Sometimes we’re too well trained in problem solving. We accept the problem as given, or worse – we subconsciously jump to a problem definition of our own that’s too rigid. We view certain aspects of the challenge as fixed and only limited options as variable – often reducing the variable to a single, all-important yes/no question.
That’s not the way the world works. We always have more options. It just requires taking a moment to step back and recognize them.
Listen to any good advice-based radio show. Most of the time the caller has already framed the situation so that it converges on a single decision point, with neither option being a good one. That’s why the called into the show – they’re stuck.
What does the host do? The host listens, queries, and then starts to open up possibilities. In a brief exchange, the whole situation is presented and analyzed at a high level and new possibilities emerge by reframing the problem, questioning the initial assumptions, and digging for deeper insights. Talking things through (in the interest of creative thinking, not grousing) always helps, particularly if the person you’re talking to is the type who will push you to be your best.
The next time you’re faced with a “no win” scenario, where neither option seems particularly appealing, take a moment to recognize that you’ve likely over simplified and over dramatized the situation. The choice is likely more than a simple yes/no, and the variables you’ve already accepted as fixed can likely be changed. You just need to open up the possibilities. Reframe. Question your assumptions. Dig for insights.
A good way to do that is to call on a friend or colleague. Pretend they’re the host of an advice-based radio show. Or pretend you’re the host and look at your problem from afar. What questions would you ask? What weak spots in the story would you challenge? What advice would you give?