Thursday, October 10, 2013

Problem Solving for Dummies

One of the most integral pieces of learning we do in our childhood development is to solve problems.  It teaches us to look at problems from different angles, to deconstruct and rebuild so that we can perfect our outcomes as best we can.

We teach our children as toddlers that if something doesn't work, take it off/apart or turn it over and try again.  When you do, and apply what you've learned in the first attempt, you're going to have a better result.  As grown ups, we seem to forget this rule, or lack trust in the outcomes it will produce.  That's because it means in some cases we have to give something up, or risk losing something we have for the promise or hope that it will be better once we've tried it a different way.

Example.  If you're job sucks, after a certain point, it's not so easy to just quit your job and change careers.  You have to plan that kind of transition or risk being homeless and hungry or worse, putting your family through some degree of hardship.  In other cases, your government physically demonstrates it's no longer working for the people who elected it, and you would think that would clearly be a sign that a tear down or rewrite of the current infrastructure is in order, but people are afraid that will lead to lawlessness, disorder...perhaps there's fear that the people we put in power are actually too powerful and stronger than we are.  In still other examples, when a business has an operation that makes them a little bit of money and keeps things balanced but doesn't grow or show the ability to make more money, the  people who manage it are scared to expand scope and change tactics to do it smarter, better and perhaps more ethically because well, there's a chance it will cost more, and potentially won't make as much profit and therefore it's better to maintain a broken status quo.

So I imagine trying to explain this to my 3 year old, who get's incredibly frustrated when her foot gets stuck half way into the leg of her pants, or when her sock goes on upside down, or when she can't quite tie her shoelace or fit a puzzle piece into the picture...It's impossible to explain this in a way that a 3 year old would understand because at it's core, it's wrong.  And I think that's why I find it a lunatic thing to NOT deconstruct problems and start again at any age.

It's no wonder we're all on antidepressants.  We're not governed by our liberty and capability.  We ARE governed by fear and shame.

We overlay the words and concept of "risk assessment" on our decision making process as we grow older and wiser.  It's still a critical part of our decision making process and has a viable and legitimate place in our world.  Doing something that will compound the world's problems is definitely the wrong choice even when the short term benefits are so appealing.

That said, there becomes a point where you get stuck in "analysis paralysis", and that risk assessment phase overcomes you're ability to take important risks because the overall longer term benefits of it so outweigh the short term pain we'll feel to re-frame or re-build the solutions.

If you are fundamentally unhappy in your work, but you risk having to live in a trailer versus the nice executive home you've built for yourself so that you can keep feeding your family and go back to school to learn the trade that will inevitably make you happier than you are today, is it worth it?  It would certainly solve the immediate problem, AND would make it less painful to work until you were of ripe old retirement age, AND would show your children/family/self that you value your happiness above a paycheck.  It demonstrates that sacrifice is often the price you pay for success, and that success can't always be measured by a dollar sign.  Not at all the kind of lessons you try to AVOID teaching your children, so how can that then, be a wrong choice?  Well, no one likes poverty.  No one wants to live pay check to pay check.  Does that (or better yet, Should that) prevent you from trying?

Similarly, when resources are constrained at work, and doing things more ethically, or increasing scope will increase costs and labour investment, does it really make that the wrong choice?  I'm thinking this is a prime example of when you should turn it over, flip it around, tear it apart and start from scratch.  And when your government shuts itself down and act illegally, well then it seels like it's time for some sort of reform, reconstruction, rethinking.

We have to let go of the notion that tearing it apart and going back to the drawing board is a bad thing.  "The purpose of this meaningless and empty shell of life is (as Tim Minchin has said) to learn as much as you can about as much as you can, and to fill it".  I see that as the best justification of all for turning things over, starting from scratch, embracing change and taking the risk.

Not taking the risks are, too often, the riskiest choices of all.

No comments:

Post a Comment