on more work and offer several ideas about how they can do more to make everything more successful next time.
Such an approach to problems is rooted in the Victim Orientation, because everyone feels victimized by the problem. It is also focused on what’s happened in the past and trying to rearrange that past. Such rearranging usually starts with, “if only we (or they) would have…..”
The difficulty though, is that without identifying and clarifying the outcome you and the group want to create, just revisiting the past problem will cause the problem to grow. Why? Because what you focus on expands.
It is easy to stay mired in a problem-focused conversation because the ego likes to stick with what it knows. Focusing on the outcome means you must declare a future which hasn’t been created yet. Your ego doesn’t like the idea of an uncertain future, so it fools you into thinking that if you relive the past, you will have a known scenario.
To clarify your desired outcomes, the focus has to be toward the future and what you want to create. This shifts you into a Creator Orientation. You really can’t focus on the future and relive the past at the same time. Your brain just doesn’t work that way. Pointed toward the future, you are giving yourself a chance to notice relevant information that supports what you want to create.
After you declare and describe what you want, you and your co-workers can then return to the conversation about the problem and ask different questions such as:
What is working that helps us get closer to what we want to create?
What barriers stand in the way of what we want to create?
What problems do we need to address to get closer to and clearer about our desired outcome?
With the future in mind and as the guidepost, you tell the truth about current reality and apply solid problem solving tools and techniques in service to creating the outcome. By doing so, new information often comes forward, sometimes almost magically. “Coincidences” or “synchronicity” happen as you take Baby Steps forward and as you shift your attention and open yourself to new information and guidance.