Were defined by the size of problems we go up against, so to do well in the business environment, each of us must constantly develop our problem-solving ability. We must build our problem-solving muscles the same way someone works out in the gym. The way to get stronger is to push against heavier weights, and the way to get better at solving problems is to solve more and bigger problems.
First off, when youre faced with a problem, go on a fact-finding mission. Gather evidence. Look at things from all sides. Dig. Unearth things so you can understand the entire context and history of a problem. Forget about assigning blame or fault; that kind of garbage is irrelevant, founded upon a defective mentality where one must play office politics to get ahead. You need to arrange things so you can get ahead strictly by your merits. It doesnt matter who screwed things up; what matters is what were doing now to fix them. We all drop the ball sometimes.
When it happens, you need to accept 100% total personal responsibility. The buck stops with you. I urge you to take this attitude to heart. If something goes wrong, apologize, make amends, and prevent it from happening again by creating a systematic solution. Assigning blame only adds an emotional element to a negative situation. Just get to the bottom of things, fix them, and keep on trucking; dont waste time and energy on hysterics or drama. If something isnt working, what can you do to wrap a systematic solution around it to fix it? What kinds of systems have you implemented to solve your top frustrations? After you gather your facts, examine them closely, from every perspective. Discover what the evidence says, and identify what each person has to gain or lose from their perspective. You must go into the situation with your eyes wide open. Look at their internal biases and prejudices; figure out what the payoff is for a person to behave the way they do. There has to be some benefit for them to act as they do.
Observe each part of the problem individually, and determine how they fit together as a whole. Project different solutions through time. How would they manifest themselves? Get expert advice; rely on a mentor if you have one. Give people the benefit of the doubt, operating under the assumption that folks are just trying to get by, doing as well as they know how to. Show them compassion, and forgive their ignorant ways. Next, fit the parts together, focusing on whats likely. Generate dozens of possible solutions; unchain your thinking here. Brainstorm at the edges of reality, but above all, avoid jumping to conclusions. Then go for the simplest solution that solves the problem.
Effective brainstorming must be segmented into two parts. First, come up with all sorts of ideas. Duct tape the mouth of your inner critic; he isnt welcome in this phase. More ideas are better than fewer; put the law of averages to work for you. Great inventors come up with hundreds of ideas, select the most promising, and bring them to market.
Suppose I want to improve our shipping process here at Unstoppable Marketing. My first idea might be to beam myself to the fulfillment center to grab the package and then to beam myself to the our client at their house, to personally deliver itand then Id sit with them for half an hour answering all their questions, and motivating them to follow through in using the program. From there I would beam myself back to the office. Another solution is to clone myself as many times as we have clients. With all these duplicated Kents running around, we could each hang out with customers all day long, talking, teaching, mentoring, and motivating them.
From there, I can keep generating limitless solutions. Whats nice is that if you start at the edges of reality (as I did in the previous paragraph) you can push far past conventional thinking. By thinking exceptionally, you can start to get exceptional results. Not everything is going to work or be practicalbut heres where you must harness the inner critic. Now is the time to come up with ideas. Not all will be superstar ideas, or even technologically possible, but that doesnt matter at this point. The problem in this phase is that most people have such undisciplined inner critics that they strangle their inner creativity before it can get a word in edgewise. It doesnt even get a fighting chance before the inner critic whales away at it. Its such a one-sided match that if it were a boxing bout, the fight would be called because of such a brutal beating.
After generating as many ideas as possible, you can then (and only then) work backwards to see what might work in reality. Thats Phase 2; and dont be too quick to rule things out as impossible. Just because you dont know how to do them doesnt mean they cant be done. At one point, you didnt know how to tie your shoes, but that doesnt mean tying your shoes was ever impossible. It was just impossible for you until you learneduntil you found a way, until you practiced. Hark unto me: Everything is impossible until it is possible. Everything is difficult, until it becomes easy.
