Everyone faces problems. Even better, everyone faces problems on a daily basis. If you don’t face a problem today, that itself is a problem. The big difference between people is how they solve those problems. Some people try to solve problems by pretending they don’t exist, which means bigger problems await tomorrow. Some people bulldoze problems, which could leave a wake of new problems. Everyone else falls somewhere between the extremes…trying, failing, and improving their processes of problem solving.
If problems are a constant and we are required to be solution-oriented, we live in a world ripe for innovation. Innovation is the child of problem solving. It waits quietly to be released by the bravest of souls. So, how can we meet the day’s problems with innovation? Here are four quick questions to help develop solution-oriented innovation.
1. Do we have the best processes in place?
Many of the problems we face on a daily basis have poorly designed processes as their root. Maybe the problem is that your employees have to go through too many hoops to get a reimbursement. Maybe the problem is that you need two more steps in your ordering process. Maybe the problem is that you have a broken process of communication between the executives and the middle managers. Some of the solutions we are seeking lie in the complexity of the organization, either too much or too little. When you evaluate the processes, you open yourself to find innovative solutions to problems you may not even see yet.
2. Do we have the right people in the right places?
Every breakup is innovation. It produces change. My hint today, some of your employees need a breakup. Maybe not from the organization as a whole, they may just need a breakup from their job. You may have placed them in the wrong role. Your employees’ strengths should match their job descriptions. For some of them, there needs to be a shift. You need to help them find the right fit. Sometimes that fit might be with another company, but it doesn’t have to be. New roles for existing people are evidence of innovation at work. You are at your best as a company when your employees are in the role that best fits them.
3. Are we looking in the right place for the answer to today’s problems?
We fall into patterns for sourcing answers. We seek experts in our field to tell us exactly how to respond to the challenges we’re facing. However, sometimes the answer is closer than we think. Sometimes those who don’t have educational expertise have invaluable knowledge.
Think about the person on the front lines. The person who fills the orders in your warehouse yet can easily pinpoint the breakdown in logistical flow. Think about the customer service agent who is constantly engaging the real needs customers have with your product. Sometimes the source of innovation needs to be the people best acquainted with the problems.
4. Is there a need for a new product?
I am shocked at what makes money. I look at little gadgets, and I wonder how I never thought of it myself. They are just too simple. Yet they were created in a moment of brilliance…innovation at its finest. Someone said, “You know what we need here?” And then they created a simple new product to fill a gap between a problem and a solution. Maybe your company is waiting on the right product to solve your problem, but maybe (just, maybe) your company is the one meant to create the right product to solve the problem.
So what is the problem you’re facing right now? Does one of these questions help you find an innovative solution? Did I miss any questions?