Every problem needs a solution. But have you ever had the problem where the more you try to apply the solution the more the problem is exacerbated?
Let me give you an example of a problem that was happening in my household, how I tried to fix it and realized that I was doing the worst thing possible.
Currently I have a four month old daughter who has just captured my heart in the best way possible. We get along great. But when she was with me she never napped. As a result she would just get more and more fussy as the day went by. I would try to put her to nap and she would fuss, so I would pick her back up and start playing with her. She would laugh every time. Of course this means that I was stuck playing with her all day, and the moment that I stopped, is the moment she would fuss again. Needless to say this took a lot of energy from me.
My wife, didn’t have this problem. Somehow our daughter would be able to sleep with my wife. It was the same thing for the grandparents. My daughter laughed and played more with me than anyone else, but she was also more fussy and slept far less. I had no idea why. Every time she would fuss, I thought it was just that she wanted to play. I would often skip meals just to continue to provide my solution in entertaining my daughter.
I wondered what the difference was. I thought it was because my wife had breast milk to sooth her and all I had was my clownish ways. That wasn’t it! The grandparents had no breast milk.
The solution finally hit me one day. I was really hungry, and I was determined to eat. My daughter got fussy. I said, okay just this once, no one will ever know that I neglected my child for 8 minutes to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but I was starving. Within 3 minutes, she ceased fussing, and was sound asleep.
I realized that when she was fussing, she wasn’t fussing because she wanted more play time, she was fussing because she was tired. She liked the entertainment I provided for her, so she laughed, but it made the problem worse as she got more and more tired, and thus more and more fussy throughout the day until someone else came home.
I realized that I was applying a solution that wasn’t getting to the problem. My intention was good, but my action was wrong, and the fruit was bad.
You See, we have this notion, that inactivity is worse than activity, but I want to challenge that and say that the wrong activity is worse than inactivity. There are so many situations in life where bad solutions are applied simply because “we can’t stand by and do nothing.” I want to give two examples, one coming from the church world, and another coming from the business world (where I will spare the details).
Many churches have the issue of growth. They have a wonderful message of liberation for their communities but not too many people stop in to hear it. I’ve been a part of some churches that really want to get more people to have their lives transformed and to get more people in on this good stuff. Their solution: Let’s go knock on people’s doors and invite them. Very good intention, very admirable, but what was the effect usually. People got annoyed. Instead of the church being seen as life changing, it was seen as annoying. The intention was to draw people in, instead it chased some people away. The solution that was proposed only made the problem worse.
From the business world, there was a company that was having a hard time selling their product. They didn’t know why, but they thought they knew what the solution would be. They continued to upgrade their product, they added more to it, more features, and the product did more and more amazing things. The more they added to it, the more their sales slumped until they had to go out of business. What was the real issue on why their product wasn’t being purchased? Believe it or not, it was that the product was perceived as too complicated. Adding additional features only made the product seem all the more complicated.
I want to share three ways you can make sure that the solutions your are applying are really what is needed. Using these three tools will help you out by actually saving time. At first they may seem like they would use more time, but in applying a real solution, they will actually sae a lot of time.
- Understand the true issue through observation
You want to spend a lot of time observing what is really going on. You don’t want to conclude with the first thing (i.e. no jumping to conclusions). Observation means that you want to remove as much bias as possible. You also want to make sure that you measure real results and not feelings. The problem with jumping to conclusions and settling on a solution is that we commit to the solution we’ve chosen even if it won’t solve the problem, and then we judge how well we stuck to our choice, instead of how well out actions really solve the issue.
Few people enjoy testing. This part sounds tedious, but it really does bring the best information to you. Sometimes it’s not clear which issue is really the issue, and that’s why you want to make changes to see which one is going to be the best. Testing keeps us away from being on one track. And just to clear it up, throwing things up against the wall and seeing what sticks, is a way of testing because you are finding out what sticks. Not testing would be throwing something up against the wall, seeing where it sticks and not caring, just to do it again, and get the same results on where it doesn’t stick.
- Brainstorm all the possibilities
You want to think, “What could the issue be?” The good thing about brainstorming is that there is nothing ridiculous that comes there, there are just different options. Sometimes it’s what’s most unlikely in our own minds that is the actual big issue in reality. Brainstorming helps us give equal weight to all possibilities pre-evaluation.
To wrap this up, we just want to make sure that when we apply a solution, we actually solve the issue.