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A Solution in Search of a Problem

It is no secret that we get things backwards once in a while.

Most common is when we discover a solution in search of a problem.

Once in a while, an unanticipated solution reveals a “problem” that we didn’t know we had. The iPod and iTunes are good examples. It wasn’t until we had the option of listening to songs in any order we wanted and buying them in any combination we wanted that it occurred to us that the “album” package was severely limiting.

More commonly we have a brilliant inspiration for a new policy or procedure, gadget or widget, service or organization, but then discover that we are filling a gap no one else perceives or solving a problem no one else is experiencing.

Government agencies are famously addicted to designing rules, processes, paperwork, and systems that either serve no purpose at all (save justify someone’s departmental budget), or address an instance so peculiar and particular that the cost and burden to the 99.9% for whom that instance does not apply scandalously outweighs the benefit to the isolated few.

In between the visionary iPod and the short-sighted NLRB dictating in which states a business can and cannot do business while jobs increasingly move to other countries altogether, is where most of us operate… trying to do a good job, make a difference, and add value.

So three cheers for the creativity, initiative, and energy involved in proposing new ideas!

Where we want to catch ourselves… What we want to make sure we have considered… What we want to stay laser-focused on… is what problem, real or perceived, our idea is solving.

A solution without a problem risks being ignored as irrelevant, dismissed as extravagant, or opposed as burdensome.

How do you communicate your great ideas?

How well do you identify and explain the problem being addressed and the costs of not addressing it?

It may be discouraging to discover that you have come upon a solution in search of a problem. But it will be disastrous if you continue to sell, implement, and/or impose your solution without one.

On your side,

- Karl Edwards



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