Problem Solving: Dare To Be Different

Problem Soving: Why You Should Do It Your Own Way

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got”

This quote is so popular that many people have used it: Mark Twain, Henry Ford, Einstein, Anthony Robbins.

It’s popular for a very good reason.

It’s simple but genius.

NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) goes further with their pre-supposition: ‘By thinking differently, you will behave differently and get different results’.

Change The Way You Think, Change The Way You Act

When you face a problem, start by believing there’s a solution.

There always is a solution, you just need to find it.

You also need to change what you do about it. If the problem is there, it’s because, whatever you’ve done (or not done) just hasn’t worked.

It’s time to try something different.

To think differently, you need to open up your mind to new ideas and possibilities and call in your creative juices. You might think you don’t have any but EVERYONE can be creative.

Here are some creative methods that can help:

  • Incremental improvement: choose an idea you’ve already tried but add a ‘baby’ change.
    Implement it. Then add another small change. By introducing tiny changes little by little, you get used to them
    (it’s slow but it works – check out our article on The Power of Small Changes or our Efficiency Hack article about Making Tiny Decisions).
  • Combining: consider combining different ideas, whether they’re yours or others. A lot of inventions and solutions come from ideas adapted from different fields into a new industry.
  • Revolution: consider a completely opposite solution. We’ll see later a good example of a solution turned upside down and which works wonders in Germany.
  • Changing Direction: Don’t get stuck trying to come up with different ways to implement a pre-chosen solution and getting nowhere. Question the solution itself. Sometimes, all it takes is a different way to approach the problem you want to solve.
    In Bridgeport, the police tried to solve the graffitis problem by using deterrents (fines, prosecution, cameras) until they realised the youth simply needed an artistic outlet. So they created the non-profit United Youth Arts Partnership, Inc. where the youths could positively express themselves.

Choose The Solution That Plays To Your Strengths

Once you’ve got as many options as possible (really push yourself to come up with more and more and more), it’s time to pick one to start with right now.

At this point, consider not just how successful these ideas have been with others but how they could fit with who you are. Perform a SWOT analysis for each idea considering:

  • the internal strengths you have and how they would help make the solution work
  • the resources at your disposal (be it material, intellectual or people, friends, family, network who can help you)
  • your internal weaknesses and what could make this solution difficult to implement (don’t push yourself too hard)
  • the opportunities the solution could create later
  • the dangers it could put you in

The solution you choose should be different to what you’ve already tried in the past but it could also be different to what others do or even think.

Don’t let that difference influence or stop you.

Don’t Be Afraid To Choose Your Own Way

Let me give you a little example. It’s not a personal problem but what we’re talking about here applies to any type of problem people, teams, companies, countries are faced with.

In the past few weeks, we’ve been traveling through Europe and spending so much time on the road, we couldn’t help but compare the road system of each country we drove through.

When it comes to road systems, each country has one problem to solve: how to decrease the death toll on the roads.

It was very evident most countries had chosen the path of speed limit enforcement (with numerous speed cameras) along with education (signs explaining the dangers of driving too fast, too close, tired or drunk).

However, we found one noticeable exception: Germany.

In Germany, there are stretches of motorways (autobahns as they call them) without ANY speed limits. No limits at all!!!

You commonly see extremely fast cars overtaking you at speed approaching and even surpassing 200km an hour!

This seems crazy. Yet, Germany’s fatality rate per 100,000 inhabitants is lower than France, Italy, Belgium, USA, Ireland and has decreased in recent years just like the other countries which have implemented more speed cameras.

Why does such a different solution work in Germany and would it work in any other country?

We asked our German friends who regularly travel in Europe and they came up with a few explanations as to why it works for them:

  • the German motorways are constructed for high speed (2 to 4 lanes, lanes are slightly wider than other countries, tarmac specifically anti-frost, double barriers in the middle, small gradient, roads mostly straight that give long visibility, exits are further apart with long entry and exit side roads) and are constantly inspected and maintained
  • the rules are adapted to provide safety (lorries are forbidden to overtake, it is illegal to undertake, it is illegal to stop – that includes fuel shortage as this is something that can be avoided – , there are extremely well enforced speed limits at intersections, in tunnels and if the road is wet, there is a minimum recommended speed limit and you cannot go on the autobahn if your car’s top speed is lower than 60kmph)
  • the Germans are disciplined and follow the rules (they stick to the right and only use the left hand lane to overtake, they keep their distance, they respect the limits when they are enforced and… they always refuel when they need to 🙂

This combination of investment in infrastructure, adapted rules and good drivers behavior make this counter-intuitive no-limit solution possible.

Would it work in another country?

I personally doubt it as the combination above just isn’t there.

But it’s working for the Germans and, despite some pressure from their Green party to impose speed limits, the German government is holding fast. Why?

Because it seems to be the best solution for them and not just because they like speed and good cars.

Germany is a large country with a high throughput on their roads. They need an efficient highway system along with good enough safety results. And this is it – with the added marketing benefit of showcasing German fast cars in action.

Despite being the opposite approach to every other country on the planet, the Germans are sticking to their solution because it plays to their strengths and it works for them.

Final Words

When you want to solve a problem, remember to think differently, to act differently, not just from what you’ve done in the past but also from others around you.

It’s not about what others do but about what suits YOU and your situation.

Of course, don’t be different for the sake of being different. Sometimes, it’s just simple and uses less resources to choose a tried and tested solution… if it suits you.

But if you have assets that warrant a different approach and could yield better results… then dare to be different!


Problem Solving: Dare To Be Different — 4 Comments

  1. Found this from G+ share of Jeevan.

    Whenever I face a problem, I will try to see the bright side. I work 8 years in customer service and my main task is to solve complain. So yes, go figure 🙂

    The thing is…we got to always see the bright side. I don’t see the problem as a problem. I see the problem as a challenge to grow myself and think out of the box 🙂 hehe.

    Thanks for sharing this write up.

    • Hi friend of Jeevan!
      Perfect illustration of problem solving skills in action. Most of us don’t see what it takes to work in Customer service faced with frustrated customers who want their problems fixed. Can’t always be easy but I think yours is the right approach: seeing the bright side and taking on the challenge.
      Very best wishes

  2. I like to think that there are multiple solutions to each problem (and my experiences have not proved me wrong so far :D). It’s just a matter to finding and executing it. Of course, some solutions are better than others.

    What works for us may not work for us, that’s what we could takeaway from the German roads example. Blindly following someone or their methods is not going to get us anywhere. Analyze their strategy, experiment with it, see if it works for you, analyze, learn and improve. Repeat the cycle 🙂

    I especially like the idea of revolution (kind of like more is less. I think minimalism and I believe the more elements in my blog just overwhelms and distracts the reader, instead of getting their attention).

    As for questioning, I like to question, not just others’ ideas/solutions, but also my own. Why do I think I am right? Why would a particular strategy help me?

    Anyways, thank you for the insights, Isabelle 🙂 Good luck with your site (I will stop by; I am trying to learn French and German right now, so I am sure that your website will help :D)/

    • Hi Jeevan, Thanks for dropping by.
      I like what you say: there are not one but several solutions to a problem – some better than others.
      The goal of problem solving is to solve the problem, and most problems can be solved in any number of ways. If you discover a solution that works, it is a good solution. There may be other solutions thought of by other people, but that doesn’t make your solution wrong.
      It’s just a matter of being creative and experimenting until you find a solution that works for you…
      and because things always evolve (espcially for blogs/webistes), what suits you now will probably need some tweaking later on
      and again,
      and again…

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