Here’s an exercise for you: across the top of a piece of paper write the top two to four challenges in front of you. I’m not talking about your daily operations stuff, I’m talking about your big fish. The big time issues that most likely have been haunting you for a while now. Maybe it’s a culture change or acquiring a new business. Possibly you have a team or staff member that is chronically under-performing. Maybe it’s getting healthy or a long time need for more office space. These are the items that probably don’t appear to have a simple fix behind them. Once you have these items written across the top of the paper, draw lines vertically between them so you have columns.
Now here comes the challenge: under each heading list out all the things you have concretely tried to solve this challenge and when. Just give them approximate dates like month and year. How does your paper look? If you have a good list with relevant things that you have attempted within the past four weeks, you’re doing great! If you’re like most of us, you might have a pretty short list. Take at look at your dates now. How long has it been since you have tried something? Anything?
Here is the deal, we can’t get paralyzed or discouraged by these important issues because we don’t know the answer or because of their apparent size and challenge level. If you have studied any successful artist, thinker, or entrepreneur you have seen they have one thing in common: they just keep trying things. You have to keep throwing stuff at it until something sticks. Sometimes you just need a step, even a small one, in the right direction. You most likely have ideas, but you probably talk yourself out them because you are just convinced they won’t work. Try them! What’s the worst that could happen? Wouldn’t it be better to fill that column with things you have tried then to simply stare at a short list of historical attempts? Furthermore, the myth of a eureka moment is just that, a myth. It’s not going to happen (research shows it rarely does).
The best way to tackle the difficult challenges in front of us is to keep moving, keep trying, keep experimenting. When things don’t work, try something else. If that doesn’t work, then get creative. The worst thing we can do is what we do so often in the face of these behemoth challenges: put them so far on the back burner that we just quit trying. This is an incredible disservice to ourselves and our organizations. So how about this week? Why don’t you try something new? Test out an idea and see if you can get some traction. If that doesn’t work, then keep it in front of you. If you don’t try something, you’ll never get any progress. Eureka moments are incredibly rare. It is much more likely the solutions to your major challenges will come with dedicated and disciplined action. If you are just flat out stuck, here are a few ideas for you:
1. Read a book on the subject to gain some new knowledge and insight.
2. Talk to someone who has successfully solved a similar problem and get some concrete ideas.
3. Identify all the characters involved in the challenge and think about the problem from their perspective.
4. Bring together some stakeholders for a brainstorm session on the issue.
5. Try taking a very small step towards change or improvement. Sometimes just one step gets things moving.
6. Write, journal, and blog about the challenge. This can help you explore and expand your thoughts on the issue and it keeps it in front of you.
7. Hire a consultant.
8. Set up a period of time for trial runs of new ideas. For example, maybe you tell your team to try a radical new idea for only one week and then survey the feedback.
9. Use social media and/or a company blog to crowd source some potential solutions.
10. Try things that may have failed a while back. Maybe they weren’t executed correctly or maybe the organization just wasn’t ready yet.
11. Read the book, “Cracking Creativity”. Great book on concrete creative problem solving.
12. If it’s a big enough challenge, consider bringing on a full time hire to manage it.
13. Do something out of your routine on a regular basis to work on the idea. For example, get up and take a walk around the building every Monday at 2pm and just think.
14. Diagram and chart the history of the challenge. Can you see any trends or potential solutions?
15. Try expressing the challenge in different ways like drawing a picture, writing a poem, creating a scrapbook, or attempting to take a literal picture of the challenge. If you aren’t creative, hire someone to do it for you.
16. Hire Thrive Development Group to help.