Not knowing how to do something is not reason enough for not doing something. You can always find a way if you want it badly enough. There are experts, resources, tools, and tips afforded us in the great nation to help us to do whatever we want to do. As a corollary to that, people can always afford what they truly want, and can always find time to do what they truly need to do. And as another aside, realize that most people are already where they want to be in life. Most people subconsciously make about the amount of money they want to make. How do I know this? Because had they wanted more or less, they wouldve done things differently. Suppose my sole goal in life was to make $10 million during my roaring 20s. Well, I didnt. Had it been my goal, I wouldve needed to do things very differently than I actually did. The bottom line is that my actions didnt bring in $10 million during my 20s. Thats why its incongruent when our clients say they want to make millions, but cant be bothered to pick up a marketing book.
Back to problem solving. Take your list of ideas, and work to combine elements of each solution until you find an optimal one. I cant very well teleport to each individual customer. But theres value in this idea, notwithstanding how absurd it may look on the surface. I can figure out the next best thing to me teleporting there. Maybe its me holding a teleconference for new customers, and doing the same things Id do in person. Maybe its me recording a DVD explaining the benefits of the program, and why they should jump on board right away. And I dont know how to clone myself yet. Fine. But how is me writing a sales letter and mailing it out 20,000 times not like cloning my words, my sales pitch, and delivering it to the customer? I am cloning myself, in a very real sense.
Find the best solution to the problem, then try something to solve the problem. If it works, sweet! If it doesnt, try something else. Maintain massive flexibility. Keep trying things until you crack the nut. Never give up. I guarantee that if you follow this procedure, you WILL solve problems.
Did you know that I can write my full name in cursive? I can also count by twos, sing my ABCs, and color inside the linesall by myself. Youre probably thinking, Uh, so what, Kent? Have you lost it? No, the point Im trying to make is that one time, sometime in your past, these were all problems for youand they may have been big problems. We all faced such problems as young kids, but we toughed it out, got through it, learned, and went on to solve bigger problems. Thats what we must continuously do in business, too.
Success is going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm until you hit the big time. On the other hand, pretending or hoping or wishing there were no more problems is a delusional reality strategy. There are problems. There will always be problems. Therefore, it behooves us to become master problem solvers. In fact, the bigger the problems you can solve in the marketplace, the more money you can make. Youve got the cure for cancer? Cancer is a gargantuan problem. If you solve it, youll save millions of livesand youll become a mega-billionaire almost instantly. The degree of the problem you solve is the degree to which you make money.
Think about it. The cashier at McDonalds isnt solving a big problem, and hes pretty interchangeable. Now, suppose youve got a Dog the Bounty Hunter typeonly he thinks he can track down and smoke Osama Bin Laden. If he does, and can prove it, he can pocket $20 million courtesy of the U.S. government. Its a big problem for them, and its one they havent been able to solve. Whoever does solve it gets to feast on the reward.
We must become master problem solvers. As my friend T.J. Rohleder likes to say, what causes most people to break causes other people to break records. If I hit the gym and always lift the same weight, I stagnate. I dont get any stronger. Same way with problems. We must always be pushing against bigger problems and solving them. We must expand our comfort zones. In fact, just outside ones comfort zone is where the real juice of life lies. Thats why we must always must be growing, developing, and trying out new things. Youre either growing or dying, so keep growing!
Whos your favorite superhero? Lets say its Superman. How much would you admire him if, instead of saving the whole world, he just beat up neighborhood bullies and returned stolen lunch money to its rightful owners? Instead of Lex Luthor, suppose Supermans top nemesis was a wheelchair-bound old lady who liked to knit but who evaded her taxes? Imagine him swooping in, rifling through her files, getting her bank account numbersand then turning them over to the IRS so they could garnish her Social Security check for the back taxes. Would you want to watch the movie about him defeating that woman? I can see you out there shaking your head; thats what I thought. Theres Fairytale Fantasyland, and theres reality. To succeed in business, you must always work within the bounds of reality.