What do you think is the principal method of problem solving in business?
Get everyone together to look at the numbers and figure out the answer!
Lots of people, gathered in a room, with numbers spinning in their heads, trying to focus really, really hard on finding a solution.
There’ll be people in the room just because their boss told them to be. Or because they’re a boss that doesn’t travel well without henchmen and women. Unbelievable.
This often coincides with trying to make hard decisions up against a deadline. Pressure. More focus.
You’ve been there, right?
We are humans, with feelings, intuition, and life-experience
The great majority of our thinking happens not in the rational front part of our brain, but in the subconscious part.
Our subconscious is constantly trying to figure out the answer to problems while we’re not focused on them.
Have you ever tried to remember somebody’s name, failed, then purposefully thought about something else? Seconds later, that elusive name pops into your mind. It happens to all of us, because we all have an active subconscious.
When we “get everyone into a room…”, what’s left for the contribution of our subconscious, our feelings, memories, intuition, and rounded life-experience? Not a lot, I’d say.
Maybe it makes sense to change some of our habits.
A softer approach to solving problems
Trying to focus hard on a problem in order to solve it may force us to use only part of ourselves – the small part of our brain that does the rational thinking.
Try calling people into that conference room just to outline and understand the problem, not to simultaneously solve it.
Let everyone go away for a while, continuing to focus on their normal activities, and then bring them back for their feedback in a quick surprise meeting.
In the interim, their subconscious minds will have been noodling on the problem, when they haven’t been consciously focused on it.
I should say at this point that while I’ve always used the word noodling for this activity, a visit to Wikipedia tells me that it’s some kind of sport involving catfish in the southern USA.
Stay with me. For me and you, here and now, noodling is letting your subconscious work on something without your active supervision.
When you ask people, in your surprise follow-up meeting, for their suggestions, they’ll be able to draw on that subconscious thinking as their rational minds respond. They’ll be unaware of where their great answers are coming from.
I reckon the quality of the solution will be hugely improved. What do you think?