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Challenging Assumptions Exercises

Assumptions box us in. We like them though because they make our communications simpler. For instance, I am writing assuming you can read English. Assumptions can be conscious or unconscious. Either way, they anchor thoughts in our minds. They become the sides of the box outside of which we are trying to think. Challenging assumption […]

Finding Right Problem to Solve

Solving problems is like painting. Prepping is ninety percent. That means ensuring we’re solving the right problem. It’s a common problem. As example, a call center supported software for sales people. The sales people were giving them poor reviews. Supervisors listened to calls. Support representatives answered questions well. Supervisors were puzzled. However, representatives were answering […]

The Small Importance of Big Data

Many small things are critical to big data. Yet, as history shows, revolutionary uses will surprise us. Our imagination lags far behind technology’s possibilities. We often see technology as replacers for existing tools and methods. Cells phones would replace landlines and payphones. They are but have also become mobile accessories of the internet and our […]

Breaking through Consensus

Consensus retards dynamic solutions. For example, Regina Dugan and Kaigham Gabriel write in “‘Special Forces’ Innovation: How DARPA* Attacks Problems” (Harvard Business Review, October 2013 edition): Crucially, decisions about which projects to pursue must not be made by committee. Breakthrough innovations, by their very nature, do not lend themselves to consensus. Yet, consensus taps our […]

Question to Avoid When Resolving Problems

Once upon a time long ago, I was helping a department. Asking my questions as to how things got done, employees tended to tell me responsibilities not process. As they were rather guarded, I had to repeatedly assure them, “I’m only trying to understand.” Eventually, I became acclimated and figured this was just the culture. […]

Software Softening Our Brains?

Quick, by hand, calculate: 186 x 3,086 = ? 196,452 ÷ 2,568 = ? Why? For the same reason we exercise. Modern conveniences and technology require less muscle. Same occurs with our brains. We don’t have to train our minds to remember things because apps in smart phones and software in computers do it for […]

Problem-solving Technique, Questioning Details

Once we detail our problem using the five introductory steps from my prior post or some other method, questioning these details begins. Again, we can visualize zooming to take a closer picture or using binoculars to get a closer look. Just as these illuminate details creating a different perspective, this process does the same. Seeing […]

Problem-solving Technique, Detailing Step-by-step

Breaking things into smaller parts facilitates change, learning, and yes, problem solving. Even if this technique doesn’t initially meet your expectations, it serves as a practice tool to train our minds to look at problems with a finer resolution. It’s effective because most problems are the result of many little things rather than one big […]

More Money, Less Thinking

We can make tremendous money when we help people think less. As Alexander Chernev points out in “Customers Will Pay More for Less” (Harvard Business Review, June 2012 edition), “People rely on decision shortcuts, or heuristics, that trade accuracy for reduced cognitive effort.” Translating to a service economy, thinking is the service and simple solutions […]

Eight Alerts Help Us Anticipate Problems

This entry is part 1 of 9 in the series Why Problems Occur

This entry is part 1 of 9 in the series Why Problems OccurPeople tend to solve problems within the constraints of their strengths and preferences, thus IT professionals are likely to see IT solutions, sales professionals sales solutions and so forth. This happens with whole teams, whole business cultures. Analytical cultures will likely require more […]

Why Problems Occur (Alert #8): Demarcation over Gradient

This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series Why Problems Occur

This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series Why Problems OccurWe run into problems when we forget that truth is often unclear. We prefer sharp demarcations in defining our problems to the fuzzy gradients that truly exist. While it’s important to define the problem, we extract the real value when we attack those […]

Why Problems Occur (Alert #7): One over Many

This entry is part 8 of 9 in the series Why Problems Occur

This entry is part 8 of 9 in the series Why Problems OccurGiven many causes of a problem, humans tend to focus on one as the cause rather than the pattern they produce, a form of anchoring. Scapegoats are good examples: blaming one is easier for our minds to grasp than blaming a group. When […]

Power of Popularity in Decisions

Popularity influences our decisions to the point that we often subjugate our desires to what is popular. It’s a form of peer pressure in which we resolve the cognitive dissonance by liking what others like. While this rational herding (more) as it’s known, can serve the purpose of helping the uninformed make decisions by following […]

Attack Statistics, Solve Problems

If you don’t like the rules, change them. The article, “Boundary Problems” [The Economist, August 3, 2013 edition], reports that the United States “has changed the way it measures GDP.” More importantly, the article summarizes the history and depth of this statistic’s arbitrary nature. The questions it poses serve as a problem-solving primer on attacking […]

Top Seven Sun Tzu Quotes: #2 Integration, Holism

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series Sun Tzu Top 7

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series Sun Tzu Top 7At number two in my top-seven list of Sun Tzu quotes from The Art of War, I have: And therefore I say: ‘Know the enemy, know yourself; victory will never be endangered. Know the ground, know the weather; your victory will then […]