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Every Problem Has At Least Two Solutions

In this spontaneous video Craig explains that when we see challenges as “misalignments” rather than as “problems” we are more likely to find creative solutions. In fact, when we withhold judgement we find that there is always more than one solution. And one of them might be me!

In the video Craig references some of his related Good Group Tips: At least two ways, Alternative solutions, What’s the problem?, and Best solutions begin with self.


Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hey everybody, It’s Craig Freshley here. I am all about Good Group Decisions. You can learn about my view of how to make good group decisions at my website:

Every problem has at least two solutions. And if we really believe that it has some pretty interesting implications. So for instance let’s imagine this statement, “We don’t have enough money!” And I might follow that up with, “And it’s because you spend too much!”

Let’s look at this a little closer. So maybe “We don’t have enough money” is the problem, but look how I have made an immediate judgment about the cause of the problem. The reason we have this problem is because “You spend too much!” When I do that, I limit the solutions to this particular problem to, what do you think, its going to be: “Don’t spend so much money!” That becomes really the only solution.

But if I look at this problem without judgment and I see it not so much as a problem but just as a misalignment between two things, I might say, “We don’t have enough money.” And the reason we don’t have enough money is because there’s a misalignment between revenues and expenses. It’s not necessarily that too much money is being spent. It might be that not enough revenue is being earned. There’s a misalignment between revenues and expenses, that’s why we don’t have enough money.

When I see the problem that way, without immediate judgment about the cause, I open myself up to more possible solutions. One solution is, “Don’t spend so much money.” But another solution is, “I need to earn more money.” And if I take this apart further, there’s probably more solutions.

Let’s look at another problem. I’m sitting in class or maybe in a lecture hall and I can’t hear the speaker. I might raise my hand and interrupt and say, “Excuse me! I can’t hear you, could you talk a little louder please!” That is one characterization of the problem and one solution.

My solution is based on a judgment that the reason I can’t hear well enough is because the speaker isn’t talking loud enough. I have made a judgment. But what if the problem is “I can’t hear the speaker,” and I think that it’s not necessarily the speaker’s fault. It’s just a problem. Something is misaligned here and I start to think creatively about all the potential solutions and pretty quickly I stumble on the solution: “Hmm, maybe I could move closer.” Not enough sound is getting to me. It might be because the speaker is not projecting enough sound or it might be because I’m too far away to hear the sound. There are at least two solutions to every problem. And in this case perhaps the best solution is, rather than me interrupting the class and asking that person to change their behavior, maybe I should change my behavior and move closer.

And this is the real magic of this belief that there are at least two solutions to every problem. The magic is that one of the solutions probably has to do with me. When I am quick to make a judgment about the cause of the problem, 9 times out of 10 I am judging against someone else. You are spending too much money. You are not speaking loud enough. And I have limited the potential solutions. And I have conveniently written myself out of the solution. I have avoided indicting myself. But this approach is not helpful for good group decisions. It causes conflict and it works against peace.

If I want to work towards a peaceful solution I do well to see problems not as judgments against other people, but as simple misalignments. And when I’m looking for solutions, I consider all the solutions that might fix the misalignment. And I am sure to consider solutions that involve a change in my behavior.

Look, you can learn a lot more about this at my website. I have written at least three Good Group Tips that touch on this topic. One of them is called: At Least Two Ways. Another one is called: Alternative Solutions. I think I’ve written a tip called: What’s The Problem?. You can look for that one. And a fourth tip related to this topic is called: Best Solutions Begin With Self.

Thanks for listening. Again, I’m Craig Freshley. All about good group decisions. Have a great day!

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