Every business runs into issues that can or will halt progress and cause the company to stagnate. These include slow cash flow, out-of-date technology, and long sales cycles; you name it, it likely exists. Often, when trying to “fix” the problem, the company gets even more mired in the challenge and can’t seem to get past the roadblock. They focus on the problem and either shift into crisis management mode, letting the problem dictate their every move, or perhaps they solve the problem, but in doing so, uncover that it was never the real problem. Either way, the company is being agile instead of anticipatory.
A better solution to solving those tough problems is to just skip them. I know skipping a problem completely sounds simple and almost daunting in nature; however, it is necessary.
How can this help? When you confront your roadblock by leaping over it rather than letting it stop you from reaching your goals, you see new solutions that you never realized existed. Keep in mind, this strategy is in no way meant to encourage you and your organization to procrastinate or pretend that problems don’t exist; they do. The strategy here is to realize the real underlying problem that’s causing your company trouble and making a conscious decision to find a solution to move forward instead of being blocked by it. When a company reorganizes everything, they’re about to solve an internal problem that isn’t the real issue at hand, they are bound to that problem.
If you think this solution sounds fanciful and idealistic, I assure you it isn’t. This strategy is actually a great way to free your mind and view the problem in new and more conducive ways. Consider the following real-life examples of how this strategy has helped companies overcome challenges and make smarter decisions.
A small manufacturing business started getting many requests for several additional products, but in order to meet the increased demand, the company would have to borrow the capital necessary for a major expansion. The business was relatively new, so without a large track record of successful sales and stability, its request for a loan was ultimately rejected by the bank. Instead of putting off the expansion of both the products and the company itself, they decided that the problem at hand could be skipped by way of pre-selling the new products. With those advanced orders in hand, they were able to secure the loan with the bank and proceed.
A company whose job is to solve scientific problems decided that in order to solve said problems faster and accelerate new product development, it would need to triple the number of R&D employees. Despite their career in finding solutions, the roadblock they faced in this situation was that employee costs would also triple, and at the moment, the company couldn’t afford that.
They chose to skip the problem of hiring expensive employees by creating an online R&D forum, wherein the company posts difficult problems needing solutions and offers payment to anyone who can solve the problem.
By making the site open to any scientist with an Internet connection and posting the problems in over a dozen languages, the company created a global, virtual R&D talent pool of independent help, which has found solutions to problems that have literally stumped its own internal researchers. One of the great beauties of this strategy is that the company pays for the virtual researchers’ time and effort only if they come up with a feasible working solution, the amount of money the company pays for a solution depending on the difficulty of the problem. In this case, skipping a problem has brought a company hundreds of solutions to more important problems; the ones they solve professionally as a company.
You must always remember that every problem has a solution, and some are better than others. The key to breaking through your problem is to realize that there are many paths to a destination. And as you pay attention to the Hard Trends shaping your industry, you come to realize that there are many problems that you can actually pre-solve by way of anticipation, allowing you to avoid reaching the point of having to skip the problem, as you will see it coming before it becomes a problem.
However, some are unavoidable. But as I’ve written before, every problem is like an onion. You must peel back the layers in order to find the real problem, listing the components of the problem to reveal whether or not you are working on the correct issue and ultimately toward the correct solution. Always keep in mind that what you perceive to be your biggest problem may not be; so you can simply skip it.
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurists on global trends and innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus in the highest demand as a speaker. He is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies, helping them to accelerate innovation and results by develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. His client list includes companies such as Microsoft, GE, American Express, Google, Deloitte, Procter & Gamble, Honda, and IBM. He is the author of seven books, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller Flash Foresight, and his latest book The Anticipatory Organization. He is a featured writer with millions of monthly readers on the topics of innovation, change and the future and has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Wired, CNBC, and Huffington Post to name a few. He has been the featured subject of several PBS television specials and has appeared on programs such as CNN, Fox Business, and Bloomberg, and is quoted in a variety of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Fortune, and Forbes. He has founded six businesses, four of which were national leaders in the United States in the first year. He is the CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients profit from technological, social and business forces that are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. In 1983 he became the first and only futurist to accurately identify the twenty technologies that would become the driving force of business and economic change for decades to come. He also linked exponential computing advances to economic value creation. His specialties are technology-driven trends, strategic innovation, strategic advising and planning, business keynote presentations.