Speaking about the lens through which we view our world; have you noticed how we have more problems than problem solvers? But, what’s even more interesting is that we have more problem identifiers than the problems we face. Everywhere you go; there is someone who knows what the problem is and will scream and shout about it without proffering any solution. Take the case of bad roads for example, a problem identifier will brilliantly chronicle the advent of road construction and its contribution to modern development, he will then go on to surgically analyze the causes of bad roads and then blast the government for its dilapidation, blast the road agency for embezzling maintenance funds and blast the lily-livered road users for not standing up for their rights. He then rounds off with a cute cliché like, “A lot more has to be done to correct this societal malady”. That is where a problem solver differs.
A problem solver's work begins where the identifier ends; he wonders how the identifier cannot see the opportunities lurking behind the problem. He thinks the actions of an identifier are akin to a doctor who simply diagnoses an ailment and tells the patient, “A lot more has to be done to correct this sickness”. But nobody pays a doctor for such quips because he is expected to pull out a prescription pad and recommend some remedy; only then can he charge a consultation fee. While the identifier can write a book, or take a column in the newspaper or even organize a seminar to vent his frustration to the public, the solver isolates himself from the hullabaloo and engages his brain in a dialogue to find the opportunity behind the problem.
For instance, when everybody around is complaining about the erratic power supply in the country a problem solver can go into his room, lock the door and have a conversation with himself like the one below:
Self: Everyone is complaining about the power supply.
Brain: A complaint is both a problem and an opportunity in disguise. So what do you want to do about it?
Self: Actually, it will be nice if I can capitalize on this one, but first I need to identify the opportunity behind it.
Brain: Um, there are many solutions out there, such as generator sets, solar panels and inverters.
Self: That’s true, but they are so commonplace and they do not task your creative center. Besides, I don’t have the funds or expertise to set up a salesroom for these items. I need something new; something that is off the charts.
Brain: When you talk about my creative center you know how that tickles me. Let us work through some scenarios.
Brain: If you don’t have power, what do you miss?
Self: Everything off course; all the household appliances cannot work.
Brain: So how does that affect you the most?
Self: It changes my mood
Brain: Your mood is independent of what happens around you; give me a better answer.
Self: The unpredictability of the power supply disrupts all my plans.
Brain: I think that is a better answer. Ok, so what other things disrupt your plans?
Self: Visitors appearing unannounced, public holidays that I am not aware of and of course bad weather.
Brain: Did you just say, “Bad weather?”
Self: Yes, I did. Have you found an opportunity?
Brain: You bet!
Self: Lay it on me, please.
Brain: Sure thing. You know how weather forecasting is a big industry because of the power it gives ordinary people to plan their daily agenda?
Brain: Won’t it be fun if people could also predict the periods they would have power, so that they can plan their time around those hours? You could call it Power Forecast!
Self: I’m not sure about this one. It sounds somehow.
Brain: Yes, that is how all opportunities sound. But you will not be doing anything so outlandish. You remember that holdups disrupt people’s lives and there are some radio segments and websites that provide traffic updates in real time to motorists and make their profits this way?
Self: That’s true. So I will need to build a website and try to get a source in the Power Holding Company. I will start from a few local governments and build up from there. Wow, this is a good idea; I can begin to see all the traffic on my site, the overbooked ad spaces and money coming in.
Brain: I can’t see any of those things yet. All we have is an idea; won’t you test the market before you hit the ground?
Self: Guess so.
If this problem solver successfully floats a business from his idea, he would be laughing to the bank while the millions of complainers will still be paying for more newspaper columns to blow up their frustrations on the new problems they have identified.