To Become A Champion Problem Solver, Follow The Breadcrumbs
I’m 51 years old, and to this day, whenever I tell my mother I have a cold or she notices I have the sniffles, she always asks, what are you taking for it?
“Nothing,” I respond.
Despite Mankind’s many marvels of modern medicine, we still lack a cure for the common cold. The best we can do is treat the symptoms.
That knee-jerk reaction to treating the cold mirrors how most of us approach problem-solving. We seek to suppress the symptoms instead of working to understand the root cause and eliminate the problem at the source.
This instinct to suppress symptoms disrupts our ability to solve problems ranging from minor personal issues to the most pressing public policy challenges facing us today.
Perhaps it’s a feature of western thinking, much like our approach to medicine, where we take drugs to suppress symptoms while allowing underlying, root causes to continue inflicting damage.
We can do better.
Our culture doesn’t make it easy by valuing people who offer quick, easy, and neat solutions to problems even if they don’t work. We’re trained to crave simplicity and conditioned to respond to emotion.
But to fix society’s most pressing problems or even minor mall everyday issues, you need first to understand their root causes — the underlying conditions, decisions, policies, or factors that started the chain reaction of events leading to the visible problem.
There’s one downside to this kind of work; this type of effort can take years for complex problems of significant scope. That’s why politicians and media pundits refuse to undertake it.
That doesn’t mean the effort isn’t worth it. After fifteen years of managing complex projects, I’ve learned that you can only solve a problem by addressing it at the source. Begin with what you see and work backward.
Follow the breadcrumbs.
To find the root cause, begin by working backward, starting with the symptom, identifying the prior incident or conditions that caused it, and repeating this process until you reach the root cause — the events or…