It’s hard to take time out to be innovative if we’re too busy patching holes. Which leads me to ask you this question. Do you think problem solving should be reactive or proactive? Let’s use the following example of finding water in our boat. If we scoop it out, we are responding to the problem at hand – that’s reactive. If we find the hole and fix it, we are still being reactive. It’s not until we investigate the cause of the hole and prevent more holes, that we move across the line into the proactive area. A good problem solving approach helps us prevent more holes and moves the focus from reactive to proactive.
Now to challenge you. How can you move further above the line into true proactive behaviour? What if we anticipate a problem? What if we innovate new ways of doing things?
Back in the 80s when Bob Hawke was Prime Minister (yes, I’m old enough to remember that) an Australian yacht became the first non-American yacht to win the America’s Cup in 132 years. How did they do it? They had to anticipate the competition and be innovative. Their design included the now famous winged keel.
By monitoring ever-changing external factors such as competitors and technology, and by analysing trends in internal performance, we can be proactive by anticipating potential problems and searching for innovative solutions.
However, if we are struggling to respond proactively to operational problems as they arise, that is, if we are stuck bailing out the water or too busy patching holes, we’ll never take the time to prevent new holes. Winged keel or not, a boat with holes is likely to sink! By teaching our people to find solutions to those ‘bailing out the water’ moments, we give them back valuable time and focus so our organisations can start ‘sailing’.