Solving The Right Problem

by Keefe Tang

If history tells us anything, it would be that we as humans rarely solves the right problem. Intentionally or not, we tend to go for the short-sighted solutions without addressing or even exploring the root cause of the problem.

This happens all the time, companies thinking their lack of sales is simply because they don’t advertise enough or they don’t offer a certain feature in their product like their competitors do.

The problem is we don’t understand the problem.

Paul Maccready

Solving the Wrong Problem

Electronic cars has gotten a lot of attention in the last few years as an alternative because of the increasing oil prices and the need to curb greenhouse gas emissions. One of the hot discussion topic is that the people and politicians think there is a problem when electronic cars run below 25 km/h it is almost silent which puts children and blind people at risks. The proposed solution? Make electric cars emit artificial sounds.

But the problem isn’t that electric cars are too silent, the problem is that other cars and everything else around us makes too much noise. Instead of proposing that other car manufacturers reduce the amount of noise their car makes, they are proposing electric cars join the party by polluting our world with more noise.

Some might argue that making cars silent does not help the deaf but I would argue that the right solution is to find a way to protect the blind instead of a way that will affect the rest of the people who aren’t deaf.

Stop looking for solutions to problems and start looking for the right path.

Andy Stanley

Another textbook example is an incident that happened to Make-A-Wish foundation—a non-profit organization that grants wishes to children from 2.5 years to 18 years old who have life-threatening medical conditions—where they arranged for a teenager suffering from a brain tumor to shoot a Kodiac bear in Alaska. The foundation is now on virtually every animal-rights group’s hit list.

Why the foundation granted the kid this ridiculous wish is unknown to me but it’s certain that critical thinking is not in place that lead to solving the wrong problem.

There’s a wise saying that “whoever controls the definition of a problem controls its solution.” or an equally wise observations is “a problem well put is half solved.”.

The Take Away

Management is not an exact science and perhaps never will be. It is more prone to opt for the easy or direct solution which often does not solve the problem and very likely to create more problem. To avoid making these decisions requires constant critical thinking and the need for critical thinking has never been greater and it is an absolute necessity for today’s world.

All of the serious errors of management can be traced to a major fundamental fault which is solving the wrong problem. The overwhelming amount of books on management contributes to this fundamental flaw. They assume that the person reading the book knows what the problems are, they assume that the person reading the book have framed the problem correctly. They should instead start by helping it’s reader define the correct problem.

A good example would be instead of finding a way to build a great product, build a faster way to fail and recover so you can try to solve that problem several times faster than before.