Problem to solve? Stop thinking about it ...

Problem to solve? Stop thinking about it ...

We’ve all heard the rather glib saying that there are no such things as problems, but only opportunities.  I’m reminded of the story of the guy that gets that response from his boss when he raises an issue, so he says “Well, sir, we seem to have an insurmountable opportunity here.”

Of course, the message behind the saying is that you shouldn’t give up, and just decide that something you are trying to achieve isn’t going to be possible.  You’re unlikely to build a successful business that way.

However the same people that trot out the soundbite about problems and opportunities will probably also give you the one about success being built on a foundation of failures.  I prefer to paraphrase one of my favourite authors, Samuel Beckett – “Fail again. Fail better.”

Sadly, people that come up with endless soundbites are often so busy trying to inject them into every conversation that they fail to notice that they can be contradictory.  Indeed, the two I have just mentioned are not really compatible.  If every problem is an opportunity, then how often are you going to experience a failure on which to build your success?

I do a certain amount of development work, so I am often coming across problems that require a coding solution, or a bit of business logic that doesn’t quite tally with what’s needed.  Sometimes, to fit the system to the business can present a significant challenge.  As with all things, you can sit there wrestling with the issue for quite some time.

With system development, there are definitely some problems that can’t be solved.  Generally, these are logic-related, and stem from businesses being used to making human decisions that are difficult, if not impossible, to replicate automatically.  To do so would [a] be prohibitively expensive in terms of time and [b] render the system inflexible.  Neither outcome is good.

However, the vast majority of problems can be solved, but not necessarily by getting bogged down by them.  I find that having different projects on the go simultaneously enables me to move away from something that I’m stuck with, even if only for a few hours, and it’s amazing how often a solution pops into your head when you’re not looking for it.

I suppose it’s the mental equivalent of ‘a watched kettle never boils’ (another soundbite!) but just stepping back from whatever blockage you are facing sometimes allows your brain to work subconsciously to find an answer.  Just flogging yourself over a hot keyboard will only result in frustration and potentially error.

So the next time you have a problem to solve, just walk away from it for a bit.  You’ll be amazed at the number of times that will provide the answer you’re looking for.

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