Problem-solving mindset

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Let me tell you two stories. The first one is about my water heater. One morning I wanted to make myself a nice tasty herbal tea. There is a button (1) on my water heater that opens the lid (2), where you pour in the water (see picture below). I pressed the button and it was stuck. I couldn’t make the button unstuck and I couldn’t open the lid. I was struggling for like ten minutes until I gave up. I boiled my water using the stove, which is just a little bit more work, but I was still pissed off. My only positive thought was about how water heater is a good invention. But the important part is that I was really annoyed.

A few minutes after my water started to boil, my girlfriend woke up and came into the kitchen. She saw what I was doing and she knew that the water heater button for opening the lid was stuck. She said to me: “Why don’t you simply pour water through the hole (3) where the water comes out?” I was like, fcuk, such a simple solution to the problem and I hadn’t been able to see it myself, because I was too annoyed with the problem to even start thinking about alternative solutions. It’s no deal but it would safe me some effort and lots of emotional energy.

Water Heater

The same day, a friend sent me a link to a Kickstarter campaign named Smartphone Workout Shorts – Better Than Armbands. In the past two years, I have been in the gym many times. Several times, I took my mobile phone with me. I never liked arm bands and I always had the problem of where to put my phone. It slides out of your pocket, there are many exercises with weights that can crack your screen and so on.

I was always bitching and complaining and thinking to myself about how “uncomfortable” life can be. I wonder how I would have survived a decade or two ago without all the technology we have available now that makes our lives super comfortable (well, toilet paper was invented not early than 1857). But to get back to the point: I never even once shifted my thinking from my pain/problem to possible solutions. The lesson here is not about the product itself, but about the simple solution every one of us could think of, if we had a problem-solving mindset instead of a bitch-whine-and-complain one. Having a problem-solving mindset is how you notice good business ideas.

Working Out Pants

From whining to problem-solving

The next time you encounter a problem that pisses you off and you start to bitch, whine and complain, pause for a moment. Start managing you emotions and opening your mind to creative problem-solving thinking. That is what producers do. Start asking yourself questions like:

  • How could I solve my problem in the most creative and innovative way?
  • What kind of a product or service would solve my problem? Could I build it?
  • How could I innovate my way out of this situation?
  • What are the alternative ways of achieving my goal?
  • What would happen if I do the opposite?
  • What would MacGyver do in this kind of a situation?
  • Etc.

You can’t be focused on a problem pissing you off and negatively thinking about “how hard” your life is, and be looking for a creative solution at the same time. Bitching, whining and complaining just takes too much of your mental bandwidth. Feeling like a victim in a specific situation has never brought any good solutions and creative ideas. But on the other hand, being inventive, creative, proactive and entrepreneurial usually always leads to some kind of progress. Maybe you don’t only solve a problem for yourself, but also come up with a million-dollar idea. There is always a step you can make, if you just keep your mind open and don’t block it with negative emotions.

Always remember the famous quote: “Your mind is like a parachute, it only works when it’s open.” Your mind being open especially means that you know how to manage your negative emotions and thoughts that are preventing you from looking for the most creative solutions.

For example, one of the cognitive distortions is called jumping to conclusions. If your mindset when facing a problem is that nothing will work, no matter what you try, then you definitely won’t find a solution.

Thus keep you mind open, be creative and when you whine, bitch or complain about a problem, stop for a moment and shift your way of thinking. Ask yourself: what is the optimal way of thinking in the situation and how could I creatively solve the problem; keep your mind open and start brainstorming, testing and experimenting.

About the author

Consulting and management coaching

Blaž Kos has managed venture capital investments over the past 12 years and participated in the development of the start-up ecosystem in the region. Today, he advises companies on growth strategies, process optimization, the introduction of lean agile methods and the digitalization of business. In addition to the Slovenian blog, he also writes an English blog, which was selected among the 50 best bloggers in the world in the category of personal and business growth.
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