There are a couple of problems with our usual approach to problem solving. The first and probably most unapparent is the way in which we articulate problems. How often do we hear problems that are articulated as some form of insufficiency, e.g. “We don’t have enough resources”.
This kind of articulation hides the problem in an already determined solution. There is no articulation of the problem itself. A problem articulated as something that is not being delivered, or something being delivered that is undesirable, gives access to a wide range of possible solutions, whereas “not having enough resources” is the suggestion of one and only one solution, getting more resources, will solve the problem.
This eliminates the need for any creativity and often does not solve the problem. When a problem is articulated as a solution, we are left pondering how we deal with a perceived insufficiency rather than the problem, which is always related to a deliverable. The question that gives access to real solutions to real problems is “What is not being delivered?” Or. possibly “What is being delivered, that is undesirable?”.
The second common problem with problem solving is the mindset that we bring to problems. We tend to relate to problems as a phenomenon that should not exist, something to resist rather than an opportunity to create. Problem solving is not creating, it is fixing, changing or improving. Problem solving creates a context of resistance that usually makes it hard work and uninspiring.
When we are problem solving we are thinking and taking action to get rid of something we don’t want. When we are creating, we are taking action to bring something into being: a desired outcome, a goal, a new future condition. Taking action to get rid of something is the opposite of taking action to give birth to something. Fixing and changing often results in a lack of energy and enthusiasm, while creating something new is usually inspiring and fun.