“I don’t want to hear about problems. I want solutions! I pay you to find solutions. If you can’t come to me with solutions, then I’ll find someone who can!”
I worked for someone who regularly said this. It changed my business outlook completely
Another common phrase was: “Don’t tell me you can’t do something! Most times you can! Either you don’t want to or don’t have the courage to or haven’t figured out how to. But it can be done. I pay you to get things done, and if you can’t ….”
While these remarks may seem a bit abrupt, they create a culture and expectation that challenges employees to think beyond self-imposed or cultural limits. Consider the following:
In the late 1980s, consumers and businesses had a problem — they wanted a fast, affordable solution for on-demand, custom-designed personal computers with a choice of components and software. This required just-in-time manufacturing, which was critically dismissed with too many identifiable “problems.”
The solution involved direct sales — catalog, phone and online — to which industry “experts” listed a many reasons why this can’t work.
Michael Dell pushed his solutions, and didn’t stop at “can’t.” Today, Dell Computer Corp. ranks second in global sales of personal computers.
Imagine if we let “problems” and “cant’s” stop progress with things such as online banking, investing and bill paying; mobile and smartphone technology and applications; dial-in prescriptions; consumer satellite TV; WiFi technology; downloadable music and books; alternative fuels …. You get the point.
It’s too easy to find problems without listing solutions. It’s too easy to say “can’t work” rather than research and develop ways that can work.
+ Starting today, don’t accept problems without two or three proposed solutions. Better yet, in the spirit of brainstorming, define the problem clearly, then invite others to propose solutions.
Progressive leadership may sew together seemingly disconnected ideas and concepts to be the springboard for innovation and creative workarounds.
+ Starting today, don’t except “can’t” as a final verdict. Instead, encourage your employees to embrace the word “can,” and then foster a creative environment to figure out “how to.”
Break out of self-imposed limitations.
+ Starting today, be open-minded to different solutions; seek and consider creative options; and don’t settle for status quo. Teach others to do the same.
Don’t just take my word for it, Robert J. Kriegel wrote a book called “If it Ain’t Broke … Break It!” The premise of “Break It” thinking is that all too often we “fire-hose” good ideas, and we let problems stop progress and convention stop innovation.
If your employees can identify problems but are undisciplined to offer solutions, then what do you pay them for? If your organization stops because someone simply says “can’t,” then innovation may never germinate and fresh ideas may never grow.
A solutions-driven culture starts with solutions-driven leadership. Set the tone to expect solutions — not just problems — and foster innovation.
And to make this cultural shift complete, encourage an environment that is open-minded about the art of the possible, and willing to test the viability of innovative ideas and creative solutions.