We’ve all heard:” There’s a tool for that”, or asked “Do you have a template for that”? It’s an interesting way to problem solve and I’m sure that many of us automatically reach into our toolkit and come up with something. Problem solving is and should be dynamic, not conceived from a recipe. In offering a tool does that become a product of your bias or is it a reflection of the person trying to solve the problem? Providing a recommendation in the absence of prior history could be dangerous. As a coach how do you answer, with a tool or with conversation?
Most of the people I have coached are eager to learn and apply new tools. Their wanting to learn new techniques is natural. Really great problem-solving practitioners have a natural tendency as curious and questioning people. I don’t disregard their question on tools or templates. They make life easier. They enable the mathematical lift freeing your brain to think about and respond to the results. As a coach however, it pleases you when people stretch to learn more, when their appetite for knowledge matures. Your role is to stimulate this appetite, encourage questions, and form the connection between question and answer. Just as you encourage this behavior however you might want to direct questions on tools or templates back to the question at hand.
As a good coach I divert the question and ask: “What problem are you trying to solve” or “What is the question you are trying to answer”? That invokes a better chain of thought, conversation, and critical thinking. The most valuable asset we have as a problem solver is our ability to think, reflect, and then synthesize. Tools, templates, roadmaps, are good but can become the next thing in a series of prescribed actions and therefore unilateral. They direct us. They confine open thought. They may in fact kill creativity and innovation. They detract from involving all the people on a team and employing their given talents and natural tendencies. You must engage and continually keep the question at hand in the front of your mind.
The best tool you have is your ability to remain curious, to be open, and to be engaging. Stimulate that not by analytics alone but with a blend of science and feeling. Study the art of critical thinking, and add it to your toolkit. Blend your skills with those of others in your problem-solving efforts. Understand the need for change, how others see it, and the impact upon them.
Change happens with a well-defined question, some data, robust input, and the incorporation of people’s needs.
Continue to use Process, Talent and Change Management as a powerful combination of Analytics, People, and Adoption.
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