The Seven Sins of Solutions
Matt May is the author of The Elegant Solution and the ChangeThis manifesto called Elegant Solutions: Breakthrough Thinking the Toyota Way. He added a new manifesto called Mind of the Innovator: Taming the Traps of Traditional Thinking. Here’s an excerpt for you:
- Shortcutting. Leaping to solutions in an instinctive way or intuitive way—i.e. the “blink” method of problem-solving—seldom leads to an elegant solution because deeper, hidden causes don’t get addressed. Watch CSI and House: first they collect the evidence, then diagnose, and then solve. It’s never the guy or the disease you initially suspect.
- Blindspots. Blindspots are the umbrella term for assumptions, biases, and mindsets that we cannot see through or around. Our brain does a lot of “filling in” for us because it’s a pattern maker and recognizer. Ths cn b hrd fr ppl t cmprhnd, hwvr, mst cn ndrstntd ths sntnc wth lttl prblm. But clear thinking involves more than simply filling in spaces in words.
- Not Invented Here (N.I.H.). NIH means that you refuse to consider solutions that are from external sources. It means “If we didn’t come up with it, it won’t work. It is of no use.” Next time you’re waiting for an elevator, watch someone walk up and hit the button even though it’s already lit. We often don’t trust others’ solutions!
- Satisficing. Ever wonder why some solutions lack inspiration, imagination, and originality? It’s because by nature we satisfice—satisfy plus suffice. We glom on to what’s easy and stop looking for the optimal solution. What’s the least number of “sticks” you need to move to make this Roman numeral equation correct? XI + I = X If you answered anything but zero, you satisficed. Look at it upside down.
- Downgrading. Downgrading is the close cousin of satisficing but with a twist: a formal revision of the goal or situation. Reason? No one likes to fail. Result? We fall short of the killer app, so we pick the one that allows us to declare victory. Next time you’re playing hockey or football, try winning the game by hitting the outside of the post or taking the ball down to the one-yard line.
- Complicating. Why do we overthink, complicate, and add cost? And why do we ALL do it so intuitively, naturally, and (here’s the killer) consistently? Answer: we’re hardwired that way. Our brains are designed to drive hoarding, storing, accumulating, and collecting-type behavior. We are by nature “do more/add on” types. Don’t believe it? Watch the customers at Costco or Sam’s Club buy thirty-six rolls of toilet paper.
- Stifling. We do naturally do the “Yeah, but..” dance in which we stifle, dismiss, and second-guess ideas. It’s ideacide, pure and simple. And it’s not just others’ ideas we stifle; we often do it to our own and kick ourselves later when someone else “steals” our great idea. Remember how Decca Records rejected the Beatles? “Guitar bands are on the way out.”
The last one is the deadliest of the sinful seven. Because it is the most destructive. It’s the hallmark of the bozos!