Be a Better
Solve More Problems than You Create
By Mike Jay
As a leader, you need to make numerous decisions every day.
Some decisions may appear monumental, while others are seemingly
trivial. No matter what kind of decisions you face daily, you
certainly want to make sound choices that eliminate problems rather
than create them.
Unfortunately, for many people, sound decision making poses
great challenges. Why? Because most decision making processes are
too narrow. In fact, when most people think about solving a problem
and begin making decisions, they do so as if they were playing the
mole game at the carnival. You know the game…you have a large rubber
hammer and a surface with lots of holes in it. When you see a mole
jump out of a hole, you hit it with your hammer. Just as you hit one
mole, another pops out of a different hole. Hit that new mole, and
two more pop out someplace else. You’re constantly hitting the moles
as they randomly appear, all the while hoping you get points for
eliminating them all.
That’s the same game many people play when making decisions.
Just as they think they’ve solved the problem, another related
problem pops up and requires even more decision making.
This mole game approach to decision making is a present-time
oriented activity, meaning you’re not taking the time to review
history or to look to the future for clues—two things you must do
for effective decision making. The fact is that most people think
their current situation is different from anything that’s ever
happened in history. Therefore, they don’t look to the past for
guidance. Then, they don’t look far enough into the future for
potential consequences surrounding their decision. Yet, it’s clear
that when people have good information, they make good decisions. So
we can’t fault decision making itself for poor choices. Rather, we
need to fault people’s inability to get appropriate information from
the past and to do some scenario planning or simulations before they
pull the trigger and move forward with their choices.
Having the ability
to make sound decisions and ultimately solve more problems than you
create means being resilient. When it comes to decision making,
there are four main keys to resilience, with each building upon the
Resourcefulness – The ability to make do and be resourceful when
resources are not available.
2) Persistence –
The ability to stick with something long enough so you can see the
whole in the parts.
3) Recovery – The
ability to bounce back, realizing that it’s impossible not to make
mistakes in the process.
4) Generativity –
The ability learn from your mistakes to prevent additional problems
from arising as a result of the mistake.
While all four of these keys are important, the ultimate
objective of generativity is perhaps the most crucial. That is, you
need to be able to learn from your past experiences and mistakes so
you can eliminate problems in the future.
For example, many people these days are in the “green”
mindset and are buying products that are renewable and that save
energy. As such, a lot of people are making the decision to purchase
fluorescent light bulbs. But this seemingly simple decision has some
dire consequences. All those fluorescent light bulbs, which last a
long time and save energy, contain mercury. So now we’re taking
mercury from the concentrated place where it’s mined and are
introducing it into our environment. Neither consumers nor
manufacturers of the fluorescent light bulbs looked to the past or
thought far enough ahead to make a wise decision—once the bulbs
break or no longer work (and they all will eventually break
or stop working) they end up in a landfill and leak mercury into the
environment (and past events prove that mercury exposure is
dangerous). So even though the decision to create and use
fluorescent light bulbs was full of good intentions, we’ve
ultimately opened a Pandora’s Box. That’s not being generative.
Even if you’ve never used a fluorescent light bulb, chances
are you make similar decisions in your own life every day. Perhaps
you made the decision to buy something, and once you got the item
home or to your office, it sat unused in your closet or on your
shelf. In reality, you didn’t need to buy the item. What you were
really doing is satisfying some personal desire. You made the
decision to spend money on the wrong thing, which then led you to
purchase something else you didn’t need. In the end, you have many
problems, both large and small, that you are not effectively dealing
with, all because of simple decisions you are making on a daily
Be a Forward
The best way to
hone your decision making ability and stop creating more future
problems is to ask yourself a simple question: “If I do ______, what
might happen?” But don’t just ask yourself this question once; you
need to ask it several times so you can really think through various
scenarios and become a better generative decision maker.
And what happens if you do ask this question, think through
various scenarios, decide on a course of action, and then have a
problem creep up you didn’t think of? First, realize that you can’t
possibly know everything, even with all the information possible.
Second, know that it’s never too late to stop what you’re doing. No
matter how drastic the problem seems, you can stop your current
course of action and make changes. Continuing to live with a bad
decision is the worst route to take. That’s why resourcefulness and
recovery are so important—these skills enable you to clean up your
mess and move on.
Finally, as you go through this process you’re going to
learn—you’re going to learn quickly about the kinds of decisions
you’re making and how those decision are impacting others and/or
creating more problems. The good news is that you can solve more
problems than you create, even if you make mistakes along the way.
Learning takes you back through the cycle to fix whatever creeps up.
Even the smallest of decisions can have a huge impact on your
business, your relationships, and your life. The key is to be able
to use the past to anticipate the future and guide your actions
today. So start honing your decision making skills with some
seemingly small decisions. Once you notice the connections and see
how everything works together, you can move on to some larger
decisions. Then, when it’s time for those monumental decisions, you
can be a better leader and think in terms of generativity.
Ultimately, one tiny mindset shift can create huge leverage in terms
of your ability to make high quality decisions that impact both your
life and your business.
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