March 15, 2006
Liz published this at 6:27 am
Problems and Opportunities
Starve the problems. Feed the opportunities.–Peter F. Drucker, regarded as the founding father of the study of management
Problems and opportunities are two sides of the same coin.
Your brand is the solution to the problem of how the world sees you and your business.
Alligators and Anarchists
Problems and opportunities can make anyone feel surrounded by alligators and anarchists. Too many obstacles isn’t that different from too many positive choices–both have to be tamed and sorted and decided upon based on their value and viability.
Problems and opportunities are places where the beginning is not the most prudent place to start if you want to make a difference and a decision happen quickly.
Start in the Middle
One way to make problems and opportunities more manageable is to divide and conquer–by starting in the middle. Whether it’s the deal of a lifetime you’re deciding on or you’re trying to unravel a poorly handled relationship, find a way to place the situation in front of you and take a long look at it.
- Look for the core of the matter. Often there is one idea, event, or assumption upon which all parts hinge. If you can identify that, you know what you’re working with. In a problem solving situation, that’s what you want to fix. For a brand or an opportunity, the core idea is the goal you’re seeking. If you find you’re not seeing it, try tearing away everything you feel is unimportant or unnecessary.
- If you can’t find the core, find a hot spot–a compelling detail, an assumption, or an idea to focus on. Make that your focus. Obsess on it. Describe that hot spot in painful detail–especially its impact on the problem, brand, or opportunity. How does changing that hot spot affect the possible outcomes? Repeat the process several times to get a feeling for your problem, your brand, or your opportunity from the inside out.
- Then do the opposite–put the problem, your brand, or the opportunity in the middle and look at it from several viewpoints. Imagine you are a musician, a mathematician, a construction worker, a writer, an architect, a dancer, a psychiatrist, your customers, your parents, and your kids. How would each role see the matter differently? How does each new view that change the options of where you might take the possible outcomes?
At this point, STOP.
Give your mind time to rest. Any brain would need a chance to take in and sort all of the information you have just gathered. While it’s doing that, do something totally unrelated.
If you’re worried that you need to keep fixing the problem. molding your brand, or moving on the opportunity, take heart that you’re not losing time. You’re actually stopping yourself from wasting it. To ease that feeling, make an appointment with yourself to come back to the discussion–at least two hours later. Your brain will show up prepared for the meeting, You’ll get more done after this break. I promise.
When your thoughts have gelled, use the Content Development Tool to organize your ideas and the support for each one in a fashion that you can look at and share with confidence. Now all that is left to do is decide which option is the best for you–or to repeat the process if you want to take the idea a level deeper
Divide and conquer from the middle. That’s the reason my older brother–the middle child–always saw so many options and won so many arguments. Hmmm. Maybe he’s the one who taught me this problem-solving skill.
Please don’t tell him. He takes credit for more than half of what I am already.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
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